Hydraulics vs Pneumatics

The first thing we need to get out of the way is what hydraulics and pneumatics are and what differentiates them .

Hydraulics use liquid and Pneumatics use compressed air to generate power. It is however important to note that each project or application is unique and may require either of the two. Hydraulics is more likely to be preferred for large industrial projects where the components consist of steel, iron or cast iron and require a lot of speed, torque and force.

Hydraulics and Pneumatic System Applications

Pneumatic systems are normally used in a very clean environment.  Pneumatic systems is most suitable for processes which require no risk of pollution. Hydraulics on the other hand, is far more dangerous due to the risk of hydraulic oil leaks caused by faulty valves, seals or damaged hoses.

Hydraulics are used for bulldozers, excavators, jaws of life and car crushers to name a few. Pneumatic are used for changing tires and even on some automatic door openers in buildings. So yes, they are basically used almost everywhere and I assume that you will certainly be looking at things differently now.

The Benefits of Hydraulics and Pneumatics

Pneumatics offer rapid movement of cylinders and have the great advantage of availability in a variety of sizes ranging from very small to very large.

Pneumatic air compressor flow rates allow the air in the pipes to flow through very quickly and easily allowing Pneumatics to offer a higher operating speed.

In pneumatics, cylinders and valves can dump their compressed air straight into the atmosphere when they need to change direction or alter their state quickly, compared with hydraulics where the oil must be routed back to the reservoir.

Hydraulics has the capability to offer a higher potential force than Pneumatics therefore hydraulic systems are best suited to lift and move heavy loads and the application normally runs smoothly because hydraulic oil is not compressible.

In general, a much larger pneumatic cylinder is needed to obtain the same force that a hydraulic ram can produce.


Safety is very important to us, so always read the owner’s manual and use the necessary protective equipment. For safety instructions on any hydraulic equipment please feel free to refer to the Safety Instructions available in the in Enerpac Catalogue.

Remember, it is very important to choose the correct system for your application, if you are having trouble deciding on a system please contact us, after all, we are the tooling solution experts.