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Air Compressor Buying Guide

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Air Compressor Buying Guide

Table of Contents

Air compressors can come in handy in many situations, but you need to choose the right one if you want to truly enjoy the benefits these tools have to offer.

Do you need to use a nail gun? Get an air compressor. Have a flat tire? Air compressors can also solve everything for you! The only problem is that not every air compressor on the market is good for every task. You need to take many things into account before getting an air compressor.

Woodworkers are the ones who use air compressors the most, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use them if you are just a DIY enthusiast. Regardless of that, it’s essential to know how these machines work and what to look for when buying one.

You can buy portable air compressors, electric air compressors, stationary air compressors, scroll compressors, mobile air compressors, professional-grade air compressors, rotary screw compressors, and the list goes on. Each one of those products is made to fulfill a specific task, so dive into this page to learn everything you need to know before buying air compressors.

What Can I Use an Air Compressor for?

You can use air compressors for tons of things, and you may even need one right now without knowing it! The reason for that is that these machines are used to power many of the tools people use at home.

Air compressors make those tools work in the best way possible, so you don’t have to worry about them not being efficient. Nonetheless, it’s best if you see it yourself, so here is a list of some of the things you can do with the right air compressor:

  • Inflating items
  • Nail guns
  • Spray painting
  • Flat tires
  • Pressure washing


In a nutshell, you can use an air compressor to deliver compressed air to air tools.

What Are Air Tools?

As their name suggests, air tools are machines or products that need air pressure and compressed air to work. Not all of them require the same air volume, though.

People can also get an air compressor for professional uses such as workshops, construction, and manufacturing. It’s critical to know the air volume and cubic feet per minute your air tool needs to work properly. You can’t use an air compressor to do something that goes over the CFM or PSI it has and how the task needs you to compress air.

What to Look for in Air Compressors?

This couldn’t be a buying guide if we didn’t tell you what to look for in your new air compressor. Everything relies on the specifications of the air compressor since they are what define if the compressed air it delivers works for you or not.

The air compressor technology is complex and allows people to have all kinds of compressors; each one with a different goal and function. Getting the wrong air compressor for your needs is one of the worst things that can happen to you since some of these items are expensive.

You don’t want that to happen, so these are the most important air compressor specifications:

Air Pressure

Air pressure, or PSI, is rated in pounds per square inch, and you can look for that when checking the PSI of the air compressor you want to buy.

Some air tools require compressors with higher PSI, and others are good to go with average options. If you, for example, need an air compressor that keeps a constant 90 PSI at the tool you are using, then you are looking for an air compressor with a higher PSI.

Average compressors go around 100 PSI and 125 PSI, so it’s a safe bet to go with an air compressor with that CFM rate.

Fortunately, if you are unsure about that, you can ask the one who sold you the air tools or the person selling you the air compressor.

Cubic Feet Per Minute (CFM)

CFM stands for Cubic Feet Per Minute, and it’s the measure used to calculate how much air volume you need for air tools. All air tools may include instructions that say how much air volume or CFM they need to work.

Although all air compressors work differently, there’s an average you can follow when asking air compressor manufacturers for the CFM you need. It’s ideal to get three to four CFM per HP when getting to 90 PSI. Considering that, an air compressor working at maximum air pressure needs more CFM.

Horsepower (HP)

Air compressors need a lot of horsepowers to work, and getting a product with a low one can make you lose your money. We don’t mean you have to buy a full-size air compressor, but it’s important to know how much HP you need for pancake air compressors, portable compressors, and others.

The only problem with getting an air compressor with high HP is that some manufacturers have been exaggerating HP to sell more of these tools. It’s best to see how much electrical power an electric motor needs to run since that would tell you how much HP you need for that tool.

Gas air compressors work differently than electric ones, but you still need to find out if the air compressor you are looking at is enough or if you need to look for industrial-grade air compressors.

Air Compressor Tank Size

Many people worry about the tank size of their air compressors and wonder if they need a bigger alternative or if it’s better to stick with the compressor they have. The truth is that tank size is not that important when buying single-stage compressors, hot dog compressors, or any other type of machine.

Flat storage tanks don’t produce air, they only store it, and you always can get auxiliary air tanks if the one you have is not enough for you in the long run. You can save a lot of o money by buying air compressors with smaller tanks.

As long as the compressor pump and its electric motor (HP) are working well, you don’t have anything to worry about. The same goes with gas-powered compressors since you only need to make sure the power source produces enough air intake to keep an air flow that keeps your air tools running.

Oil

There are different types of compressors; you have two-stage compressors, stationary compressors, and, naturally, industrial compressors. However, among all of them, there is a characteristic that you have to consider before making a decision, and it is if the air compressor needs oil or not.

Oil-free compressors don’t need oil to work but tend to deliver less power and smoothness when powering air tools.

An oil-lubricated compressor, on the other hand, offers you a quieter operation for multiple tools. Forget about your compressor malfunctioning or deteriorating after a time. The catch of it is that you have to constantly buy oil for it.

Most people recommend using an oil compressor since the air output it offers is excellent and it also has greater air pressure. However, buying an oil-free compressor is not a bad option, either, so go for the one you feel more comfortable with

If you decide to buy an oil compressor instead of oil-less compressors, you need to know what type of oil you need for it. These tools use synthetic and standard oil, and both of them are considerably different from motor oil.

Electric compressors don’t have this problem, so don’t worry about it if you have one.

What's the Best Air Compressor for Me?

There’s no such thing as a perfect air compressor, but you still can buy the right compressor for your house or workshop. Everything depends on what you need to do or what you want it for, so this is not a decision you can take lightly.

Single compressors don’t give you what dual control compressors offer and vice versa.

Whether you buy a hot dog compressor or a gas-engine HP compressor, you need one made by a competent company that develops compressors of high quality.

Here are the best air compressors on Amazon:

CRAFTSMAN Air Compressor


CRAFTSMAN is one of the best manufacturers of air compressors and tools in general. This pancake compressor has a lot of air capacity and can always give you more air if you need it. Its duty cycle is also decent, and it doesn’t take a lot of floor space for you.

Makita MAC100Q Quiet Series


As its name suggests, this corded electric compressor can do a quiet job at all times, so it’s excellent if you don’t want to disturb your neighbors while working. You don’t have to worry about trapped air or related issues since the air hoses this product offers are off-the-charts.

DEWALT Pancake Air Compressor


The last air compressor in this list is the DEWALT Pancake Air Compressor, and it offers you a long lifespan and a high-efficiency motor. You can power multiple pneumatic tools with this machine since it’s perfect for sucking in the surrounding air.

Conclusion

Air compressors can help you in many ways, and there are tons of options available for you on the market. Go for the one that best suits your working style after researching what each one of them has to offer. Still, all the air compressors on this page are an excellent option for most users.

Daniel Lewis

Daniel Lewis

Live in Chicago Illinois.
A contractor with10 years of experience.
Works with air compressors for various uses.

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