We have come up with a list of best air compressors. The task was not easy; we had gone through specs of 50 units and only 10 models passed in your test. Finding your one is easier than you think. Some air tools require more air-power than other air tools. Once you know your range of projects you can determine the compressors you need. Click on your desired button from the lists below
I Need to Inflate Tires and Sports Equipment Only
Tire infilators deliver high pressure making them ideal for inflating vehicle tires and sports balls. Raft infilators deliver a high volume of air. So they’re perfect for air mattresses and wraps. Some inflators can be used for both tires and wraps. So you just want to check the product description. Inflators are powered by various power sources such as 120 volt, 12 volt and cordless rechargeable.
I Need a Compressor for Multitude Projects
If you have varied range of applications like fastening projects (to caulk windows, install trim and molding), inflating tires and so on. Our specialist suggests buying 6-gallon pancake air compressors. They weigh up to 35 pounds. You can easily haul around at your job-site or even you can ride on a ladder carrying in your hand.
Pancake compressors are versatile in nature and usable to a variety of medium range applications thus making it ideal for homeowners and first time users. What you can do by a 6-gallon a pancake compressors.
- You can inflate flat tires of a car.
- You can use blow gun for cleaning purpose.
- You can do carpentry jobs like trimming, finishing, installing custom furniture or storage.
- For small painting projects, you can power paint sprayers.
- Last but not the least, to pump equipments like inflatable toys, floating playground, inflatable swim buoys, swimming pool, water volleyball court, water blob, floating bucket, gymnastics mats-a 6-gallon pancake compressor is more than enough.
Now you may be wondering about the noise level. All the pancake compressors create less than 82 decibels of noise which is tolerable and quite fit in a confined jobsite. If you want ultra quiet air compressor without compromising performance, Rolair JC 10 is ideal for you. But you will have to spend some extra bucks for it.
At 39 lbs and having only 60 decibels of noise level, Rolair JC 10 is the 2nd quietest compressor. It is not designed in pancake style but more power full and durable than any other pancake units.
For carpenters, our specialist does not recommend pancake compressors. Do bear in mind that pancake compressors are meant for intermittent users having limited lifetime. In addition, framing and roofing are quite impossible with these devices.
For big projects, carpenters favor a bit more powerful air compressor like Dewalt D55146 200-PSI Compressor, Makita MAC2400 2.5 HP Air Compressor, and Makita MAC5200 3.0 HP Compressor. Including framing gun, you can power all sorts of nail guns with these models.
These units weigh around 80 pounds. Don’t get surprised with the weight; they are designed with wheel barrow feature allowing you to carry with ease.
I Have a Garage or Workshop
When the compressor is for garage or workshop, you should go for the details e.g. PSI, CF, HP, Duty Cycle and so on. Please go through this article, things will be very easy, I promise.
What’s the maximum air volume required is also known as CFM. When it comes to compressors, CFM is king. Air volume produced is measured in cubic feet per minute-CFM for short. Now CFM is the key to choosing the right compressor for the air tools you use. Every air tool you use has its own rating in CFM (just like compressors). An air tools rating is obtained while being tested at 90 psi.
This part is important your choice of compressor is based on the air tool you use with the highest CFM. To give you an example if you had a brad nailer rated @ 2 CFM, an impact gun @ 6 CFM and a sander @ 11 CFM , your required compressor is 11 CFM + 30% margin (11 x 1.3 = 14.3 CFM). Based on that calculation, your compressor should have at least 14.3 CFM. But if you have two airlines in at a time, then it would be the combined total of the air tools plus 50% margin (6+11 x 1.5 = 25.5 CFM).
PSI is an acronym for Pounds Per Square Inch. When it's related to compressors, it’s used as a measurement of output. For common air tool use, don’t focus too much on the maximum pressure. The max psi is not really important when choosing a compressor to power air tools. Most air tools are test rated at 90 psi and that's an industry standard. You may have already noticed that almost all new compressors have a maximum PSI rating of 120 or more.
However, there is one benefit to having higher pressure that is a compressor with high PSI rating allows air tank to hold more air without increasing the tank size. For example a 2 gallon tank with 150PSI stores the same amount of air as a 3-gallon tank having 100 psi does.
Portable or Stationary?
Does the compressor need to be portable, mobile or remain stationary? Mostly this will depend on your primary usage like the air tools you want to power and where they will be used. Being portable is not limited to small carry compressors; it can stretch to larger wheeled ones. Furthermore, stationary compressors can be mounted to vehicles. Portability depends on your definition of portable
Builders, carpenters, mobile mechanics and paint touch-up services usually use portable air compressors while home engineers, woodworkers, mechanics and car detailers often require larger less portable compressors. Many large horizontal compressors have wheels making them mobile. However, some of these compressors can be very difficult to move even with wheels.
What size tank is needed? The capacity of an air tank really does count especially for extended use tools like spray guns or cabinet sand blasters and it can be tied to the duty cycle of the compressor pump.
Having a large tank gives you longer operating time before the compressor comes back on to refill the tank. Using high volume air tools on a small tank compressor often makes the compressor run continuously (like spray guns) which is not good for many compressors.
Tank size also affects the severity of pressure drops especially noticeable when using high-volume air tools. Large tanks are good for sanders, spray guns, grinders and air hammers while on the other hand small tanks are more suited for staplers, brad nailers, nail guns (some), riveters and tire inflators.
Horsepower probably one of the most noticeable specs plastered over a compressor. If you are looking at HP, look at the running or the rate horsepower not the peak. Although HP is one of the most noticeable specifications but little important here. As a rule of thumb the bigger the HP, the more CFM. Primarily the manufacturer of the compressor will have matched motor and pump to achieve optimum performance.
However, horsepower is a good indicator of the power supply needed to run the compressor if not visibly stated. Motors of light to medium duty air compressors having single phase can run on your domestic outlet. Three-phase power is used with bigger horsepower motors because it is more energy efficient than single phase.
The duty cycle refers to the percentage of time an air compressor can run before needing to cool down. This is mostly related to piston type compressors not the rotary type.
Here’s an example using a 10 minute cycle period. A compressor at 30% duty cycle can run for 3 minutes out of 10 minutes period then you should give it rest for 7 minutes. A 50% duty cycle equals a 5-minute runtime in a 5-minute rest. A 100 % duty cycle is continuous running. Some manufacturers use a 1 hour as the duty cycle period.
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Top Picks In 2019
Bostitch BTFP02012 29-Pounds Pancake Air Compressor
- 6-Gallon Air Tank
- 0.9 HP Motor
- 78.5 dBl Noise
- 2.6 CFM @ 90 PSI
- 29 Pounds
- 450 Hrs Life Span
- Oil-Free Pump
Bostitch BTFP02012 6-gallon oil-free pancake compressor is a versatile unit. It can run many tools ranging from staple gun, brad nailers to finishing gun and medium range spray gun. You can also fix your flat tires at home saving you from the hassle of going remote garage.
To let you know, the unit comes with 450 hours of life time making it ideal for intermittent users. For some serious hobbyists who need a compressor every day, better to go for Makita MAC700 or Rolair JC10.
Bostitch BTFP02012 holds up 0.9 running Hp motor and delivers 2.6 SCFM @ 90 PSI which is more than enough for indoor use. It produces 78.5 decibels of noise and weighs only 29 pounds.
The unit also comes with three separate combo packages offering brad nailer, finish nailer, crown stapler and 15-foot quarter inch air hose. The combo offers are really good bargain and will save your money.
The light weight Bostitch BTFP02012 is favorite to many DIYers due to its solid built quality, multipurpose uses and oil free maintenance free feature.
Porter-Cable PCFP02003 3.5-Gallon Air Compressor
- 3.5-Gallon Air Tank
- 0.8 HP Motor
- 82 dBA Noise
- 2.0 CFM @ 90 PSI
- 26 Pounds
- Oil-Free Pump
Profiled with oil-less pump and having a 3.5-gallon tank and 0.8 Hp motor PORTER-CABLE PCFP02003 is very popular among the hobbyists and DIYers. This quality air compressor distributes a maximum output 2.0 SCFM at 90 PSI making it ideal for home and light duty applications.
Inflating tires, finishing, trimming, small framing and using blowing gun and small spray gun is doable with ease.
Powered by an oil free pump and low Amp 120V motor, the unit can be started at low temperature. The device is fitted with reliable extension cord and quick connectors for easy access to regulated air.
Two meters display the output pressure and the pressure inside the tank. Mounted on rubber feet, this top rated air compressor creates less vibration and produces less noise emission at 82dBA.
Thanks to the plastic shroud cover to guard the motor and pump against harsh jobsite. For draining water inside the tank - simply tilt the unit and regulate the drain valve. Weighing merely 26 pounds, it is easy to carry.
Having a very solid built quality and being very inexpensive and light weight, PORTER-CABLE PCFP02003 is one of the best model having satisfactory consumers reports. This is a very good air compressor. Many homeowners are satisfied with this little beast.
Rolair JC10 Heavy-Duty Unit
- 2.5-Gallon Air Tank
- 1 HP Motor
- 60 dBA Noise
- 2.35 CFM @ 90 PSI
- 125 PSI MAX
- 42.9 Pounds
- Oil-Free Pump
Instead of some universal low quality motors, Rolair has equipped the unit with a powerful induction motor which ensures extended durability. This is simply a quality compressor.
In spite of being oil-less unit, it outlasts many oil lubricated compressors. As far as durability is concerned, we are happy to inform you that Rolair JC10 lasts years after years.
The 1 horsepower motor draws only 8 amps so there is almost no chance of circuit breaker. 2.5-gallon aluminum tank can store air at 125 PSI. It delivers 2.35 SCFM @ 90PSI and able to run three roofing guns and three trim guns.
Weighing 42.9 lbs and featuring rubber mold handle, this unit ensures high portability. Some additional features like Electronic Solenoid Valve, Start Valve, air filter and heavy roll cage will give you some good experiences at the end of the day.
Check the new version of this model: Rolair JC10 Plus
Makita MAC700 2.0 HP Compressor
- 2.6-Gallon Air Tank
- 2 HP Motor
- 79 dBA Noise
- 3.8 CFM @ 40
- 3.3 @ 90 PSI
- 59.6 Pounds
- Oil-Lubricated Pump
Delivering 3.8 CFM @ 40 and 3.3 @ 90 PSI and designed with some pretty incredible features, Makita MAC700 is a compact and literally a user-friendly unit. It is versatile in design and meant for light duty commercial projects and serious hobbyists.
No other small sized compressors are as popular as these guys. It is simply the best according to our professionals.
The automatic on-off switch, oil sight glass, industrial grade air filter, an emergency pressure release valve and a drain valve- all these additional features will give you a good experience at end of the day.
The key mechanisms are carefully protected by engine cover and the steel built heavy frame makes it protective in your tough job site. Thanks to the roll bar grab handles makes it highly portable and easy to store. As usual there are two pressure gauges to monitor input and output pressure.
California CAT-10020 Ultra Quiet Device
- 10-Gallon Air Tank
- 2 HP Motor
- 70 dBA Noise
- 5.30 CFM @ 90 PSI
- 6.40 CFM @ 40 PSI
- 91 Pounds
- Oil-Free Pump
California Air Tools 10020 is a commercial grade budget air compressor profiled with a 2 HP motor, oil-free maintenance free pump, two universal couplers and with 10-gallon vertical air tank that allows users operate two pneumatic tools simultaneously. It is designed for workshops, framing and trim carpenters, remodelers and deck builders.
This big guy can deliver 40 PSI (6.40 CFM) and 90 PSI (5.30 CFM) and have 125 PSI maximum pressure. The unit is packed with the company’s latest SP motor that rotates at low 1680 RPM. Lower RPM means less wear and tear and more longevity.
Beside the fundamental parts, the unit is packed with some essential features like flat tires for hauling around at your job-site; Start Valve for easy start at any temperature; thermal motor relay to control voltage surge; roll cage for increased protection and many more.
Dewalt D55146 200-PSI Compressor
- 4.5-Gallon Air Tank
- 1.8 HP Motor
- 78 dBl Noise
- 5.0 CFM @ 90 PSI
- 200 PSI MAX
- 83 Pounds
- Oil-Free Pump
DEWALT D55146 is a commercial-duty 4.5-gallon oil free compressor producing 5.0 SCFM @ 90 PSI. The tank can build 200 max PSI and the powerful motor enables to recover in 22 seconds. If you are looking for the compressor with heavy power for professional purpose, this guy will never put you down.
The D55146 provides users with 80% more usable air than the industry-leading 150 PSI compressor and gives users consistent performance to keep up with their demanding job site needs.
It is ideal for multiple applications including trim carpentry, remodeling, deck building, light framing and roofing. This compressor was built with the end user in mind. The unit features a robust lift handle and sturdy telescoping handle facilitating mobility around the workplace.
Furthermore, the D55146 includes innovative vertical stand feature that allows the compressor to be transported and stored in a vertical position, taking up significantly less space than if stored in a horizontal position.
Engineered with a new high-pressure pump and breakthrough motor technology, DeWALT D55146 delivers high surge performance and has a fast recovery. The fully protected roll cage and metal console panel protect the compressor from harsh job site conditions.
However, many of consumers make a common complaint about the leakage problem from outlet. Sometimes, it is non-repairable. If you want to read more on customer reviews, please click here.
Makita MAC2400 2.5 HP Unit
- 3.2-Gallon Air Tank
- 2.5 HP Motor
- 79 dBA Noise
- 4.8 CFM @ 40PSI
- 4.2 CFM @ 90 PSI
- 77 Pounds
- Oil-Lubricated Pump
Introducing Makita MAC2400, the revolutionary multipurpose oil-filled air compressor with 50 % duty cycle. This is a 130 PSI, 3.2 gallon, 120-volt electric hand-carry compressor; built to stand up to the toughest conduction on a jobsite.
The 2.5 Horsepower motor rotates at low 1720 RPM. Lower RPM means less noise and easy startup. The unit has been designed with big bore cylinder making it capable to inhale and compress large volume of air at one stroke.
Featuring 4.8 CFM @ 40PSI and 4.2 CFM @ 90 PSI, this is the right grade for framing crews, trim carpenters, deck builders and re-modelers.
The Makita MAC2400 is built to handle the most demanding nailing and stapling applications such as sheathing and decking. It is versatile enough to handle the needs of a large trim carpenter crew or re-modeler.
Your air compressor is a true workhorse tool. All contractors require industrial grade air compressor for tough job site performance. So, get one that produces industrial performance with increased durability, less noise and faster recovery.
Makita MAC5200 Oil-Lubricated Model
- 5.2-Gallon Air Tank
- 3.0 HP Motor
- 90 dBA Noise
- 6.5 CFM @ 90
- 6.9 CFM @ 40PSI
- 140 PSI MAX
- 88 Pounds
- Oil-Lubricated Pump
The Makita MAC5200 is made by the famous power tools manufacturing company Makita. They sustain their reputation by providing durable product to the consumers and provide best after-sales service.
Featuring oil-lubricated pump and built with quality component, Makita MAC5200 is a heavy duty industrial grade unit with increased durability. Makita’s innovative big bore pump can build pressure efficiently at comparatively much lower RPM (3420 RPM) than its class resulting in reduced heat and improved longevity. Its continuous use capacity makes it ideal for professionals.
When it comes to performance, the rating 6.5 CFM @ 90 or 6.9 CFM @ 40PSI sorts it perfect for running 2 finishing guns or 2 roofing guns spontaneously with no buffering. That is why the Makita MAC5200 is highly favored by remodelers, contractors, cut carpenters and outdoor deck builders.
The unit can easily operate several powerful tools like impact wrench - 3/8", impact driver 1/2", basic sprayers, air hammers, air ratchet (1/4" and 3/8"), caulk guns, and pin nailers to roofing guns.
The pump empowered by a 3.0 HP 4-pole induction motor can build 140 PSI maximum pressure in 5.2-gallon steel made tank. The foldable rubber grip handle and large pneumatic tires will give you best portability.
In brief, if you are conscious of longevity and heavy power, trust us this unit will give you best performance.
Senco PC1010 Oil-Free Model
- 6-Gallon Air Tank
- 0.9 HP Motor
- 78.5 dBl Noise
- 2.6 CFM @ 90 PSI
- 29 Pounds
- 450 Hrs Life Span
- Oil-Free Pump
Over more than 50 years, Senco is involved with manufacturing different types of products with pride. Recently, they have brought on innovative designed air compressor Senco PC1010 meant for light duty applications.
The unit is meant for finishing and trimming work, inflating tires and running small pneumatic paint sprayers. Having 0.5 Running horsepower motor and an oil-less pump, it produces 0.7 CFM at 90 PSI.
Being a very light weight 20 pounds unit, it is favored by some DIYer’s who need a unit to use once or twice in a week for small applications.
In brief, featuring all the necessary components (2 pressure gauges, safety valve, 6 feet long cord) and having roll cage chassis and plastic shroud for protection Senco PC1010 is ideal for what it is meant. It is compact and very long-lasting unit.
Before buying a small compressor, you should think very carefully to make sure the unit can meet all of your demands. It is for indoor use and not for carpenter crews, re modelers and workshop owners.
Recently Senco brought an upgraded version of this model: Senco PC1010N
Buying Guideline in Details
If you want to know minute details of air compressors, we assure you to be on the right place. Here you can go through the details and define which model best suits you projects. There are several factors to consider picking the most suitable one. Each type has both pros and cons. Those are discussed in detail below.
What is SCFM, PSI and HP?
Nowadays there are tons of options and it actually begs the question what should be looking for when buying the air compressor for you. First of all, what you really need to know how a compressor works. In this case an electric motor connected to a pump which inhales air and forces it under pressure into this tank. This pressure is measured by PSI (Pounds per square inch).
So PSI is the volume of air that is stored under a certain rating of PSI and can put out at a certain rating. Then SCFM (standard cubic feet per minute) is a unit to measure flow rate of pressurized air that comes out at great force from the tank. It gauges the mass of air streaming out per minute. Remember, storage of air inside the tank is measured by PSI and power of air stream is measured by SCFM.
The SCFM and PSI rating of regular air compressors range from 0.5 to 30 SCFM @ 90-200 psi. Some Rotary Screw Air Compressors that are generally meant to be designed for only industrial use can feature up to 5000 SCFM. So the pragmatic selection of the air compressor relies upon your tools you use or going to use in future.
A novice often gets confused from the terms like PSI, HP and SCFM. Now our specialists have made it easier for you. Simply, point out SCFM rating of your highest rated pneumatic tool and buy a compressor that exceeds the rating. The best output is obtained when you add 1.5 additional SCFM value with your highest rated air tool.
Example: suppose, you do fastening and framing project and you have a number of nailers like framing nailer (require 2.5 SCFM @ 90PSI), pin nailer (require 1 SCFM @ 90PSI), and brad nailer (require 0.5 SCFM @ 90PSI). Here the framing nailer is the top air hungry tool. In this case you should buy one that can produce 4 SCFM (2.5+1.5) @90 PSI. here the former value (2.5) is for the framing nailer and the latter value (1.5) is to avoid any buffering.
Using Two Tools at A Time:
When using two tools at a time, you need to add CFM rating of your desired tools and go for an air compressor that can produce a little higher CFM than that. For example, if you expect to operate two framing nailer, you need a unit that can produce 6.5 CFM (2.5+2.5+1.5=6.5) @90 PSI. It is recommended by our specialists to add extra 1.5 CFM, since almost all compressors fail to produce the actual CFM they commit to produce.
Pneumatic tools that are used intermittently like ratchet, nailers, and impact wrench usually require 0.5-5 CFM. Heavy-duty tools that require continuous air flow usually operate at 30 or more CFM.
Now, you decide which air compressor is ideal for you to power all your air tools. Don’t get one that is too small because you’ll never be happy with that.
Most if not all models are equipped with two gages and one regulator to control air pressure. One shows the pressure inside the tank that is PSI. The other gage tells you the amount of pressure that you can distribute to the particular tool.
You can control the amount of pressure with the regulator by turning it up or down to change the pressure to the tools. CFM increases when the PSI output is decreased. A compressor with good SCFM rating can power tools for longer time.
Horse Power HP:
Horse power (HP) is a unit used to measure the power of engines. The greater HP, the quicker the tank of an air compressor gets refilled. It is a useful purchase consideration for people who need it for industrial use. For professional use, I would suggest to closely inspect this factor.
A compressor with large HP will boost up the efficiency of your work since it takes less time to replenish. So you need not wait for longer to have the tank refilled. HP is not a major concern for hobbyist units.
Manufactures often do lie as regards true horse power of an air compressor. They often attract customers by showing pick HP. So don’t get tangled by the pick HP and go for Real Horse Power (RHP).
Any motorized device that run in 110/120 V circuit at 15 Amps is not going to be more than 2HP. Another rule of thumb is that 1HP air compressor can generate 3 to 4 CFM.
If you can’t locate the rating for how many cubic feet per minute the air compressor is going to form, just multiply 3 with the real horse power and you will get the approximate CFM value.
It is also worth mentioning that between 2 compressors with an equivalent CFM and PSI value, typically the pump with larger HP tends to outlast.
What Tank Size Do I Need?
You may be wondering what is the role of tank in performance and whether you need to take into account the appropriate size of a tank. Yes! It is one of two main buying factors.
if you want to categorize the suitable tank size of your air compressor, you must identify the range of projects you do regularly or going to do in future. Here we will point out different types of applications and the size of tank they require.
The tank size of an air compressor entirely depends on the type of tools and the frequency of use. Some air tools like sanders run continuously.
To meet their demand a big tank with much air storage is needed. Some other tools like finishing nailers require a quick surge of air to operate.
To illustrate, carpenters usually sink 30, 40 nails randomly and put it away. In this case, a medium size tank will be enough to get the job done. Simply keep in mind that the larger is the size of the tank, the greater CFM and the maximum running time you will get.
There are some units that do not have tank and often called ‘Inflator’. Tire inflators are ideal for inflating vehicle tires, since they deliver high pressure. Raft inflator deliver a high volume of air making them ideal for inflating air mattresses, wraps, toys and sports equipment.
Some inflators serve the purpose of both inflating tires and wraps. So you just need to check the owner’s manual.
If you want to inflate tires, mattress, wraps, sports balls along with intermittently powering up nail guns and staple guns, a unit with 2-gallon tank max is perfect. Remember, tank size is measured in gallon.
For moderate-level work such as fastening and craft projects that require using tools like brad nailer, upholstery stapler, staple gun, nail gun, an air compressor with more than 3 to 5 gallon is must.
It is worth mentioning that a compressor featuring 3 SCFM @ 90 with 5-gallon tank can also run heavy duty tools in a pinch.
For example, you are in emergency case and you need to use an impact wrench to remove the nuts from your car wheel. No problem, it is doable. Your gadget may kick on after removing each nut, but you will get your job done.
An air compressor with a tank over 30 gallons are perfect for the workshop and garages that involve removing nuts, sanding, drilling, hammering, grinding, and using large spray guns. For professional purpose, our specialists suggest the bigger is better.
Remember when your tank size is too small than required, it will end up with several negative results. Firstly, the motor will run more frequently and use more electricity.
Secondly, frequent on-off will reduce durability of the motor even may cause premature death.
However, ideal users allow the air inside the tank to cool down as the humidity in air also goes into the tank. So each time when the tank is refilled it is always recommended by the specialist to allow moisture condense down and become water.
If the tank size is smaller, the compressed air is utilized right away even when air inside the tank is still warm and full of moisture. In painting project, it will decrease accuracy.
To sum up, the more air tank is small, the less air volume is stored in the tank. So compressed air finishes quickly and need to be replenished frequently.
The larger is the size of the tank, the maximum running time you will get. If you have to take unwanted brake to allow your tank refilled and to build up required pressure, your device is smaller than your need.
What is DUTY CYCLE ?
Duty cycle is a measure of how long the machine can be operated for before it runs the risk of overheating and tripping out on the thermal overload.
Duty cycle is based on a 10 minute cycle which is done by the European Commission. Good brands always profile their units with heavy duty cycle.
The duty cycle is usually expressed as a percentage which means 60% of 10 minutes will be 6 minutes. So an air compressor having 50% percent duty cycle should operate for 5 minutes out of 10 minutes. Then it should be shut down for five minute rest to avoid damages.
To select the compressor with perfect duty cycle, you are going to identify what kind of air tools you are going to operate. If you need the compressor for indoor use and you have to power tools that are used intermittently like nailers, impact wrench, air drill, then a compressor having 50% duty cycle is probably all you need.
If it is for your garage and workshop; if you have to power tools that require persistent flow of air like sanders, grinders, ratchet, large spray gun; if you have to power two tools from a single compressor, our specialist suggest you to buy an air compressor having 100% percent duty cycle and you won’t be sorry.
Oil Filled VS Oil Free Air Compressor
Similar to an automobile, oil-filled air compressors require oil to run. Oil-filled machines lubricate the piston when it slides through the cylinder sleeves.
The lubrication system delivers clean oil at the correct pressure and temperature to lubricate all parts of the engine.
The forced oil system lubricates moving parts reducing wear and tear, provides a seal, removes heats and reduces power loss.
When there is a relative movement between two surfaces, there will be friction and heat is generated resulting in an energy loss.
If a film of oil is introduced, it will prevent contact and one surface would glide over the other.There would be no direct contact, friction will be dramatically reduced and it will prevent overheating.
If you need a unit for rebuilding and remodeling that include heavy-duty tools like sanders, grinders, air hammers, an oiled model is a must for you.
Most of the oil-lubricated models feature twin-stack tank that means you need less space.
- Oiled models are two times quieter than the corresponding oil-less model.
- They generate less heat and have an extended life span.
- Unlike oil-less units, the piston ring, piston and sleeve of the oiled compressor are better able to stand up wear and tear since they are lubricated with oil.
- Oil-filled models release a little measure of oil in the form moisture. So they are often ignored by those users who power spray guns.
- The way they are designed requires some additional parts making them heavier and expensive compared to an equivalent oil-less model.
- They require additional care and maintenance like checking the oil level and scheduled oil changing.
As the name suggest, an oil-free air compressor does not require oil. The piston inside the cylinder is sealed with long-lasting Teflon ring, which glides over the cylinder walls smoothly without oil. Teflon seal ring protects the cylinder from being overheated.
They generate less heat than they should produce due to continuous friction between piston and cylinder sleeve.
Oil-less model is ideal for the hobbyists who need to power air tools intermittently. Most of the oil-less models have a common motor and a pancake-style tank.
- The mechanism between oiled and oil-free units is entirely different. Oil lubricated units are designed very simply that facilitates any kind of servicing or repairing at home without the help of a specialist.
- Oil-less machines are designed with fewer parts than oiled compressors that make them cheaper and lighter.
- The components of oil-free models are made of aluminum instead of cast-iron resulting in light weight.
- The piston ring, piston, and sleeve wear down faster than an oil-filled air compressor.
- We only suggest you buy oil-less model if you are a hobbyist. They are not a practical choice for continuous use applications.
Single Stage VS Two Stage pump
Piston-type compressors are available in two verities: Single-stage pump or Two-stage pump. People often do mistake by thinking one-stage pump as designed with only one cylinder and two-stage pump with two cylinders.
The fact is Single-stage pump has only one cylinder block and two-stage pump may have two or more cylinder block often in a V configuration. Now each cylinder block may house two more or more cylinders inside it.
The cylinder block is a solid piece of hard material made of either aluminum or cast-iron. The upper part of the block houses the cylinders and pistons and the lower zone carries the crankcase and the crankshaft.
The operational function of a ‘cylinder’ is to fill air tank with maximum pressure. So the larger the number of cylinders, the greater efficiency is ensured to refill the tank. Two-stage compressors are able to produce more power than single-stage pump.
When given a choice between single-stage or two stage air compressors with the same tank size, two-stage compressor stores a great volume of air in the same tank size
The air compressor with cast-iron cylinder block is heavier than aluminum made cylinder block. Some pancake style models are equipped with aluminum made cylinder block that is why they are lightweight.
The right pick depends on the tools you have to power. If your requirement is fulfilled by one-stage pump, it is irrational to go for two-stage pump and spend more money.
The cylinder blocks in Single-stage pump are more like a motorcycle engine. They contain either one or two cylinders. Usually, 1 to 6 gallon oil-free Single-stage compressors do have one cylinder inside the cylinder block. In contrast, single-stage oiled compressors have two cylinders inside the cylinder block.
A lot of wheelbarrow units and small portable units are usually a fine single-stage compressor. They are highly portable and ideal for automobiles and other mobile applications. Single-stage pump is lighter than two-stage pump.
Single-stage compressors can run one tool at a time. So you cannot power more than one tool from the same compressors. Since they are usually limited from anywhere between 120 and 150 PSI, they cannot power heavy-duty tools that require more than 150PSI. Fortunately, 90% of pneumatic tools operate under the pressure of 150 PSI.
Two-stage pump has at least two cylinders blocks: the main cylinder block is larger and the secondary is smaller. The Cylinder blocks are usually separated in a V configuration and interconnected by an inter-cooler tube. This tube cools air when passes through it.
However, those cylinders run spontaneously to pump air into the tank in two steps. During the initial step, the first cylinder compresses the air at about 150 PSI and pipes the compressed air through the inter-cooler to the secondary cylinder. During the second step, the second cylinder compresses the air with more pressure up to 200PSI.
Two-stage and large single stage stationary units are built for everyday use with high demand air tools. If you're operating more than one tool at a time, it will keep your tools running longer and with higher operating pressure.
Two-stage pump is more powerful than one-stage pump. So a great volume of air is stored in the same tank size resulting in higher operating pressure for longer time. Most of the two stage air compressors are equipped with two hose. This is useful when two workers want to operate two pneumatic tools at a time
Because of the extra mechanical processes, Two-stage pump produces far more heat than single-stage pump. It especially happens when two heavy-duty tools are powered from the same compressor. That is why they frequently need a radiator.
Vertical VS Horizontal Air Compressor
You may have heard about vertical or horizontal air compressor. It is all about design and nothing else. There is no difference in performance with the corresponding specification.
Either a vertical or horizontal model can be the best unit for your need. Above I have reviewed some of the top rated models, you may scroll up to find out the right one.
It is worth mentioning that some items can be run both vertically and horizontally. Because of differences in size and shape, both of the items have pros and cons. Both of them are available either in wheelbarrow or rubber/iron built feet.
Vertical models have a small footprint. If you have a space limit, you may go for that. Besides, you will get better drainage of your air tank on the vertical model. The drawback is that they are not easy to haul around.
Horizontal units have a larger footprint but take less space vertically. If your workplace has height limitation, this one is the right choice for you. Furthermore, they are well balanced and easy to carry.
Belt Drive VS Direct Drive
Drive design is one of the factors that you need to take into consideration when buying a compressor. Here in air compressor buying guide we aim to clarify which of the two models- direct/shaft drive or belt drive- suits your types of applications.
According to our experts, direct drive units can cover a wide variety of applications ranging from inflating tires and rafts to building a deck and finishing the roof. From hobbyists to big carpenter crews can be more than satisfied with a direct drive compressor.
Buying belt-pull device would be a kind of surplus to their requirement. Belt drive units are quality air compressor that will last longer than you expect.
It is worth mentioning that many reviewers claim direct drive units to have a shorter lifespan. It is partially true in the sense that direct drive but oil-free models start to wear very soon.
If you are a professional and worried about longevity, why not buy a direct drive oil lubricated compressor. There is a number of oil filled professional top rated air compressor available on the market providing industrial power with increased durability.
“Belt drive design is for industrial purposes” as Jérome Le Madec was saying. It is ideal for the users who have garage or workshop and need to power several heavy duty tools like sanders, die grinders, impact wrench, big spray guns and all.
I hope now you are informed enough to make a practical decision between buying belt drive or direct drive compressor.
If you want to know further the way both belt drive and direct drive function along with their pros and cons, scroll down and go through the rest of the article.
Direct drive design:
What actually direct drive implies. Direct drive means that the pump and engine are connected directly together. Let’s talk the basic internal parts of the direct drive engine. Inside the engine lock there is a crank shaft that unlike belt pull engine is directly attached to the motor.
Piston rod with a piston on the top of it is attached to crank shaft. As the motor rotates, the crankshaft for being fixed with motor causes the piston to move up and down. The direct drive pump runs at exact same speed as engine since it is connected by the drive shaft directly.
They will run around 3800 RPM at same speed as the engine. If you need air compressor lowest price, direct drive is the sound choice.
Air compressors with direct drive feature are usually designed for light to moderate duty projects. They are meant to be compact, lightweight and highly portable. It is preferred by the carpenters and homeowners due to its portability at their job site.
They are very compact air compressor for construction. Some models are so light that you can go top up a ladder with it.
As far as a power source is concerned, they normally draw up to 18 Amps at 120 volts. It is recommended to plug your device into a dedicated panel no matter how low the amperage rating is.
You may be thinking of installing a new electric outlet at your garage or on the home wall. No, you need not. Simply, avoid using any other devices in the same outlet when the compressor is already plugged in.
This is a false claim against shaft drive compressor to be overly noisy. There are many whisper quiet models which are two-time quieter than belt drive compressors.
Rolair JC10, Porter-Cable C1010, Makita MAC 700, these air compressors are mostly famous for their quiet operational noise at 55 to 65 decibel.
- Advantages of the direct drive are simple. There are less moving parts, no belts to adjust and less expensive initially.
- There is a hardly hassling issue during start up in the frigid environment.
- The facility of adjusting output pressure makes it ideal for all types of pneumatic tools.
- Last but not the least, they are compact, light, solid and portable.
- Direct drive pumps rotate up to I million more time compared to belt-drive commercial low-speed pump. So extensive operation avoiding prescribed duty cycle causes extreme heat coming from the air cooled engines resulting in premature death.
- Because the motor is directly linked to the crank shaft, there are some vibrations. In addition, the heat from the motor transfers to the pumps and add more heat.
- Very few of the oil-less models are found to have irritating loudness.
Belt Drive Design:
Two basic types of drive design of an air compressor are direct drive and belt drive. A belt drive can be separated by a system of belts and pulleys. It has a little bit higher energy loss compared to its counterpart.
However, as far as output is concerned, belt drive models ensure highest industrial output making it perfect for professionals. Some large belt-pull compressors that we see in gas station weighs more than 150lbs.
The most significant feature of them is their efficiency and longevity that tend to last years after years. Some small size air compressors with belt drive feature are also available on the market. If you want a unit that should be both portable and belt drive, there are options for you.
- Belt drives by using belts and pulleys will run at much lower RPM typically between 1400 and 1800 compared to 3800 of a direct drive.
- They create less friction, lower operating temperatures, and overall lower wear and tear on the pump itself that extend the life of pump considerably.
- The belt-drive design increases efficiency over direct drive models.
- Last but not the least, they are robust and solidly built with quality components.
- Disadvantages of belt drive would be possibly more maintenance, adjusting belts and pulleys and it is going to be a little bit higher initial cost factor.
- Since it draws huge power, users living in frosty weather sometimes have to start the unit with difficulty.
- They are heavy and meant to be stationary. You have little chance to haul around with it.
Rubberized belt becomes rigid in snowy weather resulting in breakdown to some extent. Fortunately, this is a very rare case. So, no need to worry
Electric Motor VS Gasoline Engine
Air compressors are powered by either electricity, or gasoline. Whereas gas powered compressors are meant for home owners, DIYers, carpenter crews, and for workshop, gasoline powered units are for big industries and for the places where electricity is not available.
Generally electric air compressors are equipped with 2hp motor or less operated at 110 volt to 120 volt. Motors having 5hp or more require 220 volt and a dedicated circuit.
Gas engine offers the same functions so electric engine does. Gasoline- powered engine are best suitable for builders and remodelers since they are designed for heavy-duty applications and have portability at the jobsite. They are ideal when electricity is not available at your jobsite.
Each has its Strengths and Weaknesses that will be discussed thoroughly. We hope it may help you to find out the best peak.
Advantages of electric air compressor:
- Electricity-powered air compressors are available in different shapes and sizes. They are most common and cover a whole range of applications from home use to industrial use.
- Most of Electric motors feature automatic start/stop functions. The automatic stop-start switch power off the engine when air tank is filled with required air pressure and power it on when the pressure falls below a certain value.
- They do not produce toxic fumes making them perfect for indoor or workshop use. So you need not to have adequate ventilation system in the workplace.
- In almost every case, the beginning expense of an electric engine is significantly lower than a fossil-fuel motor with the same HP rating.
- They don’t require battery service and solidify in below zero temperatures.
- Since they need no fuel, there is no maintenance of engine-oil.
- Electric air compressors are sturdy, having intensive operative life and minimal service requirements.
- they’re generally lighter and compact and environmental-friendly and can be be used safely in enclosed room
In short electric models are durable and robust, fumeless, highly efficient, and automated control and maintenance-free.
Disadvantages of electric air compressor:
- Using high HP motors sometimes ends up in the incidence of pricey electrical demand charges.
- 5 or more HP motor operates on 240-volt single-phase power that requires a dedicated 15 amp circuit. In that case you may be needed to install expensive line extensions with a dedicated circuit in the location where you want to use the air compressor.
- You have to stop work unexpectedly when electricity supply goes out.
- Electric air compressors are compatible only where electricity is available.
- You cannot use extension cable even If your work place is distant.Caution: our specialists firmly prohibit using extension cable. The cable of air compressors should be plugged directly into the outlet. It is recommended to use a long hose.
Advantages of gasoline engine:
- They are often in wheelbarrow style so ensure high portability.
- If your job site lacks electric power, this is the right choice.
- They are designed for heavy-duty applications and capable to produce pressure up to 30 SCFM.
- You do not need to worry about unexpected electricity cut out. They run spontaneously unless fuel run out.
- Gas-powered air compressors produce high efficiency over a variable range of loads. They are equipped with good cooling system because of having exhaust system.
Disadvantages of gasoline engine:
- Gas engine-driven compressors are more expensive compared to same Horse Powe electric motor.
- They require additional maintenance like changing oil and refilling gas. They are highly inflammable which means you have to be cautious during the use.
- They are bulky and heavy and can weigh up to 250 pounds in some cases.
- They are comparatively noisy and produce fume which not only smelly, it’s toxic. This means you cannot use them indoors without having adequate ventilation system.
Portable VS Stationary
This part will cover differences between portable and stationary models followed by their advantages and disadvantages. Portable air compressor refers to a lightweight unit that allows you moving from place to place.
Heavy duty industrial grade compressors are stationary. They are usually meant to install in a fix position. Portable unit is usually preferable to the carpenters and home users. The stationary air compressor is ideal for filling stations, workshops and so on.
As far as portability and mobility are concerned, we suggest you go for a portable one. Portable compressors come in different shapes and sizes. Smaller units weigh up to 40 pounds that are light enough to lift off the ground. They are available in either pancake and hotdog style with a 3-gallon tank and less.
Air compressor of this type is designed to perform light to medium duty applications. Apart from these, there are other kinds of models that do not have a tank. They are meant to inflate tires and inflatable products.
You may need a portable unit with industrial power. Yes! There are some big size powerful portable devices which are profiled with either pneumatic or rubberized wheels.
So you can move around and store it with ease. Air compressors of this type weigh more than 80 pounds and the tank size ranges from 5 to 20 gallon. Big tank means you can use all sorts of pneumatic tools available on the market.
- Built for portability, they are compact and well balanced.
- They are cheaper and draws little electric volt.
- Some portable devices are powered by diesel or petrol which allows you to work in places where electricity is not available.
- Portable models are limited to 20-gallon tank which is not enough for many industry or workshop.
Stationary models are robust and heavy with giant tank and greater HP (Horse Power). They are usually bolted into a fixed place and connected to air tools with long hose. Most of the stationary units have belt drive pump powered by a mighty 3- 13HP 240ACV motor.
They are made for industrial purposes where continuous airflow is required and are generally meant to be used for heavy-duty applications.
people often do mistakes by sacrificing performance at the expense of mobility and portability. Remember pancake and hotdog style models are limited to a certain rating of PSI and CFM. It cannot run many air hungry pneumatic tools like sanders, grinders, impact wrenches, large spray gun, nibbler, and air hammer. It hardly suits with industrial proposes. Check top listed large tank size air compressors
- The bigger the tank size, the greater volume of compressed air is being stored in the tank. So it can produce required PSI and CFM for a longer period of time for all pneumatic tools. If you need the device for rebuilding and remodeling, go for it.
- They are ideal compressor for all air tools.
- Stationary devices are not movable at all. They are highly expensive and priced at 500$ to 3000$. If you don’t use heavy duty air tools, it will be a complete waste of money. It is ideal only for industrial use.
We have reviewed some best models having varied features. One or more may fit your requirement. If you like our buying guideline, why not share it on your social site.
Check some large tank size air compressors:
- 3 Top 60-Gallon Air Compressor
- 3 Top 30-Gallon Air Compressor
List of Air Compressor Manufacturing Brands
Identifying the perfect air compressor with less or no knowledge is impossible most of the time. There are lots of things you need to consider to identify a good compressor.
Quality of production, material, ease of use, size of the product and of course the price impact on the product selection process.
But choosing a brand product can reduce all of the hassles and help you getting perfect product effortlessly. Let’s review few popular air compressor manufacturing brands that might help you getting perfect product effortlessly.
Among the top air compressor manufacturing companies, you will find Makita listed on the top. They are also the leading brand In the automotive and power tools industry, Makita is founded on March 21, 1915, in Japan, but they operate their factories from various countries to provide the best service for their customers.
One of the leading power tools-manufacturing company is DeWALT. The headquarter is located in America. They started their journey since 1999. Power tools like drill machine, air drill, air compressor are their most popular products.
They always come up with innovative products in the market. This is the brand who first brought battery powered air compressor.
On May 20, 1927, Craftsman started their journey and leading the industry with all their quality services and products. They produce hand tool, automotive tools, power tools, storage kits, and lawn & garden equipment as well.
California Air Tools
California air tools is a popular air compressor supplier company who started their journey in early 2002. But they achieved an enormous success in the industry as an air compressor expert comparing with giant suppliers who are doing the business for a long time. You can rely on them for a quality product.
Japanese multinational company Hitachi Ltd has a good reputation in the automobile industry for their quality product and customer support.
Hitachi supply all major types of automotive systems, construction machinery, defense system, electronic system, power system, and aircraft engines. Hitachi founded in 1910, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan.
Porter Cable is another reputed company who manufactures both big and small size air compressors . It's a US Company founded in 1906 in New York but the present headquarter is in Tennessee, United States.
Husky (tool) popularly known as Husky makes chainsaw, different types of power tools, and storage tools as well. Husky started their journey in 1924 as hand tool manufacturing company.
Now they are producing many different types of power tools as well. They assemble their products in the US, but they import materials from China and Taiwan.
Campbell Hausfeld is a US power tool production company, established in 1836. This air compressor manufacturing company headquarter is situated in Ohio, United States.
Though they are expert in air compressor production, they manufacture some air tool, inflator, presser washer, and welder as well. Both commercial and portable product they supply depending on customer demand.
Ingersoll Rand is an America-Irish joint venture company who make various type of power tool. They produce various type of club car, power tools, compressor system, lifting materials, Thermo kind and Trane for residential and commercial purpose. They also produce all type of parts and equipments for these products.
Rolair is popularly known as Rolair Systems who produce different types of air compressor, pumps, and accessories. If you are searching air compressors, you must check the products of Rolair systems. This will help you get perfect air compressor and accessories of it.
If you are searching cordless power tools, you may check the products of Ridgid. They are American manufacturing company who was founded in 1923.
They manufacture all type of power tools like wrenches, hammer and tubing tools. Their cordless combo kit is popular and has good customer demand.
Chicago Pneumatic is a multination power tool manufacturing company that sell products on more than 150 countries. Most of the products are cordless & electric power. They also sell tool & accessories of those products.
Atlas Copco is a giant Swedish tools & equipment production company, founded in 1873. Atlas Copco group has hundred plus branches all over the world and their headquarter is situated in Nacka, Sweden. They produce medical gas equipment, air compressor, air dryer, air filter, gas generator, condensate treatment, marine compressors and railway compressors for large companies.
Sanborn is a hand tool production company who has some amazing hand tool like air drill, air hammer, and powerful impact wrench.
They ensure quality on their product that makes them popular. Any kind of hand tool you need, you can rely on them. Most of their tools are electric power and allows you doing heavy duty work.
Coleman Power mate is pressure equipment production company who has some amazing products. They assemble generators, pressure washer and air compressors that have good customer demand on the running market. They gain huge popularity in the industry for the quality of their products.
Emglo builds heavy-duty power tools like air compressor for commercial purpose. They supply heavy-duty equipment and power tools that come with long-lasting work guarantee. Many different companies produce air compressors, but Emglo has the best features on their air compressors.
Gardner Denver is a popular industrial compressor manufacturing company who produce commercial compressors. Gardner Denver founded in 1859 in America and producing quality power tool for years. Their current headquarters is in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States.
Gardner Denver started their journey in 1859 as industrial equipment seller and providing their service till with good reputation. They have multiple branches and dealers available all over the world. Gardner Denver is an American company and their headquarter is situated in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States.
If you are searching portable power tools, you must check the products of Sullair for their product quality and advantages they offer. Sullair is USA based company and their headquarter is situated in Michigan City, Indiana, United States. Their parent company is Hitachi.
Kaeser is popularly known as Kaeser Compressors who build various type of vacuum products, rotary compressor, reciprocating compressors, screw blowers and different types of the dryer as well. It’s a German company and headquarters is situated in Coburg, Germany.
In our list, Senco is the last power tool manufacturing brand who produce good quality power tools for their customers. If you are searching pneumatic tools and air compressors, you must check the products of Senco. Because they assure best customer support and high-quality material on their products.