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Depending on the air compressor that you choose, it may be capable of inflating car tires, operating pneumatic tools like paint sprayers and nail guns, or simply adding air to pool floats. Kyle Shirley, owner of Sol Vista Roofing, recommends, “When buying an air compressor, focus on the unit’s cubic-feet-per-minute (CFM) capability. This is the speed at which the compressor can supply air to the tool it’s powering. Most household compressors have capabilities between 0.5-3.0 CFM.”
The reliability of the Campbell Hausfeld DC080500 air compressor, along with its relatively silent performance, wins its position as our top choice.
Here are our favorite air compressors in a variety of categories.
The electric Campbell Hausfeld DC080500 wins our top spot thanks to its durability, quiet performance, portability, and reasonable size to handle small-to-medium tasks. If you’re looking for an air compressor kit that includes three power tools—a brad nailer, crown stapler, and finish nailer—you can’t go wrong with the highly efficient, yet still lightweight, Bostitch BTFP3KIT Air Compressor.
There are two types of air compressors: stationary and portable. Stationary air compressors are larger and are designed to stay in one location, like a workshop. They typically offer a higher air pressure output and may be equipped with multiple nozzles, allowing the air compressor to power several tools at the same time.
Portable air compressors are much more versatile and more common for residential use since they can be moved easily. These products are an excellent option for home painting projects, fencing, decking, and even roofing, where you can use the air compressor to power a nail gun, greatly increasing your productivity instead of having to swing a hammer all day long.
Air compressors can be powered by either gas or electricity, though electric models are more common. Electric air compressors require less maintenance, are quieter, and are suitable for indoor use, making them ideal for powering pneumatic paint sprayers. Gas-powered models should not be used indoors because the burning gas produces fumes that can build up inside an enclosed space and put you and your family at risk. Use powerful gas air compressors outside to handle tasks like building a new fence or repairing the deck.
The size of the tank is a key consideration because this is where the excess compressed air will be stored for later use. Small tanks can rapidly run out of air, causing you to start and stop as you work, making them a poor choice for painting projects, though these smaller tanks are suitable for tools that are used intermittently, like nail guns.
For typical DIY purposes, an air compressor with a 4- to 6-gallon tank is big enough to handle most common tasks, but you could need a larger tank if you’ll be using a powerful tool for an extended period of time—for example, painting the exterior of your home.
Larger tanks are better suited to continuous DIY projects, like painting a room, or even for powering more than one pneumatic tool at a time. These air compressor tanks are most common for large-scale projects or commercial use.
The most important factor to consider, however, is the airflow requirement, which is measured in standard cubic feet per minute (scfm). Your air compressor needs to be able to meet and surpass the airflow requirements, which can vary a great deal between different pneumatic tools. For example, when the air compressor is set at 90 psi, the average pneumatic framing nailer or tire inflator only requires around 2 scfm to operate, while an angle grinder needs 5-8 scfm, and a random orbital sander might need more than 10 scfm.
For a rough guideline when determining how much airflow you’ll need, check the required scfm ratings of all the tools you plan on using with the air compressor. Multiply the highest scfm rating by 1.5; for example, if you’ll be using a paint sprayer that requires 5 scfm, multiply 5 by 1.5, which gives you a needed scfm of 7.5. The higher the scfm, the larger the air compressor.
Another number to consider is the pressure generated inside the air compressor, which is measured in pounds per square inch (psi). As a general rule, smaller tools, such as nailers and inflators, only require around 90 psi, while more powerful tools, such as grinders and sanders, might need as much as 150 psi to operate effectively.
While different air compressors can have different methods of achieving the goal, all basically work by pulling outside air into a chamber, which is then compressed to greatly increase the pressure of the contained air. When you attach your pneumatically powered tool to the air compressor, the compressed air is forced through the relatively tight hose fitting, through the air hose, and into your tool. It’s something like turning on a garden hose, and then using your finger to partially close off the end of the hose; the water pressure increases due to the force of the water compressed within the hose squeezing through the restricted opening.
There are several factors involved in determining the size of the air compressor you’ll need. One is the way the pneumatic tool works; tools that operate continuously, such as grinders or sanders, need an air compressor with a larger tank capacity than a tool that only operates in short bursts of power, such as a pneumatic nail gun. As a general rule, however, choose an air compressor that is able to deliver more capacity than your most-used tool requires. This will help prevent slowdowns or tool failure.
You should also consider the length of the air compressor’s hose. Kyle Shirley, owner of Sol Vista Roofing, advises, “Pairing your air compressor with the right air hoses and attachments (like nail guns) can unlock unlimited potential uses for this powerful tool. Make sure your hose is long and sturdy enough for the project!”
While the specifics can vary between different brands and models of air compressor, the following basic guidelines apply to most of them.
- Position the air compressor on flat, stable ground within reach of an electrical outlet, and plug in the power cord. Don’t turn on the air compressor yet.
- Check the oil level. Typically, the oil gauge will be near the motor. Note, however, that many newer air compressors no longer require the addition of oil, as they have sealed systems. These air compressors are often sold as “oil free.”
- If the oil level is low, add compressor oil—this oil does not have detergents or additives commonly found in automotive oil—to the oil tank until the oil level reaches the “Full” mark. The oil tank access cap is often found on the top of the air compressor.
- Make sure the drain valve is switched to the closed position. You’ll find the drain valve near the bottom of the air compressor.
- Switch the air compressor on, and let it run until it reaches the pressure capacity. For most air compressors, that will be 100 to 115 pounds per square inch (psi). The pressure gauge is normally on the top of the air compressor.
- Set the air control valve—it will be on top of the air compressor—to the recommended maximum psi of the tool you plan on using.
- Connect the air hose to your air compressor. Some models have quick-connect fittings, while others require you to screw the hose to the fitting. Make sure the hose is tightly secured. You might need to use an adjustable wrench for this.
- Connect the other end of the air hose to your pneumatic tool.
- Use your tool as needed. When finished, turn the air compressor off, disconnect the tool, and unplug the air compressor from the electrical outlet.
Coleman Cosby, project manager and landscape design specialist at Yardzen, adds, “Prior to storing an air compressor, make sure to empty any remaining air from the tank, and tip it so the release valve is pointed down. This helps release any moisture from the tank.”
This article is edited and updated by Michelle Ullman, the tool expert for The Spruce. She has extensive experience not only in writing about all things related to the home, but also in carrying out various DIY projects, including landscaping, painting, flooring, wallpapering, furniture makeovers, and simple repairs. For this roundup, she considered dozens of air compressors, taking into account features, brand name, reliability, performance, and reviews from professional and DIY owners.
Additional research for this article comes from Timothy Dale, a home improvement expert specializing in a number of topics, including plumbing, construction, and product recommendations. He has more than 10 years of experience in home restoration. Kyle Shirley, owner of Sol Vista Roofing, and Coleman Cosby, project manager and landscape design specialist at Yardzen, provided further input.
Disclaimer: Curated and re-published here. We do not claim anything as we translated and re-published using google translator. All images and Tattoo Design ideas shared only for information purpose.