Choosing the best air compressor can be a daunting task, especially if you’re not sure what you’re looking for. There are several different types of air compressors, and they all have their own functions. To help you choose the right air compressor that meets all of your needs, we have put together this handy guide. Here you’ll find everything you need to know about air compressors from how to choose one, to safety and cleaning tips. Whether you simply want to inflate your car’s tires or power a high performance tool, we’ve got you covered.

Comparison of the Best Air Compressors

Not all air compressors are the same, and each type is designed for a specific type of job. To help you better understand the different types of air compression’s, we’ve included an interactive comparison chart of top air compressors available in the market.

Compressor
Type Engine Size Engine Type Tank Size (gallon) Max. PSI Amazon Ratings
Senco PC1010 Compressor
Portable 1 HP Electric 1 125 4.5
PORTER-CABLE CMB15 Compressor
Portable 120V motor Oil Free Electric 3.5 135 4.5
California Air Tools CAT-1610A
Portable 2 HP Oil Free Electric 1.6 120 4.8
Makita MAC700 Big Bore Air Compressor
Stationary 2 HP Electric 2.6 130 4.5
BOSTITCH CAP1512-OF Oil-Free Compressor
Portable 1.5 HP Oil free Electric 1.2 150 4.4
Rolair FC2002 Twin Stack Compressor
Stationary 2 HP Electric 4.3 90 4.5
PORTER-CABLE PCFP02003 Pancake
Portable 120V motor Oil Free Electric 3.5 135 4.5
California Air Tools CAT-6310
Portable 2 HP Oil Free Electric 6.3 120 4.7
GMC SYCLONE 6310 Air Compressor
Portable 1 HP Oil Free Electric 6.3 120 4.5

Types of Air Compressors

There are two different types of air compressors to consider, and choosing the best one depends of the type of job you’ll be doing. Portable air compressors are best suited for smaller jobs at home and even at work, while stationary compressors are able to power larger automotive and manufacturing tools.

Air compressors are also separated into two distinct categories which include,

  1. Single stage air compressors are stationary and deliver maximum pounds per square inch (psi) of 150. This single step system works on only one piston and is ideal for powering nail guns, tire pumps, and for most of the other small air tools.
  2. Two stage air compressors are also stationary, but they use two pistons to compress and push out the air. The maximum psi ratings on these heavy duty air compressors ranges well over 150, and they are best suited for use in a machine shop or garage.

Advantages to Air Compressors

There are several advantages to using an air compressor to help power your tools, including the fact that they can help you save time and money. With a compressor you can work faster and use your tools longer, and there are several different types to choose from. Gasoline powered air compressors can go with you almost anywhere, while the electric compressors can help a project run more efficiently.

Whether you need a larger air compressor to power a nail framing gun on a larger construction site or a smaller model to simply inflate your car’s tires, they can make your job easier. With the advantage of having compressed air quickly do all of the work for you, there’ll finally be more time to spend on other projects.

Recommended Top 5 Air Compressor Reviews

With so many different types of air compressors to choose from, we wanted to help you pick the best compressor for your projects. Along with the comparison chart, we are also including air compressor reviews so you can make the best informed choice.

Senco PC1010 1-Horsepower Peak, 1-Gallon Compressor

This lightweight and portable air compressor features a one gallon tank and a one hp engine. It is oil free making it easy to maintain, and has a maximum or 120 psi. This small and quiet compressor is perfect for small projects and hobbies around the house, and also includes a one year warranty.

California Air Tools CAT-1610A Ultra Quiet and Oil-Free 1.0 Hp 1.6-Gallon Aluminum Tank Air Compressor

This lightweight compressor weighs only 35lbs, and is extremely quiet at 60 decibels. The 1.6 gallon tank can hold excess air for longer running times and the powerful 2 hp engine will power most pneumatic construction and garage tools. The oil free engine is makes cleaning a breeze, and the compressor also has a maximum psi or 120. While it is powerful enough for many of the heavier air tools, this compressor is also quiet enough to be used next door to neighbors. A one year warranty is also included with the compressor.

California Air Tools CAT-6310 Ultra Quiet and Oil-Free 1.0 Hp 6.3-Gallon Steel Tank Air Compressor

This quiet air compressor features a 6.3 gallon tank and oil free pump, which also operates at a low 60 decibels. The compressor also includes wheels for easy transporting, and the powerful 2 hp engine can handle most construction and garage pneumatic tools. Perfect for jobs outdoors and the additional water trap makes it easy to remove any damaging moisture from the compressor. Maximum psi is 120 and a one year warranty is also included with the air compressor.

Rolair FC2002 2 HP Twin Stack Compressor with Overload Protection and Manual Reset

This stationary electric air compressor features two cylinders for more powerful compression’s during use. The cast iron cylinders are long lasting, and the 3400 rpm motor can power almost any heavy garage or machine air tool. Since the compressor is electric, it is safe to use indoors and has a maximum psi of 90.

6.3 Gallon GMC SYCLONE 6310 Ultra Quiet and Oil-Free Air Compressor

This powerful and portable air compressor features a large 6.3 gallon tank with wheels included. The pump is oil free, and the 3000 hour running cycle gives you plenty of time to finish your projects. Powerful enough for framing guns and other heavy air tools, the compressor is also quiet enough to use at home in an open garage. This model also features a maximum psi of 120.

Things to Consider

Air compressors can make many jobs easier and even shorter the time that it takes to finish them. Before you go out and buy an air compressor based on its size there are a few things that you need to consider,

  • Moveable or stationary
  • Power Source
  • Ratings: PSI, SCFM, and horse power
  • Tank
  • Type of Pump

Stationary or Moveable

One of the most important things you need to consider is whether or not you want to be able to easily move and transport your air compressor. The two main types of compressors are:

Portable compressors: This type of air compressor comes in several different sizes. The larger ones normally include wheels, so you can move them easily between different jobs. The smaller models are ideal for powering nail guns, and for inflating tires and they usually include a 2-6 gallon air tank. Larger air compressors can be used for projects in either a personal or commercial garage and can include air tanks ranging from 20-30 gallons.

Stationary compressors: These compressors are designed for powering tools in shops and garages. They are normally bolted to the floor, and can be wired into the building electrical outlet. Their tanks can range in from 60-80 gallons, and often include a small engine.

The Power Source

There are two main sources of power for air compressors, gasoline and electric. Gas powered air compressors should only be used outside, since they do emit poisonous fumes. They are normally used on construction sites, and by home remodelers. Electric air compressors can be used safely indoors with the smaller models using 110-120v and the larger ones with more than 2 hp needing a 220-224v outlet.

Ratings

Now that you’ve decided on the type of air compressor you need, it is time to understand their performance ratings. One of the first things to look for is the compressor’s standard cubic feet per minute rating or SCFM. This will tell you how much air the compressor can deliver. If you are powering smaller tools a SCFM rating from 0-5 will be enough, while larger tools and longer use should have a SCFM of 10 or more.

You should also look at the compressor’s PSI rating. Smaller models are usually around 90psi, and the larger air compressors can be 150 psi or even higher. While this is not as important as how much compressed air a model can deliver, knowing the horsepower of the compressor can make a difference in choosing the best one. Smaller models for use around the house generally have 1.5-6.5 hp and can run off of a standard 110-120v electrical outlet and the compressors with 2hp or higher require a 220v outlet.

Tank and Type of Pump

The size of the tank on air compressors ranges from only 1 gallon all the way up to 80. The best sized tank will depend on how long you want to use the air compressor at a time.

Air compressor pumps can be divided into two distinct groups, single and two stages. Both of these types of pumps can have more than one cylinder operating, but the two stage pump can store more air in the tank so you can use it longer. Pumps are further categorized into oil and oil free, with the majority of the smaller and lighter air compressors using an oil free design.

Extra Features

Many air compressors come with additional features including safety shut off power switches and an air cooling system. Both of these can help to protect the motor and prolong the life of the compressor. Roll cages can help to protect the compressor on job sites and while traveling, and an ASME certification means that you are buying the best.

Safety Tips

Like any other tool or piece of machinery, safety is always essential. While automatic power shut off switches and roll cages might protect the compressor, you still need to be concerned with your own safety especially when you are using it. Some key safety tips include;

  • Always make sure you are using the right power source. Never to plug a 120v compressor into a 220 outlet or vice versa. Not only can this damage the machine, it can also cause a fire or electrocution.
  • Never use an air compressor if it is being powered by a generator.
  • Check to make sure you are never exceeding the recommended pressure for any tool that you are using.
  • If you own oil based air compressors checking the oil level before starting it can help to prevent costly repairs.
  • Familiarize yourself with the safety release valves on the compressor. They can be used to release extra pressure if it becomes too high.

Maintenance

Most air compressors are generally considered low maintenance, and need only a simple cleaning. Oil based air compressors do require regular oil changes and should be treated similarly to a car engine. Regardless of which type of air compressor you choose, they all promise to require little care and cleaning to last through any job you throw at them.

Conclusion

Choosing the best air compressor doesn’t have to be overwhelming and you can find the right one for your jobs and projects. The benefits of using an air compressor can range from saving you time and money, to simply helping you to prevent muscle fatigue. They are easy and safe to use, and now they are even quiet while still being powerful. Whether you choose a lightweight model for small projects around the house or a larger compressor for construction sites and garages, there is an air compressor that can help you get all of your jobs done.




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