What size air compressor do I need for air tools?

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What size air compressor do I need for air tools?

One of the most versatile and efficient forms of energy available is the compressed air. An air compressor is a cost efficient piece of equipment that has multiple functions. You can use it to complete your construction, automotive repair, maintenance, hobby, or to craft projects faster using the traditional tools. There are numerous benefits of having air tools. Accidental air leaks will not release any contaminants and the air tools last longer. They also have variable speed and torque control that enhances their performance. Choosing the size of an air compressor is an essential factor to consider if you are purchasing one for the first time.


Factors to consider when choosing the right size of air compressor

There are two steps you can follow if you want to choose the best size of an air compressor. First, you need to determine where you will use the air compressor. You also need to determine your power requirements.

Where will you use your compressor?

Air compressors are primarily distinguished by two main types; portable and stationary. The portable offers you flexibility in that they can be carried everywhere. They have a wide range of uses such as inflating tires, inflating air mattresses or sports equipment. You can also use them to power nail guns and impact wrenches. They are lighter compared to other models and are highly portable.

The stationary compressors cannot be carried easily from site to site. Not only are they large but also heavier than the portable compressors. They have a larger tank size that offers a greater volume of air as well as more power.


What are your power requirements?

There are two factors to consider when determining your power requirements; the air flow and the tank size. The required air flow can be measured in two ways, pounds per square inch (PSI) and cubic feet per minute (CFM). These measurements help determine the effectiveness of the air compressor when used in various occasions.

Air compressors operate primarily from the air that is stored (compressed) in the air tanks. As a result, the amount of air that is stored inside the compressor will determine the efficiency of certain tools. If you are using air tools that require a large amount of continuous air, you should consider having a larger tank size.


The different sizes of air compressors

Below is a rough guide to choosing the best tank size of air compressors. The theory behind this equipment is that the larger the tank compressor, the better the performance of the air tools. Purchasing from a reputable manufacturer will be the right thing to do. However, always remember that size matters when it comes to efficiency. The larger tanks will definitely cost more. Although you will be working on a fixed budget, never sacrifice on quality since it is a crucial factor when purchasing an air compressor.

  • 6-litre compressors

They are used for smaller projects such as nailing/stapling, spray painting, and tire inflating. This size of air compressors are compact, portable and offer high performance for consumer-grade applications. They have a low maintenance and are completely oil-less.

  • 24-litre compressors

They are fairly sized tanks used for slightly larger jobs. You can always pick something professional or a great DIY compressor with the numerous brands available. They also provide a great value for money.

  • 50-litre compressors

This size of air compressors is available in both portable and stationary versions. They were purposely designed for hobby and professional use. It is always possible to handle medium sized air tools to more demanding applications using a larger tank.

  • 100-litre compressors

Large capacity compressors come in petrol powered or electric options. They are suitable for consumer applications, semi-professional and commercial use. You will have higher benefits compared to the smaller versions because you spend less time filling up your receiver and you spend more time using your air tools.

  • 200+ compressors

If your budget is no longer a concern, you can go for the larger tanks ranging from 200 to 500 liters. They are huge capacity compressors which are perfect for workshop and commercial applications. They all come in stationary versions and are equipped with anti-vibration mounts. You have a wide variety of options to choose from such as electric, diesel or petrol powered sources.


Tank Style Compressors

The air compressors are available in different tank sizes and shapes. Choosing the right tank style will depend on where you want to use it as well as your taste and preferences. We have also highlighted the top picks that will give you a better idea of what to buy when making your purchasing decisions.


Our best pick for Tool barn customers is the Rolair’s JC10 Oil-Less Compressor. It runs very quietly at 60db and is highly portable weighing 39lbs only. It comes with a single-stage pump with ball bearings and 1HP motor. It has an output of 2.35 CFM at 90 pounds per square inch (PSI). This air compressor is also equipped with stainless steel reed valves and cast-aluminum cylinders.


The Rol-Air H5180K30B-19 is the best for professionals. It comes with a horizontal tank and a magnetic starter. It is a 5HP single phase stationary air compressor with cast iron cylinders. A crankcase is installed for a faster heat dissipation with an aluminum head.



It is an air compressor with one piston that compresses air and transfers it to the tank. The Rolair’s BULL compressor FC2002 is best for professionals and gives you the best value. It is equipped with a 2HP motor with a Single-stage pump that is splash-lubricated. It also features a cast-iron cylinder, ball bearings, and stainless steel reed valves. Although it is competitively priced, you can use this air compressor to frame guns or run 1-2 roofing.

Hot Dog or Pancake

These are one of the smallest and lightest models. They usually have a single round tank that resembles a hot dog or pancake. They are mostly used for small scale jobs and household applications. If you want a good little air compressor, you can buy Makita’s MAC700 Air Compressor. It comes with a 2HP motor that has a quick recovery time and operates quietly at 80db. It has always been a favorite for the beverage industry professionals. It is an oil-lubricated pump that produces 3.3 SCFM at 90 pounds per square inch (PSI).


The Gas-powered air compressor is ideal for job site applications. It requires gas to operate and often releases fumes into the air. It is best when used in the outdoors or well-ventilated areas. We recommend Rolair’s 4090HK17 if you need to run multiple guns at the same time. It is a 5.5 HP single-stage compressor that comes with a Honda engine. It also features cast-iron twin cylinders, ball bearings, aluminum allow connecting rods and hardened steel valve plates. This compressor is capable of running 4-7 roofing guns or 3-5 framing guns. It has a large capacity of 8.9 CFM of free air at 100 pounds per square inch (PSI).

Twin Tank

These are air compressors with two air storage tanks. They allow the compressor to maintain a lower center of gravity with lower profile making it highly portable. However, the performance of the compressor is not affected by the number of tanks but the total volume they can hold. The Ingersoll Rand P1IU-A9 is one of the best picks having a 2HP motor with 135 maximum PSI. It is an oil-lubricated air compressor with an aluminum tank material and a cast iron pump. It can be used to inflate tires and other air tools.


It is a portable air compressor that comes with handles and wheels similar to a wheelbarrow. The wheels are useful as they allow you to move heavy compressors to the work site. Dewalt oil lubricated wheelbarrow air compressor features an automotive style ball bearings, a twin cylinder pump with a thermally stable cast iron and a durable Swedish stainless steel reed valves. It has an easily accessible oil fill and the dual control valve allows for a continuous start or stops operation. It utilizes synthetic blend air compressor oil for optimum performance and durability.


Applications of air compressors

Air compressors can be effective for both individual and commercial purposes. For consumer use, you will need the single tanks or ‘oil-less’ models since they are affordable. They are also made for minor household tasks like inflating tires, sports equipment, and toys. They are perfect for occasional pneumatic tool use. However, a consumer-grade compressor will not be sufficient if you intend to do a lot of home-improvement projects.

A professional-grade air compressor is the most appropriate for commercial use. They come in various designs and the primary distinguishing factor is that they are ‘oil-lubricated’. Typically, they have large single tanks or twin tanks with higher ratings in terms of hp and cfm. They are also more expensive compared to the consumer-grade air compressors. However, they are powerful and highly durable making them suitable for commercial use.



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