An air compressor is a device used to convert power into potential energy stored as compressed air or pressurized air. Air compressor is not like other sources of power because it doesn’t involve converting other forms of energy like heat.
If you’re a heavy-duty mechanic, contractor, serious hobbyist, or automotive technician, it’s essential to have the best air compressor. In this buying guide, you will get our list of the best air compressors and tips for buying an air compressor.
Air compressors can be used to play vital roles, such as providing torque and rotation power. The power generated will be used in pneumatic tools like brushes, drills, screwdrivers, nut runners, and riveting guns.
If you’re looking to buy the best air compressor in the market, there are several criteria to look at. These criteria help you get the right compressor you need for a specific purpose. Consider these criteria below and make an ultimate decision before you buy an air compressor.
If you need to buy an air compressor with sufficient power for the tasks you want to do with it, consider its horsepower rating. Horsepower rating stands as the best way to determine the size of the compressor.
Unfortunately, you will come across marketing guys who exaggerate the horsepower rating of the compressor. Nevertheless, there is an advantage because when you consider industrial compressors, they are rated accurately. That’s why you will find that a 5 HP compressor from the industry is expensive and more prominent than the overrated type of 5 HP compressor.
If you want to be sure you have the real or overrated HP, look at the much power is used to run the machine. If it is an actual 5 HP motor, it should draw 24 amps from the 220V circuit. Overrated hobby compressor, on the other hand, it will run on 15 amp from a 110V circuit. That’s the easiest way to know the difference between a real horsepower and an overrated horsepower type.
Besides, electric and gas motor HP is rated differently. That’s because it can take 10 HP gas types of compressors to produce the same air pressure, similar to a 5 HP electric compressor.
Air pressure is another feature to look at before you purchase an air compressor. It is rated in PSI or pounds per square inch. For most air tools, they need more than 90 PSI for them to run efficiently but to get such a PSI, then look for a 12v air compressor having higher shut-off pressure.
You will find most industrial compressors to be two-stage, and thus, these build up the shut-off pressure through two stages. For the first stage, it will build about 90 PSI while the other to 175 PSI. However, smaller and hobby commercial-duty air compressors are single-stage; therefore, they will shut off between 125 – 135 PSI. It might sound like much air pressure; however, the tools might kick in at 100 PSI. If you consider such, there will be pressure drop from restrictions in couplers and hose, meaning you will not have sufficient pressure for the tool.
Air tools will require specific air volume for them to keep working. The air volume that a compressor will produce is rated in CFM or cubic feet per minute. If you look at different air compressors, you’re likely to see different CFM ratings. Sometimes, you can find a high rating for displacement cubic feet per minute and if it is calculated depending on the speed and size of the compressor pump.
The rating doesn’t determine the efficiency or inefficiency of the pump. What is essential for smaller compressors is having more than 90 PSI rating because such pressure can run numerous tools.
Nevertheless, be cautious because CMF ratings are highly exaggerated, like the HP ratings. Therefore, you should get 3 – 4 cubic feet per minute per real horsepower at 90 PSI.
The air compressor tank size will not matter much when choosing the best air compressor to buy. The tank is not responsible for producing air but only plays a significant role in storing the air. Therefore, you need an air compressor with a big pump and motor such that if it can produce enough air you want to use, you will never run out of the air, no matter the size of the tank.
Nevertheless, in some situations, you can have your money by having a small compressor equipped with a large tank but only use the air intermittently. It means that if your compressor can produce 10 CMF continuously, it means you can take from the tank 20 CMF with half the time.
But if you have to stay run your tool, like a sander, then the air compressor has to produce enough air. If it has a smaller tank, it is portable and can get pressure quicker. The large tank, on the other hand, will often start and stop but cool the air better. When the air compressor has a large tank, that does not imply it runs less; it will run the same even if it has a smaller tank, only that it will start and stop less time. The tank size is measured using US gallons.
A single-stage compressor refers to the type of compressor having a single or more cylinder, but each cylinder will pump the air directly to its tank.
On the other hand, a two-stage type of compressor will at least consist of two cylinders. Air will be pumped from one of the cylinders to the other and then pumped into its tank. In this type of air compressor, the pump will move its air through the cooling tube into the cylinder at 90 PSI and then into its tank at 175 PSI.
If you are looking for air pressure with higher pressure, it is the main reason to purchase a two-stage type of air compressor. Unfortunately, not many DIY applications will ask for high pressure. It, therefore, means you might not require the two-stage compressor.
Some believe that having a two-stage compressor is better in quality, but it’s not necessarily true. For most 5 horsepower and large industrial compressors are usually two stages. However, such are better compressors because they have been built with industrial standards in mind and not because of their type. Depending on your applications, it is best to have an excellent single stage compressor quality instead of having a big box and low-cost two-stage compressor.
It is essential to look at the duty cycle of the air compressor before you buy it. It comes expressed as a percentage. The duty cycle will tell you the minutes an air compressor will run within 10 minutes. If you look at a low-quality hobby type of compressor with a 50% duty cycle, it means that the compressor should not runs 5 minutes or more within 10 minutes. When you exceed the compressor’s duty cycle, it means the pump will be too hot, making it not last longer as expected. Many industrial compressors you come across will have a 75% duty cycle where others have 100% and, therefore, suitable to run them continuously and efficiently.
You should choose an air compressor having the best duty cycle. If you have two air compressors, one with a 50% duty cycle and the other 65% duty cycle, assuming you want to paint a barn, at the end of the day, you’re likely to have 30% more with the 65% duty cycle air more. However, assume that the two spray guns will require 10 CMF, it means that when you use a 50% duty cycle compressor, after every five minutes, you have to wait for 5 minutes. However, the other 65% duty cycle could paint for about 6.5% minutes but wait for 3.5 minutes before you can start to paint again. And that’s a 30% increase.
Imagine saving 20% to buy an air compressor in a local big box store or buy an industrial economy compressor that will last half of another compressor? Do you think you will have saved anything?
Many contractors brand types of compressors are designed to last 10 times longer and only have little difference in their price.
If you want to buy yourself a compressor, avoid buying until the dealer tells you the life expectancy. And in case the dealer does not know, he should call the manufacturer to confirm. You should ensure that in every dollar you spend to buy a bigger or better compressor, you should save about 2-3 dollars in the long run. Despite buying the best quality compressor for you to get a long life expectancy, also buy a bigger compressor. If you require an air compressor with 10 HP minimum in size, purchasing a 15 HP compressor helps to stay a lot cooler, and it is likely to last twice long. Therefore, when you’re buying an air compressor, consider its cost per hour depending on its life expectancy.
If you compress air, it will get hot, and after the air cools, water condenses from the air. The harder you will work with the compressor, the more it will get hotter, giving you more moisture problems. Therefore, the best way to solve moisture problems is by choosing to buy a bigger compressor as it will not work hard to get hot.
Besides, humidity in the air is another factor that might cause inconsistent moisture problems. That’s why the air compressor usually has a low spot where it collects water. The system has a design such that it can collect water droplets and not water vapor. If the air will be hot, it carries moisture through, and water vapor condenses in the hose.
Nevertheless, the trick is you get the air cooler before it can get into the moisture trap, and if it will cool from the trap, it means more moisture has to condense out. Desiccant dryers stand out as a great way to remove moisture. The air compressor will use silica, which helps absorb the air moisture, and silica gel will be replaced or even heated after saturating.
If you’re looking for an excellent low noise compressor at home, Makita MAC 700 is the one to pick. It is a model coming with great features, thus making it stand out on the market. When looking for an innovative air compressor, Makita never disappoints on its products. This Makita MAC700 comes with a 2 horsepower a 120-volt motor that makes it an energy-efficient model. Besides, it runs with 130 PSI operating pressure and can give you amazing recovery time, make less noise, and use less electricity.
The air compressor has been packed with a 2.6-gallon tank; it can therefore store enough air you need. It does not have the traditional ball drains but has the petcock valve. When using this air compressor, it makes discharge faster and simpler. An added benefit about the Makita MAC700 model is that it comes with a Big Bore piston and a cast iron pump. That’s because a larger piston provides you more compressed air. Cast iron, on the other hand, is highly efficient and more durable, especially if you plan to work in tough conditions.
With such a piston, your machine will need to make a few strokes to gather the same volume similar to smaller pistons. Besides, it also results in less wear of your pump, lower noise, and lower RPM. Nevertheless, this air compressor has a simple oil change process because you can reach the oil drag plug easily. With such an easy way to change oil, it gives this machine has an excellent lifespan.
Dewalt DWFP55126 Air Compressor is another great compressor you can buy for your DIY projects. It comes equipped with essential and useful features. This air compressor has been equipped with a 6-gallon tank producing a maximum of 165 PSI. Additionally, this unit is made with a robust motor, such that you will not have problems to start up during freezing winter morning.
An added advantage is that it has an oil-less pump; thus, you need minimum maintenance but can give you a long operation period. Dewalt DWFP55126 Air Compressor comes with a removable console. Such a console provides your air compressor with protection to its control panel. The removable cover also makes it easy for you when you plan to conduct maintenance inspection. Besides, it can support two of your spray painting guns or two nail guns when you want to use them together and at the same time. That’s possible because the air compressor has been equipped with two couplers.
The compressor comes with a ball drain valve, which provides you with a quick tank drain. Additionally, it also has a convenient cord wrap and protective rubber leg covers that enhance its storage. With only 30 lb in weight, the air compressor provides you portability.
The high-efficiency motor present in the machine allows you to start up the device even when it is cold. Additionally, it has a high flow regulator, and that provides you with maximum performance.
Bostitch BTFP02012 Air Compressor stands out as among the best portable pancake type of air compressors in the market. Despite this model having a powerful compressor pump, and a 6-gallon storage tank, it only weighs 31 pounds. The air compressor comes with an oil-free design, which provides you with clean compressed air and reducing its maintenance needs. Bostitch BTFP02012 Air Compressor comes with a powerful high electric motor that provides you with comparatively silent action (78.5 DBA) and improved efficiency. It is a great unit because it starts with ease in cold weather and provides you with 150 PSI. And at 2.6 CFM, this air compressor can provide you with 90 PSI making it an exceptional model.
The air compressor has been equipped with other crucial features such as lightweight and compact design. The lightweight and compact design are suited to help you with different pneumatic projects. It is equipped with a 6-gallon tank with 14 inches of diameter in the middle, improving its stability when operating it. The cortical and pancake tank design makes this air compressor compact, giving an added advantage of minimal storage space. It also comes with a large and ergonomic handle, enabling you to move from one place to the other at ease.
The sleek design ensured these air compressors connectors and gauged are not knocked off or bumped while transporting it. Additionally, this air compressor comes installed with an oil-free piston pump that enables it to run silently and efficiently. Besides, the oil-free design also allows it to run with high efficiency for a long time with minimal maintenance requirements. An outstanding aspect you will find with the air compressor is a variety of different controls.
DeWalt DXCMPA1982054 is a great air compressor model that has been designed to perform challenging duties. That’s because it has been equipped with high-quality construction and performance for you to use in your professional services.
A significant advantage of this air compressor is that it provides you with efficient and reliable services because it features cast iron twin cylinder pumps. The pumps feature aluminum valve plate and head, which enhances fast heat dissipation.
The air compressor provides you with high flow regulators that supply 20% more torque, and you can easily use it to remove stubborn bolts and nuts. It also has a heavy-duty voltage induction motor that can drive for you high pump performance and ensure easy, trouble-free operation.
It has been installed with on-board controls, providing you with easy and quick access to connect air outlet, on/off switch, tank & tool pressure gauges, and flow regulator.
An added advantage of this air compressor is that it comes equipped with pneumatic wheels, which provides you with excellent mobility. The handle will give you easy transportation.
For easy maintenance, this air compressor features stainless steel reed valves, automotive-style ball bearings, easily accessible oil fill, cast iron balanced flywheel, and an oil level sight glass.
With a 20-gallon horizontal tank, this air compressor provides you with 155 PSI maximum pressure. Nevertheless, it is suitable for the DIY user, contractor, and professional services. It is perfect for high consumption tools such as sanders, paint sprayers, nail guns, and more. It, therefore, means you can use it in a variety of tasks, pick it for home and workshop tasks.
Another excellent air compressor for DIY projects at home is this Makita MAC2400 Air Compressor. Therefore, if you are looking to get a powerful air compressor to use with your home tools, this is not the right model option.
The model has been equipped with useful and vital features. It is, therefore, an excellent professional-grade you can use to handle many jobs in your garage or house.
Makita MAC2400 Air Compressor is equipped with 2.5 horsepower and, therefore, among the most powerful portable DIY units you’ll come across. There are various consumer-grade compressors with 6.5 HP, but unfortunately, they are loud and heavier.
It provides you with 4.2 CFM and 90 PSI, and you can therefore use a significant amount of power for an extended time.
It offers you with a 50% duty cycle, and that means you have more than enough to use for moderate duties. It, therefore, means you’re not likely to damage it because of overuse.
Despite the design seeming portable, it is relatively heavy as it weighs about 80 pounds. However, that is light enough and can be easily carried around by a hand truck or two people.
Makita MAC2400 Air Compressor provides you with the ability to deal with a variety of tools. With both portability and power, this compressor will suit your needs.
The air compressor runs at low RPM, making it fairly quiet and suitable for use in your garage or home. Some of the common applications you can use with this air compressor are to pump up bicycle tires, cleaning applications, and blowing balloons.
Unlike other compressors, this model is oil lubricated. You have to maintain it by checking and changing oil.
This top-rated air compressor is highly designed as among the fastest air compressors you can find in the industry. It is oil-free and ultra-quiet, with only 60 dB.
This 1 horsepower powerful motor operates at 1680 RPM and creates less noise and less wear. A great thing about it is the oil-free dual-piston system; it has been excellently engineered, providing you with great performance and durability.
Additionally, the oil-free pump allows you to use this machine at uneven terrains and at various temperatures. It has been equipped with an 8-gallon steel tank, which is lightweight, and because of the wheel kit, you can easily maneuver with the air compressor.
Nevertheless, this air compressor is ideal for you to use when you want to work inside because noise is never a significant issue.
Powermate Vx PLA4708065 air compressor is a great choice and among the best that comes with 80-gallon. It is an excellent machine loved by many users because of the many positive reviews online. The reason to choose this Powermate Vx PLA4708065 air compressor is because of its exceptional value price.
Powermate Vx PLA4708065 air compressor uses a 15 Amp motor and provides you with 5 horsepower output. The horsepower is enough to help you complete small and medium-duty tasks. The air compressor is powered by a motor and has a cast iron single stage pump suitable for use by 14 cubic feet per minute at 90 PSI.
An added advantage of this product is that it is quiet and efficient in design. It has less than 80 dB and, therefore, suitable for use at home. Another impressive thing about the model is that it has a wired-formed belt guard.
The setup present in the machine gives it better cooling characteristics and, therefore, efficient in its operation. A great advantage is that the air compressor will come pre-filled with synthetic oil from the factory, thus providing you with longevity and optimal performance.
When making the air compressor, the manufacturer had durability in mind and therefore equipped with a cast-iron cylinder body, a cast-iron crack case, and stainless steel valves. With a convenient sight glass at the oil level, it helps you quickly check and fill the machine with oil. It also helps to ease your maintenance task.
Additionally, the air compressor has been made using 100% cast iron, increasing the durability of this machine. As it is built with such high-quality material for its components, you are confident your air compressor can last long.
The other excellent air compressor to power up your pneumatic tools is DEWALT DWFP55130 Heavy Duty. It is a 2.5-gallon with a maximum of 200 PSI. The air compressor has been equipped with numerous essential features.
DEWALT DWFP55130 Heavy Duty is an oil-free pump, therefore, requiring less maintenance, and can deliver 3 CFM at 90 PSI.
A reason to choose DEWALT DWFP55130 Heavy Duty is that it gives you the advantage of relying on it for a long time. Besides, it also has a fast recovery.
You can operate and store this air compressor vertically or horizontally, which ends saving for space on the job site or in the garage.
It comes with two universal air couplers, and they provide you with a chance to operate two tools together. The primary purpose of the compressor is to support nail guns, and you can put a significant number of nails using a single tank charge. It has also been installed with a high flow regulator, thus providing you with optimal performance.
As the air compressor has a 71.5 dBA noise level, it is quiet than most of the compressors in our review. It also has a 12 amp draw motor, and with such, it can start easily and reduce breaker tripping.
The compressor weighs about 40 pounds. It, therefore, remains among the best air compressors for handymen and freelance carpenters.
If you’re looking for an air compressor, Industrial Air IL1682066.MN stands as an excellent choice for handling massive tasks. With a quick set regulator, it makes this 20-gallon air compressor suitable for painting. That’s because you can easily manipulate the quick set regularly.
It has a lubricated pump that features a V-shaped twin cylinder and cast iron, which improves the durability of the machine and increases heat dissipation. The unique design of the gadget will enhance CFM reading. Moreover, it has reed valves and aluminum heads that further aids in distributing the heat, which renders the machine thermally stable.
The 20-gallon ASME installed in this air compressor aims to maximize portability with a small footprint, pneumatic tires, and front handles, thus easy for use anywhere. An added advantage is that the machine has a heavy-duty motor.
With various control functions such as air outlet, convenient on/off button, a set regulator, and pressure gauges, ensure the air compressor has provided you with maximum performance.
Addition benefits of this air compressor are excellent in spray paint because it works perfectly for a nail gun. Nevertheless, this air compressor works optimally under extreme conditions with its top-performing features.
If you need to purchase an air compressor perfect for use at the household, picking this model will be an excellent choice. PORTER-CABLE C2002 air compressor is highly portable and easy to use. There are reasons why this air compressor is a perfect device you need at your disposal. PORTER-CABLE C2002 air compressor provides you with optimal performance, and it is long-lasting. That’s because this air compressor has a tactically engineered induction motor. With a pancake style tank, it provides you with a unique look enhancing the aesthetic appeal of the compressor. Besides that, the pancake style also improves stability, making it essential when working in tight spots. An added advantage of this model is its air tool performance because it is remarkably extended than other brands. That’s possible because it has a high-pressure design. Besides, it has significant recovery time, and it stands at 90 PSI.
Further, the air pressure requires deficient maintenance because it is an oil-free pump. That’s why you’ll realize that the compressor will run all seasons smoothly. It is an excellent choice because this model will not slow down during cold weather, unlike other compressors.
PORTER-CABLE C2002 air compressor is made with a user-friendly design and useful features for a good air compressor. It also has several components to provide you with longevity. You can use this PORTER-CABLE C2002 compressor for different tasks such as filling tires and firing nails. It is an excellent air compressor you can use to perform indoor tasks on the road or outdoors.
The manufacture equips it with a 6-gallon tank and will not use much of your time to recharge. The air compressor’s quick recharge is possible because of its thermal overload protection that makes things better.
If you have a hard time picking the best air compressor, read these frequently asked questions.
The size of an air compressor runs between 1 gallon to 60 gallons. It is a size that determines the period air tools will run before the motor turn back and generate more compressed air. Depending on the tools you want to use, air tools such as sanders and grinders will require continuous flow, therefore demanding an air compressor with a large tank. However, those tools are operating in shorts bursts and include framing nailers and brand. Nevertheless, the lesser time the motor will turn on and off, the longer the lifespan.
If you want to have the right air compressor, there are factors to consider: First, know the projects you will do with the air compressor, such as home upgrades, automotive repair, among others. The other factor in determining the right air compressor is the tool you want to use. Some tools are requiring bigger tanks to supply more airflow, such as sandblaster. But if you’re going to operate a smaller tool like a brad nailer, even a small compressor is efficient.
An air compressor will operate through an electric or gas-powered motor. The motor helps convert electrical energy to form kinetic energy, where it takes that air around the machine. After that, it will draw the air into a tank, and the pump will pressurize it up to the correct operating pressure of the device.
The air compressor tank will store the pressurized air. When you trigger the tool you’ve connected on the airline, stored air will run into your tool head. And the pressurized air will run the machine you’re using.
You need to choose an air compressor depending on your needs. If you’re a contractor, you need a powerful air compressor to pressurize between 150 to 200 PSI. But, such a large air compressor will not be suitable to use at home.
If you need an air compressor for DIY projects, choose a smaller unit that can provide you between 125 – 150 PSI. However, if you want to use plenty of tools, choose an air compressor offering you top performance.
By now, you already know an idea of the best air compressor that will suit your needs. If you are still on the fence on your purchase decision after going through this buyer’s guide, relax. Pick one of the best-recommended models on our list, and you can’t go wrong with the purchase.
If you’re a homeowner or contractor looking to have the best air compressor, we recommend choosing our top choice. You will get a powerful and excellent performing in demanding work environments. There are also the best choices for those looking for a quality machine with top performance in a working environment and expected to last longer.
By choosing one of these air compressors, you’ll never go back to the hassle to use manual tools again.