3 Reasons You Should Get an Air Compressor

air compressors

Probably overkill yeah?

Why does anyone bother using an air compressor or tools that operate off of an air compressor?  I mean we’ve got electricity – indoors, outside, 110V, 208V, 480V.  We could find the power that we need to operate pretty much any tool correct?  The answer is fairly simple.  Air compressors provide a lone power source for a wide variety of air tools.

Here are 3 very good reasons why compressors have become so popular with contractors and DIY’ers alike: they are versatile, economical, and very powerful.

An air compressor provides a single power source for a wide range of air operated tools that can do just about anything from working with wood and metal to painting and mechanical work.

There’s a huge variety of air compressor sizes and capacities. Choose from tiny inflators, to more powerful pancake air compressors and professional grade stationary models.

porter-cable oil pancake air compressor

Porter-Cable pancake model – 6 gallons of fun.

The most popular air compressors amongst homeowners are portable air compressors that are capable to do everything an inflator compressor can, and a lot more. They can also be toted to a jobsite while still providing enough power. A portable compressor is an awesome tool to have that can blow up tires, power an air brush kit, and drive tools like nailers and staplers.

Air Tool Value

You buy a compressor to operate your tools, and air operated tools give a couple real edges over electric hand tools.

One of the biggest is that air operated tools do not need their own motor. This makes the air operated tools smaller, less heavy and easier to handle.

Pneumatic tools are also known for their reliability. With electric tools, you may have lots of less rugged motors that can wear out. Using air driven tools, you have a lone powerful motor to run all of it, and as a result, pneumatic tools can do work for years and years.

The wide range of uses gives another edge. If you’re building a shed, painting a fence, or acing out your car, you can easily interchange a cornucopia of air driven tools at a solitary compressor, including a ratchet wrench, paint sprayer, angle grinder, finish nailer, or impact wrench.



If you’re building a chair or roofing a home, short burst power tools like air nailers make the work fly by.

Be sure to check out our portable air compressor comparison chart by clicking here.

Assessing Air Compressor Power

Senco Air CompressorThere can be a lot of confusion about what to pay attention to when choosing the right size of air compressor. Many people assume the more the horsepower, the more powerful the compressor.

However, horsepower can be misleading. There are several other factors that determine how well the compressor will perform other than the hp rating. Kind of like two cars with the same horsepower rating, one of the cars can still go faster.

When buying a compressor, also look at the air pressure or psi (pounds per square inch) output. Most air operated tools require 90 psi to operate, and most compressors can make at least 90 psi. Extra pressure doesn’t necessarily improve the performance.

What you truly want to take note of is the air flow. Some air operated tools eat up more air than others. Nailers only require a short pulse of air. Sanders, on the other hand, need huge amounts of air flow.

Air flow is indicated in cubic feet per minute (cfm). The greater the air flow, the larger the power output.

When selecting an air compressor check the cfm rating of the most powerful air tool you plan to use. Then choose an air compressor with a cfm rating that exceeds that of the tool. If the air flow isn’t enough then the tool won’t operate at full capacity. Lots of nail guns require less than 1 cfm. Most air driven tools require 3 to 6 cfm. For sanding or sandblasting projects you may look for an industrial compressor that produces 6 to 13 cfm.

Also, don’t be confused by brands who provide increased cfm readings at varying pressures. Since most pneumatic tools work at 90 pounds, you ought to primarily be worried about what cfm you will get at 90 pounds.

Click here for a review of the 6 gallon Porter-Cable compressor.


More to Check Into

portable air compressors

Claims to be portable…

The next item would be size of the tank. Sizes are normally listed in gallons. However, don’t mix up increased tank size with more operating time for tools.

For periodic use, a large tank will work. However for continuous use, the compressor will require a smaller tank with a big pump and motor. If the power source is enough, you should not run out of compressed air. Of course, the bigger the pump and motor, the bigger the compressor’s price tag.

If you plan on only using it every so often, you can reduce costs by selecting an air compressor with a smaller pump and motor and a bigger tank.

Tank structure is also something to consider, because what you own, you must put somewhere. Some units feature dual tanks, giving the compressor a box like shape. Some tanks are circular and flat, called a pancake compressor. Some tanks are designed horizontally, while others stand vertically to occupy a smaller footprint.

Another item to consider: maintenance. Oil free compressors have sealed bearings and require less maintenance than oil lubricated models. Oil free compressors usually have sufficient power for DIY projects. Most heavy duty, contractor grade  compressors are oil lubricated, but these compressors require routine maintenance.

Most compressors can be available as single stage or two stage units. Single stage models are the most common for home use. Two stage compressors are usually found on industrial heavy duty air compressors, but are great selections for continuous use work.

When choosing a portable compressor, consider factors such as the unit’s weight and whether or not it is mobile. And when it comes to compressor weight, the material it’s made of counts.

And don’t forget to look for simple to see gauges and easy to understand controls. Items like the amount of hose outlets are also significant. Some compressors also come as kits with accessories like hoses, nozzles and even air tools.


In closing

Even you are even slightly interested in learning more about air compressors, you should for sure check out the site’s comparison chart.  You can easily sort the columns and if one of the top 5 best selling compressors catches your fancy – we’ve got air compressor review pages for all five of them.  Feel free to click away.

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