Air Compressors feature a powerful electric motor (or engine) that squeezes air into a steel storage tank. When the compressed air is released, the pressure produces a gale force wind capable of powering pneumatic tools.
Introduction to the Air Compressor
Air compressors are frequently seen in homes and shops. Battery and electric tools can only produce so much power. Increasing the voltage on the battery will also bulk up the tool making it heavier to hold and harder to maneuver, while using the power tool. An air compressor solves this problem by offering an increase in power, while still maintaining a light weight tool.
Air compressors essentially hold air is a compressed setting. The air is then released through a hose powering a tool. Once the unit is charged or the air pressurized the unit will run until the pressurized air is diminished. It will then stop until the air is re-pressurized, before it will run again. Compressors can be used to power tools, paint cars, do body work, inflate tires and a full range of other uses. They are an inexpensive way to add more power to work projects. They have a ton of power built into a compact unit which is able to give extra strength to tools and sprayers in a way other accessories cannot. As a result, compressors are common in homes, work shops and body shops.
Not only does it provide more power but it also speeds up the job. Instead of nailing in one nail at a time to put a house frame together a contractor is able to frame a home in a fraction of the time by using an air compressor to fire the nails into the wood. Instead of hammering in each piece of trim along the ceiling or baseboard, an air compressor will fire the nails in as fast as the contractor can move. Instead of spray painting a vehicle or filling in body work an air compressor can increase power and reduce time on the job increasing efficiency. The single stage piston style is the most common type used in homes and small shops.
Top 10 Air Compressors
|6||PORTER CABLE PCFP02003||3.50||135|
|8||PORTER CABLE CMB15||1.50||150|
Dewalt DWFP55126 6 Gallon 165 PSI Pancake Compressor
The Dewalt DWFP55126 6 Gallon 165 PSI Pancake Compressor is our top pick because it features a portable compact design with enough power to operate power tools, inflate tires, and paint to last for the completion of small to medium size jobs. The machine has a fast recovery time to allow for nearly continuous work. The compressor provides 6 gallons of air capacity and up to a maximum of 165 PSI of air pressure. It provides 2.6 SCFM at 90 PSI. The motor is built to be very efficient and will start easily in both warm and cold climates. While most pancake models are very loud when operated, the Dewalt DWFP55126 comes in at only 75.5 decibels making it one of the quietest in its class. It is able to hold the air without leaking giving you a shorter recharge time and the unit will be ready when you are.
The regulator includes two universal couples which allows two users to use the tool simultaneously. The dual gauge unit allows to you see the pressure from both hoses if two people are operating on the same unit. It also features the ability to accommodate a high flow of air for improved performance. Controls are protected by a console and makes the unit easy to repair. The motor does not require any oil for a nearly maintenance free compressor. The tank is quick to drain through the ball drain valve. It features legs which contain a protective cover to prevent any scratching or damage to the floor. The cord wraps around the top for easy storing. The Dewalt DWFP55126 only weighs 30 pounds and is easy to move from place to place. It is also very compact in size with the dimensions running 17.2X16.6X20.1. This unit comes with a one year warranty.
California Air Tools 5510SE Air Compressor
The California Air Tools 5510SE Air Compressor is a top pick because of its size and capacity and provides enough power for most personal and hobbyist applications. The unit features a 1.0 horsepower engine 4 pole motor with a maximum RPM of 1680 and only draws 8.5 amps. The air capacity is 5.5 gallons. The air compressor tank is made of steel, giving you a good quality container that will last for years. The thermal overload protector will prevent the unit from being overloaded. This unit produces less heat and dissipates the heat more efficiently.
The unit itself is easy to maintain and does not require oil reducing maintenance costs and providing cleaner air for improved tool operation. It contains a dual piston pump system in the motor for increased durability. It produces a maximum of 2.20 CFM at 90 PSI and 3.10 CFM at 40 PSI with a maximum pressure of 120 PSI. Two pressure control gauges allow you to achieve exactly what pressure you want. The universal ¼ quick connector works with all standard connectors. This unit only reaches 60 decibels making it one of the quietest machines in its class. The motor is designed to run continuously with longer run times increasing the work load and reducing down times. It only takes 130 seconds to charge the unit with recovery time under a minute. The unit only weighs in as 54 pounds making it very portable. The unit is only 23 X 10 X 19 inches. The unit sits on wheels which is perfect for jobs that require you to move it from place to place. The motor is on top of the tank and provides easy access for maintenance and repairs.
Bostitch BTFP02012 6 Gallon Pancake Compressor
The Bostitch BTFP02012 is a top pick because of its compact design, quiet operation and superior power. The unit can hold 6 gallons of air to a maximum PSI of 150. At 2.6 SCFM it delivers at 90 PSI. The unit does not use oil making it virtually maintenance free and giving you a longer operating life. The unit is designed for a quick recovery and a long run time with a high efficiency motor. It will not have any trouble starting in warm or cold weather settings. The noise level is only at 78.5 decibels making it quieter than most of its competitors. There are two couplers included enabling two users to use the compressor simultaneously. The unit is only 17 X 17 X 19.2 inches in size and comes with a 25 foot hose.
The unit only weighs 29 pounds and the pancake design is very compact and takes up minimal storage space. The unit is very portable. The Bostitch BTFP02012 features a high flow regulator and couplers to provide maximum air flow and superior tool performance. A one year warranty is included with the purchase.
Top Rated Air Compressors Summary
All of our picks are built from top quality materials and come from brands with high levels of customer service. They all operate with an oil free motor which keeps maintenance costs low and produces cleaner air that is gentler on tools. Each of the units we selected are powerful enough to operate power tools, inflate tires and do basic paint work meeting the needs of most homeowners, small shop owners and hobbyists. They will effectively work on small and medium size jobs reducing your work time.
The quietest unit is the California tools model coming in at 60 decibels, although it weighs the most at 54 pounds. To accommodate the higher weight wheels were included in the design so it is still easy to transport. The lightest unit is the Bostitch at 29 pounds with Dewalt only weighing one pound more at 30 pounds. Bothe the pancake units are louder, with the Bostitch unit reading 78.5 decibels and the Dewalt at 75.5. All are quiet compared to other similar models.
The California air is the largest unit in size partly because of the hotdog design rather than the pancake. It also has the smallest tank at 5.5 gallons. Both the Bostitch and the Dewalt offer a 6 gallon tank. The Dewalt comes in with the most power with a maximum PSI of 165, where the others come in at 150 for the Bostitch and 120 for the California Air.
Whichever model you choose you will get a powerful machine that can increase your speed and efficiency and add power to your jobs.
Compare: The 10 Best Rated Air Compressors
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PORTER CABLE PCFP02003
PORTER CABLE CMB15
|17.2 x 16.6 x 20.1||23 x 10 x 19||17 x 17 x 19.2||18.3 x 18 x 19||18 x 10 x 22||18.1 x 17.2 x 18.5||20 x 18 x 18.8||15.5 x 13.2 x 20.5||8.6 x 9.1 x 7.6||29 x 19.5 x 19|
(@ 90 PSI)
Air Compressor Buyers Guide
Facts to Consider
When looking for an air compressor there are a number of factors which will determine which is the best air compressor for your needs.
How much power do you need? Air compressors come with different capacities. Each level can accommodate more needs. More powerful compressors can work on heavier projects where small and midsize units will generally be adequate for home use. The size of the motor and maximum PSIs will help you determine the power the unit will be able to provide.
What will be the application? Air compressors are extremely versatile. They can do everything from keeping air in your tires, operating power tools, to painting a vehicle. How you will use the air compressor will determine the size and power you need to get. The more powerful the unit is the less power it will generally have. Since more power translated to higher prices, only buying what you need will make the best use of your investment.
What tools will you use with the air compressor? Compressors use tools specifically designed to attach to the compressor for a more powerful experience. Common tools available include: nail guns, staple guns, impact wrenches, ratchets, air hammers, air chisels, grinders, rotary tools, and paint sprayers. Tools must meet the capacity requirements of the air compressor you have in order to operate efficiently.
Features to Consider
What Style Compressor Do You Need? Compressors come in five major styles: Pancake, hotdog, twin stack, portable single stage, and stationary single stage units.
Pancake compressors are the smallest and least expensive option. They typically have a 1 to 6 gallon capacity, which limits the amount of power they can product and how long they will operate before needing to recharge or re-compress. The units are compact, easy to store and move, and very lightweight compared to other styles. Most weigh under 30 pounds with the higher capacity units weighing more. They are oil free and maintenance free making them easy to care for. The downside is they can only handle small to mid size projects and tend to be very loud.
Hotdog compressors are a popular choice and come in the same capacity and power range as the pancake design and choosing between the two is a matter of comparing features and choosing your preferred style. They are often oil free and reduce maintenance and are still very loud in comparison to the pancake style.
Twin Stack compressors are best for serious DIYers and those with a home shop who will use the compressor on a daily basis. They can carry more air and therefore can operate for a longer period of time. This unit is powerful enough to run power tools including nail guns, sprayers and staplers. They can weigh up to 70 pounds so they are more difficult to move from place to place.
Portable Single Stage units are popular with professionals like carpenters who need to use the compressor daily and require more power. They are still portable enough to take to the job site and easy to store. These are great for heavier work such as framing but are also more expensive than the smaller units. They have a stronger engine, run quieter, and will meet the needs of most active users.
Stationary Single Stage Compressors are best for those with a dedicated space or shop and does not require the need to move the unit. They have the most powerful motors but that comes with an increase in both size and weight.
What power will you use? Air compressors come in gas and electric units. The electric ones are less expensive and perfect for home use. For job applications that work in areas where electricity is not readily available like a new construction job site, a gas unit will allow you to gain the power of the air compressor without needing to find an outlet or run extension cords.
What size unit do you need? Small compressors range from 1 to 6 gallons which is large enough for airbrushing, using a nail or staple gun and other home projects. Larger units store more compressed air and have powerful motors needed for auto body work such as painting or refinishing.
Oil free unit have lower maintenance requirements.
Belt driven units run quieter than direct drive units.
Thermal overload protection prevents damage to the unit.
Multiple couplers allow you to work with two tools at once.
Exhaust that adjusts allow you to direct exhaust away from your work area.
Air compressors are often seen as an essential part of the shop once you have seen how fast you can complete projects without sacrificing quality. They are easy to use and the learning curve is fast. Whether you are getting your first one or replacing an old unit, finding one that is large enough to meet your needs and a high quality machine that will produce continuous air pressure, with fast recovery, will make the air compressor a must have.