Air Compressor Comparison
PORTER CABLE PCFP02003
PORTER CABLE CMB15
(@ 90 PSI)
Air Compressor Buying 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.