Best Air Compressors

There are several reasons why you may need an air compressor. Wanting to use heavy-duty power tools to do work around the house and car repairs are just a few of those possible reasons. An air compressor can make repairs easier, safer, and save you money.

So whether you are looking for yourself, your business, or merely thinking of buying a gift for that handyperson in your life, being an educated consumer is always the best choice. Being a smart shopper avoids making simple mistakes regarding a product. You don’t want to buy a system that only can put air in tires if your ultimate goal is to paint a house, do you?

One of the first things you should know is that there are suitable air compressors on the market. Whether a novice or a pro, you can find a good system. But you do have to make sure that you are buying the right equipment. Be it price or size; you must find the air compressor that is right for you. 

This article will introduce you to some of the best air compressors for home and contractor use in the market. You will learn what to look for when buying the best air compressor for you.

Air Compressors Reviewed

Specs:

  •    165 max psi 
  •     6 gallon tank 
  • 75.5 dBA noise level
  • .9 peak horsepower
  • 2.6 SCFM @90 psi

Pros:

  • Oil-free pump
  • High flow regulator 
  • Supports both pneumatic and air tools
  • Easy start-up
  • Lightweight

Cons:

  • Prone to some air leakage
  • Complaints of unreliable assembly

The Dewalt Pancake Air Compressor is a lightweight air compressor that offers a lot of power for its size and price. With its high powered motor and two universal couplers, this air compressor is for both small jobs as well as larger ones. A product of the  Dewalt Industrial Tool Company, a mainstay in the tool industry since 1924, the Dewalt Pancake Air Compressor is a reliable choice. 

Specs:

  • 130 max psi 
  • 2.6-gallon tank
  • 2.0 maximum horsepower
  • 3.3 CFM @90 psi

Pros:

  • Oil-lubricated pump for minimum maintenance
  • Low AMP draw for less tripped breakers 
  • Low noise level
  • One-year manufacturer warranty

Cons:

  • Faulty pressure switch
  • Heavy

The Makita MAC700 Big Bore 2.0 HP Air Compressor is a sturdy unit that lasts most users for several years. Its durability, small compact size, and quick recovery make it a favorite among consumers. The manufacturer’s engineered cast iron pump leads to maximum delivery and performance. 

Specs:

  • 150 max psi
  • 6 gallons
  • 2.6 SCFM @90 psi
  • 120 v

Pros:

  • Easy start-up
  • Oil-free pump
  • Lightweight
  • Low maintenance
  • Great price

Cons:

  • Noisy
  • Needs a break-in period

The porter-cable air compressor is a small portable system that carries a great punch. This air compressor offers the same power as its bigger counterparts. It is easy to carry, featuring a nice handle, and only weighs around 30 pounds. It is compact enough to be easily stored away until needed. Unfortunately, it seems to be noisier than some other small air-compressors. But, if noise is not an issue for you, this may be a good purchase.

Specs:

  • 150 max psi
  • 6 gallons
  • 78.5 
  • 2.6 SCFM @90psi

Pros:

  • Oil-free pump
  • Low noise level
  • High flow regulator
  • Comes with three tools
  • Cordless

Cons:

  • Heavy 
  • Pricier than other models

The Bostitch Air Compressor Combo Kit is the only one featured with three tools, including two nailers and one stapler. This kit makes it easy to get jobs done around the house. The fact that it is cordless helps with its portability and allows you to reach many difficult areas. An important thing to note, however, is that the cost is higher than some other models.

Specs:

  • 120 psi
  • 56 decimals noise level
  • 1.20 CFM @90 psi
  • .6 Horsepower

Pros:

  • Oil-free pump
  • Low noise level
  • Lightweight
  • High performance

Cons:

  • Issues with fit and finish

The CAT-1P1060S by California Air Tools is a compressed air system that almost all consumers agree to be very quiet.  The air compressor is excellent for small work needed around the house, such as nailing, drilling, and tire repairs. Some consumers have used it for airbrushing. If you need bigger jobs done, this may not be the system for you. However, if you live in an apartment or townhouse or are looking for an air compressor to keep around the house for some minor work and repairs, this may be the system for you. 

Air Compressor Buyer's Guide

When looking for an air compressor, there are several factors that you should keep in mind. Having some general knowledge of air compressors will help you make the best decision as to which kind is best for you. Whether you are buying it for some DIY projects at home or your business, it is important to purchase an air compressor that will perform.

The key to buying a unit is to determine the exact need. However, since you will most likely be keeping your air compressor for some time, be sure not to limit it to the current need only. Think about what you may need to do in the future. If you are not sure about what work, if any, you will need doing, purchase an air compressor that goes a little above your current requirements.

Regardless of what you need an air compressor for, there are some general things that you should know before purchasing one.

Pounds Per Square Inch 

One of the first things you should be aware of is the pound-force per square inch (PSI). The PSI is essentially the amount of pressure rendered by one pound-force in a square inch area. An air compressor’s PSI will tell you the amount of pressure your air compressor can exert. It is a sure way to know the capacity of your air compressor. 

The airflow from the PSI is what allows your tool to function smoothly. Insufficient airflow, as well as an overflow of air volume, can cause severe damage. A device that needs a specific PSI cannot run smoothly and may also destroy the tool’s engines if your air compressor cannot meet that need. 

Knowing what your air compressor tank can handle will help you determine what tools you can use with your system. Most air tools today require a compressor that can work on 70-90 PSI. For that reason, small air compressors will most likely come with the required 90 PSI. 

Cubic Feet Per Meter (CFM) 

The CFM is another critical measurement to be mindful of when looking at air compressors. While the PSI measures the amount of pressure, the CFM only measures the volume per minute and cubic feet as the air moves.

The PSI and the CFM work together to ensure an air compressor’s proper operation. 

Tank Size

Tank size is essential when looking at air compressors. Since the purpose of the air compressor is to store air, you want a tank that can adequately hold the amount of air you need to complete projects without the fear of running out.

Most manufacturers offer the same standard-sized tanks based on the PSI and CFM of the unit. You should have 2-4 gallons of storage space for each CFM. When dealing with compressed air systems, as per any calculation, always err on the side of caution. If you are not sure what to get, go for the higher amount.

Oil-Free vs. Oil-Lubricated

Most air compressors on the market are either oil-free or oil-lubricated. The distinction is crucial as it can make a big difference in your application and your maintenance.

Oil-lubricated compressors need oil to make them function. The oil is required to lubricate the moving parts of the engine. Therefore, the air output is not free until it is filtered, which will give way to mostly clean air with little detectable oil. 

The oil in your air compressor will need to be filtered and changed occasionally to continue to run smoothly. Oil-lubricated compressors require more maintenance than oil-free ones.

If you need an application that is clean, pure, and with no hint of oil in the air, an oil-free air compressor is your best bet.

Over the last few years, to provide the cleanest air possible, more and more manufacturers began providing consumers with the option of oil-free air compressors. These air compressors function without the need for oil.

The parts that usually touch and need lubrication do not touch in an oil-free compressor. The timing gears that are lubricating the parts are outside the compression chamber instead of their oil-lubricated counterparts. 

Transportability 

Because you are most likely getting an air compressor to help you do some work, your machinery must be flexible and easily transportable in some cases. That just means being able to move it around your house. 

For those who need an air compressor for work, the air compressor’s ability to be moved around is essential. Look for a portable air compressor; it will make your job easier. 

FAQs

What size air compressor do I need?

Small jobs such as nailing or drilling will only require two CFM @90 PSI or more. Larger jobs such as painting or sanding may require a minimum of at least 11 CFM at 90 PSI.

Determine what you need the air compressor for and buy according to that need. As a precaution, you may want to go beyond that if there is a chance that you may need the compressor for other jobs at a later date.

What size air hose do I need?

Air hoses come in standard 6mm, 8mm, or 10mm sizes. Base your air hose on the CFM needed to run the tool you will be using. A high capacity tool will need a larger hose.

Purchase the air hose after purchasing or while purchasing the air compressor to ensure proper fit and size.

How often should I change the oil in my air compressor?

You should change the oil of your oil-lubricating air compressor regularly. Always check your owner’s manual to see what oil the manufacturer has recommended. Most oil-lubricating air compressors call for the oil to be changed every 6-9 months, depending on use. 

At the very least, do not go for more than a year without getting an oil change. 

How often should I service my compressor?

An air compressor, just like a car, should be serviced at set intervals to ensure proper maintenance and running. The service required will depend on the amount of activity your air compressor is generating.

For example, if you are running your air compressor at regular intervals, you should probably get it serviced every few months. The best way to determine a definite schedule for service is by hours. 

The rule of thumb is to service your air compressor approximately every 3,000 hours of activity.

What happens if water is in my air compressor?

Dealing with condensation is a natural occurrence when you own an air compressor. The act of compressing air naturally leads to the accumulation of water. This water, especially if you are using an oil-lubricated system, can also have traces of oil.

It is vital to plan how to treat the accumulated water as leaving it as it may destroy your compressed air machine and affect the job you are doing.

Final Thoughts

After a thorough review, these five compressed- air systems are the best on the market in value and quality. I personally love that the DeWalt can do small jobs and larger ones, making it an essential tool for your home.

When you start looking at some of the issues raised by consumers, you will see that practicality, assembly, ease of use, and portability impact whether a system will perform well. Other factors, like noise level, are also brought into question.

The California Air Tools CAT-1P1060s received high praise for its low noise ability, especially for consumers who live in apartments and condos. The Porter-Cable, on the other hand, received tremendous praise for being a compact unit that delivered great power, but consumers found it too noisy. 

As you can see, no product is without issue. Through trial and error; you, the consumer, can decide which of these products is the best air compressor for your needs.

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