Over the years, portable air compressors have become an indispensable part of the in many workshops, garages and construction sites. This lightweight equipment powers pneumatic tools such as impact wrenches, framing nailers, eccentric sanders, staplers, paint sprayers and more.
Portable air compressors are lightweight, compact and affordable. They are also safer to use in hazardous environments than power tools.
Air compressor motors run on gas, electricity and, in some cases, diesel. Energy is converted to potential energy when the motor stores air under pressure in the tank. When the air is released from the tank, this potential energy is then converted into kinetic energy that powers your air tools.
We have listed the best portable air compressors that you can find online to help you find the best model for your yard or home.
How to choose the best portable compressor?
Air flow capacity
Cubic meters per minute indicates the maximum air flow rate provided by an air compressor during operation. All air tools have an air flow requirement for operation, so the most important information you need to check for choosing the best portable air compressor is its CFM.
Before you go to a hardware store or click the checkout button, it is best to check the CFM airflow requirements of your air tools and choose an air compressor that exceeds its airflow requirements. If you can't find the CFM requirement for your air tool in your user manual, you can go to the manufacturer's website and check the information there.
Let's say your air tool is running at 6 CFM. Multiply that by 1.2 or 1.5 to get the air compressor with the proper CFM for your air tool. This ensures that the air compressor can deliver the required CFM and that the tool will not be underpowered.
Air pressure is measured in kg/cm (PSI). Most air tools on the market require 90 PSI for optimum performance. But to make sure the pressure is maintained at 90 PSI, make sure you have a compressor with a high shut-off pressure.
Single-stage pumps reach 125 to 155 PSI before stopping. Heavy-duty air compressors often have two-stage pumps that shut down first at about 90 PSI, then at 175 PSI or higher.
Portable air compressors with smaller tanks are ideal for tasks that require short bursts of air during operation. If you use an air frame nailer or ratchet wrench, a good-sized air compressor will suffice.
If you're using a sander, for example, and you're going to use it continuously, it's best to get a portable air compressor with a larger tank.
Some quality air compressors are electrically powered, others are gas powered. If you have access to an electrical outlet and will be doing much of your work indoors, then a portable electrically powered air compressor is ideal for your application.
Gas-fired air compressors, on the other hand, have the advantage of portability and versatility. They are ideal for outdoor work sites or those without access to electricity.
To be considered portable, an air compressor must be light enough to be carried in the back of a truck or on a shelf, or easily transported on wheels.
Look for air compressors that you can lift easily. In general, pancake compressors-models that use round air tanks with motors at the top-weigh about 50 pounds, making them an excellent choice for portability. Some dual-tank compressors can offer more volume but weigh more than 35kg.
If you're looking for a high-volume compressor but still want to transport it, look for a wheeled model. They come in vertical and horizontal configurations and are equipped with handles for moving them.
Some additional features can help portable air compressors maintain their durability or improve their utility.
Integrated roll cages are steel or aluminum frames that protect the compressor. They are particularly useful in cases where a portable compressor could fall off the tailgate of a truck.
Oil-cooled air compressors use oil to lubricate the compressor pump. This helps keep them cool, which extends their life. These models may include oil level sensors that shut down the machine if there's not enough oil, which helps prevent the machine from running dry and overheating - both of which could kill your compressor before its time.
Additional features include tap-style drain valves that allow you to easily drain water from your compressor, quick-connect adapters and thermal overload protection.
Occasionally, you will find a portable air compressor that comes with an accessory kit. This kit can be a good start if you don't already have a myriad of air tools and accessories in your store. These kits often come with tire inflators, quick connectors and blow chucks. Sometimes you can get a kit with a length of air hose or a set of nail guns. There are kits on the market that include the tools and accessories you need to get started, which greatly reduces the amount of shopping you would otherwise have to do.
If the air compressor you have in mind does not come with an accessory kit, you can purchase a separate accessory pack that includes the basic tools needed to install your portable air compressor.
The best portable compressors of 31 2023
Portable Air Compressor FAQ
Q. How does a portable air compressor work?
Portable air compressors use a motor to drive a piston. The piston draws outside air into a chamber and then fills it into a tank. It continues to do so until enough pressure builds up to operate tools and inflate tires.
Q. How do I install a portable air compressor?
Most portable air compressors come ready to use. If yours is not, the most you will need to do is install a quick-connect coupling to your hose port.
Q. How do I use a portable air compressor?
For electric compressors, simply plug it into an electrical outlet and flip the switch. Once the compressor has built up pressure, you can adjust the PSI output with a built-in pressure regulator to match the needs of your tool.
For gasoline-powered compressors, fill the tank with fuel and check for oil in the engine. Turn the switch to the on position and pull the starter cord until the compressor starts.
Q. Why do portable air compressors come in different forms?
The different shapes of compressors are not really a functional design issue, so manufacturers can get creative with their designs. Sometimes, splitting the tank into two smaller tanks allows the compressor to have a lower center of gravity for easier portability. Other times, designs simply take up less space. For example, a horizontal compressor can fit under a workbench, while a vertical compressor fits better in a corner.
Q. How much air pressure do you need in a portable air compressor?
It really depends on the task at hand. Bike tires and sports balls don't need much pressure at all. Air tools, on the other hand, usually require 90 PSI or more to work effectively. If you are inflating something, you will find the maximum pressure listed on the item near the inflation valve.
What are portable air compressors used for?
A portable air compressor is a versatile tool that you can use for many different projects. A small finishing nailer can be powered by an air compressor to quickly and easily replace baseboards or door frames. The air compressor can also be paired with a cutting tool to cut sheet metal for automotive maintenance or duct repair.
You can also use these incredible tools with pneumatic drills, frame nailers and sprayers. They can even be used with a pneumatic ratchet to apply extra torque to stuck nuts or bolts. As long as you can power a tool with compressed air, you can use it, although the correct size and power will depend on the project.