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Air compressors are extremely useful devices that are commonly used in automotive shots and construction sites, as well as for home use. The design of the compressor converts energy from pressured air to kinetic energy that can then be used to power home tools. There are a few things to think about in deciding whether you should use gas or electric compressors, depending on what your needs will be for the unit. Here’s a breakdown on the difference between gas and electric air compressors.
Electric Air Compressors
Electric air compressors are usually more convenient if you have electrical power sources close by. They are less expensive than gas versions, and are often used in a number of different applications. They are offered in portable and permanent styles, and have a generic stop and start switch, which will shut the compressor on if the tank pressure levels get low. Then, if the pressure levels become too high, the switch will then turn the unit off as well. It stops the motor if there are no tools currently being used.
Electric compressors can’t be used with extension cords, however. So they are less portable for construction or industrial work. They are not as good at heavy duty types of jobs as gas compressors, but they are great at smaller jobs and indoor work.
Gas Air Compressors
Providing the same general amount of pressure as electric compressors, gas powered versions don’t have that much difference in terms of performance. If you won’t be within range of an electrical power source, gas powered compressors are typically the way to go, using just gas to perform.
The chief difference between these two units is the stop start mechanism. Gas compressors do not turn on and off by themselves, instead containing pilot valves which open and close to determine how much pressure will be in the tank at any given time. The constantly on mechanism is generally good for tools where you will need a predetermined and continual flow of air, such as sprayers, grinders or sanding tools.
Keep in mind that gas compressors cannot be used indoors, either. Noise and fumes that gas compressors put out are not a big deal when they’re used outside, but if you are inhaling fumes like that inside, you can put your health at risk. Additionally, gas is a flammable substance, so you’d have to be extremely careful in its use. So really, gas compressors can’t be used inside at all. They also tend to be heavier than electric compressors.
Size and Power
The thing to remember is that most gas compressors are wheelbarrow type with twin tanks and a compressor and engine, which are good for keeping up with heavy jobs outside. You don’t have to worry about power at the site — just bring enough fuel to power your needs. However, you’ll have to listen to a louder unit the heavier you go in size and power.
The bottom line: if you have access to power, you should always choose an electric generator, as they are quieter, more power efficient, and more fuel-efficient since you don’t have to refill the tank.
Remember to look at the power of each compressor in terms of CFM or PSI. The CFM is cubic feet per minute that the compressor provides in terms of airflow, while PSI is the pounds per square inch. You’ll want to match your air compressor’s power with your tool power as much as you can.
For powering a number of air powered tools, get a compressor that has enough air pressure to supply them — thus, more than the air pressure requirements of your most powerful tool. This is critical because your air compressor has to put out enough pressure to power all your tools at once.
The main air compressor types you’ll find use reciprocating and rotary screws, with reciprocating being most commonly used and best for indoor use. Rotary screw compressors are fine for industrial applications and construction sites, providing a steady air supply. Thus, they’re better for business situations where compressors need to be running at all times.
Whichever type of compressor you pick, be sure to consider pricing, usage area, and what type of jobs you will be doing. As long as you weigh each component carefully before making a purchase, you’ll be able to select the best gas or electric generator for your needs.