How to Buy the Best Air Compressor?

It can be difficult to choose an air compressor for your home and garage if you’re new to buying this appliance. Each air compressor comes with a variety of features, made to cover a numerous amount of applications. To figure out which one is best for your specific air supply, be sure to educate yourself as much as possible. Here’s a guide on how to buy the best air compressor this year.

Determine Your Needs

How to Buy the Best Air CompressorFirst, it’s critical to figure out exactly how you’ll be using your air tools. will your compressor be used for industrial applications, to power machinery on the construction site, or simply around the house for simple home appliance repair? Are you looking for a noise less air compressor? or something for heavy duty? Will you be powering caulk guns or tire inflators? For example, if you plan to use the compressor at an industrial site, you’ll likely want a unit that has a piston compressor and a tank. But if you just want to use it around the house, a portable unit without a tank might be best.

Think about pressure and volume needs for your compressor. Heavy duty compressors need more pressure, and thus more volume as well. Getting a compressor that isn’t large enough for your needs will mean constantly having to wait for the tank to get full again, which takes your efficiency level down. And, for example, if you plan to use the unit for airbrushing applications, you would look for a 5-liter tank with 30 psi worth of air pressure over a sustained amount of time.

Piston VS Portable

The two main types of air compressors are piston air compressors and portable air compressors. Piston compressors have motors that build air pressure as they become depleted, and store air in the tank. Portable compressors, on the other hand, have no tanks and just run all the time to deliver air.

Piston compressors have 2 main varieties: single stage and two stage. The single stage version pumps out about 150 psi while the 2 stage version has 2 pistons, each which delivers pretty much constant air pressure, with 200 psi. Single stage compressors are generally used for heavy-duty uses at the house. So if you are buying a unit to be used in your home, pick this kind.

Specs of The Air Compressor

How to Buy the Best Air CompressorBe sure to identify the compressors horsepower, CFM, and portability. The horsepower of the air compressor will typically range between 1.5 and 6.5 HP. You can also find greater horsepower but those types of compressors are usually used in industrial settings. For smaller uses, you can get by with less horsepower.

Consider the CFM – or cubic feet per minute – as well. FM is the consideration of how much volume is flowing through the unit. Of course, CFM is depending on the compressor’s psi, so you will need to consider standard CFM, which is measured as 14.5 PSIA. Then, add 30% as a safety buffer to get your maximum CFM usage.

As an example, if you were using a grease gun, a nailer, and a sander at the same time, you would add all the CFM usage of these devices to get your max CFM needs. The grease gun runs about 4 CFM, the nailer about 2, and the sander about 11 — all at 90 psi. This gives you a total of 17 CFM.

Finally, think about space and portability for your compressor. Some are smaller, and some are bigger and have more power. You’ll want to be sure that wherever you store the unit, it can be out of the way and not take up too much space in your garage.

Power Types

How to Buy the Best Air CompressorThere are electric, gas powered, oil free, and pancake/hotdog types of air compressors. Electric are standard compressors that run between 100-120 volts in the home. Gas powered air compressors are best for job sites and industrial use, while oil free models are a bit harder to service but also lower in cost for household compression. The pancake air compressor or hotdog compressor is small and light, usually having just one tank and lower CFM. These are good for smaller jobs where you just need to inflate a few tires in your home.


If you need more power, look for moderate CFM units that run a bit higher pricewise. These will cost a bi more, upwards of $300. Be sure to look for air compressors with oil lubrication capability and air output of greater than 4 CFM. Some of these compressors do inject oil mist, so look for a separate hose if you plan to use the unit for paint spraying. Less expensive units from $129-199 are also available, but they probably won’t last as long and will be quite loud. So be sure to wear some hearing protection when you opt for a lower priced unit.