Whether you need to work your nail gun or inflate your tires, air compressors are great tools to have around the house for any home improvement job that comes up. Since there are so many models out there, check out our quick buying guide to find out what’s best for you!
How Compressors Function
The single-phase, piston-type of air compressor is the most common model for regular use, and it works well for various applications around the workshop and home. A gasoline engine or electric motor drives the piston, forcing air into the storage tank. While the piston is forcing in air, the air pressure is rising, and when it reaches a certain level, the air compressor ceases its operation. As the stored-up air is used, the air compressor starts back up and builds air pressure again.
As for two-phase compressors, there are two pistons involved, with the first compressing the air and pushing it into the second piston through a check valve, compressing the air further and storing it in the tank. These air compressors are typically intensive, commercial models, delivering a greater amount of air at greater PSI levels. They’re best for constant use in a shop or for powering several tools at the same time.
In terms of the types of compressor models out there, stationary compressors are larger and designed to be placed in a garage or shop. Having higher horsepower, these models come with bigger storage tanks, allowing for longer, uninterrupted work. They also often use a vertical design to reduce their required floor space. On the other hand, portable compressors use smaller storage tanks and have wheels or handles to allow for easy mobility. They’re also more compact compared to stationary models, coming in one of the following styles:
- Pancake: comes with flat, round storage tank that is mounted to the bottom, with its design adding stability and taking up little space.
- Twin-stack: has two cylindrical, horizontal tanks, with stacked design adding air capacity without adding necessary floor space.
- Hot dog: has horizontal design and one cylindrical tank.
- Wheelbarrow: has identical cylindrical tanks, featuring handles and a wheel for increased mobility.
As the most common model, electric air compressors call for less maintenance compared to gasoline models, and they’re also quieter and can work in dry areas that have ready electrical supplies. Many compressors use a 120-volt current, but bigger models could have other requirements. Portable electric compressors require an appropriate extension cord, which does limit mobility (follow manufacturer’s instructions regarding extension cords). While it varies by the model, inflators can plug into 120-volt household outlets or 12-volt vehicle accessory outlets.
Gasoline-powered compressors are better for outdoor areas with unavailable or limited electricity. They also usually have greater horsepower compared to electric models, thereby creating greater PSI levels. Avoid using gasoline-powered compressors inside or in unventilated or confined areas.
Providing power for air tools is a key function of air compressors, including staple and nail guns, ratchets, impact wrenches, air hammers, rotary tools, and paint sprayers. Many air tools come with certain requirements regarding air pressure and volume, and compressors need to meet these requirements in order for air tools to function correctly.
When choosing your air compressor, try considering the tools you’ll need to power and figure out which one calls for the highest cubic feet per minute (CFM) at the greatest PSI. Add 50 percent to the required CFM to provide a safety margin, and find a compressor meeting that requirement. For instance, if one tool requires 4 CFM at 90 PSI, choose an air compressor that will deliver a minimum of 6 CFM at 90 PSI.
Understanding the available features for air compressors can help you select the right model for your tasks and simplify the work, and they may include some or all of the following:
- Oil-free pump: less maintenance and doesn’t mix oil with compressed air.
- Belt-drive system: offers quieter operation than direct-drive system.
- Adjustable exhaust: can direct exhaust from work area.
- Thermal protection: turns motor off to protect from overload-related damage.
- Multiple couplers: allows for various tasks without disconnecting and reconnecting tools.
- Added tools and accessories: includes nailers, blow guns, and hoses, adding value to the investment (remember that not every compressor comes with an air hose).
It should be noted that any added air hoses need to meet the compressor’s specifications as well as that of the tools you’re using.
If you think you’re ready for a new air compressor, please click here. Feel free to check out the rest of the Hipp’s Help store for any other home improvement needs. We offer FREE ship to store for all of Mountain View customers. And we also offer reasonable shipping rates for the rest of our customers throughout the country.