Air Compressor Uses and Recommendations

As mentioned in the previous article, an air compressor is a highly useful piece of equipment. Uses range from hobbies or home repair projects, to the DIY mechanic. Professional mechanics and automotive repair shop consider it essential equipment.

I touched on CFM as a consideration in air compressors. Let’s talk a more about why that is important and look at some compressor options.

CFM – Cubic Feet per Minute

CFM rating you will need depends on the air tools you have or are going to buy. Note down the highest CFM requirement you have for a tool and then multiply that by 1.5 to get to a CFM rating that will always be good for your air tools. This calculation is done to safeguard you in the case that you require more power in the future.

Helpful CFM Chart

For your aid, I have compiled a list of air tools with their recommended CFM requirements, having a look at it will help you understand the idea behind a powerful and weak air compressor as well as uses for an air compressor with a large tank and one with a small tank.

Air Tool Avg. Operating PSI Avg. CFM @ 90 PSI
Brad Nailer 70-90 0.5
Framing Nailer 100-130 2
Tire Inflator 125-150 2
Grease Gun 120-150 3
Impact Wrench (3/8″) 90-100 3
Ratchet (1/4″) 90-100 3
Air Hammer 90-100 4
Drill 70-90 4
Hydraulic Riveter 90-100 4
Impact Driver (1/2″) 90-100 4
Impact Wrench (1/2″) 90-100 4
Ratchet (3/8″) 90-100 4
Speed Saw 90-100 4
Die Grinder 70-90 5
Impact Driver (3/4″) 90-100 7
Impact Wrench (1″) 90-100 10
Impact Driver (1″) 90-100 12
Disc Sander 90-100 20
Blow Gun 90-100 2-3
Paint Spray Gun 90-100 4-8
Angle Grinder 90-100 5-8
Orbital Sander 70-100 6-9


Tank Size Chart

Compressor Use Needed Tanks Size ( Gallons)
1-3 4-6 8-15 20 30+
Inflation X X X X X
Finish Nailing/Stapling X X X X X
Hobby Painting X X X X X
Framing Nailing X X X X
Automotive Air Tools X X X
Painting X X
Cutting/Grinding X
Sanding X


Air Compressor Types

There are two major types of air compressors:

  • Single-Stage Compressors
  • Two-Stage Compressors

Single Stage Compressors

Air compressors use a piston to draw in air and compress it kind of like a piston in an engine. A single stage piston compressor takes in air and compresses it in one single stroke. Usually, a single stage compressor will create air pressures of up to 150 PSI. Furthermore, a single stage machine will have a higher CFM rating than a two stage compressor, since a single stage compressor works by constantly compressing air in every piston movement. As you might know, a higher CFM rating is better if you are considering using heavier machinery like a sandblaster,

Two-Stage Compressors

There is not much difference between the two-stage and single stage compressors. They basically have the same function but a two-stage compressor differs because it compresses air in two separate stages. The first stage starts when the piston moves down, draws in air and compresses air to a subtle pressure. The air then passes through an intercooler where all the semi-compressed air is cooled. The cooled down air is then thoroughly compressed before it is received by the container. Two-stage air compressors create great air pressure of about 200 PSI and that’s why they are great for heavy air tools like an impact driver.

5 Best Air Compressors

Learning so much about air compressors must make you wonder about the best air compressors out there. There are so many air compressors available in the market that you might get confused when you are out to buy one. TO help you sort that out, I have compiled a list of 5 air compressors that will serve you best for your various needs.

1. Porter Cable C200 2R

Porter Cable portable air compressor

If you are looking for a small compressor to manage your needs then this compressor is for you. It is small and it has a very intuitive design. You might have seen compressors that are long and cylinder shaped but with the essence of time designs have changed and improved. The pancake design tank of this air compressor keeps the air safe for when you need to dispense it to use air tools. Output air pressure to your air tool is easily adjustable, this is a great feature for pneumatic nail guns. This is an ideal compressor for home projects and operating pneumatic air nailers.


  • Weight: 30 lbs
  • Tank Capacity: 6 gallons
  • Tank Pressure: 150 PSI
  • 2.6 CFM @ 90 psi
  • Oil Free
  • 110 Volt
  • Price: $89


2. Campbell Hausfeld DC200000

Campbell Hausfeld air compressor

This air compressor is for those of you who are more serious. The Campbell air compressor has a large enough tank that is enough to hold 8 gallons of compressed air. The cylinder tank that comes with the compressor is placed in such a way that it is easily portable. You also get a built-in handle and two durable wheels for movement. At 4 CFM this is a great choice for the DIY mechanic. While, It will run most basic automotive air tools it is an oil free compressor.


  • Weight: 67 lbs
  • Tank Capacity: 8 gallons
  • Tank Pressure: 150 PSI
  • 4 CFM @ 90 PSI
  • Oil Free
  • 110 volt
  • Price: $283.24


3. Industrial Air ILA4708065

Industrial Air Compressor

The name says it all, the Industrial Air compressor is actually an industrial grade machine that has a large enough tank to support all your heavy air tool needs. Its large 80 gallons tank can store enough compressed air for you to use for a long time. The machine has a maximum air pressure of 155 PSI but it can create 14 CFM at 90 PSI, so you can imagine the amount of CFM it will create at full pressure. However, this air compressor is not portable and is oil lubricated, requiring maintenance. While it is quite large and heavy and is not intended to be moved around, this compressor will operate virtually any air tool you own.


  • Weight: 350 lbs
  • Tank Capacity: 80 gallons
  • Tank Pressure: 155 PSI
  • 14 CFM at 90 PSI
  • Oil Lubricated
  • 220 Volt
  • Price: $1070.78


4. Campbell Hausfeld HS5180 

Campbell Hausfield 2 stage air compressor

This is another professional level air compressor.  While it can be used for hobbies and home use, it is designed to satisfy heavy and professional needs. We are talking about industrial grade equipment. With this air compressor, you can operate any kind of equipment such as air ratchets, impact guns, grinders, nail guns, spray painters, sheet cutters and sandblasters. At 175 PSI, this compressor will handle whatever you need, however as the above compressor, it is oil lubricated so you will need to maintain it regularly.


  • Weight: 300 lbs
  • Tank Capacity: 80 gallons
  • Tank Pressure: 175 PSI
  • 14.0 CFM @ 90 PSI
  • Oil Lubricated
  • 220 Volt
  • Price: $1660

5.  Ingersoll-Rand

Ingersoll-Rand air compressor


Ingersoll has made this air compressor for the most professional air tools. This compressor will handle any need you may have, including industrial use and is built to stand up to every day heavy use. Furthermore, you can use the 80 gallons air tank to store enough compressed air that the motor doesn’t have to work all the time. This way the compressor won’t have to run as much, giving it a longer life. Ingersoll-Rand has a strong reputation with professional and industrial users.


  • Weight: 605 lbs
  • Tank Capacity: 80 gallons
  • Tank Pressure: 175 PSI
  • 24 CFM, 175 psi
  • 220 Volt
  • Price: $2746


Make sure you consider the uses and what tools are desired before choosing your air compressor. Air tools make your task much easier and faster, however, an air compressor that doesn’t meet the requirements will just cause frustration.  Additionally, there is no need to overbuy if you are running basic air tools that do not require PSI or CFM.


Previous Article:  What Kind Of Air Compressor Do You Need?


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