What Kind of Air Compressor Do You Need?

Any DIY mechanic, car enthusiast, and especially a professional mechanic knows how good quality tools and equipment make any job easier. The right set of tools can also prove to be extremely helpful when you are doing home projects. Beyond basic hand tools there are air tools that require an air compressor. Of course, there are electric power tools available, and while both types of tools have their advantages, air tools have additional advantages that make them considerably better, particularly for car projects.

Why Air vs Electric?

  1. Air tools last longer than electric tools in terms of life
  2. They are more powerful
  3. Air tools weigh less so you can use them for longer
  4. They produce less heat energy
  5. There is no risk of fire or electrocution

However, before you start doing anything with air tools you need an air compressor. So, before we go any further with air tools we need to talk a bit about air compressors.

An Air Compressor Introduction

Air compressors have actually been in use for over 100 years. Their design has improved over the years but their overall function is the same. However, the real advantage is that an air compressor is safe, reliable and durable. DIY mechanics, as well as professional mechanics, love them and use them regularly for air tools. Thanks to these characteristics they are also highly popular among the general public for hobbies and home projects.

Air tools and air compressors go hand in hand with each other. Both of them are a blessing for DIY mechanics since they save a lot of time and money. After all, you only have a few options when it comes to tools; you either get electric tools or air tools. Electric tools are expensive to buy and expensive to operate as well since they use up a lot of electricity. Furthermore, they can wear down very quickly too. Air tools, on the other hand, are highly reliable and economical. Think about big car projects or home renovations where you are required to use a sandblaster or a paint gun constantly. Such projects are lengthy and can cost a lot of money if you are using an electric tool.

Moreover, air tools are lightweight and are safe to operate, so no danger of getting electrocuted. But enough about air tools, we all know the main force behind air tools is an air compressor which comes in a variety of types and sizes.

Air Compressor Buying Guide

An  Amazon search for air compressors returns over 30,000 results. Buying an air compressor can be tricky since there are so many kinds of compressors available. There are  portable compressors that operate on 12 Volts that you can use to inflate tires on your car.  While this type of compressor is a great thing to have in your vehicle, it will not operate air tools. You need to consider is the type of tools you will be using. Some air tools require a heavy dose of air than others.

Project Seriousness

Are you looking to paint your car at home? Or looking to grind that beautiful marble floor? Maybe it’s only home maintenance you need to worry about. Depending on your requirements you will have to buy a large or small air compressor. Usually, the larger your machine, the bigger compressor you will need.

Type of Air Tool You’ll Use

As we mentioned above, the type of air tool you use is really a good measure of the air compressor you will need to buy. Tools like a sandblaster will require more air circulation in order to work optimally. In the opposite case, a nail gun will require a lesser amount of air, so a smaller compressor would work easily.

Power Requirements

An air compressor needs electricity to work. Many compressors can work well with the 110-volt home socket but some require more power.  For the larger compressors that are typically used in automotive shops, you will need a 220-volt circuit.

Where You Will Keep It

Small air compressors can be stored and moved about easily, but the larger air compressors require more space. Their tanks are big and tall, so you will need a large garage space to keep them. You may also want your air compressor to have wheels since without them you wouldn’t be able to move them with ease. Depending on your primary use for the compressor, if it is not portable you might regret buying it in the first place.

Tank Size

Air compressors come in various sizes and shapes. Usually, the more powerful the compressor the bigger its tank will be. So, you will find tanks that can hold about 1 gallon of air and then there will be others that can hold more than 80 gallons of air. The big tank ensures that you have ample compressed air in storage to allow your air tool to work for a long time. When the compressed air in the tank finishes, the air compressor mechanism starts working again to create more air. A small air compressor tank means you would have to keep it powered up for a long time, meaning you will be consuming more electricity to power your compressor motor.

Tools like grinders and sandblasters require a constant flow of air into them, hence they require larger compressor tanks. If you were to use an air compressor with a small tank, you would be constantly putting the compressor motor under pressure, and reducing its lifespan. Furthermore, the small tank will not be able to build enough capacity for your larger tools. A small tank would work well if you are thinking of filling air in your car’s tires or running an air nailer,  but it won’t work well if you are looking to inflate an adult-sized swimming pool or run an air sander.

CFM Requirements

In any case, the CFM Requirements for any air tool determine the kind of air compressor you would need for it. CFM (cubic feet per minute) shows the amount of air in circulation made by the air compressor. So, when you are out browsing different kinds of air compressors, keep in mind your air tool requirements and based on that buy an air compressor that has the right CFM value.
The CFM can be adjusted by altering the air pressure on the compressor. So, check all your air compressors at the same rating.

Moreover, the horsepower is also a considerable feature for an air compressor. It shows how strong an air compressor motor is. Usually, horsepower is not something you should look at unless you are going for an air compressor with a small tank.

A Brad Nailer for example, requires a CFM rating of 0.5. That’s pretty basic since it is a small tool and it needs to do a relatively small job. A sander on the other hand, requires more air and has a CFM rating of 20.

Air Pressure

Air pressure requirements vary between tools and jobs. Some tools can operate on as little as 70 PSI, whereas others require 100 PSI and above. Additionally, CFM is a very important consideration. For air tool requirements and air compressor recommendations see part 2 of this article, Air Compressor Uses and Recommendations.


Next Article:  Air Compressor Uses And Recommendations

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