Tools run on an air compressor can make home repairs and hobbies easy and effortless. Professionals who use air compressors rely on their effectiveness to save time and effort. Air-powered tools can be environmentally sensitive and flexible. With the wide variety of air compressors on the market, it makes sense to do your research and to know what to look for to choose the right air compressor.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
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Things you need
- Tool requirements
- Plans for using the tools
- Power source
Check the required ratings on your tools before beginning the search for a new air compressor. Most tools require a pounds per square inch, or PSI, rating of at least 90. More PSI is better if you plan to add more tools to your inventory that may require higher ratings.
Look for air compressors that deliver three to four cubic feet per minute (CFM) per 90 PSI. The CFM measures the volume of air that is moving through the compressor and is usually paired with the PSI to provide the rating. Look for a higher CFM rating if you intend to run more than one tool at a time off the compressor.
Consider the horsepower (HP) of the machine. Horsepower is rated on two levels -- the amount of power used to start the engine and the amount used while running. Find the running horsepower in the ratings on the compressor to match with the power requirements of your tools. A rating of 5 HP running is usually sufficient for home use.
Find an air compressor with a smaller tank and a larger motor if you run your tools continuously. The bigger tanks that hold more than 30 gallons of air at a time are best used for intermittent power tools, while smaller tanks, from 20 to 22 gallons, work best with bigger motors.
Determine how you will use the air compressor. Smaller compressors can easily be moved around a home or job site, while larger units are more stable and require a solid mounting area.
Know where the compressor will be used when choosing between electric and gas-powered machines. An outlet is necessary to run an electric model, but it is cleaner, whereas a gas-powered unit is more portable, yet releases fumes that may not be appropriate in enclosed areas.
Tips and warnings
- Look for an air compressor from a trustworthy manufacturer that has been in business for a while. Check reviews at Consumer Reports or other sites such as Air Compressor Resource.
- Inexpensive air compressors are widely available, yet they are not always the best bargain. Cheaper air compressors are meant to be disposable and replaced after about 100 hours of use.
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