Whether you have your own shop at home or you run a construction site or automotive shop, you are going to find yourself using a variety of pneumatic tools. These tools require the use of compressed air, which means you’re going to need to find yourself a good air compressor that will run the tools you need.
You can own the best of the best air tools, such as impact guns, air ratchets, paint guns, and more, but if you don’t have a compressor powerful enough to supply you with the needed air, those tools are essentially useless.
In this article, we will go over the different types of pneumatic tools for both automotive and construction use. We will take a look at each compressor’s CFM, horsepower, portability, and more. If you’re ready to get started, continue reading below.
What Size Air Compressor Do I Need For Air Tools?
In all honesty, it depends on what kind of air tool you’re using, but even then, size isn’t the issue. You really need to take a look at the CFM, which is how much air is delivered in cubic feet per minute.
For air tools, a compressor should supply between 30-140 CFM. Air compressors with a lower CFM are meant more for tire inflation and higher CFM compressors are for industrial use.
Determining How Much Air You Need
In order to narrow it down, take a look at your most powerful pneumatic tool and what the CFM requirement is. Additionally, you should take a look at whether or not the CFM rating is for a 100% duty cycle.
Many tools that run continuously are rated as if you’re only using them 50-60%. If this is the case, you’ll want a higher CFM rating if you don’t want to have to stop frequently.
|Staple Gun||2 CFM @ 70-90 PSI|
|Framing Nailer||2 CFM @ 100-130 PSI|
|Pneumatic Brad Nailer||0.5 CFM @ 70-90 PSI|
|Pneumatic Drill||4 CFM @ 70-90 PSI|
|Pneumatic Grease Gun||3 CFM @ 120-150 PSI|
|Impact Wrench ⅜”||3 @ 90-100 PSI|
|Air Hammer||4 CFM @ 90-100 PSI|
|Air Sander||6-9CFM @ 70-100 PSI|
|Paint Spray Gun||4-8 CFM @ 90-100 CFM|
|Angle Grinder||5-8 CFM @ 90-100 PSI|
Best Air Compressors For Air Tools
1.BOSTITCH Pancake Compressor 6-Gallons – Best Compressor for Staple Gun
If you’re operating a pneumatic staple gun, you’ll want the BOSTITCH Pancake Compressor. It’s relatively affordable, portable, and easy to use. Here are some other features that make running your staple gun easier and quicker:
This compressor holds an 0.8HP motor high-efficiency motor. This motor makes it much easier for the compressor to start-up in cold weather or with an extension cord application of 50 feet or less. It requires no oil to run, making it a maintenance-free pump for more convenient usage.
The 0.8HP motor allows the compressor to put out 150 maximum PSI and 2.6 CFM @ 90 PSi. A staple gun only requires 2 CFM @ 90 PSI, so this should be enough to run it without an issue. The air is stored in a 6-gallon tank that’s both lightweight and portable.
Low Noise Level
As mentioned above, a quiet air compressor is considered to be anything 80 dBA or lower. This air compressor runs at exactly 80 dBA. It’s not the quietest compressor on the market, but it also doesn’t require the use for ear protection unless you choose to wear it.
- Only weighs 29-pounds
- High flow regulator
- Max of 125 PSI
- Easy to start in cold weather
- A bit loud
- Faulty pressure gauges
2.Stark 10-Gallon Air Compressor – Best Compressor for Air Hammer
An air hammer is an essential tool for construction and automotive companies. It’s essentially an air-powered chisel that carves stone and breaks or cuts metal objects apart. It requires at least 4 CFM or air delivery.
The Start air compressor delivers over 7 CFM, making it an ideal choice for this and all pneumatic tools you may have. Here’s what else it has to offer:
Powerful Air Delivery
The Stark air compressor boasts of a maximum PSI of 125, making it a great choice for a variety of projects including stapling, chiseling, inflation, and more. It has an air delivery of 7.2 CFM @ 40 PSI and 3.5 CFM @ 90 PSI. It only requires 120V and has an air capacity of 10-gallons. This can keep your work running continuously for a longer period.
This compressor has a large automotive-style industrial air filter. This air filter allows for increased air intake and much more efficiency. Additionally, it has a low AMP draw to reduce tripped breakers when the compressor is starting up. It can be used indoors or outdoors and runs quietly.
Lastly, the Start compressor is ultra-durable. It is constructed with a large cast iron pump with a big bore cylinder and piston. More so, it has an automatic shutoff to preserve its lifespan and a twin capacitor induction motor with thermal overload protection. The capacitor induction motor allows the compressor to start in cold weather.
- Powerful motor
- High CFM output
- User friendly
- Starrs well in cold weather
- Louder than specified
3.Rolair FC2002 Twin Stack Compressor – Best Compressor for Pneumatic Drill
The Rolair FC2002 is a durable and handy compressor that gets the job done for you. Here’s what else you can expect:
The Rolair FC2002 brings high performance to the table. It consists of an ultra-strong 3400 RPM, 2 HP motor with a 100% heavy-duty cycle. It has the ability to put out 4.1 CFM @ 90 PSI, which is enough to run the pneumatic drill.
This air compressor is exceptional when it comes to durability. It has a twin-stacked design, which allows for more air storage while saving space. The tanks are constructed of cast-iron and are well-balanced so you don’t need to worry about knocking them over.
Quiet & Rugged
The Rolair compressor is quiet for being so hefty. It’s not super quiet like the other ones on the list, but it still only puts out 80 Decibels of sound. Additionally, it’s rather heavy, weighing 68-pounds. It’s best for stationary use, but the handle makes it easier to transport if needed.
- Rugged design
- Powerful engine
- Can run all pneumatic tools with ease
- 1-year warranty
- 100% heavy-duty cycle
- Not as quiet as the others
- May trip breakers
4.DEWALT DXCMPA 1982054 – Best Compressor for Impact Wrench
It has a hefty outer shell and can be transported from place to place without a hassle. Here’s what else it can do:
Powerful Air Output
As you saw from the chart, an impact wrench requires 3 or more CFM @ 90 PSI. This handy compressor can put out 7.0 CFM @ 40 PSI and 5.7 CFM @ 90 PSI. It has a maximum pressure of 155 PSI for ideal tool performance with the help of its beefy 1.9 HP motor. There is a large 20-gallon tank that stores the air for longer use.
Not only is this DEWALT compressor powerful, but it’s efficient and reliable. It contains a V-twin cast iron, a twin-cylinder pump with an aluminum valve plate, and head on the dual voltage induction motor.
This is a great feature because it helps the heat dissipate quicker. This means no more overheating. Additionally, there is a high flow regulator. This brings 20% more torque to your tools.
Portable & Easy to Use
Not only is the compressor powerful enough to run your tools without a hassle, but it’s also easy to use. There are simple onboard controls that allow you to access the high flow regulator, pressure gauges for the tank and tools, as well as a quick, connect air outlet, and an on/off switch.
When you need to move it, simply tug on the handle and allow the pneumatic wheels to do the rest.
- Powerful V-twin motor
- High air output
- Easy to use
- Cast iron parts for durability
- Large storage tank
- No significant complaints
5.Porter Cable PXCMLC1683066 – Best Compressor For Angle Grinder
This particular compressor holds 30-gallons of air and has 1.6 HP to put out the air pressure that you need. Here’s what else it has to offer:
High Air Pressure Output
The Porter-Cable compressor has a powerful 120-240 volt induction motor with a twin-v cast iron pump. It helps put out 6.2 CFM @ 40 PSI and 5.3 CFM @ 90 PSI. This is enough air pressure to run an angle grinder and other pneumatic tools you have. It also has a maximum air pressure of 135 PSI.
This compressor is definitely built to last, which is a feature you need if you use your pneumatic tools frequently. IT features an oil-lubricated pump with a one-piece cast iron crankcase.
Additionally, it has a thermally stable cast iron cylinder body as well as an aluminum head and cast iron valve plate. Cast iron is an unbelievably durable metal, so you can rest assured knowing your compressor is built to last.
Easy of Use & Portability
The Porter-Cable compressor is fairly easy to use. It has a quick-set regulator and gauges that can be easily read. These gauges tell you what the pressure is in the tank and how much pressure is being sent out.
When you are ready to transport the compressor, simply grab the handle and give it a good tug. It weighs roughly 154-pounds, but the wheels help it move easily.
- Optimal air output
- Durable engine & parts
- Powerful motor
- 30-gallon tank
- Difficult to open the drain valve
6. California Air Tools CAT-4620AC-22060 – Best COmpressor For Air Sander
The entire system has been designed for optimal durability and performance. Here are some other notable features:
This particular compressor has been designed to give you 3000 or more hours of life compared to other compressors of the same construction that only give 500 hours of life.
There’s an oil-free pump that allows you to operate the compressor in cold temperatures and uneven terrains as opposed to pumps that require oil. Additionally, the motor has been designed to increase the duty cycle for longer run times continuously.
Quick Delivery & Recovery
The motor spins at 1760 RPM, giving you quick air delivery. The motor puts out 5.30 CFM @ 90 PSI and 6.40 CFM @ 40 PSI, which is ideal for an air sander. It only draws 14 amps, so you don’t have to worry about tripping breakers.
Even with such a high CFM output and powerful motor, it only produces 70 Decibels of sound. This is 30% less noise than comparable compressors.
Portable & Easy to Use
The California Air Tools only weighs 67.2 pounds, even with the aluminum 4.6-gallon air tank. It’s easy to carry around with the help of a comfortable handle at the top of the machine. Additionally, there are easy-to-read gauges on the top of the compressor as well as two connectors.
- Easy to operate
- Powerful air output
- Strong motor
- Starts great in the cold
- Leaky couplings
7.Industrial Air ILA1883054 – Best Compressor for Paint Sprayer Gun
This compressor can help keep all of your power tools functioning continuously. Here’s some more of what this compressor has to offer:
The Industrial Air Compressor has a maximum PSI of 155. The 30-gallon vertical tank keeps the air stored longer for continuous operation. It can deliver 5.7 CFM @ 90 PSI, which is enough to run a paint sprayer gun with ease. This is all thanks to the powerful 1.9 HP motor.
This compressor brings high performance to the table with durable construction. It consists of a belt-driven motor, cast iron two-cylinder body, cast iron crankcase, automotive-style ball bearings, and durable Swedish stainless steel reed valves. All of these parts are made from durable materials that help keep them solid and reliable.
Portable & Easy to Use
Not only is this compressor powerful, but it’s also portable and easy to use. It has pre-attached pneumatic tires that allow you to grab the handle at the top of the tank and move it to where it needs to be moved. Additionally, it’s easy to use with access to pressure and tank gauges as well as an on/off switch for easy operation and shutdown.
- High CFM output
- Durable materials
- Easy to use
- Heavy-duty induction motor
- Slow recovery
8.Makita MAC2400 Big Bore – Good For Pneumatic Grease Gun
The Makita MAC2400 Big Bore brings over that. It’s powerful, rugged, and easy to use. Check out some of the other features:
Plenty of Air Power
The Makita MAC2400 is capable of producing 4.8 CFM @ 40 PSI and 4.2 CFM @ 90 PSI. This is plenty of air to run your pneumatic grease gun. It draws very low AMP and it has a maximum PSI of 130. Additionally, the pump in the machine is oil lubricated to ensure temperatures are cool and there’s minimal wear and tear.
This air compressor is known for its ruggedness. It also has an automotive-style industrial air filter that increases air intake and provides maximum efficiency. You’ll also find a handy roll cage construction that gives the machine extra protection from accidental bumps and drops.
Quick Recovery Time
One feature this compressor boasts of is its quick recovery time. This is due to the cast iron pump with a big bore cylinder and piston. It helps the machine give you a quicker recovery time for ideal performance. This also leads to less noise.
Since it operates with low RPM, there is little noise coming from the compressor. It only puts out 79 Decibels of sound. Not overly quiet, but still comfortable to work with.
- Ideal air power
- Draws low AMP
- Durable cast iron reduces wear and increases pump life
- Powerful 2.5 HP motor
- Less maintenance
- Complaints of leaking oil
Industries That Use Air Tools
In the automotive industry, there are a variety of different air tools that can take lug nuts off wheels, spray guns for painting, and impact wrenches for those hart-to-loosen nuts and bolts.
There’s always a new tool on the market that makes working in construction/contracting a lot easier. These tools help take some of the strain off of the human body.
Types Of Air Tools
There are tons of air tools on the market today. Each one of them serves an important purpose. There are specific tools for specific industries and jobs.
Pneumatic Grease Gun
A pneumatic grease gun is used in the automotive industry for lubrication. When compressed air is sent to the gun via hoses, the air pressure forces the grease through the hole. This speeds up the process and makes it easier for mechanics to use if they have limited strength in their hands.
A pneumatic wrench, or impact, is a powerful power tool that loosens or tightens large bolts, rusted or frozen fasteners, lug nuts, and more. The compressed air rotates the head at a more powerful rate than when done manually.
An angle grinder can be used for both automotive and construction tasks. It is a handheld power tool that can be used to grind, cut, finish, and polish various metals.
An air sander is another pneumatic tool that can be used in both the automotive and construction industry. In the automotive industry, they are used for sanding or polishing the body of a vehicle or certain metal parts.
Paint Spray Gun
A paint spray gun can be used to quickly paint a vehicle with the help of an air compressor.
A staple gun is a versatile tool. A traditional staple gun requires swinging motions with your arms to get the staple into the wood. A pneumatic staple gun works with just the press of a button. It makes it easier to hang Tyvek on the side of a home or staple insulation to the 2 x 4’s.
A framing nailer takes the work out of hammering. It may also be called a Paslode. It shoots nails via compressed air into the wood that you are nailing together. You simply press the nose against the wood and press a button. The air does the rest for you.
Pneumatic Brad Nailer
A brad nailer is what’s used to nail lightweight trim to the wall. The difference between this tool and a framing nailer is that the brad nailer has thin-gauged nails and the head is smaller. No putty is needed to cover the holes.
Before air compressors, rocks and concrete were broken by hand with hammers or other tools. With the help of compressors, we now have pneumatic drills. These are heavy-duty mechanical drills used to drill into hard materials.
An air hammer is similar to a pneumatic drill, but it’s not as heavy-duty. It may also be called an air chisel and it’s a hand tool that allows you to carve into stone and break or cut metal objects.
Before you go out and buy the first air compressor you see that may work with your pneumatic tool, you must look at every single feature of the air compressor. This is to ensure that it will work with not just the one tool, but for all of your tools.
Air Pressure and Flow Rate
The air pressure is rated as PSI, which means pounds per square inch. Most tools that require air will need 90 PSI or more to run correctly. In order to maintain that PSI rating, you need to invest in a compressor that has a high shut-off pressure.
You will find that most industrial compressors are two-stage. This simply means that they will build-up to the pressure required to shut off in two stages. The first stage reaches 90 PSI and the second stage reaches 175 PSI.
If you are a hobbyist and only use these tools once in a while, then a single-stage commercial air compressor would suffice. These shut off at around 125-135 PSI.
Now, let’s take a look at the flow rate. This is CFM or cubic feet per minute. We talked about this above a little bit. But the volume of air is what keeps the air tools working. A good air compressor will give you 3-4 CFM @ 90 PSI. This is more than enough for most of the tools on the list above.
So in terms of performance, tank size doesn’t really matter. The tank itself doesn’t produce the air, it just stores it for when it’s ready to be used. The pump and motor size are more important. If you are producing as much air as you need to, you won’t run out no matter how large or small the tank is, as long as the pump and motor can keep up.
However, when it comes to running a tool steadily, such as an orbital sander, it’s important to produce as much air as possible. A small tank will get up to pressure quicker than a larger tank, but a large tank won’t stop as much and it cools the air better.
Type of Gauge
On most commercial and industrial compressors there are two gauges. One gauge shows you how much air pressure is in the tank and the other is found on the regulator assembly. This one shows you the pressure setting on the regulator and the air pressure for the downstream application.
Air Release Valve
The air release valve is how you drain the tank if too much pressure builds up inside of it. These are a safety must-have when operating a compressor. These are an important feature because it keeps the tank from blowing up. These come standard on all air compressors.
Air compressors with the term “noise reduction” are supposed to have a low decibel rating. The lower the number, the quieter the compressor is going to be. Generally, an air compressor will put out about 50-100 decibels of sound, but in order for it to be deemed as “quiet”, it has to only put out 50-80 decibels.
80 Decibels is used as a threshold because anything over that number and ear protection is recommended. Under 80 decibels, you can operate the compressor without ear protection.
Regardless of what air tool you are using, you will need to consider portability. When you purchase an air compressor, you should consider whether or not you’re going to need to transport it from location to location. If so, you’ll want something that’s generally lightweight and with wheels and a handle.
If you’re moving around a job site and using pneumatic tools, you should be able to take the compressor to the area in which you are working with ease.