When it comes to choosing the best air compressor, there are a lot of choices but it all comes down to what is the best for the job at hand and the budget you have to work with. For example, the best shop air compressor is not going to be the best portable air compressor, and while a budget air compressor may be appealing it isn’t necessarily going to be the best air compressor to use if you’re a contractor or professional.
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Buyers Guide: Important Metrics To Consider
Pounds per Square Inch (PSI)
pounds per square inch is a measurement of air pressure that is delivered by an air compressor.The higher the number the higher the volume of air that can be compressed into a tank.
Cubic Feet per Minute (CFM)
Cubic feet per minute is the volume of air delivered in one minute of an air compressor running at it’s optimal conditions. There are several different CFM ratings out there but make sure you are looking at the delivered CFM as that is the actual volume of air that will reach the end of your hose and your tools.
What Grade of Air Compressor Do You Need?
Consumer Grade Air Compressors
Typically consumer-grade air compressors have a maximum PSI of 135 and 7 CFM or below. They are usually fairly light-weight, portable, and small in size, not taking up a lot of room.
Contactor Grade Air Compressors
Professional or Contractor grade air compressors can power air tools with greater PSI & CFM requirements (150 PSI air compressors and 200 PSI) and even multiple air tools at the same time. They come in a wide range of styles, ranges of portability, and the ability to deliver different volumes of air. These are typically used by contractors, auto shops, and other tradesmen. These machines are more durable and can take more wear and tear.
Which is Better Portable Air Compressor Or Stationary?
Make sure to consider whether a stationary or portable unit is going to be the best air compressor for your needs long term, not just what you need the machine for today. Considering the portability of your air compressor is a very important factor to think about like the range and ease of portability of air compressors varies greatly between machines.
Stationary units aren’t made to be transported at all – but instead should sit in your garage or shop. Hand carry units, on the other hand, are extremely portable and light, well for an air compressor that is. They are made to be carried from job sites or work locations and easily stowed away or stored. Finally, wheeled air compressors are somewhere in the middle.
While not as light as hand-carry units they are much more portable than a stationary air compressor. They can be wheeled from here to there and can be lifted into and out of a truck, though you may need two guys depending on the unit you choose. As you might imagine the more portable the machine, typically the less power and airflow it’s going to push. With that said, there are some very powerful portable machines that may work for you.
How Much Airflow or CFM do I Need?
To do this, add up all the CFM needs of all the tools you plan to operate at the same time. Most lower grade or consumer models are made to only operate a single tool at a time but commercial or contractor grade machines can power multiple tools.
For typical auto repair tools, air ratchets and such you’ll want to have anywhere from 11-25 gallons. For painting, cutting, grinding, etc you’ll really want something with 60 GALLONS or more.