An air compressor is a device that basically sucks in air, filters it and then compresses it in order to store as much as possible. This way, it is kept under pressure and can come out as usable energy. An air compressor has a myriad of practical applications and is a valuable tool to have for any handyman’s home or for any contractor, due to its many uses that vary from inflating tires ( basic use) to driving nails through a variety of materials, and more.
Air compressors were first used 100 years ago. No wonder they became so popular, they use air as to do the job, and air is always available and free to use. With the fast advancements in technology in the past century, they have been perfected into the power tools of today’s world. With so many options available, though, how do you go about choosing the best air compressor for your specific project? Stay tuned!
Next up, we’ll see how to choose the best air compressor, what other things it can accomplish, and how to use it to achieve the desired results.
Best Air Compressor Reviews:
Industrial Air IL1682066.MN
Campbell Hausfeld DC060500
#1 Recommendation: SuperFlow MV-90 Air Compressor
Superflow is a US-based company specialized in test and re-manufacturing equipment for vehicle drive-lines. Most reviewers who have bought this product gave it 5/5 stars and deem it the best air compressor for the money. However, its use is rather limited since it doesn’t come with accessories to allow other than inflating - basic use and it’s relatively small capacity.
Build and quality
Dimensions: 15.5 x 11.7 x 10.8 inches; Weight: 19 pounds; Tank capacity; Maximum pressure: 150 PSI
This compact and lightweight air compressor is the most powerful and fastest in its category. It has enough capacity to inflate a full size truck tire in under 1.5 minutes, or a passenger car tire in under 16 seconds.
It can be used for cars, bikes, trailers, motorcycles, truck, and SUV tires of up to 37 inches or larger, as well as for air Mattresses and large Inflatables. It can draw power from the vehicle battery, so that you can use anywhere you need. Comes with a carrying bag so that you can easily take it along with you on the road or keep it in your trunk.
- Valve attachment screw is restrictive
- Outlet pipe overheats
#2 Recommendation: Industrial Air IL1682066.MN Air Compressor
Industrial Air manufactures a wide range of high-end air driven tools, such as air compressors or pressure washers. The IL1682066 model presented here is a heavyweight champion of the industry, both literally and figuratively. Reviewers who have used this product have reported but their undeniable satisfaction.
Build and technology
Dimensions: 25 x 24.5 x 48.8 inches; Weight: 159 lbs; Tank capacity: 20 gallons Maximum pressure:135 PSI
This Industrial Air compressor is made of cast iron and features a V-twin cylinder and an oil lubricated pump. Although heavy to carry around by hand and not large enough not to allow any size trunk storage, it’s equipped with two large pneumatic tires which make for its portability.
The dual voltage motor is designed to be plugged into any 120-Volt outlet and may also be converted for 240 volt applications. It’s designed to be thermally stable, and also features an Aluminum head and machined cast iron valve plate along with automotive style ball bearings, durable stainless steel reed valves.
The heavy-duty induction motor is what gives it maximum performance and efficiency. Also includes a quick-set regulator, a tank with working pressure gauges, a quick connect air outlet and a convenient on/off switch. It’s quite an investment but it’s sure to pay for itself over and over again.
- Easy to assemble and use
#3 Recommendation: DeWalt DXCMPA1982054 Air Compressor
Dewalt is indisputably one of the biggest players in the power tool game. We could not miss the opportunity to include their air compressor on our top picks list, since reviewers give it 5/5 stars and have reported that it’s well worth the money.
Build and technology
Dimensions: 32 x 21 x 32 inches; Weight: 166 pounds; Tank capacity: 20 gallons; Maximum pressure: 155 PSI
This DeWalt 20-gallon air compressor features a cast iron, twin cylinder and an oil lubricated pump. Other important features are the one-piece cast iron crankcase - for durability, the thermally stable cast iron cylinder body - to avoid overheating, the aluminum head and the valve plate along with the automotive style ball bearings so that you can easily inflate any tires, and reed valves made of durable Swedish stainless steel.
Introduces a very convenient oil level sight glass as well as easily accessible oil fill, so that you can easily determine and manage oil levels, and a 12 inch cast iron balanced flywheel. Its compressor has a heavy-duty induction motor which allows maximum performance and efficiency. The heavy tank’s portability is ensured by pre-attached pneumatic tires.
- No water filter accessory
#4 Recommendation: Campbell Hausfeld DC060500 Air Compressor
Campbell Hausfeld is a heavy power tool producer founded back in 1836. They strive to make reliable equipment available both for homeowners and professionals. They started with tools for agriculture and now specialize in air-driven tools.
This lightweight air compressor boasts noise level reduction technology whose efficiency is confirmed by reviewers. Due to its lightweight design and small tank it’s more appropriate for home use than professionally, but it also makes it affordable - definitely a must have for the avid DIYier.
Build and technology
Dimensions: 16 x 23 x 16 inches; Weight: 62 pounds; Tank capacity: 6 gallons; Maximum pressure: 125 PSI
- Very quiet
- Maintenance free
- Difficult to assemble
- Gauge hard to read
#5 Recommendation: Bostitch BTFP02012 Air Compressor
In some instances, the very best tools for the job are also the simplest. In the case of the Bostitch BTFP02012 6 Gallon 150 PSI Oil-Free Compressor, simplicity is precisely what has propelled it to the very top of our list.
Unlike some compressors, the Bostitch BTFP02012 Air Compressor has been designed to get the job done quickly, easily, safely and with absolutely no fuss.
This outstanding little unit features a long-life, oil-free, maintenance-free pump for convenient use, along with a 6.0-gallon tank (22.7 L) and a maximum power output of 150 PSI.
Tested in all weather conditions and capable of withstanding a fair amount of punishment, the Bostitch BTFP02012 has become a global go-to for professionals and domestic DIY-types alike.
It also boasts a genuinely impressive 78.5 dBA operational noise level for a quiet work environment, along with a couple of basic tools and attachments for superb versatility.
Coming in at one of the lowest price points for a machine of this quality, the Bostitch BTFP02012 is well-deserving to be mentioned on our list.
- Light, convenient and portable
- Long-life, maintenance-free pump
- Easy to use and incredibly reliable
- Energy-efficient and reasonably powerful
- Available for an impressively low price
- Not the most powerful compressor of its kind on the market
- Supplied with limited tools and accessories
#6 Recommendation: PORTER-CABLE C2002-WK Air Compressor
Coming in at the last position, the PORTER-CABLE C2002-WK Oil-Free UMC Pancake Compressor shares a lot of similarities with its counterpart above. In terms of power, performance, convenience, and reliability, there’s actually very little between the two.
It’s just that the PORTER-CABLE C2002-WK Air Compressor also comes complete with a 13-Piece Accessory Kit as standard!
Incredibly stable and brilliantly portable, the PORTER-CABLE C2002-WK measures just 18.3 x 18 x 19 inches. Boasting a 6-gallon tank and maximum output of 150 PSI, this air compressor delivers the goods for the vast majority of professional and domestic applications alike.
A variety of safety features makes the unit as a whole one of the safest to work with, while the extensive warranty from the manufacturer is hugely reassuring.
Once again, the fact that the PORTER-CABLE C2002-WK is available for such a low price makes it an unbeatable bargain right now.
- Light, convenient and portable
- Comes complete with an extensive accessory kit
- Easy to use an incredibly reliable
- Energy-efficient and reasonably powerful
- Available for an impressively low price
- Not the most powerful compressor of its kind
- A little on the heavy side
Types Of Air Compressors
Thank you for checking out our best air compressors list! Now, let’s dive further into the subject and see what the categories there are, so that you can make a well-informed choice that you are completely satisfied with.
Many types of compressors can be found on the market; however, they do all fulfill the same function - reduce air volume by applying pressure, thus storing a large amount of air which is then released in an adjustable flow. To this end, they have a tank or chamber where the air is compressed.
This process is called positive displacement. It’s what most air compressors use and there are three basic types:
1) Reciprocating Air Compressor
Reciprocating machines increase the pressure of the air by reducing its volume. This is done by taking in air successively which and confining it in a closed space, thus elevating the air to a higher pressure with a piston cylinder.
Reciprocating air compressors can be found either as air-cooled or water-cooled and can either be lubricated and non-lubricated. Also known as a piston compressor, it is a positive-displacement tool that uses pistons impelled to deliver gases at high pressure by a crankshaft.
The air goes in through the suction manifold to the compression cylinder where it gets compressed by a symmetrical motion, then discharged. In the ionic liquid piston compressor many seals and bearings were removed in the design as the ionic liquid does not mix with the gas.
Reciprocating air compressors have a service life 10 times longer than regular diaphragm compressors, and require less maintenance. Energy costs are reduced this way by up to 20%.
The heat exchangers in a regular piston compressor are no longer needed, because heat is cooled in the same cylinder where it is generated. Up to 100% of the energy used in the process wastes little energy in the form of reject heat. They provide a wide range of pressure levels and capacity selections.
2) Rotary Screw Air Compressor
Rotary screw air compressors consist of two rotors, or meshing helical screws - male and female - within a casing which compress the air without the use of valves. The gas compression process on a rotary screw is run by a constant wide-range motion, so there’s a slow rhythm of flow, much like with piston compressors.
If it’s a dry-running rotary screw compressor, it will have some gears to ensure that the male and female rotors stay well-aligned. In an oil-run rotary screw compressor, oil is used to bridge the rotors, providing a hydraulic seal to produce mechanical energy and keep it going.
Gas is sucked in and goes through the rotors. The rotors compress the gas (air), and so on. The entire process is dependent on the rotors’ fitting clearances and an equally important role is played by the sealing chamber. Leakage in some amount is inevitable and harmless, and can be controlled with high rotational speed.
Rotary-screw compressors are usually compact and produce some vibration. Many use rubber isolation mounts to absorb high-frequency vibrations, especially those whose rotors can reach high rotational speeds.
Their sizes range in pumping speeds from 10 to thousands CFM and are recommended for tasks which require a higher level of airflow than is produced by small reciprocating compressors and less than is produced by centrifugal compressors.
3) Centrifugal Air Compressor
Centrifugal air compressors work by transferring energy from a rotating impeller to the air. They do this by rotating faster than the other compressors, and produce a continuous flow of air.
The cooling takes place inside the compressor, which stops the moving parts from ever getting overheated.These common method to control capacity of a centrifugal compressor. By closing the guide vanes, volumetric flows and capacity are reduced.
Also known as radial compressors, they are actually a subclass of turbomachinery. Centrifugal compressors work by transferring energy from a set of rotating blades to the air. The term “centrifugal” means that the air flow is circular, and the energy is transferred via a centrifugal forces which act on it.
Centrifugal compressors have a high flow capacity per unit of installed space and weight, good reliability, and are much easier to maintain than their reciprocating counterparts. Also, their of centrifugal performance characteristic can be easily affected by changes in air conditions than the reciprocating kind.
The 3 types above can be further classified. All reciprocating, rotary screw and centrifugal air compressors can vary depending on these aspects:
- The number of compression stages( single stage or two-stage;
- Cooling method (air, water, oil);
- Lubrication method (Oil, Oil-Free);
- Packaged or custom-built;
Uses Of Air Compressors
Surely, the basic benefit of such a tool is the ability to fix flat tires or inflate mattresses or other such things which we fill with air to use. Maybe the term “air compressor” reminds you of nothing but an auto shop, or just sounds oddly techy to you.
Not everybody is familiar with all the creative things one can achieve with an air compressor. The fact is, though, that its uses are only limited by the user’s imagination. We know how much you love to make the best out of what you got, and that’s why you got into DIY.
Sometimes, all we need is a little push to inspire us to get started on a fun project and make something new out of old things around the house, or with a very limited budget. To help get those creativity juices flowing in your mind, let us share with you some of the unexpected ways you can use air compressors, besides their basic, most common uses:
1) Inflating tires
The primordial use of an air compressor is inflating tires. Any vehicle you may be using - bicycle, scooter, motorcycle, van or car- it’s important that you be able to fix a flat or simply bring the tire pressure to the right value.
Depending on the size of your tires you will choose a smaller or bigger capacity compressor. Besides, you can inflate mattresses, rafts, inflatable pools, etc.
2) Nail/Staple Gun
The second most popular use for an air compressor is to make it into a nail gun. Some come with factory accessories for that exact purpose. The air pressure nail gun is a tool as old as 1950, and can drive as many as 60 nails per minute.
Basically the pressure is used to push pushes the nail into the timber, concrete or whatever surface is needed (this is called direct drive), or it pushes a piston which drives the nail (this is called indirect drive). Staple guns work on the same principle as nail guns.
3) Airbrush painting
Did you know that one of the most efficient ways to paint evenly and prevent paint waste is to use an airbrush? And did you know that an airbrush works with compressed air? Even the paint spray cans that are used for graffiti work on the same principle.
You can use your air compressor to make your own airbrushing device out of a small air compressor and use it to paint your car, house, etc.
4) Snow Machine
If it’s cold enough outside but snow hasn’t fallen, you don’t have to keep waiting to make a snowman or have a snowball fight with your friends. It’s time to make your own snow with the help of your air compressor, in a fun DIY project that will bring new meaning to the words White Christmas.
Sandblasting or abrasive blasting is another great way to use an air compressor. It’s basically done by propelling a stream of abrasive material (e.g. sand) onto a surface under high pressure to smooth it out, roughen it up, shape it or remove contaminants, usually by the use of compressed air.
It helps remove paint, rust or dirt from either metal or wood. There are plenty video tutorials on the internet just waiting to teach you how, and we know how much you love to make your own stuff. Enjoy the pleasure of DIY as you get stuff done around the house.
6) Pressure Washer
Be aware these can literally knock you off your feet! With a pressure washer, cleaning up the yard is no longer a dreaded activity, but something to look forward to! Make it a project and set one up, and see for yourself.
We’ll let you think of your own unique way to make the best use of a sand compressor. And, now that you know that you want one, let’s get on to see what should be considered when choosing the right air compressor to quench your DIY thirst.
7) Squirt gun
Did you know that You can use your air compressor as a high-powered squirt gun? Just be careful to keep the pressure at a level that won’t hurt anyone and have refreshing fun on a summer day! Can be used to water the lawn or your garden as well.
8) Paintball gun
If you’ve ever had the pleasure (or pain!) of playing paintball with your friends and would like to repeat it using a DIY gun, remember that paintball guns use compressed air! So, you can make your own gun using your compressor and have fun with friends or maybe just try hitting a target in your own yard.
Just make sure that you play safe if you’re shooting at someone, wear tough fabric clothes and don’t set the pressure too high when you shoot. Makes for some interesting art projects as well. Look it up, surely you will find a great tutorial to learn from!
How To Choose An Air Compressor
By now you’re probably thinking to get one. Before you open a new tab and start your search, please take a few minutes to read the next paragraphs. We want to help you make an informed choice, so we urge you to keep on reading about the most important things to look for in an air compressor.
1) Analyze your requirement
Analyze what you want the compressor to do and figure out what type of work that is. Does it require heavy-duty power or will an average/light duty tool suffice? Think of the pressure and volume you would need.
Do you want to use it for one of its basic benefits or is it something more that you need? This will help you know if you need, for instance, number 3 on the list above, DeWalt DXCMPA1982054 with 20 gallons capacity or number 5, the 2 gallon Bostitch BTFP02012, or anything in between.
Budget is also an important factor here, as well as storage space. Air compressors can be small and portable or large and hard to lift up even for the fittest of us.
If it’s going to be immobile, you will also want to consider a longer hose. Otherwise, maybe a smaller, portable compressor is the one for you. The most Easily portable compressor featured on our list is the lightweight champion, number 6, the PORTER-CABLE C2002-WK.
2) Do you need it to be portable?
All of the best air compressors have this feature one way or another. The thing is, there are two types. You have your piston-type, run by a motor which works with an air tank. Most extremely portable compressors don’t rely on tanks, and require constant power supply.
Portable air compressors are usually useful for tasks around the house and used to make spray guns, glue guns, as well as for fixing up small tires and mattresses or rafts.
For example, if you go for a 20-gallon compressor like entries 1, the SuperFlow MV-90, or 2, the Industrial Air IL1682066, you may not want to move them a lot even though they come equipped with tires. They each weigh more than 150 pounds.
3) Horsepower, CFM, PSI
Motor horsepower is one of the factors which tell how powerful a compressor is. Commercial air compressors usually have between 1.5 and 6.5 HP. However, it’s not the most telling or most important indicator.
What you should really be interested in is the amount of air the compressor can deliver at a specific pressure ( CFM/ PSI). Some compressors use SCFM ( Standard Cubic Foot per Minute), which is approximately 14.5 PSIA ( absolute pressure).
If you choose CFM, though, keep in mind that it’s dependent upon and changes along with the PSI - (Pounds per Square Inch); PSI is what measures the air pressure that is delivered by the compressor. Basically, CFM is directly proportional with PSI.
The CFM and PSI values determine what tools that a particular compressor can be used to power. When you’re choosing a compressor, make sure it can supply the amount of air and the pressure that your tools require.
Here’s our picks for the best air compressors rank in PSI*, from most to least powerful:
- 155 PSI ==> DeWalt DXCMPA1982054
- 150 PSI ==> SuperFlow MV-90
- 150 PSI ==> Bostitch BTFP02012
- 150 PSI ==> PORTER-CABLE C2002-WK
- 125 PSI ==> Campbell Hausfeld DC060500
*Please note that these are maximum pressure values for the best operation of the machines.
4) Think power source
Most electric air compressors will run on regular 120V, but there are some that require 240V. What will your power source be? Will you be relying on your car battery to keep it going?
It’s crucial that your power source be appropriate and you be able to use the air compressor where you need it. This will help pu determine if it’s an electric compressor or a gasoline-powered one that you need.
5) Think brand
Some producers are more experienced or specialized than others. Some have received great reviews while others have gotten complaints. Do some research on the company and answer these questions:
How have they been in business? More experienced manufacturers are usually more reliable. Since this industry is as old as a century, there are some very experienced producers out there.
Are they renowned? If you’ve heard of them, they’re probably good.
Are they the actual manufacturer or just reselling? When a company is only reselling products, they are not as liable for any faults.
Do they make a full range of air products? See question no 1.
How available are add-ons? Availability of accessories and spares is an important thing to consider, since it helps make the product more reliable in the long run.
Do they have good customer service? Calling customer service can be a hassle - make sure you buy from someone who respects their customers.
What materials are used in the machine’s construction? Look for quality materials like cast iron or stainless steel, even reinforced plastic. Make sure it’s nothing that can crack easily.
Finally, with all this in mind, remember to keep on educating yourself further before making a purchase. As usual, we feel compelled to remind you to take all safety precautions before you start operating the tool.
We do hope that the information will result useful to you, along with the list we made of what we consider to be the best air compressors out there. We wish you the best of luck in your projects and may you have productive fun with your new air compressor!