How to Choose an Air Compressor

Air compressors can be used for a range of hobby and professional applications, including painting, powering pneumatic power tools, and even running hydroponic systems. However, navigating the often-daunting world of air compressors can be confusing. The good news is that there are a number of ways you can take the hassle out of picking the right air compressor for your needs.

Use Trusted Brands and Suppliers

While air compressors are becoming more widely available, choosing cheap isn’t always for the best. By choosing to buy your equipment from recognized brands and suppliers, you can ensure peace of mind, reliability, and fleshed-out features that are well worth the price that they come with. The same holds true for any services or repairs you need to be carried out on your compressor. Click here to check out C&B Equipment, one of the foremost experts on dryers and air compressor repairs. As an authorized repair center for many quality brands of equipment, you can be sure that, whatever your needs, they can point you in the right direction.

Know What Specifications are Important

One of the most important features that you need to look out for on your compressor is how much CFM (Cubic Feet Per Minute) it can supply. To work out what your CFM requirement will be, look at your most powerful tool’s CFM requirement and multiply it by 1.2. If you have a spray gun that requires an SCFM of 6, multiply it by 1.2 to know that you need to purchase a 7.2CFM compressor at a minimum. FAD, or Free Air Delivery, is the measurement of the volume of air that is discharged and is a better representation of the power that a compressor has available than CFM, which is a measurement of the theoretical air displacement from the unit. FAD is usually about a third lower than the CFM value, so if a compressor has a CFM (displacement) of 10, it will have a FAD (air delivery) of about 6.6.

Size Matters

If you are planning on using a compressor to power pneumatic tools, then the size of your compressor will determine how long you’ll be able to continuously use that tool. The larger the tank, the more volume of compressed air you can store to run pneumatic tools for longer periods. Use smaller compressors for applications like inflating, pressure washing, and spray painting. To work out your minimum tank size, multiply your most powerful tools SCFM by 6. If your spray gun has that 6 SCFM requirement, multiply it by 6 for a tank at least 36 liters in capacity.


PSI isn’t a factor for you to focus on, as most compressors provide more than enough pressure for common tasks. But, if you want to save on space, you can buy a smaller tank with a larger PSI to let it hold more air and perform like a larger tank. If you buy a 2-gallon tank at 200psi, that would be the equivalent air volume of a 4-gallon tank at 100psi, allowing you to transport and store your compressor easily.

Noise Problems

There is a big variation in the amount of noise air compressors make, depending on the quality of the parts and assembly, the size of the motor, and how they are powered. Many hobby-focused and home compressors have running sound levels of between 60 and 90 decibels. While this may not sound like much, bear in mind that every 10dB doubles the noise level. So, while 70 dB is twice as loud as 60dB, a 90dB compressor is a whopping 8 times louder than a 60dB unit. Check noise ratings and bear this information in mind when purchasing your air compressor.

Suitable for the Task at Hand

There are two main types of compressors available. Direct drive compressors are suited for home and hobbyist use, with fewer features, less power, and smaller tanks facilitating a lower cost. Belt drive compressors are better for industrial and professional environments. Coming with additional features, larger tanks, and more control options, they’re great for most professional applications.

Shrouding and Protection

Many compressors get moved around often, and this often means that our compressors are subject to a certain amount of abuse. Selecting an air compressor that has appropriate guards and cases for your use should be a concern. If the compressor will be sitting in the corner of your garage, then this isn’t something to worry about. If the compressor will be transported from site to site or be subjected to brutal workshop conditions, then it would be wise to select a unit with stronger, thicker guards and cases.

Air Receivers

An air receiver tank is exactly what it sounds like. The tank is connected to a compressor to add additional compressed air storage capacity to your system. Not only do they give you more volume to use tools for longer periods, but they also facilitate the removal of moisture and particles in your compressed air, help prevent pressure pulses, and decrease wear and tear by reducing the load on the compressor. Purchasing a certified air receiver is a key factor in staying safe, as substandard tanks can lead to calamity.

Extra Features to Look Out For

Once you know what features you have to have, be sure to shop around and look at some of the bonus features that could make your life easier. For example, thermal protection is a feature which will automatically turn off the motor of your compressor when it detects a temperature above what it deems safe to operate. While this feature isn’t necessary, it could help improve the longevity of your compressor. Features often determine the final price of a product, so to save yourself some money and potential extra complications, purchase an air compressor that is as simple as you need it to be while still meeting your needs. And, if you have some extra budget, think about getting a machine with a few useful upgrades.

Adequate research and taking careful consideration of the points above should help guide you to the right unit. But, if you still have any queries, then don’t hesitate to contact a trusted professional and get expert advice so you can be sure that the air compressor you choose is the best fit for your needs.

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