Understanding Air Compressor Specifications

The specs for your air compressor will end up playing a pivotal role in how satisfied you are with your purchase. Here are some of the specifications you need to look for along with what they mean.

Horsepower

This is a term used very often, but what does it actually mean? Horsepower is essentially a number used to describe the amount of power that a compressor, or any other power source, is able to provide at a consistent rate. This is what makes it so important for you to check the horsepower of your device before you buy it. It can make the difference between a useful tool and an oversized paperweight.

CFM

This essentially refers to the amount of cubic feet of air that your air compressor can expel within a minute. The higher the CFM for your air compressor, the higher the pressure of the air that it is going to expel, which means that you should take this specification seriously if you want to get the right kind of device for your daily use. The CFM rate will be noted at a specific PSI.

You should keep in mind the HP to CFM ratio as well. The amount of horsepower that your air compressor needs to maintain the optimum CFM would factor into how much electricity you use. Ideally, your air compressor should provide maximum CFM for the lowest HP possible.

Decibels

If there is one thing that is common throughout the vast majority of air compressors out there, it is that they are loud. If you want to use your air compressor in an environment where silence might be necessary, you should consider going for something that has a lower overall decibel output. Bear in mind, though, that the higher the horsepower for your machine, the louder it is going to be, so if you have a large-scale project that you want to undertake, you are just going to have to deal with the noise somehow.

PSI

This term refers to the pounds per square inch. A higher PSI means that your compressor would be able to fill up the storage chamber in a far shorter period of time. The efficiency of your air compressor relies heavily on how well it is able to compress the air that is contained within it. A low gauge would mean that even if you fill your air compressor up to its capacity, you are not going to have all that much air inside. With an air compressor that has a high gauge, even a small pressure chamber would be able to provide you with all of the air you need because this air would be packed in quite tightly.

Hence, quality is always better than quantity. It is not necessary that a larger air compressor would give you the best possible result. Sometimes, the best result can be acquired by going for a device that has the highest possible PSI, so you should keep this in mind when you are shopping around for a device.

ModelTank Capacity (Gallon)Max Pressure (PSI)Air Flow (CFM@90 PSI)Motor Power (HP)Noise Level (Decibels)Weight (Pounds)Price
Makita MAC700 Big Bore
Makita MAC700 Big Bore
2.61303.302.08059.6Read more
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California Air Tools 5510SE
California Air Tools 5510SE
5.51202.201.06054Read more
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Bostitch BTFP02012
Bostitch BTFP02012
61502.600.878.531.5Read more
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California Air Tools 10020C
California Air Tools 10020C
101255.302.07082.5Read more
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PORTER-CABLE C2002-WK
PORTER-CABLE C2002-WK
61502.600.88034Read more
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Campbell Hausfeld FP209499AV
Campbell Hausfeld FP209499AV
31100.360.338520.5Read more
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DEWALT DWFP55130
DEWALT DWFP55130
2.52003.001.171.540Read more
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DEWALT DWFP55126
DEWALT DWFP55126
61652.600.975.532.2Read more
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DEWALT D55168
DEWALT D55168
152005.001.67894Read more
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Briggs & Stratton 074045-00
Briggs & Stratton 074045-00
4.51252.4015461Read more
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Industrial Air Contractor IH1393075
Industrial Air Contractor IH1393075
3017524.0013N/A497Read more
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Industrial Air Contractor CTA5090412
Industrial Air Contractor CTA5090412
41555.005N/A83Read more
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What to Look for in an Air Compressor

Energy Efficiency

An air compressor essentially works by packing air into a compartment and releasing that compressed air in a controlled amount in order to make your machine function at full capacity. What you need is an air compressor that is able to do this with maximum efficiency, so try to look for one that has a high rate of energy transfer.

Durability

When you buy an air compressor, you are basically getting something that costs a great deal of money. You do not want your brand new machine breaking down on you, so you need to make sure that the product you buy is constructed of materials that would be able to withstand rough treatment.

Air compressors are used in a variety of situations, and each of these situations is pretty high risk. There are chances of something crashing into your machine or a mistake occurring during operation. If something like these scenarios does occur, it can leave your air compressor out of commission, which can end up causing enormous financial loss to you. Hence, it is better to go for the higher-end models since they have been specifically designed to deal with any problems that you might face in such situations.

You should also take into account the fact that the air compressor you end up buying might be heavier than other models if it has been made for durability. As with everything else, buying a durable model involves a significant tradeoff.

Size

You need to understand the environment that you are going to be using this air compressor in. Do you require something compact that can fit in smaller spaces? Perhaps you need a large air compressor that would be able to provide enormous bursts of energy.

There are pros and cons for pretty much every type of air compressor out there. First and foremost, smaller air compressors are going to take a lot more time to build up the pressure necessary to get the job done. While they are a lot more energy efficient, construction projects are usually time sensitive, so it is important that you tackle them with the right amount of information and type of equipment.

Larger air compressors can build up the pressure in no time at all, but one of the obvious problems with them is that they are bulky, so they would not be of any use to you in a tight spot. Another problem with this kind of compressor is that it uses a lot more energy than other models that would be smaller and more compact, so you should keep this in mind as well.

Horsepower

Once again, this is something that involves a significant tradeoff when it comes to your overall usage. High horsepower compressors are extremely powerful machines that can get your work done in no time at all. If you are using them to power drills, you would gain the ability to break down the largest stone structures you can imagine. At the same time, it is important to note that these compressors take up a lot of space and use up insane amounts of energy. They are also usually a lot more expensive than models that use less horsepower.

It’s all about gauging your use for these machines. If you have an enormous construction project that you have to tackle, the compressors with a high horsepower are perfect for you. When it comes to small-scale projects, on the other hand, getting a high horsepower compressor is not just unnecessary, but it can be a bad choice to make. You would end up racking an incredibly high electricity bill that would be pretty much impossible to pay in one go. Additionally, these high horsepower compressors are extremely noisy which makes them unsuitable for situations where silence might be necessary.

Brand

Each brand has a different benefit to offer that other brands would simply not be able to match. Certain brands offer their product at lower prices but are not very durable. This makes them great for short-term projects where you need an air compressor for a specific period and would be okay with it breaking down after the construction period has passed.

One thing to keep in mind is that the more expensive brands offer an incredible amount of durability, but more than this, they offer efficiency as well. You should take into account the fact that you will not just be paying for the machine itself; you will be paying for its upkeep and the utilities used during this period as well. Hence, sometimes, it might just be a better idea to go for a high-end machine since you would end up saving a great deal of money on electricity which would balance the whole thing out.

What you need to do is list your priorities and think about what each situation demands of you. Certain brands are going to be great for certain weather conditions as well, so knowing what you need is crucial in order to make sure you choose the perfect air compressor.

Price

One of the major misconceptions that people have while they are looking for an air compressor is that the more expensive the product is, the better it is going to be. However, the truth of the matter is that there are a number of brands out there that are extremely overpriced simply because they have a famous name and people are willing to spend more money than is required on them.

While it is true that the higher-end models will provide you with the best result, you should still go for cheaper options within that range. These options will have the maximum functionality required for your day-to-day use of this device and would help you save money as well. Also, certain expensive models might save you money because of their energy efficiency, so you should keep that in mind too.

All air tools have an average CFM rating, so look at it to ensure you get an air compressor that will provide you with the power you need.

Air Tool Description  Average CFM @ 90 PSI
Angle Disc Grinder  5-8
 Brad Nailer  0.3
 Hammer  3-11
 Cut-Off Tool  4-10
 Drill, Reversible or Straight-Line  3-6
 Dual Sander  11-13
 Framing Nailer  2-3
 Impact Wrench  3-10
 Needle Scalar  8-16
 Grease Gun  4
 Hydraulic Riveter  4
 Orbital Sander 7-9
 Rotational Sander 8-14
 Speed Saw 5

Uses for Air Compressors

There are a lot of obvious situations where you would need an air compressor in order to power a certain kind of tool, but you should also keep in mind that certain compressors might just benefit you in different ways as well. The different uses for air compressors can change the needs that you have and can end up factoring into the decision of which air compressor you actually purchase. Here are some of the uses for air compressors that you should know about.

Air Tanks

An air tank is basically a container filled with compressed air. In order to fill air into these tanks, the only suitable solution that you would be able to find is an air compressor. This is because a device like it can fill the air tanks up with pure, breathable air in the shortest amount of time possible.

Additionally, once the air has been filled into the tank, you would find that the air pressure would be quite high as well. This is useful because the more compressed the air is inside, the more air the diver is going to have available to them at any given time. Hence, by using an air compressor, you would be able to give divers that extra bit of time they might need while they are underwater and maximize the efficiency of the air tanks that they are using.

Fixing Tires

Car tires are filled with compressed air because this is the best way to make them pliable enough to function on an open road. A tire that is too solid would end up taking too much damage and would make the car that it is attached to quite difficult to operate. This is why compressed air is used inside the rubber tubing.

Of course, air compressors are pretty much the only device you can use to fill tires up. There are hand pumps too, but they are highly inefficient and take a lot of time to use it properly. Instead of using these inefficient pumps, if you use air compressors, you are going to end up with a much more solid tire. The air would be highly compressed to the maximum degree, and this would give the tires durability as well as longevity and prevent punctures from occurring. This is why air compressors are necessary for anyone who wants to stay prepared for flat or punctured tires and deal with them efficiently.

Nail Guns

Construction projects that you don’t want to hire an entire crew of workers for can be quite difficult to do on your own. One of the most tedious aspects of any construction project is when you have to hammer in nails. There are just too many nails in a project of a significant size to hammer in by hand, and this is where nail guns come in.

Air compressors are useful for nail guns as the compressed air inside, when released, launches the nails forward into the object you are trying to nail down. This is a highly efficient way to complete the projects you are working on because it would help you reduce the amount of time spent on completing a task as mundane as this one. Hence, an air compressor can be your best friend if you are trying to construct or renovate something at home.

Water Blaster

One of the most important parts of the manufacturing process is when you smooth the product out in order to give it a refined finish. Silica, water, and sand are the materials commonly used, with water being used for the more pliable materials that might be tackled, sand for the coarsest, and silica offering a middle ground. These materials need an air compressor attached to them or else they would not be able to fire at a speed fast enough to eliminate the coarseness of the material that you are trying to refine. The compressed air pushes these elements out of the device you are using at a rate that is impossibly fast, so much so that it will not take long for you to iron out the kinks from whatever it is you are trying to create and give it the smoothest surface possible.

Air Blower

If you have ever tried to remove leaves and the like from your backyard, you know how useful air can be in the cleaning process. Leaf blowers, however, are far less heavy duty than air blowers tend to be. These devices are used for cleaning dirt out of places that are hard to reach. Air compressors are installed in these devices, and this is one of the few occasions where no other materials are needed.

Air is stored in the compartment at the back at a high pressure and it is released at speeds high enough to dislodge dirt and move it away from where it currently is. This is very useful for metal items that can’t be cleaned with water because it might cause them to rust. Air blowers are also very useful in situations where water might get trapped and is, thus, not very useful.

Air Sander

Sanding an object is basically a technique used to give it a very precise shape and a smooth surface. Air sanders do this automatically without you having to use sandpaper, and the shifting of this process from manual to automatic can save you a great deal of time and money. You also need to take into account the fact that these machines are similar in many ways to water blasters or silica blasters in that the purpose they serve is quite similar. However, air sanders are generally used to provide a more subtle finish. Air compressors in this device are meant to give each item a final touch that would leave it ready to ship out and sell. You can use devices like this in your home as well in order to level up your home construction experience entirely.

And here are some of the more unconventional uses for air compressors in that you probably don’t think about them when you are trying to find the right air compressor for your needs.

Snow Machine

It is a great hit at parties because it can change the mood and bring the Christmas spirit indoors. Air compressors are highly useful here because they allow you to get a very enjoyable experience without having to subject your guests to the cold weather outside. How air compressors work here is that they launch the packed snow like substance outward through bursts of air, and the pressure of this air is what allows the snow to flurry out in the most realistic manner possible. Hence, air compressors are useful for party planning as well, although you should go for the smaller variety if this is what you are going to be using them for.

Paintball Guns

This is another extremely fun game that a lot of people love to play. Air compressors in paintball guns are what launch the paint pellets outward at a speed that makes the game exciting but does not pose any danger to someone who might be targeted.

Airbrushing

This is a great use for a smaller air compressor that can release low-pressure air over a long period of time. Airbrushing is a technique whereby paint is pushed out of a nozzle through the compression of air. It is a very useful tool when it comes to precise and accurate painting techniques and is a good example of the fact that air compressors can be used in a variety of different ways. They are not just useful for situations where you would be undergoing some kind of construction or renovation project.

Conclusion

Now that you have read through all of the information provided above, you are well equipped to get the best air compressor for your day-to-day use. The vast variety of products on the market can make the process of buying a high-quality air compressor rather intimidating, but now, it is just a matter of ascertaining what your needs are and finding a product that suits them.

The thing that you need to note about the compressor is that it will use up a good amount of energy, but then, which heavy duty machinery doesn’t? It will use enough to get the work done, but compared to many other products, it uses sufficiently less. Another thing to note is that it is priced a bit on the higher end, but you get great value for money with this product.


The product has been lauded by customers for its value-added features such as the ultra-quiet functionality and added wheels and handles for portability. Unlike various other products, this compressor holds its end of the bargain and delivers a product which makes approximately no sound when used. All in all, if you want to have an air compressor which does not become a source of noise and annoyance for you and your family and is a product which gets the job done as quickly as possible, you may want to give the California Air Tools 5510SE a try.


Pancake, or consumer-grade, compressors can be a life saver, especially when you are faced with a flat tire or when you need to blow up balloons for a loved one’s birthday party. Regardless of how big or small the task is, you can count on an air compressor to get the job done. Choosing a compressor requires thorough understanding about the speed with which the given product can supply air and how portable it is.