Updated: June 8, 2015

Portable Air Compressor Reviews:

While not in the typical tool box, air compressors are actually very useful for homeowners as well as for those in more industrial settings. They are becoming more commonly used by the general public because they provide more power than electric tools. More power means less intense effort and less time spent working on that particular project - it frees up your time for the next project on the never-ending list. Air compressors commonly power impact wrenches, reversible drills, nail guns, and much more, making them a practical and convenient addition to your tool set. They are also used for inflating tires, air mattresses, water toys, etc. Now the confusing part: which portable air compressor should you get? It's not like you can go to the air compressor store and pick the shiniest one, though some people may. You need to know what type of compressor will be right for your needs. Knowing what features you can expect and the price you can expect is also nice. This is your guide to buying the right air compressor.
portable air compressor

Why Use an Air Compressor? - Air compressors power air tools, which can be anything from air hammers to air chisels to air saws. Besides being more powerful than electric tools, compressed air driven tools have a number of advantages for either the residential or industrial user:

*They help you get your work done more quickly. They give higher torque and RPM so you don't have to waste any time.
*There is a host of air-powered tools, and they can be powered from the same source.
*Air tools are typically less expensive because they have no motor. They use the power of the air compressor so they do not burn out as electrical tools can.

What Now? Buying an Air Compressor - The first step is to determine what you want to power with the air compressor. Wait, the first step is to know what PSI is. Pounds per square inch. This is how much pressure that the tank can take. Higher end compressors will have a higher PSI, which means they can power more tools before they have to wait for it to build back up. Ok, now what do you want to power? This will help you determine the size of the compressor you need. Different air tools require different amounts of power; this is measured as cubic feet per minute, or CFM. A 1/2-inch impact wrench, for instance, uses 4-5 CFM at 90 PSI. The 1-inch impact wrench uses 10. Look on your air tool or one you plan to buy for the CFM. It is usually given in terms of the CFM consumption at a recommended PSI and will be written on the tool itself or in the manual. If you are going to use the air compressor for one tool at a time, then look at all your air tools and find the one with the biggest CFM consumption. This will determine the size of the compressor. So, if your 1-inch impact wrench is your largest consumer, add 20 percent, and you've got your size. If you will be using more than one tool at a time, find the CFM consumption for the tools you plan to use and add them together. Add 20 percent, and there you go. Find a compressor that has a "Delivered" or "Free" CFM rating that you need. You will see the "Displaced" CFM rating, but that indicates how the compressor would work in ideal conditions. Nothing is ever ideal, so the free or delivered ratings are more accurate and useful for your purposes. The next step is to look at voltage and horsepower. If you want an air compressor for home use, most direct-drive electric compressors can run on ordinary 120-volt circuits. This is the voltage that is standard and on which most household items run. If you have a 220-volt power source, which you will need for more powerful or larger tools, you will have to find a 220-volt compressor or one that has both 110-volt and 220-volt capacities. You may also need 208 volt, 220 volt, or 460 volt, depending on your power source. Most home users will be fine with 110- or 230-volt compressors. Electric compressors are ideal for inside jobs where the fumes from gas-powered compressors are dangerous, while gas-powered compressors are great for outside jobs, including heavy-duty construction jobs. Horsepower shouldn't be your first consideration: it is not as important as the CFM consumption. One final thing to keep in mind: do you want a stop-start or constant-run compressor? Stop-start air compressors have a pressure switch which automatically turns the compressor on and off when it reaches designated low and high pressure levels. In the On position, the pressure in the tank builds and then turns off when it reaches the designated PSI. When you use air and it reaches a low level, it shuts off in order to build the PSI back up. You'll usually see stop-starts for smaller jobs. The Bosch CET3-10 is a good model for about $333. The constant-run compressors run constantly. There, that's that. But what that means is the motor runs and turns the pump. When it reaches the high PSI setting, a valve opens so that the compressor can continue to run. When the PSI is low, the valve closes and directs air into the tank so the pressure can build back up. You'll see this with tools that need continuous power, like sanders or paint sprayers, and it is how gas-powered compressors are run. A top continuous model for bigger jobs is the Campbell Hausfeld Electric Stationary Air Compressor CE4000. Portable Air Compressor Reviews - You can find them in Popular Mechanics magazine or website, in customer comment sections on Home Depot or Lowes websites, and of course our favorite, Amazon. You can browse the best selling portable air compressors here.

Buy Air Compressors:

So now that you have all of this knowledge in your head, it's time to go air compressor shopping. If you want a compressor to run small tools around your home or workshop, a smaller 120-volt portable air compressor will be sufficient. BestCovery.com chose the Campbell Hausfeld Electric Portable Air Compressor as one of their top choices. It will run tools with 5.5 CFM (or lower) at 90 PSI. This is great for inflating tires and running tools like impact guns and nail guns. It is a start-stop model and features a cast iron oil-cooled pump with 3000 hours of life (which will last you for years), 2-horsepower, vertical air tank, ASME-certified tank, protective belt guard air filter, and 10-inch wheels. It lists for $400 - see all the Campbell Hausfeld air compressors here. Campbell Hausfeld made the top three spots on Bestcovery's list with different models. The Black & Decker Dewalt #D55155 2HP 4GAL Electric Compressor is another good model in the same power and price range. For bigger tools and jobs, you need a more powerful compressor. On the other end of the spectrum, you can find models like the 16.8 CFM @ 175 PSI, 5 HP Ingersoll-Rand Air Compressor. This impressive machine runs on 230 volts and has a maximum PSI of 175. It has an incredible 80-gallon horizontal tank, mounted and wired starter, start-stop operation, open drip-proof motor, ASME-certified tank with pressure gauge, extended pump life, and the option for 100 percent continuous use if the job requires it. Ingersoll-Rand is a well-respected name in this industry, and this particular model costs about $1700. These are just a few of the good compressors on the market. The right one for you will depend on your needs, but in general, look for products from Black & Decker, Dewalt, Ingersoll-Rand, Campbell Hausfeld, Porter-Cable, and Makita. These are consistently given high scores from experts and consumers and will provide quality products that will fit your budget. Take a look at the wide selection available on Amazon.com and keep the features discussed above in mind.