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The first air compressors were something all of us already have. Our ancestors used to use the breath from their lungs to stoke fires. Soon this wasn’t strong enough and bellows took over.
It wasn’t until the 19th century when the air compressors we are familiar with today came into existence. Today there is a range of compressors available, but what size works for you?
Our guide will help you know what to look for so you can find the best air compressor.
10 Best Air Compressors for 2020
Check out our picks for the best air compressor for your home or garage. We’ve given them all an award for what we think we do best and feel confident that you’ll be able to find one that meets your needs from this list.1. Campbell Hausfeld DC080500
Best Quiet Air Compressor
The 8 gallon Campbell has a 125 max psi rating. It will fill and flow air almost immediately. It’s hot dog-shaped with large wheels at one end and a rubber grip at the other. At 68 dBA the running sound is 50% quieter than competitors, earning it the title of the best quiet air compressor.
You can expect this compressor to last four times longer than other compressors. The oil-free pump and induction motor need no maintenance.2. California Air Tools 5510SE
Best Air Compressor for Home Garage
This oil-free compressor has a max psi of 120 while only creating a sound level of 60 dBA. The lower sound is from the motor operating at a lower speed. The 1 hp motor runs at 1680 RPMs with a life cycle of 3,000 hours.
The aluminum tank is a small 5.5 gallons and weighs 46 pounds. To make transport even easier it comes with a wheel kit.3. Bostitch BTFP02012
Best Small Air Compressor
This is the best small air compressor for those who are on a budget. It’s 6 gallons have a psi fill rating of 90. You can pick up and carry the 30-pound unit to wherever you need. Despite its small size, it has a max psi of 150 and a dBA level of 78.5.
The high flow regulator will give you the most performance for larger jobs. This oil-free compressor is maintenance-free.4. Briggs & Stratton 3-Gallon Quiet Power
Best Air Compressor for the Money
If you don’t need to move your compressor, then this is the best option. This unit provides increased stability while maintaining a low level of sound. Compared to other compressors you will find it 80% quieter and last three times longer. This unit has a 3-gallon tank that can handle up to 150 psi.5. Industrial Air ILA3606056
Best Garage Air Compressor
If you are looking for a heavy-duty compressor this is the model for you. The 60-gallon tank can handle up to 155 max psi. The 240V motor works to fill the cast iron twin cylinder tank. The 3.7 hp motor will refill the tank at 11.5 scfm at 90 psi to keep up with the biggest projects.
Each unit comes with 2-year limited warranty access to the toll-free customer helpline. This covers all components including the aluminum head and valve plate, bearings, stainless steel valves, and 12-inch balanced cast iron flywheel.6. Viair 00073 70P
Best Portable Air Compressor
This is the best portable air compressor at 5 pounds. This 12V unit delivers 100 psi with power coming directly from your car’s battery. With a 15-foot power chord and 16-foot air hose, this compressor is perfect for filling tires on your Mazda 3. Use it to fill tires up to 225/60R18 in size.7. Dewalt D55146
Best Rated Air Compressor
This compressor has one of the strongest wheel kits you can find. This is important as the bigger the compressor, the more weight they need to support. The wheels are 10 inches of non-flat foam capable of both indoor and outdoor use. This 4.5-gallon tank has a max psi of 200.
The motor will run at a rate of 90 psi allowing you to keep working. You can store it either horizontally and vertically with a collapsible handle.8. Industrial Air Contractor CTA5090412
Best Gas Powered Air Compressor
If you want gas-powered over electric then you should look at this unit. It has a 5 hp Honda motor. There are two tanks on either side of the motor pontoon style. Each one is 2 gallons which can get disassembled for easy transport of the 85-pound unit.
Together the tanks have a max psi rating of 155. This model will last thanks to the oil-free, direct-drive pump.9. Porter-Cable C2002
Best 6 Gallon Air Compressor
This 6-gallon pancake compressor is small but powerful. It’s the perfect size for filing your vehicle tires. The 150 psi tank packs a punch and recovers fast with 2.6 SCFM at 90 psi.
This compressor has a 120V motor. At 30 pounds you can move this compressor to where you need it with ease. There are two regulated air couplers that let two users work at the same time. Finally, the entire compressor has protection from the shroud, handle, and console cover.10. Hitachi KNT50AB Air Compressor Kit
Best Compact Air Compressor for Professionals
This is the best air compressor if you do cabinetry and finish work. The 6-gallon 150 max psi compressor comes with an 18 gauge finish nailer.
In addition to the nailer, you also get a 25-foot air hose, safety glasses, and pneumatic tool lubricant. Your work won’t slow down with the delivery of 2.8 CFM at 90 PSI.
Best Air Compressor Buying Guide
Take into consideration the psi and tank size of the compressor. You need a compressor that has a higher enough psi and large enough tank for your projects.
You need to choose between one and two-stage compressors. Then you need to decide between oil or oil-free motors.
Single-stage oil-free compressors are most common for in-home use. Two-stage oiled compressors are more common in industrial or shop use.
The most important thing you should look at is the pounds per square inch. The higher the psi fill rate, the less time you have to wait for the tank to fill.
A high psi also means you can tackle larger jobs. Consider this, you are filling the tires on your Ford F150. Do you want to fill all in one shot or wait for the tank to refill halfway through the job?
A smaller tank won’t be a big deal if it has a high psi fill rate. This combination will cause the compressor to refill fast and often. The downside of this is that you waste energy and put extra wear and tear on the compressor.
For professionals or those who do large projects a larger tank will work best. If the compressor is for home use then a small tank will work fine.
The dBA is how loud the compressor is while it is running. Look at the quality of the unit at the same time as the dBA.
A low-quality unit with a low dBA rating will be as loud as a well-built unit with a higher dBA. Your neighbors will not be happy with you if you choose a compressor that turns out to be very loud.
The size of the unit does not dictate the noise level produced. However, smaller units that you can carry will generally be quieter than large stationary units.
Foolproof dBA Determination
First, look at the units to determine the dBA of each one while looking for the lowest. Second, watch videos online of compressors running.
This will help you determine which one creates a sound at a level you can stand. Some units will have a low dBA but make a horrible grinding noise.
Others are totally silent but don’t perform as well. Then others have multiple motor speeds to adjust to the level of use which in turn, affects the sound level.
Larger units with bigger tanks and more features tend to weigh 80 pounds or more. This makes it difficult to move around from one project to the next.
Smaller home units weigh about 30 pounds making them much easier to move. Weight can help you make a decision, but shouldn’t be the deciding factor.
Consider the compressor’s intended use and who will be using it. If you go for the smaller unit, try to buy the top of the line unit so you get more features.
Look for features such as air-cooling, thermal overload switch, ASME certification, and roll cage. These features are for safety and increase the life of your compressor.
Air-cooling and the thermal overload switch both protect the motor from overheating. ASME certification tells you that the materials used to make the compressor are of high quality.
Finally, a roll cage protects your investment from getting crushed or banged up. Dents or damage to the compressor reduces the integrity of the tank.
Portable or Stationary?
There are two broad categories for compressors, portable or stationary. Portable compressors come in sizes from 2 to 30 gallons.
The small-sized models are light enough for you to carry. The larger models will have wheels for transport.
Stationary models are larger at 60 to 80 gallons. They get bolted into place and wired into the electrical.
Types of Portable Air Compressors
Portable air compressors come in four common styles.
- The pancake-style is flat and round, like a pancake. This style will take up less space and have a lot of stability.
- Hot dog style tanks are long and round like a hot dog. They usually have a handle at one end and wheels at the other.
- Twin stack compressors have increased capacity without taking up more floor space. There are two horizontal tanks stacked on top of each other.
- The fourth is a wheelbarrow style. They have two tanks side by side with a handle and wheels.