How to Pick the Right Size Air Compressor, A Ultimate buyer’s Guide?

How to Pick the Right Size Air Compressor

Whether you’re a hobbyist or a professional, some power tools require compressed air so that they can work properly. Brad nailers, some drills, and even sanders all need a high-quality air compressor to function, which means that you have to be sure that you’re getting the right size and output for your needs.

Fortunately, if you’re new to the world of air compression and how it relates to power tools, we’re here to help. We’re going to break down this versatile machine into its core components so that you can make sure that you’ll get the best model for your needs so that you won’t be left hanging.

What You’ll Need for This Tutorial

Fortunately, you won’t really need anything for this guide as you should already have your tools ready to go. In this case, the only thing you need is to be able to figure out the specifications of the air compressor and the tools you’ll be using so that you can be sure that there is no discrepancy between the two. Overall, as long as the compressor delivers enough output and pressure, then you shouldn’t have any problems. That being said, we’ll still go over all of the different considerations you should think about before making a final decision.

Step by Step Guide

Thankfully, you can shop for air compressors online, so it shouldn’t be that difficult to compare models and see what they each have to offer. While we won’t make any recommendations in particular, there are lots of great brands out there that make high-quality compressors of all shapes and sizes.

Step One: Analyze Your Needs

Before you can start searching for a compressor you first have to know what you need in terms of power and pressure delivery. Most power tools that need air will list their requirements in the user manual (or on the device itself), so it shouldn’t be hard to figure out. If you don’t have that information on hand, then you can go online and look up your tool by its name and serial number and find out what you need to know. The most important things to consider are pressure (PSI) and output (CFM). We’ll go into more detail about these in a bit.

Step Two: Compressor Model

These machines come in a variety of shapes and sizes, so it’s crucial that you figure out what will work for you the best. If you have limited space in your work area, then you might need something more compact. Also, keep in mind that smaller compressors will usually offer less airflow and pressure, so that can affect your decision as well.

The other thing to consider with the compressor model is how portable it is. Sometimes you want to be able to move it from place to place easily, which is why some compressors have wheels. Others are designed to be semi-permanent, meaning that they are heavy and lack any easy method of transportation. Here are the most common compressor models.

Pancake: round and semi-flat tank

Hot Dog: canister-style tank

Twin: two hot dog tanks

Pontoon: two larger canister tanks

Wheelbarrow: extra large tank with heavy duty wheels

Step Three: Airflow

As we mentioned, the best way to figure out which air compressor will work for you is to see what the needs are for your tools. CFM (cubic feet per minute) is the most important rating to figure out as it will determine how many tools you can use at any given time. Unfortunately, CFM ratings can be a little confusing as they will change depending on the amount of pressure needed.

For example, one compressor may deliver 5 CFM at a rate of 90 PSI (pounds per square inch), but then it can deliver 7 CFM if the pressure drops to 45 PSI. As such, it will be important to check and compare all of this information between both the compressor and the tools.

Fortunately, most tools require 90 PSI, so you should be able to keep things relatively simple. The other thing to consider is Standard CFM (SCFM). A lot of power tools will offer this as a conversion solution so that you don’t have to try and compare different pressures and airflows.

Once you’ve determined the total amount of CFM you need, then find a compressor that can offer that much at the right pressure. Also, you may want to give yourself a bit of a buffer, just to be safe. So, if you need 18 CFM to run three tools, you might get a compressor that delivers 21 CFM so that you aren’t maxing out all the time.

Step Four: Noise Level

Considering that compressors have a running motor, they can be quite loud at times. Fortunately, some models are designed to be much quieter than most, meaning that you can opt for a compressor that won’t require ear protection to use. For the most part, if you work in an area that can get noisy regardless of your actions, then don’t worry about the noise of your compressor. However, if you have a workshop that needs to stay relatively quiet, then opt for something with less noise. Check here , how to do quiet a air compressor 

Step Five: Tank Size

Some power tools require quick bursts of air to operate, such as a brad nailer or a staple gun. Other devices, though, can use compressed air for longer periods, such as when you’re inflating tires or running an airbrush. As such, the size of your tank will be determined by the type of tools with which you’re working. Nailers and other similar devices can use a small tank that recycles often. Larger machines like drills will need a large tank that allows for continuous use.

Tanks are measured in gallons, and the bigger it is, the more time you can work without having to wait for it to recycle and build pressure again. Usually, smaller tools can get away with 2-3 gallon tanks, while larger ones may need up to 10 gallons for ideal use.

Step Six: Air Cleanliness

For the most part, you won’t have to worry about how clean the air is coming out of the compressor. What usually happens is that the oil used to lubricate the internal mechanics starts to get into the air, leaving a minuscule layer inside the hose and the machine you’re using. In some cases, though, such as when airbrushing paint, you need clean air that won’t affect the quality and viscosity of your materials. So, if you do need clean air, then look for a compressor that has an oil-free pump.

Step Seven: Power

If you need to run several high-powered tools, then you have to get a compressor that can keep up. The best way to determine whether the model will work for your needs is to pay attention to the horsepower of the motor. As a rule, the more horsepower it has, the more pressure it can maintain, which will allow you to use more tools at the same time. Generally speaking, a good level of horsepower will be between three and six HP, unless you are working with industrial-size machines.

Step Eight: Energy Source

Finally, the last thing to consider is whether or not you’ll be able to plug your compressor into an outlet. If so, then you will be just fine purchasing an electrical model. If not, then you might have to get a gas-powered compressor so that you can be sure that you won’t lose power over time. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that gas compressors are much louder and need a well-ventilated space, so they should only be used outside.

Tips for Using Your Air Compressor

Once you’ve determined the right machine for your needs, there are still some things that you should be doing to ensure that it will keep working properly and stay in pristine condition for its whole life. So, with that in mind, here are some maintenance tips to keep your compressor in tip top shape.

● Drain the tank after every use. Water condensation is going to occur with your compressor regardless of the model, so it’s imperative that you remove the water from it each time. Most models have a drain pipe so that you can do this easily.

● Keep it clean. Be sure to do a thorough cleaning every so often so that gunk and buildup won’t affect its performance. The most important parts are the vents and the control buttons as these are the most susceptible to dirt.

● Tighten it up regularly. Since the machine will be vibrating a lot, it’s important that you check all valves and bolts every so often so that you can be sure that they aren’t coming loose. Even the most well-built compressors can break down this way over time, so don’t let it happen to you.

● Change the oil. If your machine needs oil to function correctly, then be sure to change it regularly so that it doesn’t get too dirty and affect the performance.


Overall, having an air compressor by your side is a fantastic way to keep your tools working in optimum condition. By taking these steps to find the right one for your needs, you should be able to get a compressor that will deliver high-performance results every time. We hope that you enjoyed this tutorial and we wish you the best with your projects! Read more reviews on airbrush gun

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Mary T. White

Hi everyone, I'm a trained AC service technician who uses several tools in my profession. I created this interactive platform to share experiences and vital information. Feel free to share your views and ask any question.

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