Air Compressor Buying Guide: All You Need to Know Before Making a Purchase

Air Compressor Buying Guide

Air compressors keep gaining popularity for their effectiveness and great delivery. Whether you need one at home or for industrial use, an air compressor is a job finisher. However, it can be daunting to pick the right one among various choices.

This air compressor buying guide will walk you through all you need to know to choose the best air compressor for your needs.

Why You Need an Air Compressor

If you are already looking to purchase an air compressor, chances are you know why you need one. Still, it’s important to have a clearer picture of why you need an air compressor and how it can serve you so that you can make the right choice when purchasing one.

Air compressors can work with varieties of pneumatic tools, assisting them to do a much more efficient job. In addition, the force of air stored in an air compressor can help you operate any automotive air tool or nail gun better.

For domestic purposes, an air compressor has a wide array of applications, such as:


You can’t always go to an auto shop for maintenance. So, if you have a car and want to maintain it properly, an air compressor is a must-have tool. Air compressors can be used to clean small compartments, install a PCV valve, change fuel filters, and, more commonly, fix flat tires.

Spray Painting

While you can paint with your brush, it’s time-consuming. You can use an air compressor to power a spray gun which you can use to repaint your cabinets and other furniture. The air pressure allows you to cover a wider area faster.


A lot of Americans enjoy DIY woodwork whenever they can spare time. An air compressor will make the process much more enjoyable for you. It can power pneumatic clamps and staple guns and blow off sawdust by releasing maximum air pressure.


An air compressor can help you clean your yard, garage, vacuum cleaner, etc. It’s the best tool for dry cleaning. In addition, a quality air compressor can help you reduce the amounts of energy you consume, thereby saving energy costs.

Now that we have covered why you need an air compressor, let’s dive deeper into the air compressor buying guide below.

Factors to Consider When Choosing an Air Compressor

Whether you are getting a personal use compressor or a professional air compressor, there are certain questions you need to ask before even setting out. These questions will help you understand this air compressor buying guide better.

  • What type of air compressor is right for me?
  • What size of air compressor will serve me?
  • What is the proper pressure level for what I need my air compressor to do?
  • How can I save money on my air compressor purchase?
  • Can my air compressor save me energy and maintenance costs?
  • What features are useful for me?
  • What features can I do without?

Once you have these questions sketched out, you can begin to consider the following factors.

Air Compressor Buying Guide

Power Sources

Your air compressor can either be electric fuelled or gas-fuelled. Electric fuelled compressors are more common at home since they run on 115 volts, 20 amp current. An electric motor drives a separate compressor unit and it usually has less noisy operations and does a cleaner job.

On the other hand, gas-powered air compressors are usually portable and are mostly used on job sites. However, they are louder and not so clean, and they need adequate ventilation during operation to prevent health hazards.

Of the two, electric air compressors are more suitable for home use.

Voltage and Ampage

These are crucial considerations when buying an electronic air compressor. You need to consider what voltage and ampage you want to maintain before purchasing an air compressor. For example, when getting a 400V industrial air compressor, you need to prepare to install a three-phase electricity supply for it to run.

Tank Size

The tank size of your compressor is directly tied to its storage capacity, portability, and mobility. A smaller tank size means lower air capacity and you may often have to stop to refill the compressor with air. On the other hand, you can retain air for a longer time in larger models and even use multiple air tools simultaneously.

For example, a smaller tank will be much easier to move around a construction site, while moving a larger tank will require pre-planning. Therefore, stationary units are best used in factories.

Tank size can range from 1 gallon to 80 gallons.


A simple way to explain pressure is to consider how strong the air compressor is. The pressure needed is determined by the tools you use with your compressor. If your nail gun needs a 100psi, a 130psi air compressor will serve you well.

If you need to add more automated air loads to this psi, you will need a compressor with more pressure. Most stores sell compressors within 125-175psi ranges.

Note that your tools shouldn’t need up to the maximum operating pressure of your compressor as this can damage it. You can invest in a pressure regulator to fix this.


Capacity is also known as the free air delivery of a compressor. It is how much air your compressed air equipment can release at a time. It can be reasonably determined by the size of the machine’s compressor.

The capacity you need is measured by summing up the capacity your air tools need to function, especially if you use them together. You can find this on your manufacturer or dealer’s website. You will then multiply this figure by 1.2.

Capacity is usually measured in CFM. However, you can also use flow measurement to determine the right CFM rating.

Duty Cycle

The compressor duty cycle can be explained as the time between when a compressor is in operation and when it is cooling or resting. Therefore, your compressor should operate only about sixty percent of the time and be left to rest for forty before restarting it.

So, you should consider your workload and invest in a larger compressor that can contain more air to avoid overworking or running it for an extended period.

Motor Power

A bigger motor will lead to better air buildup. The motor size also determines the highest level at which the airflow can be constant. A powerful motor should have good motor life and a functional motor shaft.

The following can also guide you when buying your air compressor:


Horsepower ratings are usually attached to each unit of an air compressor as they supply the proper power rating. You don’t have to be overly concerned with this as most manufacturers already size their horsepower to match the capacity.


The set-up of your air compressor determines the floor space it needs. The two common setups are horizontal compressors and vertical compressors. The setup is determined by tank placement.


Some air compressors are louder than others, especially if they are gas-fuelled. Compressors can use sound-reducing materials, or you can cut back on the noise with an enclosure. Variable Speed Drive (VSD), Variable Frequency Drive (VFD), and dual-piston technologies can also help control noise.

However, if your air compressor needs to be operated constantly, you can invest in a quiet, oil-free air compressor for quieter operation.

4 Types of Air Compressors in the Market

Because the internal components touch, these compressors create friction and run hotter and louder than other types of air compressors but newer technology like oil-less and dual-piston compressors reduce overheating and noise associated with piston-type compressors.

Air Compressor Buying Guide

Reciprocating Air Compressor

This is also known as a piston compressor. This compressor uses pistons to compress air in a back and forth motion and expels it into its chamber. It is often used to power hand tools. Reciprocating compressors are usually compact and consume minimal energy, making them the most popular option for domestic use.

An internal crankshaft drives the pistons. This makes a vacuum that sucks in air when retracting and pushes air into the tank when extending. Because the internal components touch in this process, reciprocating compressors can be noisy and may produce more heat, so they are only suitable for short-term use.

Rotary Screw Compressors

The rotary screw compressor is used for heavy tasks that require high power for an extended period. When air enters the chamber, it is squeezed between helically opposed screws. These screws reduce the trapped air volume and transmit the air compressed.

Since they are oil-sealed, they require minimal maintenance over time. As a result, this compressor is ideal for sandblasting and powering jackhammers.

Scroll Compressors

This machine uses two circular scrolls to produce compressed air. One scroll is usually stationary, while the other rotates in a circular motion to create compression.

Scroll compressors produce limited power and may not be ideal for heavy-duty machinery. However, they produce the cleanest air by ISO Standards so this makes them a desirable compressor for mega-companies and the construction industry. They are also popular with electronics, dental, pharmaceutical, and food companies.

Centrifugal Compressors

Centrifugal compressors are dynamic – they don’t have an built-in air reserve. Instead, an impeller spins inside a cylinder to force air inside the machine. As a result, multistage centrifugal can deliver a high horsepower, making them ideal for powering heavy machines for an extended period.

They are also cheaper compared to other air compressors with similar horsepower. Other common types of air compressors are axial, oil-free, and oil-lubricated compressors.

Top Brands for Air Compressors

Here are seven of the top air compressor manufacturers you should consider when making a buying decision.


De-Walt was founded in 1924 and has been a longstanding world leader in producing power tools. The company is a subsidiary of Stanley Black & Decker. It has distinguished itself by having various options for tank size, power, and style of air compressors. They also have a wide selection of two-stage compressors.

Two of the company’s most popular models are the DWFP55126 and the DWFP55130.


Stanley Bostitch is an 1896 company that specializes in manufacturing fastening tools. Most of their compressors are low maintenance since they are usually oil-free and require low ampage.

The most popular product from their air compressor department is the Bostitch CAP1512-OF.

Ingersoll Rand

Ingersoll Rand is a multi-billion dollar manufacturer of air compressors in the United States. The company manufactures a wide range of reciprocating piston compressors and rotary compressors, especially for industrial use.

The company is headquartered in Davidson, North Carolina. They also offer commercial systems, HVAC systems, and industrial refrigeration solutions.


Makita is a renowned Japanese-owned air compressor brand with about 100 years of experience. This company offers quality and style, especially for electronic compressors.

Makita doesn’t make a lot of stationary air compressors. Instead, they are known for portable and powerful units ideal for hand tools and home use. Their most popular model is the MAC700.


ALMiG is a German producer of air compressors. The company was founded in 1953 and is best known for its sophisticated air compressor technology and innovation.

They have unique and well-researched products and are well-known for their two-stage piston compressors, turbo and screw air compressors which come in a variety of sizes.

Quincy Compressor LLC

Quincy Compressor was founded in 1920 in the USA. Quincy produced the first marketed rotary and reciprocating air compressors. Today, Quincy has a diverse range of compressors such as multistage compressors, rotary screw compressors, natural gas compressors, portable air compressors, etc.

Other popular brands producing high-quality air compressors are Craftsman, Sullair, Porter-Cable, Rollair, and others.

What to Keep in Mind Before Purchase


Your budget determines the kind of air compressor you will end up with as some brands are pricier than others. If you are mindful of cost, you can buy from brands that are more cost-effective than others.


Warranties can save you from costly repairs in the future. For example, most companies offer a one-year warranty on air compressors but you may be able to find brands that offer two years.

Customer Service

The support you get from a brand after purchasing your compressor will determine how well you can put it to use. Certain brands have better customer service, so read reviews online to know what you will be getting.


Nothing tells you what to expect like reviews. So, avoid making a wrong purchase by reading through online reviews on Amazon or other popular customer sites.

Final Thoughts

Buying an air compressor can be a challenge. First, you have to consider what you are looking for, especially in terms of size, capacity, and pressure. You also have to know the air compressor that suits your needs. In addition, you have to properly research brands before settling on the available option that suits your needs.

This air compressor buying guide has addressed the right way to go about these for an easier purchase. However, if you still find it difficult to make a choice, you can consult with professionals.

Once you have it figured out, you can purchase the right pneumatic equipment and common air tools to enjoy your air compressor better.

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