Air compressors have many uses ranging from inflating tires to running air-powered equipment. There are many different types of air compressors and the right one for you depends on what you plan to use it for.
Types of Air Compressors
Stationary air compressors are large models intended for use in shops or garages. They feature high-horsepower and large storage tanks so that they can be used for long periods without interruption. A portable farm and fleet air compressor has smaller storage tanks and wheels or handles to make it easier to transport to different work areas. These compact models are available in multiple styles:
- Pancake models are round with flat storage tanks mounted on the bottom for stability and space-saving
- Twin-stack compressors feature two cylindrical, horizontal tanks which add air capacity without increasing floor space requirements
- Hot dog compressors feature a horizontal design with one cylindrical tank
- Wheelbarrow compressors include twin cylindrical tanks with wheels and handles
Portable air compressors are a good choice for light, short jobs, such as powering nail guns or airbrushing.
Inflators are the smallest type of compressors. These models do not have storage tanks and must run constantly to supply air. These compressors are useful for inflating tires, small floats and sports equipment.
Compressor Power Supplies
Electric compressors are the most common type. They do not need as much maintenance as gas-powered models and do not make as much noise. Many models designed for home use can run on a 120-volt household current. Electric portable models have limited mobility because they can only be moved as much as the power cord will allow. Gas-powered compressors are good choices for outdoor work. They usually have more horsepower than electric models and can generate higher pressure.
Air Compressor Specifications
Compressors with higher horsepower ratings have engines with more power output. More power means greater air pressure. Compressors with higher PSI capability can store more air in storage tanks which makes it possible to run air-powered tools longer.
The volume of air a compressor can deliver at different PSI levels is described as either cubic feet per minute or standard cubic feet per minute. CFM increases as PSI decreases. Models with higher CFM ratings move more air and are more useful for heavy applications.
When choosing an air compressor, consider whether you need to be able to move your compressor around or if it will remain in one space. Factor in how much power you need, how long you need to operate uninterrupted and whether you have access to an electrical outlet.