Portable Air Compressor Buying Guide
Cubic feet per minute (CFM) indicates the maximum airflow supplied by an air compressor during its operation. All air tools have a required airflow for them to operate, that’s why the most important information you should look for when choosing the best portable air compressor is its CFM or specifically, its SCFM.
Before heading to the hardware store or before you click that checkout button, it is best to check the CFM airflow requirements of your air tools and choose an air compressor that exceeds its airflow requirements. If you can’t find the air tool’s required CFM on your user’s manual, you can go to the manufacturer’s website and check the information there.
Let’s say your air tool runs at 6 CFM. Multiply it by 1.2 or 1.5 to get the air compressor with the right CFM for your air tool. This is to make sure that the air compressor can deliver the required CFM and the tool will not be under-powered.
Air pressure is measured in pounds per square inch (PSI). The majority of air tools in the market require 90 PSI for optimum performance. But to make sure that the pressure is maintained at 90 PSI, make sure that you have a compressor with a high shut-off pressure.
Single-stage pumps rise to around 125 to 155 PSI before they shut off. Heavy-duty air compressors often have two-stage pumps that first shut off at around 90 PSI, and then at 175 PSI or more.
Portable air compressors with smaller tanks are ideal for tasks that need short bursts of air during operation. If you’re using a pneumatic framing nailer or a ratchet wrench, then a good-sized hotdog or twin-stack air compressor will suffice.
If you’re using a sander, for example, and you’re using it continuously, then you’re better off getting a portable air compressor with a larger tank.
Some quality air compressors are powered by electricity, while others are powered by gas. If you have access to an electrical outlet and you’re going to do a lot of your tasks indoors, then an electric-powered portable air compressor is ideal for your application.
Gas-powered air compressors, on the other hand, have the advantage of portability and versatility. They are ideal for outdoor jobsites or those that don’t have access to electricity.
Check out this video to learn more about how air compressors work.