How to Find The Right Home Air Compressors

Picture of a portable air compressorHome air compressors have steadily become more and more popular over the last decade and are likely to continue doing so. Do-It-Yourselfers (DIYers) find pneumatic (air powered) tools like nail guns and paint sprayers extremely helpful. Others use them to top up their car tires, for household cleaning purposes, for yard maintenance, and just to blow up their children’s inflatable toys. People that have their own swimming pools also consider them very helpful for maintaining the pool.

Nevertheless, the idea of buying a home air compressor is still relatively new to many people, so it pays to know what you are looking for. Obvious concerns like size and noise do not take any specialized knowledge: it is easy enough to determine how much space you have available for an air compressor and what an acceptable noise level is. However, you have to buy a home air compressor that is strong enough to satisfy your requirements, but at the same time you want to avoid getting one that is far too powerful. A tiny home air compressor designed to fuel a paint brush will not drive a pneumatic air gun; similarly an industrial air compressor that generates far more compressed air than you will ever need is just a waste of electricity.

Although there are exceptions, most modern pneumatic devices specify precisely what their requirements are. These requirements are generally expressed in terms of “psi” (pounds per square inch of pressure) and “cfm” (cubic feet per minute). Sometimes “psi” is expressed as “psig” (pounds per square inch gauge) and sometimes “cfm” is expressed as “scfm” (standard cubic feet per minute); but these all mean the same thing. The psi is the amount of pressure the compressor generates, while the cfm is the speed that the air is expelled from the compressor, or the generated rate of air flow.

Most of your pneumatic tools should come with a list of requirements that reads something like “90 psi at 5.2 cfm”. These are the minimum requirements necessary to run the tool in question, so the home air compressor you buy has to meet this standard in order to serve your purposes. The psi of your compressor should be enough to cover the highest psi requirement of your various tools. The cfm can be cumulative if you intend to run more than one pneumatic device at a time. Therefore you have to add together all of the cfm requirements of the largest number of tools you can envision using simultaneously and ensure that your home air compressor can meet this cfm requirement.

Many people suggest that you somewhat over estimate the amount of psi and cfm that you will require. With respect to psi, this is nonsense and it makes no difference. With respect to cfm, having slightly more than the minimum can be helpful because sometime you lose some of your air flow through the hose or through the tool’s mechanism. Therefore having slightly more cfm than the minimum is a good idea. However, contrary to the claims of some salesmen out to sell you far more compressor than you need, you should avoid buying too a home air compressor that far exceeds your basic requirements. This is just a waste of energy and utterly defeats any efficiency goals that may behind using pneumatic technology in the first place.

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