How to Find The Right High Pressure Air Compressor

picture fo a high pressure air compressorToday one can find an absolutely staggering array of air compressors on the open market, from massive industrial units to tiny little hand held compressors that are only really good for operating airbrushes. With so many choices available, how do you figure out which high pressure air compressor is right for you?

The first thing to take into consideration is how you intend to use the compressor in the first place. If all you intend to do is run a light airbrush off of it, then obviously you have no need for a massive industrial unit. So, how do you intend to use your high pressure air compressor? Chances are you already have some uses in mind, but it is important to know the requirements of the tools you intend to run off the high pressure air compressor before you buy the compressor. If you intend to use it for a single application – for example, a paint sprayer or to top up your tires – then you need to look into the pressure requirements needed to accomplish this task. If you intend to use the high pressure air compressor for many different purposes, then you need to take all of the relevant tools into account.

Almost all pneumatic (air driven) devices on the market today specify what psi – pounds (of pressure) per square inch – the high pressure air compressor should have to operate the tool correctly. So the first thing to look for when selecting a compressor is one that meets the psi requirements of your tool(s). If you intend to use an array of tools, then use the tool with the highest psi requirement as the determining minimum psi that your compressor should have. Many people also advise that you aim at a slightly higher psi than the minimum in order to compensate for the built in shut off point (when the compressor shuts off to avoid going over its recommended psi). However, this can also be tricky, because if you are using a compressor with 135 psi to operate a tool that only requires 90 psi, then you are just wasting energy and driving down the efficiency of your compressor.

Along with the psi, most tools on the market today also clearly state their cfm, or cubic feet per minute, air flow requirements. This determines how much air your air compressor releases from its output hose. Often this information is connected directly to the psi information, for example “5 cfm at 90 psi.” if you intend to run more than one tool at the same time, then you have to add all the cfm requirements of any combination of tools that you intend to run into one maximum cfm rate. Further, while it can be wasteful to over estimate your psi too far, over estimating your cfm is a good idea. This is simply because some pressure may be lost through the hoses leading to the tool, or from the tool itself, so when it comes to cfm, the more the better.

Finally, you should look at the horsepower of the high pressure air compressor you have in mind. Generally speaking – and there are exceptions – the lower the horsepower, the less the amount of energy it takes to operate the air compressor. This means if you find several different compressors that meet your psi and cfm requirements, then you should aim for the one with the lowest horsepower, as this will cost less to run.


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