Who Uses Mini Air Compressors and Why?

picture of a mini air compressorThe idea of what precisely constitutes a “mini” air compressor is open to interpretation; the term does not have a defined meaning when it comes to air compressors. It is fair to say that most air compressors meeting this standard are small, portable, use a small power supply, and are not designed for constant or serious industrial usage. Based on these characteristics, mini air compressors may range from the tiny ones designed to operate air brush machines, to the larger household models used to top of car tires and fill other inflatable items around the house. Some people consider the larger air compressors used in small offices and workshops as mini as well, but this does not meet the portability requirement above.

Perhaps the most common, and least expensive, mini compressors are those small 12 volt models that are sold at general retail outlets for about $19.99. These tiny compressors are usually designed to be powered by a vehicle’s electrical system, either through the cigarette lighter socket or directly attached to the vehicle’s battery. Most also come with adapters that will allow you to use them from a general electrical outlet as well. These compressors usually have a low psi (pounds – of pressure – per square inch) levels and low cfm (cubic feet per minute) rates. They are basically only good for topping up tires, blowing up inflatable items (cycle tires, balls, swimming toys, etc.) and they usually work on a continuous basis without any form of tank. Needless to say, these little mini compressors are not strong enough to run most pneumatic tools and have very limited application.

The next most popular type of compressor that might be defined as mini are the two or three gallon household compressors. Many of these two gallon (so named because they have a two gallon air tank built in) generate around 90 to 100 psi, which makes them strong enough to operate at least one pneumatic power tool. However the cfm may be considerably lower and this is important to keep in mind: remember even if your compressor meets the psi requirements, it will not power your tool if it does not generate enough cfm. These compressors are usually excellent for household use since they are powerful enough to do something while at the same time being small and compact enough to easily move around the house without it being an issue. Though there are exceptions, many of these compressors can be purchased for under $100 today.

There are also a number of compressors that may be justly defined as “mini” that are created and designed for a very specific purpose. A prime example of these specialized compressors is the tiny air compressors designed to run air brushes. These small compressors are usually much too small and weak to do much else, but at the same time have special settings and options which allow the operator many functions that a more general air compressor would not. There are other mini compressors of this type as well, that are designed for very specific purposes and usually quite worthless for any other one. One can generally expect to pay more for these specialized compressors simply because they are specialized and presumably offer the user some option that would not be otherwise available.


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