Our portable compressor reviews don’t just give you the good points of the portable compressors, we also give you the bad points as well. By clicking on the links below you will be able to compare the different compressors, view the technical specifications, read the customer reviews and get the discounted prices.
You may also want to check out our Air Compressor comparison chart for a quick look at all of the technical specs of the different air compressors. If you are still unsure of which compressor to choose take a look at our “air compressor buyer guide” below. It has all of the information to help you pick the best portable air compressor for your particular needs.
A guide to understanding all the technical jargon
In this Air Compressor buyer guide we will be looking at all the different technical terms and explaining what they actually mean, hopefully helping you to find the best air compressor for the money.
Portable Compressor Buyer Guide
Type of air compressors:
Hot Dog and Pancake compressors are generally adequate for delivering short bursts of compressed air to power tools such as nail guns and staple guns.
Twin stack Hot Dog compressors feature a pair of air storage tanks, which means that they can store even more air, meaning that the compressor doesn’t need to run as frequently. Twin stacks are an ideal choice for the DIY enthusiast or low usage professional; they provide enough air to power a single, low to medium SCFM tool quite adequately. These types of compressors are portable but they weigh more than single tank compressors and they also cost more.
Will you need to move the compressor around or will it be left in one place. If you are moving the compressor around job sites or within a factory the machine needs to be light enough to carry or wheeled around. Determining if the machine needs to be portable will also help to identify the weight and size of the compressor.
Portable air compressors come in many different sizes and designs. Small machines have carrying handles and are light enough to move around with comparative ease. Larger machines have wheels attached that make moving them from place to place very easy.
Single Stage and Two Stage refers to the type of compressor pump. Single Stage pumps can generally deliver up to 150 PSI (pounds per square inch) and compress the air directly into the storage tank. Single stage pumps generally have a SCFM rating below 100 PSI.
Two Stage pumps compress the air in the first chamber and then pass the air to a smaller chamber where it is compressed again to a higher pressure and then pumped into the storage tank. Two stage pumps can generally deliver 175 PSI and over and have SCFM (standard cubic feet per minute) ratings of over 100 PSI. The benefit of the two stage pump is more air stored in the same size tank, allowing tools to run longer.
Work out the maximum required SCFM usage:
List all the tools that will be connected to the air compressor and used at the same time, if different tools are to be used throughout the day but not at the same time, select the tool that has the highest SCFM rating. Add up the SCFM of all the tools and add an extra 50% to give a buffer.
Electric or Gasoline Powered Compressor?
Electric Air Compressor
If the compressor is to be used where there is an electrical power supply, the best option would be an electric drive. Electrically driven machines have a number of advantages over gasoline powered compressors, these include;
• Less expensive to buy and run
• Generally require less maintenance
• No harmful fumes emitted
Gas Air Compressor
If the air compressor is to be used where there is no electrical power supply available then the obvious power source is gasoline. Gasoline powered compressors offer the most convenience and mobility compared to electrically powered compressors. Although, these types of compressors produce potentially poisonous exhaust fumes and must only be run outside or in a very well ventilated indoor area.
Size of compressor tank:
Compressor storage tanks are measured in gallons. Bigger tanks can store more air at increased pressures. A smaller air storage tank can be used for operating short burst tools such as nail guns and staplers. For operating tools such as sanders and angle grinders that require a continuous feed of compressed air for long periods, a larger tank would be required.
Oil-Lubricated or Oil-Free:
Similar to a car engine, oil lubricated compressors require oil to operate. Moving parts within the pump are lubricated with oil to prevent wear and tear. They tend to have a lot longer lifespan than oil free compressors.
Oil-lubricated compressors are typically bigger and also heavier when compared to the comparable oil-free types, and motor oil needs to be checked on a regular basis and replaced to avoid premature wear. However, oil lubricated compressors tend to last a lot longer than the oil free types. If you are going to be using the compressor on a daily basis then you may want to consider an oil lubricated compressor.
Oil-free compressors normally make use of specialized piston rings, made out of a material similar to Teflon (much the same coating that’s used on non-stick cookware) that lubricates and reduces friction within the cylinder.
Because there are fewer components in oil-free compressors they tend to be lighter and smaller than oil lubricated compressors, which makes them the best air compressor for domestic and professional uses where portability is an important consideration.
Air Compressor Noise:
Air compressors vary greatly in their noise (decibel) output. Oil free compressors are sometimes noisier than oil lubricated. Although, there are some oil free compressors such as the Rolair JC10 and the California Air Tools CAT-4610A that only output 60 decibels, which according to the OSHA is less sound than a normal conversation! Manufacturers such as Rolair are now producing quiet air compressors due to the popularity of these types of machines. However, if you want a high CFM output such as the contractor grade compressors deliver then you have to expect more noise due to the increased motor size and higher RPM.
If noise is a consideration it is best to check the manufacturer’s specifications prior to purchasing. You can view all of the top rated compressor specifications on our Air Compressor comparison chart page.
The duty cycle of an air compressor is how long the compressor should be run in a set period. You can find more information on air compressor duty cycles on our portable air compressor comparison page.
What might be the best air compressor for one person might not be right for someone else. It all depends on what you will be using the compressor for. Take a look at the portable air compressor comparison charts to compare the technical specifications of the top rated air compressors to find the right compressor for your particular needs.
You can also check out our portable air compressor reviews that will give you detailed information on all of the portable compressors in the Amazon best sellers list.