Air compressors are used to give power to pneumatic tools. These tools require the force produced from air pressure inside these compressors. Before, air compressors only used to be available for commercial usage. That is because they were big and took a lot of space along with power. But now you can also be an owner of an air compressor since they have shrunk down with time. You can now be the owner of one for your home and garage.
What Is an Air Compressor and What’s Its Use in a Home Garage
An air compressor, like the name suggests, compresses air and pushes it into a tank. The air is pressurized there and when you use a pneumatic tool, it uses that air pressure to produce force. The air compressor does this by using pistons, valves, connecting rods, and crankshaft. When you power up an air compressor, it uses electricity to move pistons. The pistons in turn pull air through an opening and push it through a small valve to pressurize it in a tank.
The tank then releases the amount of air required for a tool. You might have seen an air compressor at your local gas station. It is usually used for filling the air in automobile tires. But that is just one application, where there are several more that it is used for. There are impact drivers, nail guns, sandblasters, impact wrenches, and more powered with an air compressor.
There are several more tools that use an air compressor. You can also use pressurized air for cleaning up clogged pipes as well. The applications are vast and endless. But why would you use these compared to electrical power tools?
Pneumatic tools do not have electrical motors, so there is no risk of burning out. Their maintenance is very easy. They are light as well since they do not have any electrical components inside them. All the power is courtesy of the air compressor. Plus, pneumatic tools pack more punch, provided the air compressor meets their pressure requirements.
Before we start reviewing products, let us go through some of the basics of an air compressor.
Measure in PSI, the air pressure determines the air compressor’s ability to perform certain tasks at a given time. In easier words, if your tool is rated for 90 PSI, you will need an air compressor that meets that requirement. If it does not, then you will not be able to achieve the desired results. You can increase the air pressure to a certain degree, but then you risk lowering the life of your tools.
Most tools, like impact wrenches, are good for 90 PSI, but most people will recommend using them at 120 PSI instead. This gives more torque to perform the task much easier as more force is being exerted through pressure. But the parts inside the tool is not rated for higher pressure, so it is wearing off faster.
The airflow is basically the amount of air released in cubic feet per minute. So the amount of air that is being pushed through per minute is the airflow. Now tools also have a rating for CFM, so you need to make sure to get an air compressor with a CFM rating suited to your tools.
Tools that require constant air have a higher CFM requirement compared to tools that just use it once. An example of the former would be impact wrenches. And an example of the latter would be a pneumatic stapler.
The amount of air stored in a tank is measured in gallons. A higher capacity air tank would mean that you are able to work more constantly. With the tank having enough air to perform tasks, you can keep working till it’s empty. The capacity totally depends on your usage. If you are going to be using the pneumatic tools for a long period of time, then you will need a bigger tank.
But for home garage use, a 10-gallon tank is going to be more than enough. You can even go lower. A 30-gallon tank is usually used in a professional mechanic’s shop where they need to constantly use pneumatic tools. They need a bigger amount of air in the tank to keep working without pauses.
Oil-Free and Oil-Based
A factor to consider while purchasing an air compressor has to be whether it is oil-free or oil-based. Oil-free air compressors are cheaper and much cleaner compared to their oil-based counterparts. If you consider the fact that there is a piston operating inside the air compressor, it would definitely require lubrication.
Oil-free air compressors have Teflon coating throughout the piston for lubrication. This means that the lubrication is built into the piston itself. Meanwhile, an oil-based air compressor requires you to constantly lubricate the piston. This means extra maintenance on your part. But then why are oil-free air compressors cheaper?
That is because Teflon on the piston will eventually wear off with use. This means that the air compressor has a shorter life. Whereas when you keep providing oil to lubricate the piston, it will have a longer life. Of course, it will also mean clean up for the messy oil stains later on.
Now that you know the basics about an air compressor, let us move forward with our review list.l
The Best Air Compressor for Home Garage: Our Top 5 Picks
1. BOSTITCH BTFP02012 Pancake Air Compressor
The Bostitch PTFP02012 pancake air compressor is an oil-free model that is ideal for a home garage. It is light and does not weigh a lot. It also has one of the quietest operations with less than 80dBA noise levels. And let us tell you, air compressors can get really loud. So the quieter the operation, the better it is for your ears.
It has a 6-gallon tank and the compressor is rated for a max of 150 PSI. The pump has a 2.6 SCFM airflow and a 90 PSI air pressure. Most tools that are used in a home garage require 90 PSI of air pressure max. Of course, you can get more power with a 120 PSI pump, but that just reduces its durability.
The pump is oil-free and requires no maintenance whatsoever. Since it will be used in a home garage, we determine it will not be under constant workloads. Also, the capacity of the tank is ideal for home-usage, but not for large garages.
- Quiet Operation
- High-Efficiency Motor for Operating in Cold Weather
- Light Weight
- Small Sized
- High Flow Regulator
- Poor Build Quality Compared to Competition
2. Makita MAC2400 Big Bore 2.5 HP Air Compressor
The Makita MAC2400 air compressor has a big bore piston that has long-lasting durability. The pump uses oil to lubricate the piston. And as we discussed before, an oil-based pump means this thing is built to last. It also has a lower power draw to ensure reduced instances of breakers getting tripped due to high load.
The Makita MAC2400 air compressor has 4.2-gallon twin stack tanks, which is not a lot but ideal for home use. The brand uses a unique construction with a roll cage to protect the motor and pump. So it is actually safe to use around extreme environments and situations. It seems the brand has focused on durability while designing this air compressor.
The compressor has a maximum of 130 PSI air pressure, the pump operates at 4.2 CFM airflow at 90 PSI. An oil-sight glass indicates the oil levels and whether you need to replace the oil or not. When it comes to noise levels, it is not any louder than the Bostitch Pancake air compressor reviewed above.
- Light Weight
- Oil-based Pump
- Low Tank Capacity
3. Metabo HPT “THE TANK” Pancake Compressor
If the noise does not bother you, then “The Tank” is the air compressor for you. Metabo HPT features a pancake compressor with a higher air pressure of 200 PSI. So far only larger sized makes and models feature such a high PSI on the compressor. That is why it dons the moniker of “The Tank”.
It has a 6-gallon air tank and it does not weigh a lot. You get 4 CFM airflow at 90 PSI air pressure on the pump, ideal for home garage tools. It has a robust metal handle that is quite durable.
Nothing stands out in this air compressor as the sound does. It is extremely loud. It is uncomfortably loud. If it was not for that small issue, it is an amazing air compressor that is portable and powerful.
- high air pressure rated compressor
- Light Weight
- 6-Gallon Tank
- Oil-free Low Maintenance
- Extremely Loud
4. California Air Tools 2010A Aluminum Tank Air Compressor
California Air Tools is a well-known and highly recommended brand for pneumatic products. Their air compressors are durable and super quiet. Although higher capacity tank models can be really costly. But the highlight of the California Air Tools 2010A aluminum tank air compressor is 60dBA sound level. This makes it ideal for home use.
This particular make and model has an aluminum tank which means no rust accumulation. The tank has a capacity of only 2-gallons. But it takes only 50-seconds to completely fill the tank. It has an oil-free pump, so it does not require any maintenance.
The pump is rated for a 2.20 CFM at 90 PSI air pressure. The CFM rating on the pump is not as great, but it does just fine with home garage tools. The robust build of the pump ensures longer operations.
- Very Quiet Compared to Other Brands
- Aluminum Tanks Do Not Get Rusted
- Light Weight
- Portable Design
- Oil-Free Reduces Cost Maintenance
- Low Tank Capacity
- Low CFM Rating
5. DEWALT D55146 Air Compressor
When it comes to features, this air compressor is a standard for home garages. The DEWALT D55146 air compressor has a high air pressure tank, higher than any other we have reviewed so far in the list. It is a bit on the expensive side but this air compressor can be used for professional use without hassle.
The tank has a max air pressure of 225 PSI, the largest on our list so far. It has a 4-1/2-gallon tank, which is alright, better than the California Air Tools air compressor reviewed above. It also has a higher CFM rating of 5 at 90 PSI, which is the best we have seen in home garage use air compressors.
All of that power weighs a ton. It is not easy to carry it around everywhere. But you can stand it vertically and with a retractable handle and wheels, you can pull and push it with ease. It has a 78dBA noise level which is pretty standard. The oil-free pump requires no maintenance and saves any costs associated with it. Overall, the DEWALT D55146 air compressor is perfect for all home situations.
- High Air Pressure Tank
- Great CFM Rating on Pump at 90 PSI
- Wheels for Movement
- Durable Construction
- Vertical Stand for Easy Storage
- Heavy Weight Makes Lifting it a Daunting Task
With so many air compressors in the market, one can easily get confused on which one is best suited for their home garage. All of the above-reviewed products are top of the line and suggested by professionals. Choosing any one of these will complete your pneumatic tool collection. These air compressors will easily power any pneumatic tool you want to use in your home garage.
Choosing the right air compressor is vital when using your tools. Also, maintenance for these is the key for a longer life span. Check the pneumatic tools you wish to use with these air compressors. Most home-based pneumatic tools have a max air pressure limit of 90 PSI. While the tools used in a professional garage can require higher pressure.