Photos by Rob Brown; Illustration by Len Churchill
Compact air compressors can power a range of tools, including pinners, nailers, staplers, drills, ratchets, and sprayers. Their small, compact size means they don’t take up a lot of shop space, they can be stored under a bench or even suspended from the ceiling, and they can be easily transported to a job site, or used around the home.
One of the most important factors to keep in mind when choosing a compressor is that it must have the capacity to deliver sufficient air for the tools you’ll use it with. It’s a good idea to choose your air tools before you choose the compressor. The key specification you want to look at is the CFM that the tool requires at a pressure of 90 PSI – the pressure requirement for most air tools.
Weight: 20–75 pounds
Capacity: 1–4 gallons
Power: 1/2–2 HP
Output: .75 CFM at 90 PSI to 4 CFM at 90 PSI
Warranty: 30 days to 1 year
Know your compressor before you use it. Most require a break-in period, and all need periodic maintenance.
Prevent the inside of your tank from rusting by opening the drain valve at the end of each work day. Release the air pressure in the tank first.
Prevent excessive wear on the motor and compressor pump by cleaning or replacing the air filter regularly. The more dust in your shop, the more frequently you should clean the filter.
Most small compressors aren’t meant to be run all the time. Persistently exceeding the compressors rated duty cycle will reduce the life of your compressor pump.
Not all air tools require the same amount of air pressure. Adjust the regulator to match the pressure requirement of the tool you’re using – it will extend the life of your air tools.