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How to Choose the Right Air Compressor for Your Home Garage

Purchasing and installing an air compressor in your home garage is a huge work saver regardless of how you put your new equipment to use. The speed and power generated from an unlimited energy source like air make your tasks easy and safe. You'll get a great return on your investment in a home and garage air compressor, and you won’t regret your purchase.

Buying a garage air compressor set up is much like any moderate investment. You want to get the most for your money, and that starts with getting clear information on the different types of air compressors, tools, fasteners and accessories. To help you choose the best air compressor for your home garage, we have put together this short air compressor buying guide.

What Type of Air Compressor Do I Need

What Type of Air Compressor Do I Need?

Determining the exact type of garage compressor mainly depends on your specific application. Knowing which air compressor to buy starts with knowing how you intend to use it. The first step is making a list of all the tasks you will be using your compressor for. Once you have identified the application of your air compressor, you can expand your search by establishing factors that determine the exact type you need.

Type, in air compressor discussions, means a lot of things. Type can refer to the power source you need to run your compressed air tools. It can be the capacity of your compressor’s storage tank. Type can also entail whether your new air compressor will be portable or stationary.

Frequency of use is another critical factor to consider when picking the best air compressor for your home garage. You might be a weekend woodworker who only needs a light-duty compressor to operate an air-driven brad nailer. However, if you do any amount of automotive work, you’ll need a higher-capacity compressor to run an impact wrench or an air-driven brad nailer. However, if you do any amount of automotive work, you’ll need a higher-capacity compressor to run an air-driven sander. Here are the main factors to consider in your search for the right home garage air compressor.

1. Power Supply

You have two choices in air compressor power supply. The most common power source is electricity where an electric motor drives a separate compressor unit. Most home garage electric compressors operate on 115-volt, 20-amp current. Electric air compressors are popular in home garages due to the convenience, cleanliness and quieter operation.

Gasoline-fueled air compressors and your other energy alternative. Gas-powered engines are excellent options for portable air compressors used on job sites where the power grid isn’t handy. However, gas air compressors are not your best solution for a home garage situation. They are louder and not as clean as electric power. The exhaust fumes require adequate ventilation to prevent health hazards from using this type of equipment in an enclosed space.

2. Air Capacity

Once you’ve decided what fuel source you need for your new air compressor, it is time to look at the air capacity you will require. This means the air volume your compressor can produce, store and replenish within a given time. There are two main factors governing air compressor capacity — air volume and air pressure. Both are important and are somewhat relative in their relationship.

Air volume is the amount of compressed air your compressor can harness and store in its tank or tanks, depending on the configuration. Manufacturers measure compressor air volume in cubic feet per minute (CFM). This is the atmospheric air volume compressed and released within one minute. Large volume compressors with a 16-CFM rating are more versatile for operating multiple tools than smaller 4-CFM or less air compressors.

Air pressure refers to how much air is squeezed into the compressor’s reservoir tank. Manufacturers measure this factor in pounds per square inch (PSI). The more densely the air is packed, the higher the pressure will be. While CFM dictates how long the compressor can operate tools, PSI determines how much power the compressor can produce. Air tools are highly dependent on specific PSI requirements to perform correctly. It is critical to know your intended tool requirements and then match your compressor’s air capacity to slightly exceed them.

3. Compressor Design

Fuel source and air capacity are the two main factors influencing your garage air compressor choice. Both are critical decisions to get right as other factors follow behind. Another significant specification is the design of your compressor, and it is important to know that all air compressors are not designed alike.

There are three main designs for compressor units. The most common, by far, is the piston-powered compressor unit. This is not to be confused with the motor or engine component where a gas-powered compressor engine uses piston technology. In a piston-design unit, the compressor uses cylinders with reciprocating pistons to squeeze or compact the air and send it to the reservoir.

The other two compressor unit designs are rotary-screw models and scroll compressors. While it’s worth knowing these two air compressor designs exist, it is unlikely you will find them offered on the home garage compressor market. Screw air compressors are similar to superchargers on diesel trucks and drag racing cars. Scroll designs are like turbochargers also found in industrial and high-performance applications.

4. Air Compressor Configuration

Air compressor configuration is not so much about performance as it is about practicality. When you browse through air compressors, air tools, fasteners and accessories, you will see a wide range of equipment configurations. This is because air compressor equipment manufacturers like Campbell-Hausfeld, Makita and Hitachi build their equipment to suit a wide application range.

Two notable configurations are vertical tank air compressors and horizontal tank compressors. There is no staggering performance difference between a tank that stands up and a tank that lies on its side. These configuration options have to do with application and site specifics. Vertical tanks are popular in garage or shop settings where they make good use of upright space. Construction workers find horizontal compressors more practical because they tend to be more stable compared to vertical units, which might be knocked over easily.

You will also note multiple tank configurations on air compressors of all sizes and capacities. Choosing a single or double tank model depends on your specific need. This is something best discussed with an air compressor specialist. We can match you with the right size of compressor you need for your air tools.

What Size Air Compressor Do I Need for Air Tools?

Find Your Ideal Compressor


What Size Air Compressor Do I Need for Air Tools?

When it comes to choosing the best size of air compressor for your home garage, it is necessary to get the right combination of features. Size, in air compressor terms, doesn’t mean its physical dimensions. It refers to the compressor’s ability to handle the work you intend to do with it.

Your new air compressor’s features need to be the suitable blend of energy source, whether that is electric or gasoline-powered. It has to have sufficient air capacity in terms of CFM and PSI. It also has to have the right compressor design and overall configuration to suit the designated space in your home garage. These features are essential, but there is more to sizing a compressor. You need to consider these additional factors:

1. Air Reservoir

This refers to the air compressor’s tank size. Regardless of having sufficient PSI and CFM in air capacity, your tank must have a sufficient size to be able to store enough compressed air to keep operating your air tools without interruption. The only way to prevent work stoppage from low air volume is having a reservoir tank big enough to hold a sufficient air level while the compressor unit cycles through a recharging process.

American manufacturers measure air compressor tank sizes in U.S. gallons. There is a wide range of reservoir capacities on the market ranging from small but efficient 1-gallon models up to large commercial 80-gallon products. For your home garage, a compressor size in the 2.6-gallon to 20-gallon range should do nicely. Sizing your compressor really depends on the type and number of air tools you intend to use.

2. Air Tool Types

The type of air tools you typically use is a main factor influencing the size of air compressor you need for your home garage. You should make a list or graph of the air tool types you’ll be using, how often you’ll use them and the number of tools in use at any time during your compressor’s duty cycle. A cycle refers to the time it takes an air compressor to sense its tank capacity is getting low until the time it’s able to recharge the reservoir.

Specific air tools demand a lot more CFM and PSI draw than others. For instance, a large air-driven framing nailer needs more air supply than a small impact wrench. A continuously operating air drill demands more CFM than a small, single-use air stapler.

The best formula for calculating the right sized home air compressor is to add up the CFM requirement for all the tools you intend to use as well as identify the peak PSI each one needs. This gives you the upper limit of what tank size in gallons, capacity in CFM and pressure in PSI you require. As a rule-of-thumb, it is a good idea to add 10 to 20 percent above your anticipated limit for an unexpected draw and future add-ons.

3. Horsepower

When you research air compressors, you will always see a horsepower rating attached to each unit. The power source needs to be sufficient to run the compressor unit, but it is not something you should be too concerned about.

You can be certain that air compressor manufacturers like Makita, Campbell-Hausfeld and Hitachi will naturally size their horsepower to match the CFM, PSI and gallon capacity of their compressor assembly. Do not start selecting your air compressor by the horsepower rating. Pay attention to the air capacity and pressure as the manufacturer will supply the proper power rating.

Garage Air Compressor Setup

Garage Air Compressor Setup

Once you have selected the right size and capacity of home air compressor, it is time to think about how you will set it up in your garage. There are many air tools, air hoses and reels, and fittings and accessories available to complete your shop air compressor system. As with all systems, your compressor tools and accessories have to match the basic compressor unit to achieve maximum performance.

Properly locating your air compressor is important. It needs to be somewhat centrally located in your garage to avoid long air-line and hose runs. Long runs decrease compressor efficiency and cause a drop in both CFM delivery and PSI strength.

Noise is another factor in locating and setting up your compressor. Some compressor models produce higher decibel levels than others. This information is available through product specifications, and it’s always worth a call or email to your supplier to discuss noise if it is a critical issue to you.

Some owners locate their garage-based compressors in an enclosure to control noise. While this might be effective in dealing with decibels, the heat generated by compressor units needs to be disbursed. Setting your compressor in a sound-resistant enclosure might not be the best solution for its long-term performance.

It’s a wise move to involve your air compressor and air-tool accessory supplier when you’re shopping for the right compressor for your home garage. Reputable tool suppliers know their products and will help you get it right the first time. They will also be able to help you select the essential air tools and air compressor accessories for your shop.

Essential Air Tools and Air Compressor Accessories

The productive work you accomplish in your home garage or shop comes from using the tools your new garage air compressor supports. Air tools have a lot of advantages over electric ones. Many people become so accustomed to using tools powered by air that they find it hard to go back to electric power. Here are some of the essential air tools and air compressor accessories you want to consider adding to your collection:

Contact Construction Fasteners and Tools for All Your Air Compressor Equipment

Contact Construction Fasteners and Tools for All Your Air Compressor Equipment

Construction Fasteners and Tools is your leading choice for home garage air compressors, air tools and air accessories. It is our mission to help customers get the best tools and equipment possible so you can work more productively and safely. We help our customers by giving you the best service and value possible. Every day, we at Construction Fasteners and Tools do whatever it takes to go above and beyond your expectations.

If you are shopping for a new air compressor for your garage or shop, we are here to help. Our service representatives will walk you through every step of the selection process, including sizing your compressor system and outfitting you with top-quality tools. Browse our air compressors and accessories online. For any questions, give us a call at 866-238-8880 or send us a message through our online contact form.