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headerbild_BLACK-DECKER-Portable-Air-Compressor-test
Tested Products 10
Hours Spent 53
Evaluated Studies 13
Considered Reviews 715

Best Portable Air Compressor 2018 - 10 Portable Air Compressors Reviews

A portable air compressor provides access to pressurized air practically anywhere and for many different purposes, including inflating tires, operating air-driven tools and performing detail-oriented cleaning. Our team sought to determine the best products in this class by researching numerous portable air compressor reviews and tests and analyzing those ratings for the most important characteristics.

Portable Air Compressor Leaderboard 2018

Last update: 

  image of AstroAI Portable Air Compressor Pump 150 PSI, Digital Tire Inflator 12V DC Electric Gauge image of Viair 00088 88P Portable Air Compressor image of Campbell Hausfeld DC040500 image of Kensun ACDC Rapid Performance Portable Air Compressor image of Campbell Hausfeld Portable Quiet Air Compressor, 8 Gallon (DC080500) image of Makita AC001 Compact Air Compressor image of Breezz Air Compressor Pump image of Twin-Stack P1IU-A9 2 HP 4 Gallon Portable Air Compressor image of EPAuto 12V DC Portable Air Compressor Pump image of Craftsman 12V Portable Tire Inflator
  AstroAI Portable Air Compressor Pump 150 PSI Viair 00088 88P Portable Air Compressor Campbell Hausfeld DC040500 Quiet Air Compressor Kensun Portable Air Compressor Campbell Hausfeld Portable Quiet Air Compressor Makita AC001 Compact Air Compressor Breezz Air Compressor Pump Twin-Stack P1IU-A9 Air Compressor EPAuto 12V DC Portable Air Compressor Pump CRAFTSMAN 12v Portable Tire Inflator
Rating 9.0
Very Good
8.8
Very Good
8.7
Very Good
8.6
Very Good
8.5
Very Good
8.2
Good
8.1
Good
7.9
Good
7.7
Good
7.5
Good
amazon rating
Brand AstroAI Viair Campbell Hausfeld Kensun Campbell Makita Breezz Twin-Stack EPAuto CRAFTSMAN
Product Dimensions

8.6 x 7.5 x 3.9 inches

6.8 x 6.2 x 10.8 inches

20.9 x 17.3 x 20.9 inches

11.8 x 4.3 x 6.7 inches

11 x 23 x 26 inches

14 x 15 x 15 inches

9 x 8 x 3.2 inches

19 x 19 x 17 inches

13.5 x 8.1 x 5.6 inches

n/a

Item Weight

3.5 pounds

4.5 pounds

38 pounds

5 pounds

67 pounds

23.1 pounds

2.4 pounds

82 pounds

3.75 pounds

6.7 pounds

Shipping Wight

3.5 pounds

4.5 pounds

38 pounds

5 pounds

67 pounds

23.1 pounds

2.4 pounds

82 pounds

3.75 pounds

6.7 pounds

Voltage

12 volts

12 volts

n/a

12 volts

n/a

n/a

12 volts

n/a

12 volts

n/a

Wattage

120 watts

120 wattage

n/a

120 watts

n/a

n/a

120 watts

n/a

120 watts

n/a

Tank Size

Small

n/a

4.6 gallons

Small

8 Gallons

6 gallons

Small

4 gallons

Small

Small

Color

Yellow

Silver

Blue

Black

Dark blue

Blue

Black, yellow

n/a

Black,blue

Black, red

Exterior

Painted

Painted

Painted

Painted

Painted

Painted

Painted

Painted

Painted

Painted

Warranty

1095 days

365 days

365 days

730 days

365 days

365 days

n/a

365 days

n/a

n/a

Features
  • quieter than oil-free compressors
  • durable so it last longer
  • portable design
  • easy to use
  • excellent over heat protection
  • highly portable
  • great for small ATVs
  • easy to use
  • quieter and less messy
  • LED power indicator
  • quietest air compressor
  • durable and safety to use
  • highly portable
  • high performing compressor
  • advance functions of air compressor
  • made from top quality material
  • easy to use
  • light and very portable
  • advance functions of air compressor
  • efficient LCD display and unit conversion
  • excellent top-view controls
  • huge air tank
  • efficient oil-free pump & induction motor
  • very portable
  • nice design
  • easily portable
  • compact and sturdy housing
  • compressor is very quiet
  • performs light duties excellently
  • safety to use
  • highly portable
  • easy to use
  • sturdy built
  • easy to understand LCD display
  • inflates tires quickly
  • portable design
  • user friendly
  • maximum power and flexibilty
  • reliable operations
  • long life - durable product
  • highly portable
  • easy to use
  • multiple functions and uses
  • prevents over inflation
  • sturdy design
  • easy to use
  • sturdy built and design
  • portable for everyday use
  • model is quieter and less messy
  • good function and features
Quality
Price Value
Functionality
Performance
Product Review Product Review Product Review Product Review Product Review Product Review Product Review Product Review Product Review Product Review Product Review
Where to buy
Large selection of Portable Air Compressors at affordable prices on Amazon.com
Wide range Portable Air Compressors Secure Payment & Buyer Protection Free delivery from 29 Euro upwards

 Portable Air Compressor  Portable Air Compressors Bestseller now on Amazon.com & save!

What Is a Portable Air Compressor?

Man using a Dewalt Portable Air CompressorA portable air compressor is machinery that uses a powerful engine or motor to draw air from the atmosphere into a storage tank. As the machine adds more air, the air in the tank becomes pressurized, which means that the tank stores more air than would be possible under normal circumstances. It also means that the pressure can be used to release that air in a forceful fashion. This is particularly useful for pneumatic—or air-driven—tools, such as nail guns and even jackhammers.

Portable in this context means that the device is not in a fixed location. Large units are often mounted and cannot be moved without reinstallation, and reach is dictated solely by the length of the hose attached to the unit. Beyond the basic definition, portable can have a broad meaning depending on the application. The best option for inflating vehicle tires may be quite heavy and is rolled into position for convenience.

The portable air compressor test winner for inflating footballs and bicycle tires, on the other hand, was more lightweight and could be carried. Note that there is a difference between this kind of machine and an air pump. The distinction is that the air pump does not have a storage tank.

The power source is one of the defining elements of any portable air compressor, and there are two fundamental types: electric and fuel-based. Of the electric variety, there are both corded and cordless options available. The corded units have or require a power cord that must be connected to an AC socket or perhaps adapted to another connection, such as a cigarette lighter socket in a car.

Cordless or battery-powered versions generally run on rechargeable batteries. They are convenient but may provide short runtimes, and users may want to have multiple charged batteries on hand so that they can swap a fresh one in when the current one fades.

Of the fuel-based variety, there are both gas and diesel engines available. Diesel engines can last longer, be easier to maintain and offer reduced fuel and maintenance costs due to idle reduction. These engines do, however, create thick fumes and are therefore not practical for all jobs. Gas engines create fumes but not as thick and tend to be more practical overall for the average home user.

Note that neither of these engines should be used in enclosed spaces without ventilation. Another point to consider about fuel-based options is that they cannot turn off and on by themselves. Electric units can and are thus much more convenient for stop-and-go applications.

Whether these machines are electric or fuel-based, they will often require oil. After all, they need to draw air in via a piston, and that part requires lubrication in order to function optimally and to stave off wear and tear. Replacing this oil is a core part of the necessary ongoing maintenance for these machines.

Dewalt Portable Air CompressorThe replacement period is often annual for light usage but can be much more frequent if the machine is used daily. There are oil-free or oil-less options on the market as well. These generally are lighter, less expensive and require less maintenance, but they tend not to fare as well in tests because they’re pre-lubricated, and that Teflon wears out over time. So, while upfront costs are lower, total cost of ownership may be higher.

Beyond the power source and lubrication, there are four key characteristics that played a pivotal role in portable air compressor tests in 2017. These are SCFMPSIHP and tank size. SCFM is specific pressure in cubic feet per minute, which is the volume of air provided. This is an important factor for pneumatic tools, which often require a certain SCFM to operate reliably or at all. PSI stands for pounds per square inch, and it dictates how much air the machine can store.

There is a correlation between SCFM and PSI, and air-driven tools will often require a certain PSI as well. HP or horsepower indicates how much power the engine or motor generates. Horsepower directly correlates to how much pressure can be generated. Tank size is a matter of preference. Smaller tanks are more portable, but larger tanks can provide air for a longer period without running the engine.

How Does a Portable Air Compressor Work?

Portable air compressor that have a piston and are single-stage are the most common for home use and work well in many applications, including inflating tires and other tubes and operating air-driven tools. An electric motor or gasoline engine drives a piston that compresses air and pushes it into a tank. As more air is forced into the tank, the pressure increases.

Once the desired pressure has been achieved, the compressor stops. As the air is used, the machine will restart in order to refill the tank with air. Two-stage machines operate a bit differently since they have two pistons. In this scenario, the first piston compresses air and pushes it through to a check value. It then reaches a second piston that compresses the air further and forces it into the tank.

your textThis approach can achieve much higher PSI levels than is possible with just one piston, but this setup is also relatively uncommon for residential applications due to costs and it perhaps being overkill in such scenarios.

Advantages & Applications

A portable air compressor is a handy appliance, and it has a place in practically every homeowner’s garage regardless of whether that person uses pneumatic tools. There are just many household tasks where these tools are the most convenient and cost-effective option. Parents will often use them to fill sporting goods, bouncy castles, pools and pool toys.

Kobalt Portable Air CompressorBicyclists and parents will find it very convenient to fill inner tubes quickly rather than with a hand pump. Vehicle owners can even out air pressure in their tires without going to a local gas station, and these appliances can be used in a wide range of detailed cleaning applications.

They’re particularly convenient when getting dirt out of nooks and crannies, but note that even with a moisture traps, these products are generally not recommended for blowing out computers and other electronics. In those cases, use an air duster or canned air instead.

Once homeowners own such machines, they now have easy access to paint sprayers and pneumatic tools. Paint sprayers that attach to these devices are often relatively inexpensive and can make some challenging paint jobs a breeze. It’s the convenience of a spray can without worrying about maintaining consistent pressure.

The user can simply dial the optimal pressure in. Air-driven tools are also a nice option to have because they don’t require charging and are available as needed. Pneumatic drills, wrenches, hammers and so forth can really cut down the time DIY tasks demand, and these tools have better life expectancies than their electric counterparts.

Another important advantage of portable air compressor is that they’re excellent investments. With proper maintenance rotary compressors have an expected lifespan of 30 years and reciprocating versions have a life expectancy of 15 years.

First-time buyers may be worried about what constitutes proper maintenance, but portable air compressor are generally regarded as being easier to maintain than a lawn mower.

Keeping these devices clean is paramount. Most units require periodic oil changes and intake vent cleaning and/or filter replacement. Since these machines vibrate, it is also a good idea to check all fasteners periodically. Owners will also want to check their hoses regularly. Every 1,000 hours of operation or so, it may be necessary to change the separator element and clean the fuel tank. That’s really all there is to it, and lot of that is predicated on how often the machine is used.

Which Types of Portable Air Compressors Are Available?

The reviews we researched covered two fundamental types: fuel-based, which includes gas and diesel, and electric, which includes corded and battery-powered as well as some hybrids. However, there are also four other fundamental types, which we’ll refer to as styles here in order to differentiate. Each of the four styles we’ll present here have various pros and cons and are available in both electric and fuel-based configurations.

  1. Pancake compressors are lightweight and small in order to be convenient. They are named such due to their squat shape and are made to beDeWalt Pancake Portable Air Compressor moved from place to place with ease. A 6-gallon tank is usual as is an oil-free design for easier maintenance. These are excellent for cleaning and inflating sports equipment and tires but will fall short when it comes to air-driven tools.
  2. Hot dog compressors are named for their distinct, elongated shape. These compressors are lightweight and often available oil free. They are similar to the pancake style in terms of design and intention but generally have larger tanks so that they can be used with small pneumatic tools, such as staplers and airbrushes.
  3. Twin-stack compressors are a preferred option for do-it-yourselfers and were often the portable air compressor test winner when compared to pancakes and hot dogs for household and recreational purposes. The name comes from the fact that this configuration feature two air tanks. These are still relatively easy to transport but provide the volume and pressure necessary for nailers, staplers and the like. Oil-free is usually not an option for this type.
  4. Wheelbarrow compressors are called such because they feature a design similar to the wheelbarrows people use in their backyards and gardens. This design is employed so that a heavy piece of equipment can be portable, and these are generally the most powerful of these devices available. Their rugged design lets them be moved over tough terrain, which makes them suitable for construction sites as well as camping and other outdoor activities. They can be quite a bit louder than their more portable counterparts, however.

Portable Air Compressors Tests in 2017—How These Products Were Tested

For the tests and reviews we research and analyzed, critics often focused on value, which is more complex and less obvious than simply sticker price. Upfront costs are, of course, a factor, but there’s also long-term costs, which can include expenses related to maintenance and replacement. Total cost of ownership is an important consideration.

A unit that costs twice as much may have the same total cost if it lasts twice as long, and that’s a bit of a contrived example because models that require oil, for instance, often last three times as long or longer than pre-lubricated models, as in five years versus 15 years.The specifics of the design were also a focal point.

How convenient is it to move the product? But also, what maintenance is required due to the design? Are there excessive fasteners? Are air filters easy to access? How simple is oil replacement? Is the overall size of the design in proportion to the capabilities of the appliance? A large sizer is to be expected when choosing a more powerful product, but some products that delivered comparable performance were markedly larger or smaller than their comparables.

There are a wide range of other characteristics with which products were compared. These include:

  1. Noise: The noise generated by these machines can vary considerably. It’s also important to note that noise levels will generally increase as the machine ages. Some of the best portable air compressor on the market are as quiet as 80 decibels. Noise may not be a big factor if use is Makita Portable Air Conditioneroccasional, but if a machine is used in a garage where it’ll be amplified and noise entering the home is a concern, then the decibels can make a significant difference.
  2. SCFM and PSI: The relationships between these two characteristics is often an important factor. If a product markets itself to DIYers, then at least 90 PSI is to be expected. If the PSI and therefore the SCFM is lower than that level, then that product won’t be able to consistently operate pneumatic drills, wrenches, nail guns and so forth.
  3. Tank size and orientation: These storage tanks are measured in gallons. Six gallons is generally considered the bare minimum. If a user wants to use a compressor for an extended period uninterrupted, then the target is more along the lines of 60 gallons or two 30-gallon tanks stacked. Orientations is a factor because vertical tanks tend to take up less space, but horizontal units are more stable and easier to move around without much effort.
  4. Safety features: Some portable air compressors have thermal protection. Others do not, and in that case, the user may need to protect the engine from overloads manually. Adjustable exhaust is also a factor because it lets the fumes from diesel and, to a lesser extent, gas machines be directed away from the work area.
  5. Coupler count: If a portable air compressor has one coupler, it can have one hose and thus one tool connected at a time. Switching between tools can be a hassle. A coupler array lets users connect multiple hoses and tools so that they can use various tools without swapping them.
  6. Accessories: Some portable air compressor units come with accessories that can add much value to the investment. These include cleaning tips, paint sprayers and nail guns. Another important factor is whether the product comes with a hose. If it doesn’t, then the sticker price doesn’t accurately represent the total upfront costs for the consumer.

What Are the Most Important Considerations When Purchasing a Portable Air Compressor?

Before purchasing one of these machines, consumers should take some time to determine how the machine will be used and how it may be used. If a DIYer doesn’t yet but may want the option to use pneumatic tools, then that will shape the decision process considerably. Likewise, if such an appliance will remain in a garage, then weight and size are a little less important, but if the user will take it on camping trips or in the RV, then every pound and square inch can make a significant difference.

Tank Size and Orientation

California Air Tools Portable air compressorTank size and, to a lesser degree, orientation dictate so much about an portable air compressor: how small it can be, how much air volume and air pressure it can provide, how long it can operate in an uninterrupted fashion, how portable it is, how easily stored it is and so on and so forth. Therefore, determining an acceptable tank size range is where most consumers will generally want to start.

Once tank size has been selected, the other decisions become easier because there are less options. Unless the target is a handheld inflator that’s good for just light inflating tasks around the home, six gallons is the recommended minimum. However, six gallons is a very small amount. It may be enough to top off the tires of a car, but pneumatic tools may last only a minute or so before the user has to pause and wait.

Even if the portable air compressor has enough SCFM and PSI for the tool in question, the small tank size may make usage frustrating. Consumers should determine how long they want to use the machine without waiting and then choose a tank size accordingly.

Performance

Tank size alone does not dictate performance. After all, a portable air compressor can have a PSI much lower than what the tank size can support. There are three factors that determine performance. These are air volume or SCFM, pressure per square inch and horsepower.

Note that while PSI and SCFM are correlated, one cannot assume that two machines with the same PSI will have the same SCFM. This will vary, and some tools will have very specific SCFM requirements. As a general rule, 90 is a good starting point for DIYers, and 200 PSI is getting into industrial territory.

Note also that pneumatic tools may have horsepower requirements, and these products for home use range from about 1.5 to 6.5 hp. Pay particular attention to terms such as “running horsepower” and “peak horsepower.” If a tool requires 2.0 hp, then a portable air compressor that provides a running hp of 2.0 is required. Peak hp is not a reliable measure of what the engine can achieve consistently.

Pump Options

Audew Portable Air CompressorOil-lubricated pumps require oil to operate. That oil must be replaced periodically, and this process allows the machine to be more durable. Consumers who expect only light usage can gravitate to an oil-free pump. These won’t stand up to as much abuse, but they have little to no maintenance requirements beyond basic cleaning.

There’s also the matter of a single-stage or two-stage pump. This determines whether the air is compressed once or twice. If tasks are limited to automobile tires and sporting equipment, single-stage is more than enough. On the other hand, those who will or may use pneumatic tools may want to invest in a two-stage pump for more consistent operation.

Power

Electric offers a number of benefits. These portable air compressor units tend to be the smallest and most lightweight available. They also do not emit exhaust, which makes them the ideal option for indoor use or even enclosed spaces. Gas-powered are more convenient in that they’re not limited by a cord.

Cordless is an option, but that brings with it its own shortcomings. Gas-powered are also more powerful relative to comparable electric models, but they are also much noisier and emit fumes.

Features

Air-cooling systems keep the motor cool and thus extend machine life considerably. When these systems are offered, they are often a cost-effective upgrade. A thermal overload switch is also a worthwhile feature. If the motor does overheat, the unit will shut down, preserving itself and letting the user know something is wrong. Without such a switch, users have to pay particular attention to this.

ASME certification indicates that the appliance has met the standards of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and roll cages are useful for ensuring that the machine doesn’t get crushed.

More Details

Price-to-performance ratio is an essential consideration when purchasing one of these machines. Consumers can often cost themselves more in the long-run by seeking the lowest upfront cost available. Likewise, when moving into the higher-quality options on the market, it’s very easy for consumers to purchase performance and features that they’ll never use.

Finally, consider the warranty. How long is it, and how does the manufacturer support it? The leading brands listed offer warranties that last at least three years and often provide options that let you extend that coverage.

Seven Leading Manufacturers of Portable Air Compressors

  • DeWalt
  • Kobalt
  • Quincy Compressor
  • California Air Tools
  • Industrial Air 
  • Porter-Cable 
  • Campbell Hausfeld 

DeWalt: is a well-known worldwide brand that’s based in America. The company was founded in 1924 and in the decades since has introduced many innovations that consumers now take for granted. The brand not only makes portable air compressors but most of the pneumatic tools that require them, including pneumatic drills, wrenches, paint sprayers and so forth.

Kobalt: is a U.S.-based brand of tools that came to market for the first time in 1998. Kobalt is a house brand for Lowes in North America and Masters Home Improvement in Australia. The Kobalt 400 is a NASCAR race that’s sponsored by Lowes and features the brand, including its air compressors and other tools.

Quincy Compressor: is one of the oldest compressor companies in the U.S. and the world having been founded in 1920. Quincy built its operation designing custom machines for industrial and commercial purposes. Nevertheless, it also makes hot dog and other compressor options for do-it-yourselfers and even more casual home use.

California Air Tools: is a company that supports industrial, commercial and residential customers. For its contractor-grade products, it emphasizes quiet. These air compressors are among the quietest around and often the choice when noise level is a crucial consideration. For the home market, it emphasizes low noise levels and oil-free operation, and this focus has led to many innovations.

Industrial Air: is brand owned and operated by MAT Industries, which is a global company. The Industrial Air brand has been around for nearly three decades and includes commercial, stationary and portable air compressors. They offer both horizontal and vertical configurations ranging from 15 to 30 gallons.

Porter-Cable: is an American manufacturer of power tools. It was founded in 1906 and has since become a subsidiary of Stanley Black & Decker. The company may be best known for innovating the belt sander as well as the portable band saw. However, it’s innovations in portable air compressors have had a lasting effect as well.

Campbell Hausfeld: is among the oldest companies making compressors, and that’s because it was founded in 1836 as a farm equipment company. Its innovation in that domain led them to air compressors, and it offers consumer, industrial and commercial grades. It also has low-priced options that are among the best reviewed in the budget space.

Internet vs. Local Retailers: Which Is the Best Option for Buying a Portable Air Compressor?

Tcisa Portable air compressorDepending on the size of the appliance chosen, the Internet can be a much simpler option. It is possible to have these products delivered locally, but that can be expensive. Internet-based retailers specialize in deliveries and can provide it at no cost or at a much lower cost. The Internet lets a consumer research and shop with no pressure and make a selection and order with almost no effort.

Another important advantage offered by the Web is the sheer scope of availability. Every brand, make, model and sub-configuration is available online to consider and buy. Locally, a consumer is often limited to those products that sell well in that area.

Just because a portable air compressor is popular among a given group doesn’t mean it’s going to be the ideal option for any particular person.

The Internet is a much more competitive place than your local market. Manufacturers have to put their best foot forward in terms of prices. Online retailers have to go with the lowest margin that they can possibly get away with.

There’s some truth to the idea that online retailers put pressure on local retailers, and those local shops must price accordingly, but this isn’t necessarily the case with machines like this where many people are still prone to seek out a local option. This is an opportunity to take advantage of a blind spot among consumers.

Online prices are also cheaper generally because these sellers have less overhead, and they can pass those reduced fixed costs onto the consumer as savings. A local hardware store has rent and utility costs that an online seller may not. It also has a staff, and while online shops have staffs as well, each person provides them much more coverage with prospective and established customers, so it’s less necessary to have a large staff.

Shoppers on the Web are not limited to the time of day. People can shop in the middle of the night from the comfort of their couches. Ease of return is also an important consideration. Returning such an appliance to a local store requires lugging it down there. Most online retailers will dispatch a delivery person to the home or business to claim the return. Better yet, if the return is being made because the product is defective, a company can ship in advance of receiving this return. This means that the consumer gets the product that they wanted as soon as possible.

Interesting Facts & Advice

Anyone who uses an portable air compressor regularly may take it for granted, but it really is a modern marvel. The way that it draws in air and forces it into a tank to generate a higher pressure than atmospheric pressure is very efficient and innovative. In fact, the core design of an air compressor really hasn’t changed much since it was originally introduced. There are other interesting facts as well.

An Air Compressor and Kinetic Energy

These devices store air and then provide it back to us when needed, but that’s not all it does. It compresses the air. The air is compressed so that the tank can store more than it would otherwise be able too. There’s another interesting component to that pressurization. It wouldn’t be possible without a motor creating the energy to compress the air.

So, the engine or motor uses gas or electricity to generate kinetic energy and turn that into compressed air.But that’s not the end of the story. The kinetic energy isn’t lost. It’s actually preserved with the air, and when you squeeze the trigger and request the air, that kinetic energy is driving it. That kinetic energy is strong enough to drive the pneumatic tools that connect to an air compressor.

This is substantial energy that can turn a nut on a stripped thread that’s been rusted over. It’s pretty impressive stuff, and there have even been cars built as proofs of concept that can operate on a portable air compressor. So can compressed air ever be a renewable source of energy? Yes. In theory, you could capture enough air and store it for later use.

When energy was needed, the air could be reclaimed and converted into electricity. It may even be possible to connect such a system to windmills. However, a real concern is that pressurized air in metal containers is essentially a bomb, and the amount of air and metal that would be required may limit the practical applications.

Compressed Air Can Be Filtered for a Wide Range of Applications

Powryte Portable Air CompressorMost portable air compressor units will have filters at the intake. This is to ensure that particles and other foreign matter in the air aren’t drawn into the machine. This filtration is very important and a primary reason why users should keep their compressors clean. It’s also necessary to keep the filter media itself clean.

Some units have an air filter that’s discarded and replaced. Others will have a sponge filter that’s cleaned, dried and then reinserted. There’s also the option of upgrading the filter media or adding an additional intake filter and/or silencer. That filtration helps to protect the air compressor and extend its life.

It doesn’t, however, guarantee that the air released from the tank will be particulate free. No one would want to use it as a breathing source, for instance, but it would be possible with the right filtration. To provide this kind of filtration, an option is to put a filter after the output and somewhere along the main line. This filter, often combined with a regulator, will trap particulates in a canister. That canister can be opened to clean or replace the filter media.

Note that the above kind of filter will only trap particulates, but that’s not the only concern. Compressed air also contains water vapor, and that can cause problems with electronics and so forth.

The option to combat this is a water trap. These traps are placed after the output and along the hose as well. The trap causes water to condense, and then the water falls into a canister. As the canister fills up, the user can simply detach it, empty it and then reconnect it.

Set Up a New Portable Air Compressor in Six Steps

Each particular model may be slightly different to set up and configure, but there are some basic steps that can be followed that process easier.

  • The Unboxing
  • Fill the Necessary Fluids
  • Attach Any Filters
  • Turn on the Power
  • Fill the Tank
  • Connect the Hose

Open the box. Remove all of the parts and bags of pieces one at a time and slowly. Look for any obvious signs of damage. Find the owner’s manual. This should have a part list. Get a pencil, go through the parts list and ensure that everything is provided. This is also a good time to read the entire manual once through.

If this is an oil-lubricated model, the oil fill should be pre-assembled. If not, assemble it. Air compressor oil is often provided, but if not, get some 30-weight compressor oil. Remove the oil fill cap, fill the oil until it reaches the line and then replace the cap. Hand-tighten only. If this is an electric model, attach the cord, or charge and then insert the battery. If this is a gas or diesel model, uncap the fuel tank, fill the tank with fuel to the line and then recap. Never overfill the tank.

Filters may come preinserted. Check because in some case it will be necessary to insert the filter into the intake. For models that have a filter and/or regulator after the output, this is good time to assemble and attach that piece as well. If a model has a dryer and/or separator, add those as well. If necessary, both devices can be linked using a short line between the dryer outlet and the separator inlet.

In the case of a gas model, this may require a start button or a pull-start. For corded models, connect the electrical cord to an outlet. Don’t use a power extension lead. If the lead is longer than the unit is designed for, the unit will burn itself out.

Once the portable air compressor is on, it will automatically begin to fill the tank. How long the tank takes to fill will depend on the size of the tank and PCI, SCFM, horsepower and so forth. Filling shouldn’t take any longer or shorter the first time than any other time.

Connect the air hose to the portable air compressor. This is usually done via a push coupler. It can also help to wrap Teflon tape around the base in order not to lose air through there. The air compressor is now ready to use and can have various air tools connected to it.

10 Tips for Care

  • Read the Portable Air Compressor Manual

Air compressor mechanics often joke that the quickest way to kill a compressor is to not read the manual. There’s a lot of wisdom here. Although most air compressors are fundamentally the same, there are some subtle but important differences that are often reflected in the maintenance requirements.

  • Check and Change the Compressor Oil

Prior to using an portable air compressor, check the oil level. If the oil level isn’t full, top it off. Periodically, drain the oil after operating the machine and then refill it with new oil. The manual should indicate how often this should be performed. If no recommendation is provided, then after 500 hours of use and no later than 1,000 hours of use is a good recommendation.

  • Tighten Fasteners After Every Use

Air compressors vibrate a lot. These vibrations cause screws and other fasteners to unwind. Manufacturers intentionally work to keep the fastener AstroAI Portable air compressorcount low so that this process isn’t a chore. If unfastening goes unchecked, it leads to a host of problems, including parts getting bent out of shape.

  • Test the Safety Shutdown

Most air compressors have thermal protection that disables the compressor if the motor gets too hot. This is a great feature that helps to avoid overheating that was once common. However, testing that system each month or after a period of inactivity is the only way to ensure that it’s still working.

  • Clean the Heat Exchangers

The purpose of these parts is to keep the portable air compressor cool, and the dirtier they get, the less effectively they work. Never clean them after use, so the best practice to be in is to check and clean them prior to each use.

  • Clean the Fuel Tank

The need to clean the fuel tank is probably one of the biggest oversights among casual users. However, it’s very necessary to avoid the buildup that will occur over time. That buildup shouldn’t be underestimated because left unchecked it will cause wear and tear that will substantially decrease engine life expectancy.

  • Swap Out the Separator Element

If the compressor manual has a recommendation, follow it. Otherwise, every 1,000 hours of use is a good rule of thumb. Compared to the price of the compressor itself, this is a relatively inexpensive part and can mean the difference in getting 15, 20 or even more years out of a unit.

  • Drain Moisture from the Tanks

Most portable air compressors will have a moisture collector, but it collects it rather than disperses it so that it’s not leaking all over the floor. This has to be drained manually. Failure to do so will create a much higher water vapor level in the pressurized air being released.

  • Check the Hose and Couplers

Prior to each use, check the hose for wear as the as the couplers, which can wear or even become damaged or misshapen. If there’s a problem with any of this hardware, replace it as soon as possible. Duct tape may work in a pinch, but it’s not ideal and may make the machine work harder.

  • Clean the Air Compressor Itself

It can be stressed enough to clean the air compressor and even the environment around it. This makes the filters not have to work as hard and thus much more effective. Otherwise, the machine will vibrate, kick up the particles on it and near it and put a lot of unnecessary particulates through the filter.

FAQ — Frequently Asked Questions About Portable Air Compressors

Can a compressor clear dust from a computer?

Can a compressor clear dust from a computer?

Yes, but it’s important to note that a good compressor can damage internal components due to the force of the air jet, so ensure a low enough PSI. Another important consideration is moisture. Air from a compressor contains water vapor and even a moisture trap may not extract all of it.

How is an air compressor filled?

How is an air compressor filled?

portable air compressor tank isn’t filled by hand. The motor draws external air into the machine and forces it into the tank. As it continues to force more air into the tank, that air becomes pressurized. The air remains in a pressurized state and only needs to be replaced when used.

How is an electric portable air compressor used?

How is an electric portable air compressor used?

Ensure that the power switch is in the Off position. Connect the compressor to an appropriate wall socket. Turn the regulator counterclockwise until it stops. Attach any hoses and accessories. Flip the switch to the On or Auto position. Wait for it to pressurize and turn off. Adjust the regulator to the required level. The machine is now ready to use. When finished, turn the machine to Off if not on Auto.

How is a gas portable air compressor used?

How is a gas portable air compressor used?

Turn the regulator counterclockwise until it stops. Attach any hoses and accessories. Start the engine, which may be via a button or pull-start. Wait for it to pressurize and idle. Adjust the regulator to the required level. The machine is now ready to use. When finished, turn the machine off.

What maintenance is required for an air compressor?

What maintenance is required for an air compressor?

This varies from model to model, so check the owner’s manual. Oil-free units should be cleaned and have air filters replaced or air vents cleared periodically. Oil-lubricated units will require those steps as well but will also need the oil to be replaced.

What kind of oil goes in an air compressor?

What kind of oil goes in an air compressor?

There is oil on the market designed specifically for air compressors. The oil is usually around 30-wieght and is sold in various sized bottles. Be sure to check the owner’s manual for any specific requirements, and never use oil that’s not specifically compressor oil.

How often should the oil be changed?

How often should the oil be changed?

This varies from model to model, but the general rule is every three months. If an air compressor isn’t used often, that time frame can be extended to bi-annually. However, note that old oil even in a non-used compressor is a problem, so avoid going much longer.

How is oil replaced?

How is oil replaced?

Most units have an oil drain. Remove the cap, insert the drain extension if provided and let the oil drain into an appropriate container. Replace the drain cap. Remove the oil fill cap and add new air compressor oil. Note that an air compressor should be run prior to changing the oil so that the existing oil heats up and flows.

What is an electric hybrid portable air compressor?

What is an electric hybrid portable air compressor?

These electric models have a battery compartment but also connect to a cord. If a cord is attached and plugged in, the battery serves as a passthrough. If the compressor is not plugged in, then the unit simply draws power from the battery.

Useful Accessories

There are many useful accessories that can make a portable air compressor easier to use, enhance its capabilities or extend its life expectancy. Note also that there are compressor accessory kits, and these can be a great place to start for the person who’s purchasing an air compressor for the first. Some of the accessories that we recommend based on our products tests are included here.

  • A padded handle may not seem like a particularly important feature, but it can make an air compressor a lot easier to use. When a user is on the garage floor filling his or her tires and pulling the compressor closer from awkward positions, the padding can really save wear and tear on the hands.
  • Some compressors come with an airline filter or regulator and/or a gauge. With smaller units, it may be necessary to purchase one or all of Porter portable air compressorthese items. The gauge ensures that the desired PSI is provided. The regulator allows regulation of the airflow near the attached tool, and the line filter is a last line of defense to ensure that no contaminants make it through.
  • It’s worthwhile to have an additional coupler or three on hand at all times. Have different sizes available, but also, it’s nice to have a backup available since these are threaded and will wear out over time. There are kits available that provide push couplers, swivel connectors to eliminate hose twist, shut-off valves for secondary control, adapter components and so forth.
  • All manner of air-driven tools. Nail and staple guns are particularly handy. Impact wrenches are a life-saver when dealing with a stripped or otherwise-stubborn nut. Other options include ratchets, air hammers, air chisels, paint sprayers and rotary tools and grinders.
  • Have an extra hose on hand. Store it well in a place where it won’t dry out or be too moist. It may seem like an unnecessary expense, but hoses will wear out over time as well. It can be quite frustrating to go to inflate the tires on a vehicle only to find that a leak has been sprung. Not all leaks can be fixed with duct tape because some PSI will still be lost.

Alternatives to Portable Air Compressors

Whether there are compressor alternatives available to a consumer depend on how the product will be employed. If such a device will be used to inflate something, such as a tire or a pool toy, or will be used to power a tool, such as a paint sprayer or nail gun, then there are no practical alternatives to a compressor.

There are just various types of air pumps and compressors. Simply choose the appropriate size and capabilities. A small handheld unit, for instance, is adequate for pool toys, but something more powerful is necessary for automobile tires.

If, on the other hand, the product is being used as a cleaner, such as to blow dust out of a PC or remove dirt from an RC vehicle, then there are alternatives. Compressed air in a can is a popular solution and highly portable but generally not economical over the long-term. Another alternative is an air duster, which is a handheld blower. These small units are similar to portable air compressors in some regards but generally don’t have a moisture trap and the other advance elements of a compressor.

Further Links and Sources

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