Best Air Compressors of 2019: Complete Reviews With Comparisons
An air compressor is among the most useful pieces of equipment to have on hand, especially if you are constantly doing projects around the house. Even professional contractors will want to consider buying one for their pressurized tools.
With plenty of fantastic uses, it’s important to find the best air compressor with the features you need. Below are five models we’ve found that are highly recommended for anyone looking to upgrade their toolset.
Best Air Compressor Reviews
1. Bostitch 3-Tool Air Compressor Combo Kit
Versatility is one of the largest advantages of the Bostitch 3-Tool Air Compressor Combo Kit. It comes with everything you need to start using your air compressor right away. This compressor is an all-inclusive package that is well worth the investment.
The main features of the Bostitch 3-Tool Air Compressor Combo Kit include:
- Cordless and portable: This air compressor kit is portable and can be used cordless, which makes it easier to bring from one job site to another.
- High-efficiency motor: With the strength of 150PSI and 2.6SCFM, the air compressor offers an ample amount of power for you to use to your advantage.
- Three included tools: You’ll not only receive the portable air compressor but three additional tools as well. The brad nailer works with 18-gauge nails, the straight finish nailer works with up to 16-gauge finish nails, and the heavy-duty crown stapler works with up to 9/16” staples.
- Maneuverable hose: The air hose is 15 feet in length with plenty of fittings for optimal maneuverability.
Easy installation: With the help of the sample fasteners, you can easily attach any tool that you desire in a matter of seconds.
What's to like about the Bostitch 3-Tool Air Compressor Combo Kit
The first thing you’ll appreciate about this combo kit is how adaptable it is to plenty of household projects. Additionally, it’s quite simple to use, which is what makes it ideal for beginners and veteran handymen alike. Even after shooting 1000 consecutive nails, the compressor and tools work exceptionally well, which means it has a great lifespan and will be worth the investment.
What's not to like about the Bostitch 3-Tool Air Compressor Combo Kit
The main issue with this combo kit is that you’ll need ear protection while using it, especially when depressurizing the tank. You’ll also find that there is a lot of plastic used to manufacture the tools, which doesn’t make it look or feel too high quality. Also, even though it is designed to be portable, the compressor is still incredibly heavy and takes a sufficient amount of time to fill with air.
2. Porter-Cable Oil-Free Pancake Compressor
If you’re in the market for an air compressor designed to give you better tool performance, this is one of the best models to consider. There are numerous features added to the Porter-Cable Oil-Free Pancake Compressor that make it easy for anyone to use. Additionally, it offers optimal stability when compared to other compressors.
The main highlights of the Porter-Cable Oil-Free Pancake Compressor include:
- Pancake tank: The style of the pancake tank helps to create a more stable operating environment. You also won’t have to worry about knocking the tank over when it’s in use, as it has an incredibly stable foundation. You’ll also love the rubber feet on the bottom of the tank.
- Improved tool performance: You’ll surely experience improved performance with the 150PSI (maximum) six-gallon tank of the product.
Factory installed air coupler: The air coupler on the compressor is installed at the factory, which makes it ready to use upon arrival. It also helps to prevent leaks and reduce the amount of time it takes to set up the compressor.
- Low-amp motor: The motor runs at 120Volts, which makes it easy to run absolutely anywhere, even at home. You can also use it with an extension cord and it easily starts up in cold and warm weather.
- Oil-free pump: The Porter-Cable Oil-Free Pancake Compressor features an oil-free pump, which helps to reduce the amount of maintenance it needs. This also helps to improve its overall lifespan.
What's to like about the Porter-Cable Oil-Free Pancake Compressor
One of the first things you’ll notice is that this air compressor has all of its sensitive components covered with the shroud, handle, and console cover. This makes it simpler to bring from one job site to another without the fear of damaging the unit. We also loved the built-in handle that makes it much easier to carry.
In terms of performance, the air compressor works well. It does require a break-in period, but it reaches 150PSI in a matter of minutes.
What's not to like about the Porter-Cable Oil-Free Pancake Compressor
The most frustrating aspect of this air compressor is how loud it is, especially when compared to other compressors. You will surely need ear protection, especially if you’re using it in a confined space.
You may also find that it creates a lot of vibration, especially when it’s not kept on level flooring. The final issue we had with the unit is the instructions, as they are incredibly hard to follow.
3. California Air Tools 5510SE Air Compressor
The California Air Tools 5510SE is slightly larger than the other air compressors on this list. However, it also packs a powerful punch with plenty of user-friendly features. Compared to most other compressors, you’ll love what this model has to offer, as every feature makes it more convenient to use every day.
The main features of the California Air Tools 5510SE Air Compressor include:
- Ultra-quiet: This air compressor is designed to outperform its counterparts in terms of operating noise. It will reach a maximum of 60 decibels of sound, which is ideal for anyone looking for an ultra-quiet compressor.
- Powerful motor: The motor is 1.0 HP and offers 1680 RPM, which is more than enough power for everyday tasks. This also helps to preserve the integrity of the machine over time and limits how loud it is when used.
- Oil-free pump: To lessen maintenance and prolong its lifespan, the California Air Tools 5510SE Air Compressor has a fully oil-free pump.
- Easy to transport: Not only is the compressor itself lightweight (47 pounds), but it also has built-in wheels.
- Dual pressure control gauges: There are two separate pressure control gauges that you can use to set the right amount of power that you need for any project.
- Quick fill and recovery: To fill the tank, it should take a maximum of two minutes. Additionally, the recovery time from 90PSI to 120PSI is a total of 40 seconds.
What's to like about the California Air Tools 5510SE Air Compressor
Using this air compressor in hot weather is a great experience because as the motor operates at a reasonable level. It also helps to disperse heat easier. We also found that attaching tools to the unit was incredibly simple.
The portability of the California Air Tools 5510SE speaks volumes, especially with the help of the durable wheels. It’s surely designed for both at-home and heavy-duty jobs.
What's not to like about the California Air Tools 5510SE Air Compressor
The largest issue you might have with the California Air Tools 5510SE is the size of its tank. Compared to other compressors, it’s smaller. Although this makes it easier to fill, it doesn’t prolong tool performance. We also found that it was difficult to keep the compressor stable on uneven surfaces.
4. Campbell Hausfeld Air Compressor
With a similar design to the California Air Tools 5510SE, the Campbell Hausfeld Air Compressor appears to be highly portable and easy to maneuver. With that said, it also has plenty of additional (and upgraded) features that you’ll be sure to put to good use.
The main features of the Campbell Hausfeld Air Compressor include:
- Quiet operation: When you’re using this air compressor, the first thing you’ll notice is how quiet it is as it only reaches 68 decibels. This makes it far easier to use without ear protection, especially when compared to other compressors.
- Oil- and maintenance-free: The dual piston pump is oil-free, which should also make it maintenance-free. This also helps to prolong the span of the key components.
- Impressive tank size: The air tank on the Campbell Hausfeld Air Compressor is eight gallons with 120 max PSI, which gives you more than enough air and power to handle large projects.
- Durable built-in wheels: To improve the portability of the compressor, there are wheels built into the unit. They are made out of rubber and steel to enhance their durability and can easily be used on rugged terrain.
- Plenty of accessories: You’ll receive a 25-foot air hose with the unit as well as 17 different accessories. Additionally, your order will arrive with a three-in-one inflation gun and a chuck and gauge.
What's to like about the Campbell Hausfeld Air Compressor
The power of the Campbell Hausfeld Air Compressor is its most impressive feature. It has more than enough strength to do anything from making a fence to filling the air in your tires. You’ll also appreciate how quiet it is while being used, which makes it ideal for at-home uses.
The overall build of the unit is convenient as well, as most of the bulk is vertical rather than horizontal. This makes it easier to fit the compressor into confined spaces.
What's not to like about the Campbell Hausfeld Air Compressor
When you receive the air compressor, you’ll want to check the air filter. This is because, during manufacturing, pieces of plastic may be blocking the filter which can cause the unit to overheat and shut off. We also found that the unit doesn’t hold air for very long, which means it will either need to be constantly plugged in or near a power source.
5. Campbell Hausfeld Pancake Air Compressor
As another Campbell Hausfeld air compressor on this list, the pancake compressor is a great alternative to a bulkier compressor. With a six-gallon tank, you should be able to retain enough air to tackle short projects around the shop or house. It also has a few features that make it more comfortable to use.
The main features of the Campbell Hausfeld Pancake Air Compressor include:
- Quiet operation: Similar to a couple of other quiet air compressors, this model only reaches 68 decibels when used. With that said, it also packs a powerful punch as it has a 125 max PSI power rating.
- Pancake design: Plenty of people prefer pancake air compressors because they are easier to store and more stable. This model is no different, as it sits low to the ground and has a durable handle that makes it easier to carry.
- Oil- and Maintenance-free: Just like any other Campbell Hausfeld compressor, the pump is oil-free which also makes it maintenance-free. As it’s oil-free, it also adds to the durability and longevity of the pump and motor.
What's to like about the Campbell Hausfeld Pancake Air Compressor
The greatest advantage of the air compressor is that it fills incredibly quickly, which lessens the amount of time spent on projects. You’ll also notice how high-quality it feels as it’s constructed mainly out of metal components rather than plastic.
Above all else, the low operating noise is what sets it apart from the competition. You’ll have a far more enjoyable experience using this compressor.
What's not to like about the Campbell Hausfeld Pancake Air Compressor
You’ll immediately notice that the seals on the tank aren’t of the highest quality. The tank will begin to leak air around the regulator, which will need to be patched with tape. You’ll also find that the air compressor won’t cycle on and off on its own.
Unfortunately, you have to manually restart the motor in order to maintain a full tank of air. Also, the Campbell Hausfeld Pancake Air Compressor isn’t made for cold weather. It needs to be kept indoors to work in colder environments.
There are important features to look out for when you’re shopping around for air compressors. Even though it might appear as though every unit is made the same, that is not always the case. Focusing on these key features will help to make sure you’re buying the perfect compressor for your needs.
The first thing you’ll notice when you start shopping for air compressors is that there are a lot of different types to choose from. The two most common include:
Piston compressors: You’re most likely to find piston compressors. They can be used for household and industrial projects alike. While operating, a piston will move up in a cylinder, which shrinks the amount of space the air has. This, in turn, increases the pressure of the air that is soon to be released.
Double rotor compressors: Double rotor models require the use of water or oil to trap and seal air. When the rotors move, the air is pushed into a smaller space which increases the air pressure and pushes it into the compression chamber.
When thinking about the power supply, you’re also going to need to consider where you’ll be using the air compressor. If it’s going to be used mostly at home, you’ll need to choose a model that consumes as little power as possible. However, for industrial projects, you have fewer constraints.
Most air compressors require 110Volts at 15 amps, but there are also models that require 220Volts at 150 amps. In most cases, the more power the unit draws, the more powerful it will be when attaching tools.
Horsepower is another essential feature to consider, as it will determine the usability of the compressor. Similar to a vehicle, the horsepower determines how hard the motor will work when turned on.
A higher horsepower means the air will be compressed much faster, which makes the unit ready to use in less time. Usually, air compressors will give you the total amount of time it takes to fill the tank. This is when you’ll want to take horsepower into account.
Air pressure is arguably one of the most critical aspects of an air compressor, as it determines how powerful your attached auxiliaries are going to be. For example, a compressor with poor air pressure won’t have the power to drive nails out of a nail gun.
You’ll want to take your everyday tasks into account, as you’ll want a model with a sufficient amount of air pressure to fill your car tires, build a fence, among many other tasks. Ideally, an air pressure rating of 120PSI or more is the best option.
Most air compressors are designed to where you can use them without needing to be constantly connected to a power source. With these models, you’ll want to make sure you have a sufficient tank size. When the air is compressed, it is then stored in a chamber.
The larger the chamber, the more air you’ll have to use before the compressor needs to be plugged in again. For everyday projects, a six-gallon tank is ideal, but you can also find tanks that are larger than eight gallons.
Best Air Compressor FAQs
How to Use an Air Compressor?
Since air compressors are everyday tools, they’re incredibly easy to use. It’s always recommended that you refer to the specific instructions for your model, as the steps for operation may differ from unit to unit. Using these simple steps, you can easily use your compressor:
- Step #1: Before plugging in the air compressor, make sure the power switch is turned off.
- Step #2: Using the safety valve, release the valve and listen for the sound of hissing air. If the air hisses, slide the valve back into position before starting the compressor.
- Step #3: Turn the compressor on and give it a few minutes to pressurize, depending on your model. Keep an eye on the pressure gauge on the front of the unit the tank has reached its maximum pressure.
- Step #4: Using the regulator knob, adjust the pressure of the tank to the pressure required for the tool you’ll be using.
- Step #5: Begin using your tools. As the tank drops in pressure, the motor should automatically engage to maintain the same PSI during your entire project.
How Does an Air Compressor Work?
Air compressors are incredibly useful and unique tools. Depending on the type of air compressor, it may work differently than other models. As piston compressors are the most common, we’ll discuss how they work.
With these models, pistons will gradually move up into a cylinder. As they move, it shrinks the cavity in which air is stored, which in turn increases the air pressure. As the air is kept in a smaller chamber, when you attach a tool and turn it on, the pressurized air will be released.
How Big of an Air Compressor Do I Need to Run Air Tools?
Air compressors are available in a wide variety of sizes. The main thing you’ll want to consider is how much pressure your tools require, as this will help you to find the right level of power you need.
Ideally, an air compressor with a six-gallon (or larger) tank should be more than enough. Additionally, you’ll want a model that offers at least 120PSI.
How to Adjust Air Compressor Pressure Regulators?
The regulator is one of the most important components of any air compressor, especially if you’re going to be using tools with the compressor. When the main unit is powered on and filled, you’ll then want to attach the air hose as well as the tool.
It’s now time to find the regulator on the compressor. Once you’ve found it, slowly turn the adjustment knob to increase the air pressure as needed. You can also use the knob to decrease the air pressure if it’s too high for the different tools you’ll be using. You will want to make sure the air pressure of the compressor matches the pressure required by your specific tool.
How to Choose an Air Compressor?
There are many factors to consider when you start shopping for an air compressor. You’ll want to make sure you find one with the perfect sized tank, an ideal level of PSI, as well as user-friendly features.
Depending on what you want to use it for, the specifications of your desired unit will differ. For example, household air compressors don’t require as much power as industrial ones.
Our recommendation for the top-tier air compressor is surely the Campbell Hausfeld Air Compressor. It has the most benefits, is the easiest to use, and has the added benefit of an incredibly low operating volume.
With its built-in rugged wheels, you can easily transport the compressor without having to carry it. Additionally, its design makes it easy to store and use in confined spaces.
Compared to the other compressors on the list, you’ll appreciate the tank size of this unit, as it is eight gallons instead of six. It also boasts a 25-foot maneuverable air hose as well as 17 extra accessories included with every order. You’ll also appreciate the high-quality design that will surely last over years of use.
Hence, if you’re in the market for a reliable air compressor that is highly portable and user-friendly, the Campbell Hausfeld Air Compressor is surely your best option.