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Natural air is not just for breathing. It is also a source of energy for operating pneumatic tools. This is made possible by an air compressor machine that compresses air and stores it as pneumatic energy for powering air tools.
Air compressors come in different types, shapes, and sizes depending on the application. But portable air compressors are the most versatile and useful for small and medium-duty applications. However, some portable air compressors store enough pneumatic energy for heavy-duty applications.
In this article, we look at the 5 best portable air compressors for home and job site applications. These are suitable for small jobs such as painting, inflating tires & balls, and powering small air tools in small projects.
Portable air compressors are either corded or cordless. But for this article, we focus only on corded air compressors that plug into the regular 120V outlet.
5 Best Portable Air Compressor Units for Home and Job Site
Porter Cable C2002 Pancake Air Compressor
- Tank size: 6 Gallons
- Max PSI: 150
- HP: 0.8
- Form factor: 19″ L x 18″ W x 20.94″ H
Measuring only 19 inches long by 18 inches wide by 20.94 inches high and weighing only about 30lbs, the Porter Cable C2002 pancake air compressor is quite easy to store and carry. Even if you already have another compressor in your garage, this compact air compressor from Porter Cable will fit nicely at home without eating up space. You can even put it away in the box to keep everything neat and organized. It goes back into the box so easily.
Although it has a fairly small footprint, the Porter Cable pancake-design tank holds 6 gallons of air and can put out a maximum air pressure of 150 PSI. This is enough volume and air pressure to power your air tools throughout your small project at home. It is also enough to inflate the tires of your car or truck.
The Porter-Cable UMC pancake compressor starts up quickly and all fittings create a tight seal to prevent any air leaks. It is equipped with replaceable brushes to keep the motor in good condition for a long time. The unit is also very easy to maintain because it operates on an oil-free pump.
The maximum pressure of 150 PSI extends the runtime of this unit while the High-Flo air regulator prevents large pressure drops. This air compressor is sturdy and its induction motor ensures extended life of good performance. The motor also works well during winter, when temperatures are extremely low.
The compact design of the porter cable C2002 ensures that all parts are protected while making the compressor easy to carry around. In fact, the key characteristics that make it stand out low weight, compact design, sturdiness, and long life. It can be a great source of compressed air for applications around the house.
Generally, Porter-Cable UMC Pancake Compressor is a handy portable air compressor suitable for jobs involving small and medium CFM needs. It is perfect for everything from filling tires to firing nailers and can be easily moved around because of its lightweight and compact design.
The induction motor in this unit guarantees long life and optimum performance. Albeit a little loud, the porter cable c2002 pancake air compressor is an ideal companion for every handyman or DIYer.
If you are an RVer, this Porter Cable pancake air compressor can be a nice addition to your tools for maintaining tires. It will fit nicely in the luggage compartment of your RV. The only thing you will need to provide is a 110 – 120V supply to power it up and you will be set.
Makita MAC700 Big Bore 2.0 HP Air Compressor Review
- Tank size: 2.6 Gallons
- Max tank PSI: 130
- HP: 2.0
- SCFM: 3.3 CFM @ 90 PSI
- Weight: 52lbs
The Makita MAC700 is a high-performance oil-lubricated electric air compressor. It measures 22 inches high, 18 inches long, and 10 inches wide and weighs 52lbs. It is small enough to carry at the back of your truck but too large to fit in a small car or in the RV luggage compartment. This makes it perfect for the home garage or job site.
The MAC700 air compressor by Makita has a maximum pressure rating of 120 PSI and can deliver 3.3 (CFM) at 90 PSI, which is quite high for a mini air compressor. It to drive most air tools that require short bursts of high pressure such as an air wrench, air drill, nail guns, and blow guns.
Although the Makita Big Bore compressor only has a 2.6 gallon tank, it features a 2.0HP motor that only takes a couple of minutes to refill the tank. So, if you use it with high CFM tools, the motor will require frequent cycling.
But with air compressors, it is easier to increase the tank size than to replace a motor with a more powerful one. The Makita MAC700 is one of those air compressors with a powerful motor and would gladly welcome another tank. This would ensure the compressor runs for a longer time before the next refill.
Besides performance and size, durability is also another critical factor to consider when choosing an appropriate portable air compressor. The Makita MAC700 ranks so high on this. It is designed for industrial performance and nothing on it looks flimsy. In fact, the cast-iron hot-dog-shaped cylinder and roll-bar handle are a statement that this unit is built to last.
The feet have rubber all around to dampen vibration that otherwise can damage components. The unit is also impressively quiet. Its noise level is around 70dB, which is bearable for indoor use. You can even hold a conversation while it is running. The low motor RPM and the high HP are the reasons the MAC700 is silent yet powerful.
The Makita MAC700 is one of the best portable air compressors for high CFM tools. You can use it to power your pneumatic nail gun, air wrench, air drill, rivet gun, and any pneumatic tool you need to use in your home project.
One of the few challenges you will have with this unit is keeping up with frequent cycling of the motor to refill the tank that empties quite fast. But the good thing is that the tank fills back to full quickly (in less than 2 minutes). You will also have to carry out regular maintenance on the tool. Being an oil-lubricated air compressor, you have to change the oil after every 200 hours of use.
Overall, the small tank and the weight of the MAC700 make it more suited for use at home where movement is limited.
Dewalt Pancake Air Compressor 6 Gallon (DWFP55126)
The Dewalt Pancake air compressor has a 6 Gallon tank and weighs about 30 pounds. It has a compact design just like most pancake compressors, and this makes it easy to carry around and maneuver.
Unlike many pancake air compressors which have a maximum tank pressure of 150 PSI, the Dewalt DWFP55126 pancake compressor has a maximum rating of 165 PSI. This means it holds more air and can support an air tool for a longer time before the next refill. The compressor can deliver 2.2 CFM at 90 PSI and has two outlets where you can connect two different hoses if you are running two different tools
It has a robust 0.9HP oil-free motor that pumps up air from 0 – 165 in about 4 minutes and shuts off automatically. Although the motor is a little loud, it is not as notorious as other pancake compressors in its category. However, you will still need to wear ear protection for your own safety.
The motor has a low current demand of about 10A. It will plug into any outlet and run without blowing the circuit breaker on the consumer unit at home. And because of the big tank, the motor will not cycle many times for recharge. This means fewer refill breaks in your project and less electricity consumption.
This corded 6 gallon Dewalt air compressor is solidly built and can last a long time. It has no known air leak problems. Some of the things you can use it for include blow cleaning, brad nailing/stapling, finish nailing, hobby nailing, hobby painting, and inflating car tires.
Racing enthusiasts and RVers would love this unit mainly because of its compact design and the relatively big tank. It is easy to transport around even in a small car and use it to inflate tires and run a few air tools for car maintenance. The compressor can fill race car tires in no time.
What is even more fascinating is that you can run this pancake compressor from Dewalt off of a generator when there is no wall outlet to plug into and still get at least 140 PSI in the tank. It is a great portable air compressor to get you through small projects at home and away from home.
Bostitch BTFP02012 6 Gallon 150 PSI Oil-Free Portable Air Compressor Review
Like the Porter Cable C2002, the Bostitch BTFP02012 also has a pancake design with a 6 Gallon air tank. The unit is compact and weighs only 29 pounds thus increasing portability. It also occupies a small storage space hence easy to transport especially with limited space.
Bostitch portable air compressor features an oil-free, maintenance-free pump that delivers 2.6 SCFM* @ 90PSI with a maximum tank pressure of 150 PSI. It features 2 easily accessible 1/4 inch output couplers to allow you to connect two air tools at the same time. Pressure gauges are conveniently placed at the control panel for easy monitoring.
The air compressor is bundled with additional accessories such as a 50 feet Rubber/PCV Blend Air Hose made of hybrid polymer for increased durability and flexibility even in extremely cold temperatures. Other accessories include a tire chuck and gauge, a couple of inflation attachments, a blow gun and rubber tip, safety nozzle, and 1/4″ NPT male plugs.
Unfortunately, the noise levels of this pancake-type portable air compressor is quite high at 80dBA. That makes it unsuitable for use in very quiet environments or enclosed rooms. Moreover, you need a pair of ear guards when running the equipment.
Verdict: With less than 1 HP and not more than 2.6 SCFM at 90 PSI, the Bostitch pancake portable air compressor is suitable for low volume applications. It can therefore be used to operate tools such as low pressure sprayers, nail guns or even inflate tires and air beds. An outstanding feature of this air compressor is the dual couplers that allow you to power two air tools simultaneously. Generally, this equipment is a great air compressor for home use. It even includes the basic accessories such as 10 Piece Inflation and Blow Gun Accessory Kit and a 50 feet Rubber/PVC Blend Air Hose as bonus.
Portable Air Compressor Buying Guide
There are many different kinds of air compressors on the market. Some are good for home users, while others are suitable for portable use or for use in a machine shop. Before you buy an air compressor, you should think carefully about what you want to use it for and how heavily it will be used. This will help you to ensure that you are satisfied with your purchase for many years to come. The following are factors to consider when purchasing a portable air compressor:
1. Power Supply
The first thing that you need to consider is the kind of power supply that you want for the air compressor. You can find air compressors powered by gas or electricity. Gas powered air compressors are very reliable and have the added benefit of being relatively portable since you can power them via free-standing gas cylinders. A good gas compressor will last you for many years and offers a lot of power. However, gas compressors can be expensive and they also have the added downside of requiring good ventilation. A gas compressor is not a good choice for a cramped workspace.
Electric compressors are available in several styles and are perfect for workshop use. There are smaller, portable compressors that can be used via a car’s cigarette lighter system, but these are low powered and only really for inflating tires and performing other minor jobs. Bigger electrical compressors are suitable for use in a static environment such as a garage or workshop, but it is important to note that if your household has older wiring you may struggle to power a bigger 110V electrical compressor, and a 220V compressor may require you to have extensive electrical work carried out. Smaller compressors should not be a problem, but they are often lower quality and underpowered compared to the high-end workshop systems.
2. Pump type – Oil lube or Oil Free?
One recent innovation in the world of electrical compressors is the oil-free compressor, which is also known as the maintenance-free compressor. These systems are designed for people who do not know a lot about power tools and do not want to invest time in learning how to maintain them. The benefit of oil-free compressors is that you do not have to be pro-active about maintaining them. You will get a much longer useful life out of an oil-free compressor than a neglected oiled compressor. Additionally, if your work involves transporting the compressor to and from the job site, the oil-free compressor is more convenient because it can be carried in any orientation without worry of oil spill.
However, an oiled model will run quieter, prove more reliable and last for a lot longer if it is properly maintained. This advantage becomes even more pronounced if you use high-quality synthetic pump oil for your oiled compressor because it will last for a long time between changes and support smooth and efficient running. One thing to remember is that no compressor, even an oil-free one, is really completely maintenance free. Even oil-free compressors will need to be drained periodically. If you expect to put your compressor through heavy use then you should purchase an oiled one.
Another consideration is how much power you need. More horsepower is not necessarily better in the world of air compressors. The most important thing is the air flow and the efficiency of the device. If you are planning on buying a compressor for home use then two horsepower should be fine. If you want one for a workshop then get one that is slightly more powerful.
PSI is the short form for pounds per square inch. It is the unit for measurement of pressure. A low PSI pump is perfectly acceptable for inflating tires. However, if you want a compressor that can tackle some bigger or more demanding tasks then you should look for one that offers at least 125 PSI, or 150PSI is ideal.
SCFM is in full the Standard Cubic Feet per Minute. It is the measure of air flow a compressor is capable of producing. Air flow is one of the most critical features of compressors. It assists in deciding the most appropriate compressor for a particular purpose. For instance, if you want to use an air ratchet or a small impact wrench then you will need an air compressor that offers 6.0 SCFM at around 90 PSI. Some other tools, such as tools for spraying paint, will work at 40PSI, but most tools require 90PSI. If you want to use bigger tools, then you will need a more powerful compressor. Do not purchase a compressor that is lower in performance if you think that you will want to use heavy-duty tools with it. This is a false economy and you will end up wanting to replace the compressor quite quickly. Actually, as a rule of thumb, a compressor should have an SCFM rating that is at least 1.5x higher than required by a pneumatic tool.
6. Size of the Tank
The tank is where compressed air is stored. So, the larger the tank size the more compressed air is in storage to be used to operate pneumatic tools. The size of tank that you need for your air compressor depends on the purpose of the compressor. If you plan on using the compressor exclusively to pump up tires then a small pancake type tank will be fine. For that kind of use the most important thing is that the compressor offers at least 125PSI. If you want to use air tools, however, then you will need a 20 gallon tank, or bigger. A 30 gallon tank is a good choice for a dedicated home mechanic or a small workshop. Bigger tanks and higher SCFM ratings are better for tool use.
Getting The Best Deal
Air compressors are typically promoted as being consumer, contractor or commercial grade. Consumer grade compressors are adequate for casual garage use, but many dedicated mechanics leap straight up to contractor grade compressors because they can cope with bigger air demands and run a wider variety of air tools. Commercial grade air compressors are incredibly large and expensive and are overkill for most people. They are designed for use in environments where the compressor will be running all day, every day. They are very powerful and reliable, but they are not necessary unless you know that you will be using them in extremely demanding situations.
Buying an air compressor is a big decision, and you should think carefully before you spend a lot of money on one. If you have any doubts, err on the side of slightly more power and features, so that the compressor will serve you well as your needs evolve.