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When there is no wall outlet or generator to plug in your small electric air compressor, you can use a cordless air compressor with small air tools to get through that small project.
What is a cordless air compressor?
A cordless air compressor is a portable air compressor that is powered by a battery. It is similar to other cordless tools.
Battery powered air compressors are designed to be more versatile, rugged, and reliable for powering up small air tools for small construction, repair, and hobby projects. They are fantastic for trim jobs and small finish work such as edge molding and crown molding.
Battery air compressors are also great for inflating tires. You can use them to fill up flat tires of cars and trucks but not the big tires that require above 100 PSI. These types of compressors are easily portable and fairly lightweight to carry around anywhere including on the roof top.
A few years back it was easy to choose the best cordless air compressor because there were only 3: Ryobi, Dewalt, and Ridgid. Now the pool of battery-powered air compressors is wider and selecting the best one for the job has become much more hectic.
But here at Toolever, we have got your back! We try to make it easier for you to select the best tool for the job every time with our well-researched and thought-out reviews. And now, this is our list of the best cordless air compressors that you can consider for operating your small air tools. The list is based on our own experience and findings from the experiences of customers with different units.
Essential Features of a Cordless Air Compressor
The important factors we considered when looking for the best cordless air compressor include:
As you probably know, the battery is the heart of any cordless tool. A cordless tool will run longer and more robust if it has a powerful battery. The same applies to a battery-powered air compressor.
The higher the Ah rating of a battery, the longer the compressor will run before the next battery recharge.
Overall build quality
When looking at the overall build quality of an air compressor we looked at factors such as the sturdiness of each component, ease of use, portability,
The motor is responsible for pumping air into the tank of an air compressor. Some people call it a pump.
Motor size is usually expressed in horsepower (HP). It can also be expressed in Volts and Amps, especially for electric compressors. The higher the HP, the more powerful the motor.
Noise is a big concern with air compressors. Some compressors are too loud and could be the source of trouble between you and your neighbor. If you are a contractor, a loud compressor could annoy your client and he or she might not give you a job again. Not to mention high noise levels are dangerous to the ears.
Therefore the noise level or decibel rating is an important factor when purchasing an air compressors. It also helps you know when and where to use your air compressor so that it does
The noise rating of an air compressor helps you decide when and where to use it. If it is too noisy, it is best to use it outside and preferably during the day or when people are not around the house.
A compressor with a noise level above 70dB is considered noisy. You should wear ear protection when using it. Alternatively, you can maintain a safe distance when working with it.
When it comes to air compressor, tank volume goes along with maximum tank pressure. Why the pressure rating of the tank matters is that the same tank volume would hold more air at a higher pressure. This means, 2 gallon tank at 150 PSI is better than the same tank at 130 PSI.
The tank size determines how long you can use the compressor without running the pump.
CFM (Cubic feet per minute)
CFM is the measure of the volume of air in cubic feet that flows out of the compressor in a minute. It is the unit used to measure the output of air in air compressors.
CFM is measured at a specific pressure, which is often at 90 PSI because that is the pressure at which most air tools operate.
High CFM means more power from a compressor. But on the flip side, it means more air flowing out of the tank. If the compressor has a high CFM and a small tank, then it means the motor will cycle many times to replenish air, which could kill it prematurely.
Because battery powered air compressors are not the most powerful and don’t have the largest tanks, they should have decent CFM to run small tools but not too high to overwork the motor or battery.
Generally, cordless air compressors have a low CFM which is one of the reasons they are suited for light tasks that don’t require large volumes of air at high pressure.
Which are the best cordless air compressors?
Milwaukee M18 Air Compressor – Best Overall
- Tank size: 2 gallons, 130 PSI
- Airflow: 1.2 CFM @ 90 PSI
- Battery: M18 Lineup
- Noise level: Quiet
The Milwaukee M18 is our favorite battery air compressor. It has a 2 gallon hot-dog-style tank with a maximum pressure rating of 130 PSI. It weighs about 34lbs but doesn’t take up a ton of space.
The Milwaukee cordless air compressor can power small air tools to finish work at an air output rate of 1.2 CFM @ 90 PSI. It works best with brad nailers and finish nailers for 23g, 18g, 15g, and 16g.
You can also use this M18 compressor with a framing nailer to fire 2″ nails. However, it will take longer to complete the job because you have to wait for pressure to build up before firing. Otherwise, you might have some nails sticking out. Also, the pump might cycle a few more times than normal, which is not good for the motor and the battery.
In fact, one of the reasons it is not a good idea to use this compressor to drive big air tools is that the motor will cycle many times. This is because the compressor is programmed to kick on when tank pressure drops below 105 PSI.
So, a bigger CFM tool will draw more air and will cause the tank pressure to reach the threshold for cycle-on faster. And the more the compressor cycles, the faster the battery discharges.
How long does it take to refill the tank? It takes less than 2 minutes to fill the tank from 0 – 135 PSI and about 30 seconds to refill the tank from 105 – 135 PSI.
The M18 air compressor is quiet but not ultra-quiet. You can actually hold a conversation while the motor is running and you won’t need to raise your voice. It is the ideal compressor for indoor use.
The Milwaukee cordless air compressor uses the M18 battery lineup. It can take any M18 battery from 2Ah and above. However, don’t use anything below 5Ah if you want a decent runtime. We found the most ideal battery size for this compressor to be the 12Ah M18.
What don’t we like?
Despite its good features and compact design, the M18 Fuel air compressor by Milwaukee is not flawless. One of the things we do not like about it is the handle. It is on the side when the tool is upright, which is counterintuitive, in our view. Moreover, the handle does not have a cushion grip to make carrying the tool a bit more comfortable.
We also do not like that there is some lateral play on the compartment that holds the battery and the quick connect output. It can get worse if you push it so hard when connecting the hose. So, the best way to avoid making it worse is to attach the hose when the pressure regulator is set all the way down. This way, you won’t apply a ton of pressure.
Lastly, we did not like that that you only get the tool alone for the price. You buy the battery and hose separately.
Overall, the Milwaukee M18 air compressor is a nice portable air compressor to have at hand. It is good for small home projects and can be used by professionals as well as hobbyists. It is super quiet so it won’t annoy your neighbors and there is a variety of batteries to select from in the M18 lineup.
DeWalt Flexvolt Cordless Air Compressor – Best value for money
- Tank size: 2.5 gallons, 135 PSI
- Airflow: 1.2 CFM @ 90 PSI
- Battery: Flexvolt 60V Lineup
- Noise level: Loud
DeWalt Flexvolt air compressor is also a compact size battery powered air compressor. It features a 2.5 gallon tank (biggest among the competition) and a maximum tank pressure of 135 PSI. The unit is lightweight, weighing just 21lbs.
DeWalt battery air compressor delivers air at a rate of 1.2 CFM @90 psi just like the Milwaukee. And at a pressure of 40 PSI, it can put out air at a rate of 1.5 CFM.
This unit is suitable for trim and finish applications. It works best with Brad nailers and finish nailers and other air tools for light work. You can also use it to inflate tires of cars and trucks. In emergency situations, you can use the compressor to break loose lug nuts on a car wheel but it will cycle many times after every 2 or 3 nuts.
The DeWalt cordless air compressor does not take too long to fill the tank. It only takes a little less than 2.5 minutes to fill the 2.5 gallon tank from 0 – 135 psi and about 30 seconds recovery time. The motor kicks on at about 90 psi. If you use an air tool that will draw too much air, the motor will cycle many times.
But in emergency situations, you can use it to break loose lug nuts on a car wheel as well as inflate tires.
Noise is a concern with air compressors and this unit is in the bad books. Despite having rubber feet to absorb vibrations, the noise level of the DeWalt cordless air compressor is at 88 dB at 4 feet from the unit and above 90dB we standing next to it. You can’t have a conversation while it is running. It is not the loudest but not the quietest, especially for doing work in the house or at night.
This battery air compressor from Dewalt is suitable for outdoor use and job site applications.
The DeWalt battery air compressor is designed to work with the 60V Flexvolt battery line up. It works with any size of battery in the 60V lineup but cannot accept 20V batteries. This is quite frustrating because many DeWalt tools run on the 20V platform.
What don’t we like?
As I have mentioned, we did not like that the DeWalt cordless air compressor runs on the 60V Flexvolt platform not the standard and more popular 20V lineup. We understand that the 60V line of batteries is the best for high-demand tools such as an air compressor but the disadvantage is that you cannot interchange them with the standard 20V line. You actually feel the pinch when buying a Flexvolt battery separately because it is not cheap.
We also did not like that the drain valve plug at the bottom is plastic and threads onto a metallic nozzle. This might be a matter of time until the threads wear out and the plug starts leaking air.
With all that said, the Dewalt Flexvolt cordless air compressor is a great value for money. At less than the price of Milwaukee M18 air compressor (tool only), you get the compressor, 2Ah 60V Flexvolt battery, and a rapid charger.
Ryobi 18V Battery Air Compressor
- Tank size: 1 gallon, 120 PSI
- Airflow: 0.5 CFM @ 90 PSI
- Battery: Ryobi One+ 18V Lineup
- Noise level: Loud
The Ryobi 18V air compressor is just as compact as the Milwaukee M18 compressor but a little lighter. It weighs 14lbs without battery but with the tank full. It has a horizontal style 1 gallon tank with a maximum pressure rating of 120 PSI. This is one of the smallest tanks in this category of battery air compressors.
The Ryobi battery compressor delivers 0.5 CFM at 90 PSI, which is also quite low. This air flow is less than half of what Milwaukee M18 and DeWalt Flexvolt air compressors deliver.
The small tank capacity and the low CFM make the Ryobi battery compressor suitable for air guns such as nailers and staplers. It won’t do well for with anything that requires a high constant draw of air.
This unit also does well as a tire inflator. It is more reliable than ordinary tire inflators. You can use it to fill up the 65 PSI truck tires without a problem. Generally, 4 Ah battery can inflate 2 cars or 8 tires to 35 PSI per charge.
The Ryobi falls in the category of noisy air compressors. It has a decibel rating of 78dB outdoor, which is quite loud. It actually feels louder to the ears, especially when used indoors. It is not the loudest but definitely is not a compressor you would want to use without alerting a sensitive neighbor or while the baby is asleep.
The battery versatility is one of the winning points of this cordless compressor from Ryobi. It uses the 18V lineup which is common with most of the heavy duty Ryobi cordless tools.
You can use any battery size in the Ryobi One+ 18V platform but preferably anything from 4 Ah to get a decent run time.
What don’t we like?
There are many things we like about the Ryobi battery air compressor including the compact size, battery versatility, and the small weight (you can even carry the tool to the roof without breaking a sweat), but we don’t like these two things.
One, the tank is too small to be very useful in many applications. Also, the tank pressure does not provide enough room to use air tools without stopping too many times for the compressor to replenish.
Two, no roll cage frame to protect the air compressor from impact. Given that this unit is lightweight and has such a good handle with rubber mold, you can go with it anywhere including on the roof. But with great portability comes a greater risk of the unit falling to the ground from the top. Without a roll cage, it is unlikely you will find it in one piece when it falls to a hard surface.
Nevertheless, this battery air compressor from Ryobi is a nice replacement for a regular tire inflator. You can use it on the roadside to air up a flat tire on your truck and to drive small air tools for trim and finish work at the job site. The Ryobi battery compressor has a great price (less than $250) and comes as a kit with two 4.0 Ah batteries, a charger, and the tool.
Ridgid 18 Volt Air Compressor
Ridgid Gen5X 18V air compressor is one of the earliest models of battery powered air compressors. It has a 1 gallon hot-dog-style tank that can hold air at a maximum pressure of 120 PSI. The unit weighs under 20lbs and is highly portable.
The Ridgid battery air compressor is designed with a finish carpenter in mind. It delivers air at a flow rate and pressure that is sufficient to drive small trim and finish tools. With an airflow rate of 1.0 CFM @ 90 PSI, the air compressor can operate a small brad nailer and finish nailer guns.
The unit is easy to operate. It has two gauges on the front. A tank pressure gauge shows the pressure in the tank while the outlet pressure gauge shows the regulated pressure on the output. This is the pressure that will be in the air line. Between the two gauges is a knob for setting the output pressure. You turn it clockwise to increase pressure and counterclockwise to reduce pressure.
To make it easy to hook up an air hose, the unit has a quick-connect coupler. You can connect a hole single-handedly by simply pushing it into the coupler.
The hose can be a little harder to connect when the output pressure is set. The most effortless way to attach the hose is to turn the regulator knob all the way down, connect the hose end, and set the output pressure. Also, turn the knob off when disconnecting the air line from the compressor to avoid prevent air from blowing all over.
This Ridgid battery air compressor puts up a decent performance for its size but does not do a great job of suppressing the noise of the compressor. It is quite loud, clocking well over 70dB at a 4 feet distance. This is quite loud. You cannot use it indoors without causing annoyance.
That being said, the unit does not feel too loud when used outdoors. You can use it at a construction site without a problem.
The Ridgid cordless air compressor runs on the 18V Ridgid battery lineup. It has two battery ports and can run on one or both batteries. If you want to double the run time, you should attach two batteries of the same size. The manufacturer recommends a battery size of at least 4Ah for best performance.
What don’t we like?
There are so many great features on this small portable air compressor from Ridgid from the nice rubber-coated handles, two gauges, and overall build quality but there are two things we didn’t like.
The first one is the small tank. A 1-gallon tank is quite small and may cause the motor to run several times to replenish the air in the tank. This may cause premature failure of the motor and batteries.
The second thing we did not like about this unit is the noise level. It is not fair to compromise on the capacity of the tool and still have to tolerate a noisy motor.
That being said, the Ridgid 18 volt air compressor is a nice addition to your cordless tools, especially if you already own cordless Ridgid tools that use the 18 volts batteries. This compressor will allow you to use air tools for light tasks and when a job requires more power, you just slap the 18 battery on your heavy-duty cordless Ridgid tool and get the work done.
A good example is using the compressor to fill up a flat tire on your truck but when the tire needs to come out, you put the battery on the Ridgid impact wrench to break free a stubborn lug nut.
Overall, all of these battery-powered air compressors put up a good show for their size and capacity. They are all great to have around for light tasks and emergency situations, such as when you don’t have a wall outlet to plug in your bigger electric compressor tool. You can use these battery air compressors with a variety of small air tools including pin nailers, brad nailers, and finish nailers. You can also use them to blow dust in the shop. These cordless compressors also do a better job than most portable tire inflators. What makes them outstanding is that they can do more work than inflating tires only.
The choice of which battery compressor is good for you mainly relies on the cordless tool lineup you are already in. For instance, if you are already in the Milwaukee M18 tool lineup, it is just prudent to get the Milwaukee M18 Fuel air compressor because you can use the same batteries. The same applies to the Ryobi One+ 18V, DeWalt Flexvolt, and Ridgid 18V platforms.
But if you are just getting started with cordless tools or do not have a favorite lineup yet, you may consider the other factors discussed in this article including battery, performance, noise, and of course the price you are willing to pay.
Kindly let us know, which cordless air compressor would you like the most.