How to choose an Air Compressor

With such a wide variety of air compressors on the market, determining which one is right for a specific job can seem confusing. Air compressors can be used for a variety of projects ranging from light home improvement to heavy-duty industrial building. Air compressors are often used due to their ability to run several tools at a time, the affordability of air-powered tools and the ease of use an air-powered tool provides its user. When selecting an air compressor, several factors need to be considered, such as size, power source, affordability and what its intended use will be.


Step 1

Determine what the air compressor will be used for. Piston air compressors are usually small in size and are generally used for home projects and repairs. Rotary compressors come in much larger sizes and are most often used for large improvements and commercial jobs. A piston compressor is meant to be used for smaller projects and may need to be recharged often. On the other hand, rotary compressors are built for professional use and can generally run for several hours before they need to be charged again.


Step 2

Choose the appropriate power source. Most air compressors run on either electricity or gasoline. Select a compressor that runs on electricity if it will be used in an indoor area. Indoor areas often do not have the proper ventilation and space required to run a gas compressor. Gasoline compressors may be used for projects that allow outdoor set up of the compressor. Gasoline compressors are also able to run longer and can power more equipment than an electric compressor.


Step 3

Select the compressor size. Determine how many tools the compressor will need to power and the minimum amount of air pressure that will be needed to run them. Choose a compressor that slightly exceeds the minimum requirements to avoid poor performance. Smaller compressors can power a few small tools simultaneously for general home improvement jobs; however, a large compressor can power a variety of large, industrial tools for a greater length of time. Select a size that will be compatible with your project.


Step 4

Look for safety features. Compare compressors made by different manufacturers for available safety options. Some compressors come with emergency shut-off switches, thick power cords that cannot be easily cut or frayed, power surge protection, color coded switches and operating buttons, warning indicators for overloaded equipment and a stable frame to prevent tipping. Choose a compressor that has standard safety features as well as any advanced features that will limit accidents.