Comparing Compressing: How to Pick the Perfect Air Compressor

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Finding a selection of air compressors is easy. Selecting the ideal air compressor is just as easy with a little help from Air Compressors, an online air compressor superstore.

Finding a selection of air compressors is easy. Selecting the ideal air compressor is just as easy with a little knowledge.

"Naturally, price is an important factor to consider in purchasing an air compressor," says Jon Hoch, founder of Air Compressors Direct ( "But what good is a great deal if your compressor can't do the job?"

He says that savvy shoppers should consider four major attributes before purchasing an air compressor: Style, Pump, Tank Size and Power.

1. Style

Air compressors come in a variety of styles, ranging from tankless inflators to contractor grade models to heavy-duty industrial compressors. So how do you sort through all the clutter?

According to Hoch, you should be able to sum up your needs with a simple prepositional phrase. "We ask our customers where they want to use their air compressor, and they respond with one of four answers."

Air Compressors Direct even redesigned its web site to help customers find the appropriate model. Customers can now "Shop by Style," narrowing their search to one of the four recommended uses.

"It almost sounds too simple, but it's extremely helpful in narrowing your search," says Hoch. "If you want an air compressor for 'around the house,' you don't have to sort through a bunch of irrelevant products."


2. Pump

The pump is another important factor in determining the ideal air compressor. There are three basic types of pumps: Invector, Direct-Drive and Belt-Drive.

Invector Pumps

Invector Technology was introduced by Coleman Powermate in 2002. The lightweight models feature a universal motor with a patent-pending air cooling system, which extends the life of the air compressor.

"The Invector models are ideal for first-time air compressor buyers who aren't certain how often they will be using it," says Hoch.

Direct-Drive Pumps

Direct-drive models feature standard induction motors. These models will last about 500 hours and take up less space.

"Direct drive models are oil free, so they're perfect for the occassional- to moderate-use owner, who doesn't want to deal with messy oil changes," says Hoch.

Belt-Drive Pumps

Belt-drive models are quieter than their oil-free counterparts. They are best suited for do-it-yourselfers and professionals who frequently use their air compressor.

Belt-drive pumps will generally last three times longer than direct drive models, but they require oil and filter changes every 500 hours.


3. Tank Size

Air compressor tanks vary widely in size, ranging from 2- to 120-gallons. The longer you need to continuously use an air tool, the bigger the tank you'll need.

"Air compressor tanks are similar to hot water tanks in your home," says Andy Landsly, a homeowner who recently switched to pneumatic tools. "If you want short bursts of hot water, a small tank will suffice. If you're going to tap the tank for extended periods, you'll need a large one."

Short burst tools like impact wrenches, staplers and nailers work well with a small tank. Continuous use tools like grinders, sanders, sprayers and sandblasters will require a large tank.

As a general rule, if you can't decide between two comparable air compressors, go with the larger tank, suggests Landsly.


4. Power

Many do-it-yourselfers often rate the power of an air compressor by PSI (pounds per square inch) or HP (horsepower). According to Landsly, these novice shoppers are overlooking the acronym that truly measures an air compressor's strength.

"CFM (cubic feet per minute) is the best gauge in determining power," says Landsly. "You should select an air compressor that exceeds the CFM of your most powerful air tool. This will ensure that you're never under-powered."

Air Compressors Direct created a great guide to help you gauge CFM ratings for common air tools ( For example, if you are interested in using a spray gun, you should consider getting an air compressor with a 20-gallon tank (minimum) and 4 CFM @ 90 PSI or greater.

"Remember, this is just a guide," says Landsly. "You should find out the exact air requirements for your most powerful tool first, and then pick your compressor," warns Landsly.


Air Compressors Direct ( is an online air compressor superstore owned and operated by Power Equipment Direct, Inc. ( The company also maintains Electric Generators Direct ( and Pressure Washers Direct (

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