Compressed air is a highly useful substance and has multiple applications in homes, factories, and industries.
While getting compressed air used to be pretty tricky in the past, it is no longer so. With the advent of compressors, compressing air to high pressures is as easy as cake.
However, compressors are tricky to buy, and if you are looking for the best shop air compressors, you will have to do some searching to meet the exact specs.
But worry not! We are here to make things simple and fun. Our guide covers the top 6 brands of compressors in the market, guaranteed to meet all your needs
So, waste no time, and let’s get on with it!
Things To Consider Before Buying The Best Shop Air Compressor
Now that the reviews are done and dusted let us get on with some valuable pointers. This section will provide some key aspects you could look for when purchasing the best shop air compressor for the money.
So, read through this section to get the best out of your money!
Low Noise Levels
Noise levels are a critical aspect of any air compressor. Extreme noise can cause irreversible damage to the ears.
The human ear can usually work correctly under 80 dB of noise, and anything above that starts to feel uncomfortable.
When buying an air compressor, always inspect the maximum noise level it can attain beforehand. Anything below 70 dB is good to go. However, even better would be below 60 dB.
This should not be hard to find, as many models are being designed to be as quiet as possible.
Portability is a necessity if you are on the move a lot. A portable air compressor certainly makes life easier and more convenient.
Portable compressors weigh between 30-50 pounds at most. Beyond this mark, it becomes slightly difficult to transport them.
Also, check if the air compressor is equipped with wheels or a pulling handle, as these would make it easier to drag it across.
Decide On the Tools to Be Used
This is perhaps one of the most important aspects of getting the best budget shop air compressor, and a wrong selection may prove to be beyond costly.
As a guideline, you should always remember that high power, high-performance tools require more air pressure to operate. Hence, if you are using a compressor for industrial or factory level applications, you would need more pressure, usually over 120 psi.
The opposite is also true. For operating lightweight tools, such as a nail gun or something similar, a low-pressure compressor will work just fine.
CFM stands for cubic feet per minute, and it is essentially the amount of air the compressor can pump out in a minute.
A high CFM rating indicates that the compressor can pump out air very fast and in large quantities too.
Moreover, the CFM rating once again depends on the type of tool you are going to use. Most devices generally require 4-6 CFM, but heavy-duty tools like grinders need above 8 CFM to work correctly.
It is thus wise to make sure you have a good idea of the CFM rating you need for the job at hand.
The pump of old model compressors usually required oil to operate. While many new models do not have that requirement any longer, there are still some models that do.
If possible, always go for oil-free compressors, as these types of air compressors are way easier to maintain. They require zero maintenance, as you do not have to check on oil levels from time to time.
They also save you some cash, which would otherwise go into buying oil at exorbitant prices.
Like any other machine, a compressor requires a power source to operate and work efficiently. This power source could be in the form of electricity from the mainline, a battery, or fuels, such as diesel and gas.
Out of all power sources, electricity-powered compressors are the right choice if you live in an urban area or if your workspace does not have any electrical issues.
It is much cleaner for the environment and takes up less cash to power. Battery run compressors are the right choice if you travel around a lot and take the compressor with you for work.
You may not always have a power source nearby, in which case the battery can provide useful energy. However, the battery itself needs to be charged and also has a definite lifespan, so be aware of that.
Fuel-run compressors are still standard in many parts of the world where electricity is scarce. They get the job done, but at a huge tradeoff. The emission released from the compressor is very harmful to the environment and can be poisonous to breathe in.
Hence, a fuel-powered compressor cannot be placed indoors at any cost and should always be placed outside.
List of 6 Best Shop Air Compressors For 2021
Time for the reviews then. Here, we will review the best air compressors from renowned brands and highlight their pros and cons. Hopefully, you will find your dream product here.
1. PORTER-CABLE C2002-WK Oil Free Air Compressor
The C2002-WK air compressor is an oil-free, highly efficient compressor from Porter Cables. Combining a unique look with performance, it tends to deliver to the best of its capacity.
Moreover, the design of the air compressor is rather eye-catching, if anything. Made into a pancake style shape, the tank has been engineered this way for more excellent stability.
With suitable dimensions measuring at 18.3 x 18 x 19 inches, this air compressor will fit in rather nicely in your garage or workshop, taking up the least amount of space.
Equipped with a 6-gallon capacity, it is more than enough for most of your conventional needs. Furthermore, you will be provided with a 13 piece side kit to operate the product better.
Storing air at high pressures has always been an issue of concern for compressors, but this one delivers sweetly in that area. At 150psi pressure, the tank will ensure that you can utilize compressed air whenever you are working.
This product also features a 120-volt motor and makes it so suitable that it can power up in the coldest of conditions.
The pump of the product does not require any oil to run, and more importantly, it is tremendously easy to maintain because it doesn’t need to be maintained at all!
- High tank capacity
- High stability and durability
- Very easy to transport
- Long storage time
- Generates noise
2. CRAFTSMAN CMEC6150K Air Compressor, 6 gallon
The 32.5-pound CMEC6150K air compressor from Craftsman ticks all the right boxes when it comes to quality and assurance. Built to be convenient to use, it is a popular choice amongst customers.
With a capacity of 6 gallons, this product is streamlined for portability and efficiency. Being durable, it is also easy to maintain and requires no oil to run the pump.
If you have a different task you need to get done, this product 150 psi pressure will see quite smoothly. It also possesses a quick recovery time, so that you won’t have to wastez a time between tasks.
You will also be provided with a plethora of accessories, including an air hose, tire chuck, blow gun, rubber tip, and more. Furthermore, a power cord and plug will be provided where needed, saving you a trip to the hardware store.
- Easy to start
- Can provide enough pressure for various tasks
- Low recovery time
- Different accessories are provided
- It takes some time to hit max pressure
3. BOSTITCH BTFP02012 Pancake Air Compressor
Bostitch has been known to manufacture top-notch compressors for a while now, and with the BTFP02012, they do their brand and company justice.
With a maximum capacity of 150 psi, this product can support up to 6 gallons of air in it. This large capacity makes it possible to complete a variety of tasks with ease and meet deadlines.
A noteworthy feature of this product is the motor it runs on. Engineered to provide optimum efficiency, the engine can start up even in the coldest weather. This is particularly important for users who live in cold climate regions and cannot afford to postpone work just for the weather.
While noise is a feature of most commercial air compressors, this product has a noise level of just 78.5 dBA. To put it into perspective, this is quieter than your average lawnmower.
Equipped with a regulator, you can easily manipulate flows to achieve the maximum air tool performance. This ensures that you get the most out of your tools and utilize them to their full extent.
Finally, this product is amazingly low maintenance. Since it runs without oil, you do not have to check up on it from time to time, like you have to do with other conventional compressors.
Instead, you can just focus entirely on using it and getting the task done.
- Runs without oil
- Low noise levels
- Long power cord
- Powers up quickly in cold conditions
- No extra items or kits are provide
4. DEWALT DWFP55126 Pancake Air Compressor
Dewalt items are always fun to review because they have so much to offer. This compressor of theirs is no different. Its high-pressure capacity and robust motor make it a solid catch.
This sturdy and durably built product provides quite a punch in terms of pressure delivered. At 165 psi, this the maximum pressure it can give you when working full throttle.
Furthermore, the 22.7-liter tank is more than adequate at holding enough air to help you get through the day and round up your daily objectives.
With a power cord that measures 50 feet, you can set it quite far from a power source. This also comes in handy if the workplace is situated far from the nearest power plug or socket.
Speaking of power, this product runs on 120 V settings and 60 Hz frequency. You can use it in most places without any worries or issues.
Furthermore, the universal motor can crank up even in very cold environments, where temperatures have plummeted. This serves as a boon to those living in such cold areas.
To empty the tank as quickly as possible, this product is fitted with a ball drain valve. This valve empties the entire tank in a few seconds, where without it, emptying the tank could take minutes.
Furthermore, to store it in your warehouse or garage, the air compressor comes with protective rubber paddings on its legs. This allows you to place it on rough surfaces and not cause any wear to the outer body.
- Operates quietly
- Can be placed on rough surfaces without damage
- Fast tank draining
- Portable air compressor and lightweight
- Must be placed away from walls or blockages to prevent air blockages
5. California Air Tools 8010 Steel Tank Air Compressor
The 8010 steel air tank compressor from California Air Tools is a throwback to the compressors of the old days. Built with high-grade steel, it is as sturdy as it is efficient.
With a complete wheel air filter kit, this product brings it all. With all these accessories, setting up and getting the best out of this product will never be an issue.
Capable of delivering a maximum pressure of 120 psi, you will be pleased to know that you can get most things done with relative ease.
Furthermore, with voltage regulations of 110V and 60 Hz, you can run it from most power outlets.
This air compressor comes with a rather large capacity, 8 gallons, to be precise. However, do not be misled into thinking that it is not portable because of its size. It weighs somewhat less (48 pounds) and is easily transportable.
With a running time of 60 minutes at full throttle, you can use it to complete rather large projects in a single day or session. Also, because it runs without any oil, it does not even have to be maintained regularly.
A strong oil pump allows you to use this product in a range of environments and weather conditions. All this can be done with very little noise, as the product only produces 60 dB of sound when operating.
- Larger than average capacity
- High continuous run time
- Portable despite size
- Comes with a superior air filter and wheel-set
- Does not come with a hose
6. Rolair JC10 Plus 1 HP Oil-Less Compressor
The final air compressor on our list for today is the JC10 Plus 1, straight from the factories of Rolair. Rolair is famous for its relatively compact designs, and this model is no different.
This is the perfect air compressor for taking on trips, such as camping or outdoor excursions. With a cast aluminum cylinder, it is incredibly sturdy, durable, and very resistant against wear, abrasions, and scratches.
Having durability means that rough handling will not damage the outer casing quickly, making it last longer.
With a flow rate of 2.35 cubic feet per minute, it can cover quite a large volume of space with air in a few minutes. Furthermore, by providing pressures of up to 90 psi, it is perfect for smaller and medium-sized applications.
One noticeable feature of this air compressor is its high power, high-speed motor. Running at 1725 RPM, it quite fast for its size and puts the work in turbo mode during use.
The 2.5-gallon tank size is more than enough for small applications, and most of the air in this product can be utilized entirely as a result.
If you are worried about noise and sound levels, then the product will put that worry to rest. Operating at only 60 dB is one of the quietest around and is a relief from hearing conventional compressors work at harmful sound levels.
With all the vital components secured firmly inside the shell, and the entire body surrounded by a makeshift cage, there is no chance of internal damage resulting from frequent use.
- Lightweight and portable air compressor
- Durable aluminum body
- Requires no maintenance
- High-speed motor
- Is not recommended for large-scale works requiring high air pressures
Benefits of Shop Air Compressors
Using a best air compressor can have several benefits. Here, however, we will discuss the most common ones.
Air is Cheap
The most significant benefit of using compressors is that they use air. Air, unlike petrol, coal, or gas, is completely free!
This means no buying costs, taxes, or losses. Air is also incredibly easy to acquire since it is all around us 24/7. Even if you need to fill up on air for a refill, it will cost you significantly less than the same amount of petrol or oil.
You Can Clean with It
Contrary to what many people think, air compressors are not just for refilling tires or powering tools. One primary use of air compressors is cleaning.
The high-pressure air that exits the compressor can rid of the toughest stain, dirt marks, and even debris. This air can be used to clear roads, pavements, and sidewalks.
More importantly, there are no harmful gases involved during operation or no usage of toxic solvents and chemicals.
Just direct, simple air to get some cleaning done.
Using Power Tools
Another use of air compressors is to operate power tools. Nowadays, many power tools like nail guns are engineered to run with air.
The reason for this is that battery or electricity-powered tools are more expensive and ultimately end up consuming valuable power. They can also be a bit more unsafe to use.
However, with air compressors, you can operate heavy-duty tools like nail guns. You will be pleased to know that the performance will be the same, and you will not even notice any difference.
Carry Them Anywhere
Shop air compressors are lightweight and hence portable. If you move around a lot, you can just take one in the back of your car and get going. You can also use them anywhere you go.
Frequently Asked Questions
So it is time for the FAQ section of this article. After all that reading, you probably have some questions you may want answering.
Worry not. This section will address the most common inquiries and provide concise answers.
How Many Amps for a Shop Air Compressor?
This is a common question and one that has more than one answer. Before that, it is essential to know that the amps a compressor uses are dependent on the type of function it performs.
Heavy-duty compressors operate on a voltage rating of 220 V. These have larger motors and rotate at a faster rate, which is called the RPM.
These heavy-duty air compressors run on 23-24 Ampere (amps) of current. Note that this is the standard requirement and is the general case.
For light or medium compressors, the voltage rating is about 110V. These compressors have smaller motors and thus have to work harder to keep the components running.
These air compressors draw in 33 amps on average. The larger requirement is because the motor needs more power to run things smoothly, as it is comparatively smaller in size than the heavy-duty compressor motor.
How Do I run Air Lines in My Shop?
Running an airline through your shop is easy if you get the right things to work with. First off, you need steel piping, about 0.75’’ in diameter.
For compressors, most of the pipes will be threaded in advance, so use an adjustable wrench to join them end to end.
If any part needs to be cut off, use a tube cutter and not a knife. By joining the tubes end-to-end, you will have one end fixed to the air filter set to the compressor.
The other end will be fixed to an air supply.
How to Plumb Shop Air Compressors?
This is more of a multiple-step process, but we will try to explain the process as briefly as possible.
First off, you have to decide what you will use the compressor for. Based on the type of work you hope to achieve, set out the compressor in a place where its noise will not cause disruption.
After the initial set up, connect and assemble the piping system. This procedure is outlined in the previous question, and it requires you to create a piping network across the room.
Next, make sure that a filter is installed before the compressor. The filter will remove dust, and thus clean air will go into the compressor.
Next, before connecting the filter and piping system, you will need a rubber hose. The diameter of this hose should be based on how much air you need to feed into the compressor. This is further dependent on what the compressor will be used for.
Make this decision carefully. After that, connect the rubber hose to the piping system on one end and the filter on the other end. Tighten the attachment point with a wrench to ensure air does not leak out.
What Does the Dryer Do in My Shop Air Compressor?
The primary purpose of the dryer is to dry the air. Compressed air can contain water, and this water, if allowed to accumulate, would damage the compressor.
Hence, a dryer ensures the air moisture-free, keeping the compressor safe.
How to Make Shop Air Compressors Quiet?
Air compressors can make quite a lot of noise, and despite newer models being made quieter, they can still disrupt the workspace.
One thing you can do to make them quieter is to ensure the bearing are well lubricated. Usually, bearing tends to make a lot of noise when they vibrate due to friction.
Well, lubricated bearings will solve that issue.
Reposition Air Intake
Compressors generally make the most noise when taking in air. This is a lot like a vacuum cleaner sucking in dirt.
If possible, position the air intake valve outside the workplace. This will reduce noise levels drastically. However, make sure that connections are secure.
Get a Silencer
A silencer is a great tool that works well on cars and bikes. It can also be modified to work on compressors.
Moreover, the silencer should be fitted on the air intake valve, and if fitted correctly, will result in a drastic reduction of noise.
Put the Compressor in a Different Room
This is the final thing you could do, and it is to place the compressor in a separate room entirely. This would also mean that you will need more piping to get the compressor from a distance.
But, this is the last resort if all other methods don’t work out.
So that concludes our review of the best shop air compressor. We saw that the C2002 has a high capacity, high pressure but generates noise. The 6 gallon air compressor from Craftsman and the BTFP02012 have similar specs, but the BTFP02012 edges out in quieter performance.
Dewalt’s compressor packs quite a punch in terms of pressure, and the 8010 from California tools ticks many boxes in terms of runtime, capacity, and low noise levels.
Finally, the JC10 is perfect for trips or tours and is the most compactly built of the lot.
However, based on raw performance, we would suggest the 8010, as comes with accessories, a low noise level, a large tank, and more than enough pressure, making it the perfect fit for any workplace.