Which Air Compressor Should I Buy?

buy air compressor
(Last Updated On: August 31, 2020)

Need A New Air Compressor?

With every weekend paper we get, we also receive a bunch of fliers from the big box stores, promoting their hardware, DIY supplies, and a broad range of air compressors.

The prices are sometimes really remarkable. So, can you really get a decent compressor, with an air tool or two, some fitting, air line and couplers for $159.00 + tax?

In a word….no.

What you will get though is an entry level compressor, accessories that will work, but sometimes for a very short time, and air tools that are meant for a few hours work every few weeks, not for production or commercial shops and so on.

But, for the DIY home shop usually, this will be fine.

Listen, if you haven’t had a compressor before when you get one you’ll be amazed at how many uses you can find for it once the unit is sitting in your basement or garage calling out for you to come and play.

Nope, you won’t get a production tool or compressor, but you will g

air compressors

Get one that will be loads of fun to use, and might even last a few years if not used too aggressively…if you make sure you put the proper oil in the compressor and the right oil in the air tools. When I shingled my garage last summer, my little $179.00 – OK, I bought the expensive one 🙂 – compressor chugged right along and made a major hammering project go much, much faster with the use of an air nailer.


Not Every Air Compressor Is Imported From China

Wandering around on the net today, I stumbled across this site, a compressor manufacturer in Cambridge Ontario, Canada.

I don’t know a lot about them, except that they manufacture, among other things, industrial reciprocating compressors from 3 – 15 HP. And they manufacture these units in North America, which is becoming increasingly rare.


We’ve replaced 3 air compressor motors in 3 months

We are a property mgmt company and we’ve replaced 3 air compressor motors in 3 months. The motor continues to burn out. The vendor suggested replacing a pump. We also checked out the voltage, since we have blown circuit breakers. Any suggestions? Thanks!

We answer…

Hi Darlene:

I’m going to assume that your compressor, when it’s running, isn’t exceeding it’s duty cycle.

If it isn’t, or it is a continuous run designed compressor, then you need to examine the application further.

An electric motor will burn out if it is experiencing higher load than it is engineered for, or, will burn out even more frequently if the motor gets into a stall situation where it is trying to turn the shaft, but the load on the that shaft is slowing or preventing the rotation.

When you say the vendor recommends you replace a pump, by that I understand that he wants you to replace or rebuild the compressor head(s)?

If that is correct, then I recommend you do so.

That you have replaced three motors would indicate that it’s not likely the motor that is the problem.

To me it seems that something about your compressor head (pump) has failed, and is preventing your electric motor from rotating at design speed, and that’s causing sufficient thermal overload that it’s destroying the motor.

And, overload of the motor would mean that when it tried to start, the much higher than normal inrush of current to try and start the overloaded motor, would blow fuses or pop breakers.


Buying a new air compressor… the first thing to ask!

Folks buying an industrial air compressor from an industrial shop don’t necessarily have this problem, as likely the air compressor distributor is the company that fixes that brand.

Those of us that are buying a low cost DIY type air compressor from the big-box-store ilk, are not that fortunate.

When you find the air compressor that you think will suit your needs, the first question to ask your store clerk is who fixes that brand when it’s past warranty? You’ll typically see eyes glaze over, or a mindless grin slide across their face, and they may even mumble some sort of response that doesn’t tell you anything. Be persistent!

Big box stores fix virtually nothing. If your air compressor craps out within that store’s replacement time frame, and you return it with a problem, odds are they will simply give you a new one. That, believe it or not, is likely cheaper for them than having a process to handle compressor repair at the store level. And besides, rumor has it that the deal they cut with their supplier is that if a product comes back under warranty, the supplier will give the store a new one to replace it, anyway.

Are you buying your air compressor for 3 months, or one year use only? Planning on having it a longer time than that?

Then, ask where you get that particular compressor fixed when it is OUT OF WARRANTY. If they can’t tell you, buy another brand from somewhere else where they can.

I am inundated by emails  from folks with an almost new, hardly used, big box store type air compressor that has failed after a short time, and no where, NO WHERE, can these folks get them fixed or even, if they know what the air compressor problem is, get parts to fix it.

Shop harder folks. Don’t buy air compressors from any store that cannot point you to where you will get service after the warranty runs out. Because the warranty will run out, and your compressor will, eventually, break down. When it does, know where to get it fixed.


New Air Compressors and Energy

Once again, as energy costs and the impact reverberates throughout society, the undeniable need to “spend” energy wisely comes to the fore.

More and more I find articles like this one, confirming that compressed air is a very expensive energy source, and that many plants and users, through not understanding the process completely, waste significant electrical energy in creating compressed air that’s wasted to atmosphere.

air compressor energy

If you had a pocket full of coins, and a hole in the pocket allowed your money to dribble away, you’d get that fixed pretty quick.

Consider a compressed air leak a BIG hole in your pocket. Sew up the leaks. Save your money, your company’s money, and reduce energy use at the same time.

In the northern hemisphere we are heading into the winter season with the high energy costs associated with heating. Those same higher costs will affect your energy use for your plant or shop.

You know, I get a lot of questions about how it is that the compressors bundled with an assortment of tools and gadgets at the big box retail outlets don’t seem to have enough compressed air pressure or flow to drive the tools they are bundled with.

Aside from the commercial aspect….giving the buyer as little quality and quantity as possible in equipment to reduce cost and to ensure that the low selling price can actually make a profit, there’s another real reason.

North American homes commonly run on 120 VAC current and that is what is sent to the electrical outlets in your home workshop or garage. Your compressor is taking that 120 VAC current and changing into another energy form…compressed air.

Without getting into the formulas involved, there’s only so much power available in a 120 VAC line and the amount of power (or energy) available limits the size of the electric motor on your compressor, and that limits the amount of compressed air that can be generated by that compressor.

We all remember that “energy can neither be created or destroyed, it can only be changed.” When we fire up our compressor we change electricity into compressed air. Depending on the size of the electric motor and the compressor head and the flow and pressure required from it, it doesn’t take very long to max out on all the power available in a 120 VAC supply line. This limits the motor size, the compressor head size, and the output of the typical DIY home compressor.

In order to get more than 3 or 4 CFM at 90 PSI from a compressor, it’s going to have to be supplied with more power than a 120 VAC line can supply, which is why larger compressors are supplied with electricity at 220 VAC, 460 VAC or 575 VAC.

The more power available for the compressor motor and compressor head, the more compressed air you can get out the discharge port. It’s as simple (and complex) as that.


Off peak power to supply “on-peak” compressed air?

It’s no secret that the vast majority of electricity is consumed during “waking hours” when everybody is up and plants are running at full bore.

Electricity (mostly) cannot be stored, so when the demand is high, so is the cost. Yet all of that electricity generating equipment is capable of, and does, run 24/7/365.

Why not use off-peak electricity (maybe lower rates?) to compress air for use when the demand for it is high?



New DIY Compressors

How do you figure out what kind of compressor to purchase for DIY or for your company?

Here are some things to consider:

Reciprocating compressors are usually the lowest cost

  • How much compressed air will you need?
  • What capacity in CFM at the required pressure will a particular compressor generate?
  • Can you use an oil-lubricated compressor, or do you need an oil-less type?
  • Does the compressor come equipped with an air filter, regulator or lubricator?


What About Cheap New Air Compressors

A couple of blog entries ago I suggested that a compressor is a dandy trinket to get someone for Christmas. I said they were becoming very inexpensive.

If you’ve a hankering to get into the game…using compressed air in your home workshop I mean…it’s hard to beat prices like these.

If you do decide to buy, make sure you find out from the store where you take that particular compressor for warranty repair work…and if you need to get it repaired after warranty, who does the repairs for them?

It will save you a lot of searching down the road when these electro/mechanical devices ultimately fail.


New Compressed Air Plumbing Solution

Over the years the standard for plumbing compressed air has been black pipe. Yup, the black pipe creates all sorts of problems for the quality of the air, but it has been cheap, and it can certainly handle the air pressure for all but the highest outputs.

New Compressed Air Plumbing Solution

I’ve been a proponent of copper pipe for the DIY crowd, and I’d recommend it for institutional use as well, save for the cost.

One company has developed a line of plastic compressed air plumbing products, but it’s not recognized as suitable in many jurisdictions, and I, with a bit of background in plastics as well as compressed air, would want to be really convinced before I’d plumb compressed air through rigid plastic pipe.

Now there’s another alternative. It probably is a premium priced product, yet overall, with the ease of installation, maybe the installed cost is competitive?

Hello, I am Bill, the Compressed-Air-Man. I have years of experience in industrial and residential compressed air applications, air compressors and general pneumatics. I created this site to help professionals, students, and DIYers understand and properly implement and maintain compress3ed air systems.


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