All I Need is the Air That I Breath: How to Choose the Right Air Compressor

Air Compressor

Are you looking to purchase an air compressor for your home? If so, check out this guide to learn how to buy the right air compressor.

If so, you probably are trying to determine which features your air compressor needs to have. 

How big does it need to be? Are there different types of air compressors that you need to compare? What features should you be looking for?

To learn a little more about choosing an air compressor for your home, keep reading! There are several things that you need to know if you want to make a good purchase.

How Do Air Compressors Work?

There are two main types of air compressors out there for single home usage.

The first type is called the single stage air compressor. This is a piston type air compressor that is common for use in the home.

A gas or electric motor will drive a piston and this piston compresses air into a storage tank. As there is more air pushed into the storage tank, the pressure in the tank gets greater.

Once the pressure is at a certain point, the compressor will stop running and you can use all of the air that has been stored to power something else. As you use it, the air compressor will start up again and continue to refill that storage tank.

The second type of air compressors are called two stage air compressors and they have two pistons. The first piston compresses the air and sends it through a check valve to the second piston. The second piston compresses it and puts it into the storage tank.

These types of air compressors are used for commercial purposes and are much larger. They usually can deliver a bigger amount of air and are good for the use of multiple tools at one time for a business or shop.

What Do Air Compressors Do?

Truthfully, air compressors have many uses around the house. If you have a lot of handiness skill or like DIY projects, this machine could come in handy at some point! 

You can use an air compressor to inflate a tire, work with a nail gun, or even to air sand something down to a smooth surface. 

If you find that you often get a lot of dust or debris near your work area, you can use an air compressor for an air blow gun. This will allow you to blow all of the dust away with a targeted spout.

Pressure washing is possible with an air compressor as well as long as you have the right attachments! This is a great alternative if air blowing doesn’t get the job done.

Creative people can use an air compressor as well. For instance, it can make airbrushing a breeze.

There are many reasons that a person might want an air compressor and simply having one around just in case is a good idea for people that could need it in the future! 

Types of Home Air Compressors

For home use, portable air compressors are the easiest and most common choice.

They have smaller tanks in them and handles that let you move them around easily. Since they are more compact than stationary air compressors, they actually come in different styles as well.

The portable air compressor choices you have are:

  • Twin-stack compressors – An air compressor with two horizontal tanks stacked upon each other. These give you extra air capacity without taking up more space on the floor.
  • Wheelbarrow compressors – This option has cylindrical tanks and is easy to roll around with a wheel and handles.
  • Pancake compressors – These have round and flat storage tanks on the bottom of the unit. The designs helps to make the machine more stable and it takes up less space overall.
  • Hot dog compressors – An air compressor with a horizontal design and only one cylindrical tank.

Regardless of the option that you choose, portable air compressors are good for quick and easy applications. They can be used for different purposes around the home and don’t have to take up a large amount of storage space.

Would a Stationary Air Compressor Be Better?

A stationary air compressor is great for a business or a workshop that has a high amount of work. They can’t be moved around, but are able to hold a lot more air with their large storage tanks.

These higher horsepower models will let you go for longer periods of time without having to refill the tanks. They are generally vertical in design, but can be horizontal in some cases as well. 

Unless you have a specific reason to need a really large air compressor, the stationary options are best for commercial use. A portable air compressor at home is a simpler and more effective choice for most homeowners. 

Features to Look for in an Air Compressor

While getting a portable air compressor makes sense for most people at home, there are still other choices you have to make! Not all portable air compressors are the same and some have different specs that should be considered. 


Air compressors have different horsepower levels based on their size and their level of power. The most common range is between 1.5 and 6.5 horsepower (HP). 

There are air compressors with larger amounts of HP, but they are usually used for commercial purposes. For almost all household uses of an air compressor, 6.5 HP should be able to do the job.

Oil or Oil-Free

Most air compressors will require that you put in oil around the pistons to ensure that they work properly over time. In oil-free air compressors, however, a permanent lubricant is placed around the pistons to ensure that they can be used consistently.

One of the biggest things to think about with this quality is how loud the air compressor will be. In oil-free air compressors, the machine will generally run a bit louder than the oiled air compressors. 

Needed Power Source

There are some people that need to be able to use their air compressor even if they don’t have electricity available to them. 

If you have electricity all the time, you can probably find an air compressor with an electric motor that will work for you just fine. These will run between 110V and 240V. Try to figure out which type you will need before you buy.

If you don’t have electricity all the time, a gas or diesel engine may be a better choice. Air compressors with this option are available and can actually be powered in different ways using this method.

Consistency in power is pretty important for people that are using air compressors often. A 3 phase air compressor can be a great choice if you want the electric option and need to be sure that you have that continuous electricity flow.

Delivery Pressure

The amount of pressure that the air compressor can deliver is important. If you think about it, you need to be able to control how much pressure is applied if you’re using the air compressor for airbrushing, a nail gun, or even power washing. 

Too much pressure can absolutely ruin whatever you are trying to do and too little pressure won’t help it turn out the way you want it to.

Cubic Feet Per Meter

CFM (cubic feet per meter) will tell you how fast the air compressor is able to push out the air. When you are thinking about pressure and power, you have to think about CFM as well. 

If the tool you are using needs air faster than the air compressor can supply it, you won’t be able to work continuously. You’ll have to wait for the air compressor to catch back up to you and restore the air in its tank.

Compare needed CFM of the tool to the CFM of the air compressor to figure out what you need. Most air compressors are between 0.6 and 2.8 CFM, but this amount can vary slightly based on the model you choose.

Ready to Find the Perfect Air Compressor?

When choosing your air compressor, you have an important decision to make! There are many features that you can search for that will help you get the best air compressor for your needs.

As a homeowner, having this type of machine can help make things easier for you in the long run. You will be able to finish projects faster and get things done with less effort on your part.

An air compressor is a great addition to what you already have at home and can help inspire you to complete new, exciting stuff around the house in the future! 

Check out posts on our website to see how an air compressor can be useful for you at home.