Anyone who is regularly completing DIY or working as a contractor will need a wide range of tools. If any of these need an air compressor then by far a portable air compressor is going to be the best option for you!
A portable air compressor is going to allow you to work with a wide range of air tools in a wide range of locations. Air tools tend to offer more power, higher speeds and are perfect for anyone that has some serious jobs to get done. However, if you are working outside, in a workshop, or away from home, these tools can be hard to power. A portable air compressor helps to avoid that issue….yes, it is going to have to be something else that you have to take on the job with you, but it is well worth this effort.
Wondering what tools you can use with an air compressor? Here are some of our favourites.
Best Pick – Stanley B2BL104STF574 Air Compressor
- Oil less SILENT compressor Ideal for households
- Heavy-duty plastic shrouds protect the internal mechanical parts
- Stable thanks to the use of rubber feet
- Easy to transport.
- Control panel with 2 easy-to-read gauges.
Last update on 2023-12-07 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases
In A Hurry?
Whether you have air tools lying around waiting to go, or you’ve decided to finally start those DIY projects you have been meaning to do for ages – either way you will probably be in a rush to get started! If so, look no further, as this part of the article is home to all the main features that you should look for when purchasing a portable air compressor!
Portable Air Compressor Features
Here are the main things that you need to know before purchasing a portable air compressor!
PSI and CFM
These are the two main aspects that you need to consider when buying a portable air compressor.
PSI (Pounds per square inch) is the amount of air pressure that is delivered by an air compressor. Basically it is the amount of air that can be sucked into the air compressor tank to be transformed into the energy that you need to get your tools to work. So it goes without saying that the higher the PSI, the more air that you are going to have to work with to power your tools! To power most air tools you are going to need around 150/200PSI from your air compressor – but make sure to check the exact measurement for the tools that you are planning on using! If your air compressor is going to be used for smaller jobs such as tires and inflatables etc then you will be able to opt for a much smaller PSI (60-100PSI).
CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute) is the volume of air produced and delivered to your tools out of the air compressor over the space of a minute. Again, the higher the number the more air that you (and your tools) are going to have to work with. But it is a little more complicated than that, as CFM can vary depending on the conditions that you are working in (temperature and humidity for example). Make sure to look for the “delivered CFM” reading, and always opt for slightly higher capabilities than what your tools need – you can always adjust the CFM down but it is impossible to make your air compressor work better than what it is designed to under specific conditions.
TOP TIP: To work out the measurements that you are going to need, we would recommend looking at your tool that has the largest requirements, and then multiplying this amount by 1.5. This will offer up some protection in terms of the conditions that you are working in!
It is important to remember that if you are going to be running more than one air tool at once then you are going to need a much larger air compressor. You will need to add up the required CFM readings for all the tools and find an air compressor that can offer more CFM than this. It is rare to find a portable air compressor that will be able to do this, so if this is the case then you may be better looking for a stationary air compressor.
If you are thinking that you possibly need more power than this, it could be that you need an air compressor that isn’t quite as portable, but that is larger. You can find some of the best air compressors in this article.
This video should help you to get a better idea of how an air compressor works…
If you are reading an article for portable air compressors then chances are you are wanting one that is portable for a reason! Whether you are going to be working between different properties or just want the option of being able to take your air compressor to different rooms in the house, a portable air compressor has many benefits that it is able to offer – but there are different ways that this portability is achieved:
- Weight and size – Portable air compressors are designed to be lighter and more compact than other stationary air compressors. This is achieved by opting for smaller tanks and lighter materials in the design. Admittedly this does mean that they often offer less power than the stationary models, but you will still find that you have enough to power almost all the tools that you could want to work with!
- Handles – Many of the truly portable air compressors will come with handles on the top to make sure that you can carry them easily to different locations. Make sure that the handles have comfort grips and are sturdy as they are going to have to hold the whole weight of the compressor!
- Wheeled air compressors – Air compressors with wheels on the bottom tend to offer the “halfway point” for portable air compressors! They are much more mobile than stationary air compressors, as can be pushed around between jobs and to wherever you are planning on storing them, but also give the option of more power as they can be larger than the air compressors that you can only carry. The only downside to these models is that they are often too heavy to carry any great distance on your own, but also don’t offer the power of stationary models, so they are perfect for some, but the opposite for many as well!
The tank size is the amount of air that an air compressor can hold at one time. This is important as it determines how long you will be able to continuously work for, before your air compressor needs time to refill, which can be really annoying if you are part way through a job! Air compressor tank sizes vary from as little as 1 gallon, all the way up to more than 60 gallons, which is a whopping amount of air! If you are wanting to operate air tools then you are going to need at least 10 gallons, but if it were us we would be opting for a bigger tank than this if possible.
TOP TIP: Remember that the bigger the tank that you go for, the less portable your air compressor is going to be and the harder it is going to be to store when it is not in use! It is important to try and find a balance for this when you are purchasing the best portable air compressor you can find!
If you are going to be moving to different locations when using your air compressor then it is important to know what power source you are going to need to be able to get your air compressor to work! Most will run off simple mains power, so 120V but some do need more than this so make sure to check.
Best Budget – Einhell Compressor TC-AC 190/24/8
- The TC-AC 190/24/8 is a versatile compressor which with its compact dimensions and maximum continuous power of 1,100 W delivers up to 8 bar operating pressure and therefore provides good service on numerous compressed air jobs.
- The controlled working pressure setting can be adjusted by the pressure reducer and is displayed on the pressure gauge. The quick-release coupling enables diverse air tools to be quickly & easily attached without the need for any additional tools
- In operation the 24 Litre tank provides enough reserves for prolonged jobs. The oil lubrication of the pump ensures that the compressor has a long service life
- For the best possible user safety there is a non-return valve and a safety valve. A drain plug is provided for the comfortable and clean removal of condensate from the tank
- A vibration-absorbing foot prevents mechanical shocks and reduces noise generation. For quick mobility and easy transportation there is a carrying handle and two rubberized wheels
If you are going to be purchasing a portable air compressor then it is important to find the best one available. We have suggested some of the ones that we think are the best on the market at the moment, but without knowing the extra features that you can find on these machines, it can be difficult to understand why we think they are so good! Here are some of the additional features that we would recommend looking out for when making your purchase:
- Twin Tank – We would always recommend opting for a twin tank on a portable air compressor if you have this option available to you! The main downside to portable air compressors is that you have to work with smaller tanks, so can work for shorter periods of time, but with a twin tank this is avoided! As soon as one tank is emptied the machine will swap to the other tank, which you can then use whilst the first tank fills up again. This is a fantastic way to get the most space and power from a smaller, more portable machine.
- Oil free or oil lubricated – Air compressors come as either oil free (so they don’t need oil to run) or oil lubricated (these need oil to run). There are pros and cons to each model, an oil-lubricated model requires more maintenance, as you have to check the oil regularly to make sure the machine can run smoothly, but oil-free models don’t always last as long.
- Horizontal or vertical? If you are looking for a larger portable air compressor then you will often have the option of horizontal or vertical models. This rarely affects the quality or the use of the machine, so it is more down to personal preference and where you are going to be storing your machine! A vertical machine will be easier to store in smaller spaces, but a horizontal machine can go under shelves.
- Wheelbarrow air compressors – If you are looking for a truly portable air compressor then a wheelbarrow air compressor might be the way to go…with single or double wheels and wheelbarrow handles, this option allows you to transport your air compressor wherever it is that you need to go, without you even feeling the weight of the air compressor! They are a fantastic option for anyone that needs to transport to some difficult locations, but also needs a decent machine to work with when they get there!
Best of the Rest
- Low Noise Air Compressor From Hyundai
- Oil Free - Means Low Maintenance & No Oil Contamination in the Compressed Air
- Powered by a 550W, 230V Direct Drive Electric Motor provides 4 CFM of Air Displacement - The 8-litre tank is capable of 120 Litres / Minute at 100PSI
- HY5508 is fitted with Euro (Q/R) quick release Air Connections, standard 13A 3 Pin UK socket & weighing only 15KG - means the oil free air compressor is Ultra Lightweight & Manoeuvrable
- Covered by Hyundai 2 Year Warranty Including Full UK Spares Available for years to come.
- ORAZIO Silent Type 24 Litre Portable Air Compressor, CE Approved
- 800 Watt powerful copper motor operates at 1450rpm for high performance
- Lightweight compact size and shockproof rubber feet covers for easy portability and transport
- Oil free requires no daily maintenance and eliminates risk of oil stains on work surfaces
- Offers a soft 65 dB/A noise level for a quiet work setting, suitable for home or workshop use
- 50 litre air tank
- Air Displacement: 9.6CFM
- Maximum Pressure: 115 PSI/ 8 Bar
- Automatic on/off Control
- NO DELIVERIES TO OUTSIDE UK MAINLAND
Frequently Asked Questions
What warranty can I get with a portable air compressor?
The warranties that come with compressors vary massively depending on the models and also the size of compressor that you opt for. Some offer as little as six months, whereas others are upwards of 6 years. We would expect you to find a shorter warranty for models offering under 100PSI and greater warranties for expensive models upwards of 150PSI.
What is the difference between direct drive and belt drive air compressors?
Direct drive air compressors are usually cheaper to purchase – they are perfect for DIY enthusiasts that are only completing smaller jobs around the home or garden. They work by using a motor that connects directly to the crankshaft of the compressor. Belt-drive options are usually for more high powered air compressors, as they have a belt that connects the motor to the pump. This means that they can be more flexible in the air flow that they can offer, and will usually be able to go to higher PSI and CFM readings.
What is a good CFM for a portable air compressor?
This obviously depends on what you are planning on using your portable air compressor for. If it is being used for small jobs around the home then anything as little as 5CFM at 70 PSI will be enough. For air tools you are going to need at least 10 CFM at 100 PSI.
What is the difference between CFM and SCFM?
Cubic Feet Per Minute and Standard Cubic Feet Per Minute are two very different things, and it is important to understand the difference between the two. SCFM is the flow rate that you get at a set standard. So manufacturers will agree what this standard temperature and pressure is, and provide the CFM at that standard measurement. Whereas CFM is the flow rate that you get at a current time, in different settings, so this can change depending on the environment conditions that you are working in.
What affects the CFM of an air compressor?
There are many things that can affect the CFM of an air compressor. The main factor is the temperature and the humanity that you are working in, as the air pressure outside the tank will affect the air pressure that can be created and then released inside the tank. Not only this but air flow is always lost through hose fittings, filters and longer hoses, so the further away from the air compressor you are working, the lower the CFM you will achieve.