Sure, you can hook up an air compressor to blow-guns, paint-sprayers, and sandblasters. But this marvel of engineering that uses electricity and mechanics, a law of Thermodynamics and Boyle’s Law, also even ‘powers’ pneumatic tools, from little brad guns all the way to big bad drills.
Think of an Air Compressor as your personal and portable mini-power plant. Yes, of course you can spray paint, inflate your automobile’s tyres, and use jets of pressurised air to clean caked grime off delicate materials with an air compressor. However, this accessory is much more than just a sprayer, an inflator, or a blower, and a DIY enthusiast will typically view his air compressor as his – like we said – personal and portable mini-power plant.
An air compressor actually ‘powers’ pneumatic tools, and there are many, many such tools. Pneumatic drills, impact wrenches, orbital sanders, brad nail guns, sandblasters, and even jackhammers are just a few examples. Though pneumatic tools run cooler and last longer than conventional power tools, perhaps counterintuitively, they are, pound-for-pound, actually more powerful than electrically-powered tools and are also lighter.
An air compressor comprises essentially of a motor that converts electricity into compressed air, a tank for storing the compressed air, pistons, crankshaft, cylinder, output flow knob, main valve, safety drain valve, pressure gauges, air outlets and on/off switch.
Air Compressors not only come in many shapes and sizes, they also differ in their operational principle and mechanical design. Of these various types of air compressors the type that most DIY and hobbyist models correspond to is the single-stage piston compressor.
However, air compressors are best classified by power output, tank size, maximum pressure, and flow rate. Professional and industrial grade air compressors are very large and also very powerful; they have tank sizes of 270 litres and greater, and their maximum air pressure can top 70 bar. Affordable air compressors for home workshops and hobbyist purposes have a power output from 750 to 2000 watts, a tank size from 12 to 50 litres, maximum pressure of up to 10 bar (or 150 PSI), and a flow rate from 145 litres/minute to 270 litres/minute – and they cost about one-tenth as much as professional-class air compressors.
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Underneath we present five air compressors that won’t bust your budget but will drive your pneumatic tools and also double up as sprayers, inflators, and blowers.
Cobra’s very powerful and capacious compressor will run most types of pneumatic tools but it is not very strong or robust yet at its price its a terrific buy.
Cost: Price not available
Cobra’s air compressor has 1865 watts of power. The tank is a whopping 50 litres and it has an impressive airflow of 270 litres/minute at 8 bar.
These specs make this air compressor a very smart buy for running all kinds of hobbyist-class pneumatic tools. Besides light-duty use such as spray painting and sand-blasting, this rig can be used to ‘power’ air tools like brad nail guns, air impact wrenches, pneumatic drills, and more.
It features an automatic pressure cut-out switch with twin drain valves. It also has two outlets, each of which has a separate pressure gauge.
The drawback to this powerful rig is the flimsiness of a few plastic components. The air filter and connectors in particular can snap or break and need TLC treatment.
Sometimes units get shipped without necessary screws or washers. As for that soft hissing sound, a few units develop slow air leaks near the regulators’ valves.
You’ll have to try to decipher the pidgin English booklet; that stated, the wheels, filters, etc. are not too difficult to put together.
Cobra’s air compressor takes Universal and U.K. quick fit connectors. It weighs 40 kilogrammes.
Notwithstanding the occasional missing part and the average build quality, Cobra’s air compressor is priced competitively – in the same price range as the others in this review – yet has a huge tank – twice the capacity of the next-biggest one – plus a very high and powerful air-flow, the joint-highest among our reviewed choices. It simply ‘blows away’ the competition and therefore has to get the nod as the Best Pick.
Cobra provides a one-year warranty. Their seller provides excellent customer service.
- Among hobbyist-class compressors, a huge tank and very respectable flow-rate.
- Good to power air tools without reservation.
- Very pocket-friendly price, making this kit a good bargain.
- Some plastic components are flimsy and can break.
- Once in a while a unit will develop a leak.
The reliability and durability of Parker Brand’s compressor are welcome surprises; factor in the respectable specs and generous extras, and it’s a top value.
Parker Brand’s 24-litre air compressor has a flow rate of 272 litres/minute at 8 bar. The actual pressure may be a touch below 8 bar, however.
It has an automatic on/off control and a built-in regulator. It also has an automatic safety drain valve.
On the noisiness scale this one’s smack-dab in the middle.
With two wheels at the rear, a really well-designed and very comfortable handle to pull it with makes this 26.5-kilogramme compressor one of the more portable ones.
While Parker’s compressor has grunt enough to inflate even truck tyres, it can be used for light-duty pneumatic tools such impact wrenches, brad nail guns, and even air drills. The 24-litre tank will not last very long though. This air compressor works particularly well with the very effective supplied air blow-gun and other accessories.
This model is reliable and durable.
Even if on any given day Parker’s air-compressor is a fiver more than one or two of our other selections, it’s still a steal because of what the astonishing package deal includes. You get a tool kit, a tyre inflator with gauge, an air blow-gun, an oil spray-gun with a suction cup, a paint spray-gun, and 4 metres of recoiling spiral hose (air line), plus a 1/4-inch BSP connector and a Euro quick connect. This array of accessories puts this kit over the top as our Value Pick choice.
Parker provides a two-year warranty.
- Reliable and durable piece of machinery.
- Impressive flow-rate for a DIY air compressor.
- The whole package deal constitutes an unbeatable value for money.
- This is not an air compressor that operates quietly.
- The air pressure may not be quite 8 bar.
Very noisy but also really ‘pressure packed,’ Stanley’s air compressor has good features, upright design, and is lightweight – and even the price is right.
A 2000-watt motor compresses air in a 24-litre tank in the D200/10/24V. It has a flow-rate of 180 litres/minute at 10 bar.
Stanley’s D200/10/24V is sold at a comparatively better price range, all things considered, than other models and configurations in the same series; as such, it gives the biggest bang for the buck.
Pressure can be preset using the front knob. There is a safety drain valve at the bottom.
Stanley’s rig has more than enough air with which to top up tyres, even SUV tyres. The kit’s healthy air-flow is good not only for all kinds of spraying uses but also to power nail guns nails to drive in brads up to 50 millimetres, staple guns, and other medium-duty pneumatic tools for short periods. Actually it is this kit’s air pressure that is very healthy and puts it at the high end of the range in hobbyist- and DIY-class compressors.
This air compressor is noisier than most others in its class.
Build quality is good.
The D200/10/24V has an upright design and has quite a comfortable handle on the shroud, with which it is not difficult to haul around this relatively lightweight 15-kilogramme rig.
Most units do not have a standard U.K. plug and a U.K. adaptor may or may not be included – it’s the luck of the draw.
- Impressive air pressure, rated and actual.
- Upright design, light weight, and ergonomic handle makes it very portable.
- The pick of the litter of Stanley’s hobbyist- and DIY-class compressors.
- Rather noisy operation and more so than most others.
- Will you or won’t you get a unit that can be plugged into a U.K. electrical point straightaway?
Modest flow-rate and dodgy plastic parts are the drawbacks while amazingly quiet operation and oil-free design are the big draws of Orazio’s air compressor.
Cost: Price not available
Orazio’s 24-litre air compressor has a flow-rate of 95 litres/minute at 8 bar. It sports a 750-watt motor.
This kit’s power and specs are more than sufficient for all blowing and spraying uses but not so much for pneumatic tools. The flow-rate is modest so you can use it for only light-duty air tools like staple guns, brad guns, and blow guns.
It is an oil-free compressor with auto start and stop. Because it is oil free, air tools that should not be oiled will be protected from inadvertent entry of oil mist.
This rig’s standout quality is its very quiet operation; it does not make a harsh noise like other compressors but produces more of a background hum. With a noise level of only 65 dB, you can carry on a normal conversation with the Orazio humming away in the room. However, robustness and durability are not areas where this air compressor shines. Components like the metal pull-release and one or another valve can break.
Now and then units get shipped without some or another part, say the wheels or the air filter.
It is recommended that a regulator be purchased separately. However, you can remove the black plastic cover that houses the control switch and regulate pressure manually.
Orazio’s air compressor weighs 18 kilogrammes. It has two wheels and a metal handle that serves its purpose.
Putting the few separate parts together is a simple task.
Build quality is acceptable but at the price this rig, all said, is a good buy especially if your flat’s walls are wafer-thin.
- One of the softest-running DIY air compressors means no complaints from the missus or the kids.
- Oil-free rig ensures against undesirable entry of oil mist into air tools that are meant to function without oil.
- Assembly, what to speak of it, is a five-minute job.
- It’s not exactly robust; some or another component may break.
- Modest flow-rate means it can power only the ‘lightest-duty’ air tools.
Teeny tank but rugged and sturdy, its top build quality sets apart Black + Decker’s rig which is very noisy but holds all its air and maintains its pressure.
Powered by 1120 watts, Black + Decker’s 12-litre air compressor has a flow-rate of 180 litres/minute at 10 bar. The pressure of 10 bar is about as good as it gets for home- and hobbyist-use air compressors but the tank is definitely at the low end at only 12 litres.
This kit is also available in a more lightweight and portable version at a little lower price, having a 6-litre tank with other specifications being the same.
An oversized knob controls a regulator to allow you to adjust external pressure. It also has an external pump for effective cooling. The handle is not very comfortable and its design is not the most thoughtful.
This little but hardy air compressor is perfectly good for connecting to smaller pneumatic tools but only in short bursts due to tank’s small capacity. It will power brad gun nailers and air ratchets easily, it can power disc cutters too, but using it with impact drivers will stretch its capabilities.
It is perfect for maintaining pressure in your tyres, powering blow guns, and similar tasks.
It has Euro Series 25 quick release couplings.
This is one seriously loud air compressor and it may be just too noisy for some. On the other side of the equation, there are no soft hissing sounds from this one; once filled, it stays filled.
The standout quality of Black + Decker’s rig is the exceptional build quality. Weighing a mere 13 kilogrammes, this sturdy little thing is built like an ox.
- Really good air pressure at 10 bar.
- One of the best tanks among DIY air compressors will not develop slow leaks.
- Solid and sturdy, this kit exhibits top build quality.
- Tiny tank means very low capacity.
- The handle is not ergonomically designed or constructed.
How Does An Air Compressor Work?
An air compressor is a fairly complex machine that uses electricity to power mechanical parts to create pressurised air that is stored as potential energy. When the discharge coupler is ‘triggered,’ the pressurised air is released through it.
Essentially, electrical power is used to drive a piston back and forth adjacent to a tank. On the backstroke the piston creates a vacuum in the cylinder. To satisfy the vacuum, air rushes in through the inlet valves – because they are valves, by definition they are one way. Then on the downstroke, the same air that was sucked in is pushed by the piston through another valve that is internal to the machine into the storage tank. This valve too is one way; it does not let the air in the tank back into the cylinder.
This pumping process is repeated and the air in the tank keeps getting more and more compressed and gains in pressure. When the air compressor’s tank’s maximum capacity and pressure are nearly reached, the motor automatically cuts off.
Once the tank contains compressed air – even if it is partially full and is not fully pressurised – the compressed air can be used. It is a (not-so) simple matter of connecting a pneumatic tool to one end of the air line and hooking up the other end of the air line to the air compressor’s discharge coupler, and using the regulator – if there is one – to set the desired pressure.
How To Hook Up An Air Compressor
Different air compressors have different types of connectors as do different air tools, and you need to run the latter off the former. But just how to hook up the two? A conceptual and practical outline follows.
You will need an ‘air line’ – a flexible hose specifically meant to convey pressurised air – which has suitable connectors at each end, one for your air compressor and the other for your air tool. Like as not, it will be difficult to get an air line to satisfy both your air compressor and air tool so you may need the right adaptor fitting (also called just adaptor). There are different connector types (standards) with EURO and 1/4-inch BSP being the most prevalent.
Basically, at each end you need a male-female connection (of the same standard), and you will use couplers to make the connection. Couplers are so called because it is only when they ‘couple’ or ‘mate’ that the internal ‘check’ – consider it a variation on a valve – opens and allows air to flow through.
In a nutshell, the trick in hooking up an air tool to an air compressor is in having the right coupling between one end of the air line and the air compressor, and between the other end of the air line and the air tool.
Typically you will need a female connector at one end of the air line to connect to the male discharge coupler on the air compressor. If there is no appropriate female connector at one end of your air line, you will need to screw in a male-to-female adaptor fitting. On the other end of the air line you will also need the appropriate coupler so that one end threads into the air line and the other into your air tool.
Now you are ready to hook up your air tool to your air compressor via the air line. Remember that you first connect the air line to the air tool and then connect it to the air compressor.
Kersie learnt the basics of gardening as a toddler, courtesy of his grandfather. In his youth he was an active gardener with a preference for flowering plants. He is a professional and vocational writer and his freelance projects have spanned various kinds of writing.