Over the years, portable air compressors have become an accessory in many workshops, garages and construction sites across the country. These lightweight kits trigger pneumatic tools, including impact wrenches, frame nails, random orbital sanders, staplers, paint sprayers and more.
Portable air compressors are light, compact and affordable. They are also safer for use in hazardous environments compared to power tools that run on electricity.
The air compressor engines run on gas, electricity and, in some cases, diesel. The power is converted into potential energy when the engine stores pressurized air in the tank. The moment the air is released from the tank, that potential energy is converted into kinetic energy that powers your pneumatic tools.
We have listed some of the best portable air compressors you can find online to help you buy the right equipment for your workplace or home.
Our Top Pick
Last update on 2022-11-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Top 10 Best Pancake Compressor To Buy In 2021
Last update on 2022-11-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
10 Best Pancake Compressor Review
- The portable air compressor is proudly made in the USA with Global Materials in Jackson, Tennessee
- PORTABLE: 6 gallon capacity maximizes portability and stored air for CRAFTSMAN air compressor
- NO MAINTENANCE: Durable, oil-free pump of the 6 gallon air compressor is made for long-life and no maintenance
- PRESSURE: 150 Max PSI to ensure adequate cut-inch pressure for a variety of applications
- QUICK RECOVERY TIME: 2.6 SCFM at 90 PSI allows for quick compressor recovery time
- 165 max PSI 6.0 gallon tank (22.7 L) and 2.6 SCFM delivered @ 90 PSI pump, enable long tool run time with quick recovery for the portable air compressor
- High efficiency motor of the electric air compressor is made for easy start up in cold weather or extension cord application. [14 ga or larger, 50 ft. (15.2 m) or less]
- 78.5 dBA noise level of the 6 gallon air compressor is made for a quiet work environment
- High flow regulator and couplers of DEWALT portable air compressor are designed to maximize air tool performance
- Long life oil free pump for maintenance free operation
- The portable air compressor has a long-life oil-free, maintenance-free pump for convenient use
- 150 max PSI 6.0 gallon tank (22.7 L) and 2.6 SCFM* delivered @ 90 PSI pump enable long tool run time with quick recovery of the electric air compressor
- BOSTITCH high efficiency motor of the 6 gallon air compressor is made for easy start up in cold weather or extension cord application [14 GA or larger, 50 ft. (15.2 m) or less]
- 78.5 dBA** operational noise level for a quiet work environment
- 29 lb. weight makes unit easy to carry and store
- Made in the USA with Global Materials
- Shipped in sturdy ecommerce-friendly packaging designed to protect the unit for secure travel
- 150 psi max tank pressure of the portable air compressor allows more air in the tank for longer tool runtimes
- 2.6 SCFM @ 90 psi of the electric air compressor allows for quick compressor recovery time, per ISO1217
- 6 gal Pancake style tank of the PORTER-CABLE air compressor is made for stability, includes water drain valve and rubber feet
- SB-1850BN 18 GA brad nailer in the air compressor combo kit drives 18GA brad nails from 5/8-inch to 2-inch
- SB-1664FN 16 GA straight finish nailer drives 16 GA straight finish nails from 1-1/4-inch to 2-1/2-inch
- BTFP71875 heavy-duty 3/8-inch crown stapler drives 3/8-inch crown staples from 1/4-inch to 9/16-inch and 18GA brad nails from 1/2-inch to 5/8-inch
- 1/4-inch x 15' PVC air hose includes fittings
- MORE PRESSURE: At 200 PSI, this compressor offers 25% greater PSI than a basic pancake compressor
- 30% MORE AIR FLOW: 4 CFM @ 90 PSI allows for multiple large body nailers to be used on a single compressor
- VERSATILITY: Simultaneously runs 2 framing nailers or 2 roofing nailers or 2 siding nailers or 3 finish nailers or 5 brad nailers
- PRODUCTIVITY: Consistently drives nails flush with no delay
- LIGHTWEIGHT: At only 41 lbs, it is 22% lighter compared to a traditional twin-stack compressor
- 150 max PSI 6.0 gallon tank (22.7 L) and 2.6 SCFM delivered at 90 PSI pump, enable long tool run time with quick recovery for the air compressor combo kit
- Compressor features long-life oil-free, maintenance-free pump for convenient use
- BOSTITCH high efficiency motor for easy start up in cold weather or extension cord application [14 ga or larger, 50 ft. (15.2 m) or less]
- 78.5 dBA operational noise level for a quiet work environment
- SB-1850BN 18 GA brad nailer drives 18GA brad nails from 5/8-inch to 2-inch
- This Certified Refurbished product is tested & certified by Ryobi to work like-new but may have scuffs, scrapes and dirt. The product includes all original accessories, and is backed by a 1 Year warranty.
- Locking regulator holds knob in place to prevent unwanted pressure changes
- 1/4 turn ball valve tank drain lets you drain tank quickly with 1 easy turn
- 2 universal push-to-connect quick couplers accept both 1/4 in. automotive and industrial plugs with easy, single-hand connection
- Large, 6 Gal. capacity tank reduces cycle frequency, 150 maximum PSI for the toughest applications
- 3-Gallons Pancake Capacity - 0.5 HP oil free 3 gallon air compressor is the perfect unit for all of your inflation needs - blow cleaning, Brad nailing, stapling, finish nailing, hardwood flooring and light duty bolting and wrenching
- Oil-Free Design Tank - The High-pressure design optimizes air tool performance and delivers 0.8 SCFM at 90 psi for quick recovery time. The oil-free pump provides maintenance-free performance
- Powerful & Efficient Design - The air compressor is also powerful and efficient, thanks to its low-amp, 120-volt motor. The motor starts easily in cold weather, comes with an extension cord
- Optimum Productivity - With 135 PSI max pressure, this motor will give you long runtime and optimum productivity. Complete with built-in automatic thermal overload protection, the compressor runs at 0.8 SCFM at 90 PSI and 1.1 SCFM at 40 PSI for faster recharge of its 0.5-gallon tank
- Build-In Handle - Transporting is also made easy with the integrated cord wrap. Highly portable and exceptionally easy to use
- COMPRESSOR: 6-Gallon pancake style tank delivers reliable and rugged performance
- PSI: 150 PSI of max working pressure for longer run times
- RUN MULTIPLE NAILERS: 2.8 CFM delivered at 90 PSI to operate multiple nailers depending on the application
- MOTOR: 1-HP oil-free high efficiency motor for reliable startups even in cold weather
- PROTECTION: Steel roll cage with rubber grip protects all critical components and provides comfort during transport
Last update on 2022-11-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
WHAT SIZE AIR COMPRESSOR DO I NEED FOR AIR TOOLS?
Air compressors come in many sizes, but the size doesn’t determine whether an air compressor is powerful enough for your air tools. Instead, you should assess the air requirements of your tools and find an air compressor that can meet those requirements.
BIGGER ISN’T ALWAYS BETTER
We’ve all heard that bigger isn’t always better and that’s exceptionally true when it comes to air compressors. There are large air compressors with low air output, and there are compact air compressors with high air output.
In addition, some manufacturers like VMAC have put significant research and development time into creating air compressors that are as small and lightweight as possible, without compromising on power. But not all manufacturers are focused on minimizing size. Therefore, it’s impossible to assess an air compressor’s capability by its size.
HOW TO DETERMINE YOUR AIR NEEDS
Instead of assessing an air compressor’s capability by its size, operators should look at how much air it delivers, which is measured in Cubic Feet Per Minute (CFM). As a guideline, air compressors meant for powering tools fall in the 30 to 140 CFM range. Air compressors with lower CFM ratings are meant for passenger tire inflation, while higher CFM air compressors are designed for industrial applications.
To narrow down your specific requirements, look at the CFM requirements of the most powerful air tool you use. Also note whether the CFM rating is for 100% duty cycle, as many continuous-use tools are still rated as if you’re only using them 50 to 60%—you will need a higher CFM rating if you don’t want to stop regularly. If you use more than one tool at a time, combine their CFM rating together to determine your need.
Once you know how much CFM your air tools require, you’ll also know how powerful your air compressor needs to be. Try to find an air compressor that meets your air output needs without going too far over.
AIR RECEIVER TANKS
Air receiver tanks are a great way to increase the amount of air available over the short term. These tanks are required for reciprocating air compressors, while rotary screw compressors generally don’t require a receiver tank due to their 100% duty cycle capability. However, in some cases, operators can choose a lower CFM rotary screw air compressor if they have an air receiver tank.
You can learn more about air receiver tanks, including sizing information, in this article.
AIR TOOL CONSUMPTION CHART
If you don’t want to look up your tools’ CFM ratings, the fastest way to determine how much air you need is to look at an existing Air Tool Consumption Guide. These guides break down the typical CFM required for most tools and make it easy for operators to know their CFM requirements.
30-40 CFM Air Compressor 60-70 CFM Air Compressor 150 CFM Air Compressor
¾” impact wrench 1” impact wrench Trenchless piercing tools
Chipping hammers Sanders Pneumatic saws
2” horizontal grinders Large (3”+) vertical & horizontal grinders Post-pounders
Tire inflation OTR tire inflation Rock drills
Die grinders 60lb jackhammer 90lb jackhammer
Backfill tampers Backfill tampers Air knives
To view the rest of the info, download our air tool consumption chart here!
FINDING THE RIGHT AIR COMPRESSOR
Once you know your CFM requirements, it’s time to start narrowing down air compressors. There’s a lot to consider:
Rotary screw vs. reciprocating
Portable vs. stationary
Fortunately, a bit of research will help you make quick decisions about the right type of air compressor for you.
Types Of Portable Air Compressors
These are compact and portable pieces of equipment that are commonly used to inflate toys, tires of smaller vehicles, and bike tires. These have corded versions and cordless battery-powered ones. Keep in mind that air inflators are not designed to be used with air tools or used to inflate tires of larger vehicles.
Pancake Air Compressors
These small air compressors are characterized by a pancake-like metal tank or cylinder. They are light, easy to use, and portable. Pancake air compressors are used to power small air tools and for minor projects at home.
While it is useful for minor household use, keep in mind that its tank has a low capacity owing to its small size. You might need to wait for the tank to refill repeatedly if you’re working for several hours.
Hotdog Air Compressors
You can tell hotdog air compressors with their elongated metal tanks that look like… well, hot dogs. The size of these hot dog tanks ranges between 1 and 7 gallons.
They are ideal for most minor household projects, and commonly used for powering most pneumatic tools. Get the largest hot dog compressor tank you can afford if you plan to use it with heavy-duty air tools.
Twin-Stack Air Compressors
If you’re using heavy-duty pneumatic tools in professional settings and you don’t want to wait for the tank to fill up before you can use it again, then a twin-stack air compressor is the ideal equipment for you.
This is characterized by one elongated tank stacked against another. These, too, are portable, but they are not as lightweight or as compact as pancake or hotdog air compressors.
Portable Vertical and Horizontal Tank Air Compressors
These air compressors come with larger tanks and are ideal for heavy-duty and professional use. If you are remodeling your kitchen or adding a new section to your home and using it with tools that demand plenty and continuous airflow, then these are the ideal air compressors for you.
The tanks are oriented vertically or horizontally. The wheels at the base ensure that they are portable.
Wheelbarrow Air Compressors
Wheelbarrow air compressors are ideal for large jobsites or ones with uneven terrain. They are portable and durable with handles that resemble that of wheelbarrows.
The Benefits of Small Air Compressors
There are a number of benefits attached to using an air compressor for maintenance work. These include:
– Longer lasting tools
– Better for the environment
– More professional results
– More flexible
As with any product, however, there are different benefits attached to different brands and makes of the same thing. This is worth reviewing and doing research on as your needs are more than likely different to the next persons and everyone wants something different out a product, even if the basic function and desire is quite similar!
Oil vs. Oil-free Tanks
Some small air compressors need oil to function, and other models do not. It depends on how they are made and who made them. The oil serves as lubrication, to keep the parts moving smoothly with each other. Therefore small air compressors that require oil are obviously higher maintenance than those that do not and have additional running costs attached.
Pros of Oil-free Tanks
– Low to no maintenance
– Less running costs
– Less noise
– Less mess
– More adaptability
– Better for the environment
Pros of Oil Tanks
– More power
– More durable
– Bigger task capacity
It seems to be the case that the majority or at least a larger percentage of small air compressors available on the market at the moment use oil-free tanks. This is definitely looking like a favorable option in terms of levels of maintenance and portability. People use small air compressors for smaller jobs, and therefore don’t want a lot of extra effort attached to their purchase. Oil-free tanks certainly provide that option better than small air compressors with oil lubricated tanks.
The Noise Factor
One of the big considerations for small air compressors is how noisy they will be and how much that bothers you. It might be very important to you that they are quiet as to not disrupt your workspace overly, or you may not care if they are just for quick jobs such as pumping up your tires. However, it is worth noting that some small air compressors operate very quietly (as low as 60 decibels) and some really do make a roar.
So with that in mind, always check if this is something that will sway your decision either way. Remember that just because an air compressor is quiet, does not mean that it is less powerful and likewise just because an air compressor kicks out a lot of noise does not mean that it has a lot of power to back it up!
1. Tank capacity
The tank is one of the most important parts of the pancake compressor. It is basically where the compressor stores all its compressed air.
So, logically, this will usually translate into a more efficient model because the motor does not have to constantly suck in air to compress.
However, you will also need to consider your usability. If you plan to use the pancake compressor for an extended period, then it is best to go with a model that has a higher tank capacity than a smaller one.
In general, you can expect the largest pancake compressor’s tank to be 6 gallons and the smallest around 2.5 gallons.
2. Max pressure
In order to prevent leakages in your pancake compressor, you need to factor in its maximum pressure as well.
As its name suggests, this is simply the maximum amount of pressure that this compressor can withstand.
As far as possible, you should aim for a pancake compressor that has a maximum pressure of at least 100 PSI.
However, if you want the best of the best, then go with a model that has a maximum pressure of 150 PSI or more.
3. Air delivery
This is the air output of the pancake compressor. It is measured in SCFM or standard cubic feet per minute, and it basically shows you how fast air exits the compressor.
The higher the air delivery, the more powerful and performing the pancake compressor will be. For general-purpose usage that requires an air compressor, you can safely go with a model that has an air delivery of at least 1.2 SCFM at 90 PSI.
However, if you have demanding devices like power tools, then it is always best to go with a model that can deliver at least 2.5 SCFM of air delivery.
Of course, you will need to check your requirements first before purchasing. This is because a light-duty tool that requires a low air delivery will not necessarily work with a high air delivery pancake compressor.
4. Noise level
One big problem with most air compressors is noise. Indeed, they are usually noisy, which makes them almost impossible to use at night or in quiet work environments.
Thankfully, the pancake compressor is a bit quieter. And you can generally expect him a noise level of around 69 dB for a good quality pancake compressor.
This is still not dead silent but environmentally friendly and can be used at night without disturbing your neighbor if necessary.
The pancake compressor is not the lightest tool that you can get. However, manufacturers make provision for portability because most models are usually equipped with a carry handle.
This makes it significantly easier to carry the pancake compressor regardless of its weight.
Moreover, the weight of the pancake compressor generally varies anywhere from 25 lbs up to 62 lbs. depending on the model you want to get.
6. Extra features
Easy tank draining: It’s important that the pancake compressor is equipped with a way to drain the tank.
If you don’t plan to use your compressor for an extended period, you need an easy and safe way to drain all the air for storage.
User-friendly gauges: For most models, the air delivery is not a fixed value and can be adjusted using the air delivery adjustment system.
Therefore, you need a convenient way to know the exact air pressure that your compressor is delivering by ensuring that it has an easy-to-read gauge.
Rubber feet: In order to prevent vibrations and excessive noise, you should ensure that your compressor has rubber feet.
This will not only dampen the vibrations of the compressor but also provide it with more stability.
What are Small Air Compressors used For?
It is important to know what small air compressors are actually used for and therefore find out if they are indeed the product you require. In reality, they have a number of different functions attached to them and can be used for various jobs in various circumstances. They are used generally, however, as a power source for tools in construction and DIY jobs.
They pump air (often high pressured) into gas cylinders to power machinery and tools though they can also be used to pump up tires (normally for cars or motorcycles) as well. They are a time-saving tool, allowing you to complete the task at hand much faster than if you were to undertake it manually. The types of tools they can power include but are not exclusive:
– Pneumatic paint sprayers
– Pneumatic sanders
– Nail guns
Lots of people do use the small air compressors to exclusively pump up tires, and therefore it is important that the air compressor is portable and durable, as it will be stored in a car most likely at a varying range of temperatures and made to travel over varying levels and types of terrain. There are some really good options on the market for people wanting air compressors for this purpose; definitely worth checking out reviews if this is what you are looking for.
Of course, what you want the small air compressor for will ultimately dictate which level of air compressor you buy. The more powerful ones are obviously better suited for someone who wishes to run multiple tools at any given time, though if this is not the case, it may be worth considering one that uses less power and functions more slowly. Either way, there are plenty of options for either.
How do Small Air Compressors Work?
Small air compressors essentially push air from the tank in the unit, into the tools that you want to use for either DIY, hobbies or work purposes. They can be gas powered or electrically powered, and that is down to personal preference as to where you are going to be using your air compressor. Gas powered air compressors are generally heavier, but more durable and have a bit more power attached to them.
Electrical air compressors are generally more portable and more suited to smaller workspaces. The majority of air compressors have motors that regulate the tank usage and capacity, i.e., when the tank is full of pressurized air, the motor will switch off and reboot when necessary as to not cause complications to the work process.
What Type of Oil do you Put in a Small Air Compressor?
Air compressors use a variety of different oils, however, in general, a specific oil for air compressors should be bought and used otherwise the product will not work properly, and the maintenance required will be of a much higher rate than otherwise. It does not matter if it is standard or synthetic, that is down to personal choice.
Always read the instructions and recommendations from the company that will come with the small air compressor. This is the best and smartest way to decide which oil to use and will provide the best results.
If you don’t follow the recommendations set out by the manufacturer and experience a malfunction in the air compressor because of this, the warranty will more than likely be null and void and you will be stuck with a broken product.
Did you know?
The air compressor has a rich history with a long origin story. It has seen many primitive models and designs that ultimately led to the advance model we have available for us today, but early designs started way back in the 1700s with the same basic principles and ideas behind them.
Our Three Top Picks
If you are dealing with a tight budget, we recommend you to choose the Campbell Hausfeld FP2028.
According to our research, This offers a good performance within a reasonable budget. So, it will be a smart step for you to choose this compressor if you want to save some money.
PORTER-CABLE C2002 The best pancake air compressor that you can buy right now. With a moderate price and full of a lot of features, the PORTER-CABLE C2002 comes to the top of the top-rated pancake air compressor list.
This air compressor will provide you with all the features you need in a pancake compressor.
DEWALT DWFP55126 has the capability of performing the most powerful functions is the one according to the experts.
As we have seen, the pancake compressor is an excellent choice for those who need a high capacity air compressor that is highly portable.
Best, operating the pancake air compressor is very easy to do. All adjustments like air delivery can be made right at the front of the compressor. Also, they can power a wide range of tools, so it’s versatile.