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Best Portable Air Compressor To Buy In 2021 [Buyer’s Guide]

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Whether you’re on the road in your RV camper, hitting the trail on your ATV or mountain bike, or just needing to add some extra air to your vehicle tires before a road trip, a portable air compressor is a great piece of equipment to have around.

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There are so many portable air compressors on the market, how do you know which is best? The difference lies in manufacturing and construction. In this guide, we break down pros and cons of the top portable air compressors on the market so you can make an informed decision.

What Is a Portable Air Compressor?

A portable air compressor is very versatile when it comes to its function. They can be used at home if needed and they are also an essential tool to have when you travel or go RV camping. They can power pneumatic tools like nail guns, paint sprayers, angle grinders, and air sprayers. And one of its main functions is providing quick air for flat tires making them essential outdoor gear if you are into ATV riding or mountain biking.

This multifunctional tool is lightweight and compact making it easy to carry around and use for several purposes. It has a motor and air tank where compressed air is stored and ready for you to use. 

What Do You Use A Portable Air Compressor For?

There area many situations where you can use portable air compressors. And unlike the massive industrial air compressor, it can be carried just abut any where you need it. Here are some of the uses of portable air compressor.

  • It is used to inflate tires– Unfortunately, a flat tire is going to happen to most road trippers, RV campers, outdoor enthusiasts from time to time. It’s important to keep a check on your air pressure before heading out on and adventure, and a portable air compressor comes in pretty handy when you find you have a flat or jsut need a top off.
  • Used for different household tasks– Portable air compressors are great if you are handy around the house. It can be hooked up to many tools at home such as air powered nail guns, airbrush paint guns, and can some of the smaller units can even be use to air up balloons for birthday parties.
  • Maximize its use at work– Finally, those who do a lot of work in construction, professional painters, and other handymen jobs will find a portable air compressor to be a tool of necessity.

Types Of Portable Air Compressor

There are four main types of portable air compressors to choose from.

  • Pancake compressors– These have a round and flat tank with the motor on the bottom and pump on top. Its design allows for better stability and they take up less space compared to the other types.
  • Hot dog air compressor– This type has a horizontal, single, cylindrical tank with the motor and pump on top. They are available in a range of sizes.
  • Twin stack air compressor– This type has two cylindrical tanks. It’s like two hotdog styles in one.
  • Wheelbarrow air compressor– This type has two large cylindrical tanks on the base and often comes with wheels and handles for easy movement and transportation. 

What To Consider When Buying A Portable Air Compressor?

To choose the best portable air compressor consider these things features.

  • Power source– Air compressors run on gas or electricity, the latter being the most common power supply. Electric compressors can be either 120V or 240V, and require less maintenance, and are more quiet compared to the gas types. Battery-powered compressors are starting to get more popular, but compared to the two options it has lower power capacity and is much better for low supply applications.
  • Specification– The two main things you should consider when choosing an air compressor are the CFM and PSI.
    • CFM or Cubic feet per minute tell you the volume of air that the unit can sustain. The value of CFM is inversely proportional with PSI, when PSI decreases the CFM will increase and vice versa.
    • PSI or Pounds per square inch describes the maximum pressure the pump can store in the tank. Good air compressor units have a minimum of 125 PSI. High-end models have higher PSI. 
  • Noise Level- Air compressors can produce sound up to 70-92 decibels loud. And that is some serious level of noise considering that an average conversation produces 60 decibels of sound. Choose units that are quieter, preferably something below 60 decibels. Choose a unit that has a belt-drive system since they make less sound and is quieter compared to direct-drive systems.
  • Tank Size & Capacity- This is one of the most essential features to consider since it tells you the amount of air volume your compressor can hold. A large tank means it can hold more air ready for you to use. The standard tanks can hold between 150 to 200 PSI, but some units can be used for high-pressure applications ranging from 300 up to 3000 PSI.
  • Compressor tanks have expiration dates so be sure to check your tanks every now and then.
  • Couplers– The more couplers there are on the air compressor, the more tasks it can handle. An air compressor with multiple couplers can use multiple tools at the same time without the need to disconnect and reconnect when going between tools. This isn’t probably necessary for household use but is important for the commercial user.
  • Pump type- There are two types of air compressor pumps: oiled and oil-free. Oil-free systems deliver better quality air and are easier to maintain.

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What Is The Best Portable Air Compressor To Buy?

Now that you have a clearer understanding of the different types of portable air compressors and how they work, let’s look at the pros and cons of some of the top portable air compressors on the market.

Best Portable Air Compressor

Maintenance of Portable Air Compressors

Just like any other tool or device that you have, it is important that you know how to take care of your portable air compressor unit to extend its life and keep it working for a long time.

  • Make sure you read the air compressor’s manual for any specific maintenance instructions.
  • Regularly check for leaks, oil, and coolant levels, and change air filters as needed.
  • Clean the intake vents regularly especially if you’re in a dusty environment.
  • Drain the water or the moisture that may have built up from the air compressor tanks.
  • Since air compressors constantly vibrate while in use there is a chance that screws or bolts might get loose, so make sure to check them as well.
  • Check the condition of the hoses regularly because a break or crack in the hoses would mean air leakage.
  • Make sure to check and clean the fuel tanks and ensure there isn’t any fuel build-up inside.

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