While getting an air compressor may seem like a pretty straightforward and simple decision to make, in reality it involves a lot of important factors. Yes, you can walk down the road to the nearby shop and buy any air compressor but it may or may not work out for you. Even if it is powerful enough to run your tools and pump up your car tires, there is no guarantee that it will perform the way you want it to or meet your requirements.
Unless you have experience with buying and operating air compressors, you probably might not know which model to buy or which specs to look out for while buying a new air compressor. That said, we are here to help you out with your air compressor purchase and we will tell you which features you need to look out for when buying one.
Just remember that there is no “best air compressor” or “worst air compressor”, the best one is the one that works best for you and meets your needs. Read our review to see our choice for best residential air compressor.
Porter-Cable C2002-WK Oil-Free Pancake Compressor with Accessory Kit
The Porter Cable C202-WK is an extremely popular choice among home users due to its compact size, powerful performance, and solid build. This compressor comes with a pancake-style tank to reduce the overall size, and it can hold a good 6 gallons of pressurized air at a maximum pressure of 150 psi, which is more than enough to operate any household air powered tool such as a nail gun, framer, or sanding gun.
The 6-gallon tank holds enough air to power air-hungry tools and can be refilled within a short time of losing pressure as the motor will automatically kick in. Talking about the motor, it is capable of generating continuous airflow of 2.6 SCFM at a pressure of 90psi. The air compressor comes with a 13-piece accessory kit that includes a lightweight 25-foot long hose and chuck. Since this electric motor is not oil lubricated, it will generate a fair amount of noise hence you might want to be careful about operating it at night time in dense neighborhoods.
STAR BUDGET PICK
Porter-Cable CMB15 Oil-Free Fully Shrouded Compressor
If you plan on buying a portable compressor for pumping up your car tires or punching in some nails, then this is the best budget option you can possibly get. It features a gas-powered motor and is only 20 lbs meaning that it can easily be lifted by hand and carried anywhere outside for working on your roof, fence or whatever else you may wish.
The tank capacity is limited at just 1.5 gal, but this compressor is designed to be portable and handy so don’t try using it on framers or sanding machines. The continuous air flow performance is a little low because of that tiny tank. But the entire unit is fully self-contained in an ergonomic box, and the tank only takes a few seconds to refill.
Air can be stored at 150psi in the tank and there are rubber feet to prevent the base from sliding around during operation. The included hose and accessories are average, but for a compressor at this price point, it should do the job nicely for most homeowners.
DeWalt DWFP55126 Pancake Compressor
The Dewalt is without a doubt one of the better performing compressors on the market, with a 6-gallon air tank that can store air at an impressive 165 psi max pressure. Certainly better than its similarly priced competitors as the higher air pressure allows you to get more air from the same 6-gallon pancake tank that you will find in most pancake air compressors of this class.
Its airflow performance is exactly similar to that of our number one choice, the Porter Cable C2002-WK. This Dewalt can pump out 2.6SCFM of air at 90 psi, meaning that it is amazing for work that requires continuous air flow, and can fit in with a variety of tools due to its large pressure range. It is even quieter than most other compressors, due to the 75.5 dBA sound levels.
An oil lubricated pump would have made this great machine even quieter than it already is, but then it would also have increased maintenance. A mere 30 pound weight makes the whole assembly easy to transport and carry. There were a few customers who complained about leaking fittings that resulted in a pressure drop after crossing 140 psi of tank pressure. Having said this, given Dewalt’s reputation for manufacturing quality products, that could have been a rare case of manufacturing error at the factory. We don’t believe it’s an issue and feel confident that this compressor makes our list of best residential air compressor
Makita MAC700 Big Bore Air Compressor
The Makita features a more traditional cylinder shaped air tank with a gauge on the side, meaning that it occupies more floor space than most other air compressors in the same weight class. But because of an especially large handle/cowling on the top it is very easy to transport the air compressor around the house or workplace.
The pump on this compressor is a single stage piston pump made from cast iron, with an especially large bore that delivers great air flow coupled with a motor that runs at speeds in excess of 1700rpm. The larger bore and stroke means that the motor can pump larger volumes of air at lower rpm levels, hence the noise levels can be kept low. However that decreased noise level comes at a price, as it is oil lubricated unlike the other entries on our list meaning that you will be paying for more frequent maintenance charges if you want to keep it functioning safely.
In the long run that might equate to a significant amount in oil replacement, but you will reap more benefits than you are paying for since oil-free motors are more prone to wear and tear compared to oil-lubricated motors. The build quality is good, but the construction quality of the higher placed air compressors on this list still surpasses that of this little Makita.
Choosing the Best Residential Air Compressor
First, consider what you plan to do with your air compressor in order to get an estimate of how much air pressure and volumetric air flow you will be needing. Are you going to use it to pump your car tires? Are you going to be slamming nails into the fence? The biggest mistake you could possibly make while buying a new compressor is judging its performance on the sole basis of the motor’s hp output. Yes, more horses are always good to have, but if a 2hp motor can generate the same amount of air flow as a 3hp motor, you will only be wasting money and space by going for a bigger motor.
The first and foremost number you must look up in the stats sheet of a compressor is the CFM, cubic feet per minute of air that it can handle. Check your tools and get a rough estimate of the amount of air flow needed to operate them on a continuous basis. If you need to sand a board, then the CFM matters more than your air tank capacity. If your work involves applications that need a continuous air flow rather than bursts of pressurized air, then you might even do away with the air tank altogether since it is a non-factor, or you can just go for a small air tank, as it will save space and money.
The last thing you need to check is the type of motor your compressor uses – gas or electric. Electric is great if you know for sure that there will be a nearby power outlet during your typical usage scenario. But if you need a truly portable and versatile compressor, that can be used anywhere, then a gas powered motor is the better option despite its higher operating costs.