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How Do I Choose the Best Small Compressor?

Amy Rodriguez
Amy Rodriguez

Purchasing a small compressor requires consideration of a number of factors, including tank shape, power source, and performance. During compressor shopping, you should keep in mind which air tools you will operate with the new purchase; larger and more powerful tools, such as a sander, will require a big compressor. In addition, you should look for an oil-free small compressor model, as opposed to oil lubricated machines that require periodic maintenance.

Small air compressors are available in a variety of different tank shapes and orientations, such as horizontal and vertical. A horizontal small compressor design moves the machine's center of gravity closer to the ground for a stable position. As a result, these compressor types are well matched to a truck installation, like on a repair technician's service vehicle. These machines are also installed in home or small business workshops; however, you should note that the horizontal tank does take more floor space than its vertical alternative. This machine is normally picked up and moved by using its handle assembly for use in other areas of a workroom.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

A vertical small compressor can be picked up by its handle or moved around on attached wheels for added portability. The tall length of this small compressor makes it suited for a stationary position in a workroom, rather than on a moving vehicle; the higher center of gravity can cause the machine to tip over. Some vertical compressors are available in a "pancake" shape; the tank's middle section is essentially squeezed outward to create the appearance of a pancake stack while the tank is shorter in height overall.

A small compressor can be powered by electric or gas. Electrical compressors are popular since they can be operated inside and outside of a building without producing any harmful fumes. One main drawback to this small compressor is the need for a nearby electric source; in some cases, you may need to use the compressor outside where electricity is not available. For these situations, compressor manufacturers offer a gas powered machine meant for outdoor applications. The fumes that emanate from the compressor must be well ventilated to prevent users from becoming ill.

The new compressor should offer slightly more air flow than your most power-demanding air tool, such as a nail gun. You can consult with an air compressor salesperson to determine the correct model for your particular applications. Consumers should not try to power heavy duty tools with a small compressor; the air flow will not allow the tool to work correctly and may cause the user harm.

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