What Is a Micro-Compressor?

Lori Kilchermann

A micro-compressor is an air compressor that is much smaller in size than the typical garage-type air compressor. Typically operated on battery power, the micro-compressor can be a portable unit used for emergency flat tire situations or for inflating water toys at the beach. Other uses for the micro-compressor are found in the custom automobile industry, where the petite pumps are used to operate air bag type suspension components on low-rider type vehicles and off-road vehicles.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

One of the downfalls of a micro-compressor is the inability to deliver large quantities of compressed air at high pressures. The relative size of the pumping component of the small machine prohibits large scale air movement in most cases. The average micro-compressor operates at very high speed in order to generate enough compressed air to fill a reserve tank. When air is used from the tank, it often takes considerable time to replenish the tank's reserve supply. Overheating is often a common problem in using a micro-compressor for long-term air supply operations.

An upside to using the small compressor is the ability to place the pumps in out-of-the-way locations. Inside automobile body cavities, frame rails and under seats, the small air compressors are free to do their jobs while not causing an eyesore in an otherwise customized or show-style of vehicle. When used as an emergency tool, the small size allows the device to be kept out of the way until needed. While some of the pumps are virtually silent, other typically lower-cost units tend to be very noisy. The noise is commonly not an issue when choosing a compressor to use in an emergency application, however, this can be problematic when purchasing a compressor for frequent use, such as to power a custom vehicle suspension.

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Other uses for the micro-compressor are in the operation of an airbrush and other art supplies. The mini compressor units are more than capable of supplying the air required to power an airbrush. The small painting devices can be used to create custom T-shirts by sidewalk vendors as well as for detailing larger works in studio settings. These micro-compressor designs are commonly powered on household power and are of a very high quality. Designed with very efficient pumping units, these small compressors are able to supply large amounts of high-pressure air for extended periods without overheating or allowing the pressure to fall off.

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