The Best Portable Air Compressor What You Need To Know While Buying One

If you are busy, here is the best portable air compressor that you should buy

California Air Tools 5510SE Ultra Quiet and Oil-Free 1.0-HP 5.5-Gallon Steel Tank Air Compressor
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California Air Tools 5510SE Ultra Quiet and Oil-Free 1.0-HP 5.5-Gallon Steel Tank Air Compressor
  • Oil-Free Pump - Cleaner air for better tool operation. Less maintenance and Costs
  • 3.10 CFM at 40 PSI & 2.20 CFM at 90 PSI
  • 120 PSI Maximum Pressure
  • The "New" SP Series of Ultra Quiet Air Compressor Motors have been designed to increase duty cycle and allow for longer continuous run times.
  • Air Compressor

Last update on 2017-06-25 PST - Details

Portable air compressors are the most utilized pieces of equipment in both professional and home use capacities. These devices supply volumes and volumes of pressurized air that is used to operate a variety of other heavy equipment.

Portable air compressors occur in a variety of brands, designs, and sizes. Different air compressor units are built to suit different customer uses. However, most air compressors will effectively merge several jobs requiring compressed air. This leads us to ask then, what is the best portable air compressor available on the market?

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Air compressors use electricity, gasoline or diesel to pressurize air, which is then stored in a holding cylinder. This process converts power into potential energy that is stored in the compressed air. The compressed air is afterward released in short bursts and is used to power a handful of tools I shall discuss below. Air compressors like most heavy equipment, are rated according to horsepower and the cubic feet of air per minute.

Here are 5 top portable air compressors available on the market that we recommend

** Below, you'll find our more detailed reviews, but you can also click the links above to see current prices or read customer reviews on Amazon.


Types Of Air Compressors

Air compressors are generally classified into two categories, oil lubed compressors and oil-less compressors.

Oil lubricated compressors, as the name suggests, use oil based lubrication in the piston chamber to ensure the smooth functioning of the equipment.

Oil lube air compressor

oil lubed compressors

Oil-free air compressors

Oil-free air compressors

Oil-free air compressors feature pre-lubricated piston chambers. The material Teflon is most often used in the oil-free air compressors.

Typical air compressor unit components will mostly entail a steel air storage tank, a compressor motor that will either run on gasoline, diesel or electricity. A control panel and accompanying gauges also form an important part of air compressors. Hoses may also be included in the package alongside an accompanying kit containing nozzles and air adapters. The handle design will greatly influence the air compressor’s portability. Other features may include an air outlet valve that may act as an outlet for accumulated water and a protective casing around the machines integral parts.


Uses Of Portable Air Compressors

The mention of air compressors does not elicit creative thoughts in most people. This is because there aren’t that many functions that most air compressors would accomplish on their own. Air compressors have been used for leisure, business, and home maintenance purposes. There are two main air compressor designs available in the present market; rotary screw air compressors and reciprocating piston air compressors.

Below is a summary of the various uses air compressors can be used for;

Spray painting: Air operated spray paint guns utilize bursts of pressurized air provided by air compressors. Depending on the operating pressure of the air compressor measured in PSI units, the quality of the paint spray produced will vary. Lower horsepower air compressors may be used for fine airbrush painting.

spray painting

Spray painting

In construction: Construction sites employ numerous air operated hardware that may include pneumatic drills, hammers, and nail guns. Looking back a hundred years ago, tasks such as drilling or simple woodwork carpentry were tasks achieved by hand. Long laborious hours were spent on tasks that presently take a few minutes to accomplish.

Home and Industrial maintenance purposes: The versatility of air compressors allows them to be suitable a great variety of uses that may include home DIY maintenance projects such as cleaning sawdust or wood shavings, cleaning equipment and removing old paint coats. In industries, air compressors may be used for large-scale machine cleaning projects, sandblasting that effectively cuts through rust and corrosion and in bolt openers.

compressor for nail gun

In Contruction & Home Improverment

In business and leisure: Air compressors are used to fill car tires, portable water pools, beds and also unscrewing tight nuts in vehicle wheels. Compressed air is used in leisure activities such as paintball shooting, creating artificial snowfall and scuba diving.

Fill Car Tires

In Car Working

Portable air compressors are typically defined as being the industrial grade of home grade depending on the horsepower, size, and operating pressures.


Choosing The Right Best Portable Air Compressor 

As with any machine or heavy equipment, one may feel a bit confused when choosing to buy from a wide selection of features and brands. Finding the right air compressor will go a long way in ensuring efficient task completion and a return on the value of invested funds. Prior to before on the purchase of a particular portable air compressor, consulting several dealers helps thin out the options.

Describing the kind of usage you intend the air compressor to perform to air compressor dealers or agents will generally help establish the appropriate machine for you.

The intended purpose of the air compressor: Establishing the specific uses of the air compressor marked for purchase will go a long way in formulating a decision on what to buy. For simple home DIY uses such as painting or car tire inflation, lower horsepower compressors are a great bargain. If the intended purpose involves air operated tools such as pneumatic drills it is recommended to go for a higher rated portable air compressor.

lower hospower air compressors

Portable air compressors for Home Improverment

high rated air compressor

Higher rated portable air compressor for air tools

Type of fuel: Diesel, gas or electric? These are the fuel choices facing most portable air compressor buyers today. Electric air compressors are quieter in comparison to their gasoline and diesel counterparts. Electric air compressors are best suited for indoor use since there are no exhaust fumes emitted. A disadvantage, however, is the fact that electric models need proximity to a power outlet. Diesel and gasoline powered air compressors are favored by contractors because there’s literally nowhere they can’t go; provided there’s a supply of fuel.

Size: Despite being portable, air compressors can differ in size from super massive industrial sized air compressors to small portable air compressors. The size of the air compressor will also generally dictate the unit’s price. Larger models have extra features such as energy efficiency and larger air volume holding capacities. The size of the portable air compressor is particularly important during storage. Smaller models are quite versatile in the sense that they can be stored practically anywhere included the trunk of a car of even the back seat.

best portable air compressor for car

Small portable air compressor for cars

Pressure and air volume requirements of air operated tools: This is perhaps the single most important point to remember when buying a portable air compressor. Larger and heavier pneumatic tools have demanding volume and pressure requirements. In the event you buy an underpowered low volume compressor, the work efficiency will be greatly diminished.

Need to Choose pressure and air volume requirements right.


The Top Portable Air Compressors Available On The Market

1. PORTER-CABLE C2002-WK

best portable air compressor

This product is the embodiment of a portable air compressor. It is a lightweight air compressor featuring a 6-gallon air tank. This unit has a catchy design and a perfectly executed red paint job. The Porter Cable C2002 is designed and built for light home usage. This product generally has a compact, solid design and is a bargain for its price.


Pros

This unit runs on a home standard 120 Volt current. The product has an oil-less motor that delivers pressurized air at 90 PSI worth of pressure. This product is compatible with light pneumatic tools such as nail guns and light assorted airbrushes used for detailing.

This product features an ergonomic handle design which is built into the air tank casing. This feature coupled up with the fact that the air compressor weighs 28 pounds makes it highly portable. The device’s physical specs are 19 inches by 18 by 18. This makes it possible to store the air compressor virtually anywhere.

The Porter-Cable C2002 features two regulated factory installed air couplers allowing two simultaneous uses.


Cons

  • For such a compact little air compressor, the Porter Cable C2002 is rather noisy. This unit is rated at an astonishing 82 decibels. For its size, this can be considered a bit too much.
  • This product is simply not designed to deal with heavier pneumatic tools outside of the home-range type. For buyers seeking to operate high-pressure demand tools, this just isn’t the air compressor.

2. BOSTITCH BTFP02012

boschtitch portable air compressor

To buyers looking to buy portable oil-less air compressor, the Bostitch BTFPO2012 boasts a set of unique features. This product is designed to handle light to medium-weight jobs such as home DIY use. This portable air compressor runs on electric power and is suitable for home-rated voltage. Weighing just less than 35 pounds, the Bostitch BTFPO2012 is easy to operate with the control panel and dials designed to be easy to read.


Pros

The Bostitch BTFPO2012 delivers 2.6 cubic feet of air per minute. For a lightweight air compressor, this product this is quite a decent volume of pressurized air.

The Bostitch BTFPO2012 boasts an impressive 0.9 running horsepower drawing 15 amperes of electric power. This is the standard home electric appliances voltage.

Being electric, this product is relatively quieter. There’s no need for hearing protection gear while operating this air compressor.

The Bostitch BTFPO2012 takes an impressive two and a half minutes to fill up the cylinder which quite a short period is considering the volume involved.


Cons

  • This Bostitch air compressor is electric. Despite being quieter than diesel or gasoline models, this product use is limited to the house or within the vicinity of power outlets. This greatly reduces its portability and range. The power cord on this product is also inconveniently short.
  • This model features a standard drain outlet consisting of a round threaded brass nut that requires spinning to open the valve. The brass nut being very small makes its turning almost impossible.

3. DEWALT DWFP55126

dewalt air compressor

The DeWalt DWFP55126 is specifically designed to meet the needs of home DIY uses and professional use as well. This unit weighs a convenient 30 pounds and is hence easy to move around for purposes that require mobility. This portable air compressor comfortably operates a range of light to medium weight pneumatic tools.


Pros

This model is designed from the pancake form concept. This means that the air compressor unit doesn’t take up much space. This unit’s footprint is approximately 34 by 23 inches.

The DeWalt DWFP55126 runs on a household 120-volt electric current. It draws 15 amperes and roughly 1200 watts. This translates to a quieter ambiance while operating this air compressor. This unit produces no more noise than a standard home dishwasher.

This particular product produces up to 90 PSI worth of pressure with an output of 2.6 cubic feet of air per minute. This range covers most lightweight pneumatic tools used in a household setting.

This DeWalt air compressor boasts an enormous six-gallon air tank. This volume allows operation without the immediate need to simultaneously pump in the air.

An outstanding feature accredited to this unit is the fact that is maintenance free oil-less air compressor. Besides the occasional dust and debris cleaning, no further maintenance is required.

The control panel and gauges are easy to use and read. For beginners, a simple instruction manual will go a long way in establishing a learning curve.


Cons

  • This product is designed for light to medium weight use. Coupled use with heavier pneumatic equipment is impossible. In some tasks such as inflating vehicle tires, this product has been observed to struggle.
  • The DeWalt DWFP55126 faces the ever menacing problem of overheating. Jobs that require continuous runtime are therefore not recommended. This air compressor requires time off to cool the air tank.

4. CALIFORNIA AIR TOOLS 5510SE

california air compressor

This is an oil-less portable air compressor that falls into a category of its own. The California air tools 5510SE operates at absolutely no vibrations. It is suitable for use in various applications. This is made possible by the presence of two pressure gauges toggling between 3.8 CFM and 2.35 CFM doling out 90 PSI worth of pressure.


Pros

This product is rated at 60 decibels, which is quite impressive considering a normal chat between two people produces around 65 decibels of sound.

This product features a whopping 6.3-gallon steel cylinder with a silver finish. The air tank takes approximately 160 seconds to fill despite its massive storage volume.

This air compressor weighs a meager 49 pounds. This aids in its mobility around job locations and at home. The dimensions of this particular unit are 24 inches by 13 inches by 24 inches.

This product features a cutting edge inbuilt thermal overload protector. This feature automatically turns off the equipment when the 135 degrees Celsius mark is reached.

This air compressor features a powerful 1.0 horsepower motor that draws 7.6 amperes of current on start up. This product is suitable for use on the standard household voltage of 120V.

All the specs and power features definitely point to this unit being slightly above the middle-weight class which it is. This product can handle a vast majority of home-use pneumatic tools.


Cons

  • Compared to other air compressors in its class, the California Air Tools is quite hefty. This is particularly the case with regards to storage space and weight.

5. MAKITA MAC700 BIG BORE 2.0

makita air compressor

The Makita Mac700 is designed to easily cover routine home DIY uses and also to some extent spill over into professional uses alongside moderate air-requiring tools. Worth noting, however, is the fact that the Makita is an oil lubricated compressor. This translates to routine maintenance schedules to ensure optimal performance.


Pros

This product has a 2 horsepower motor that delivers up to 3.3 cubic feet of air per minute at 90 PSI. At this pressure and volume, this unit suitably operates a convenient majority of home pneumatic tools.

The Mac700 is built for low noise emission during operation. This renders the unit comfortable to use both inside the house and outside. The Mac700 produces 90 decibels of operating sound which is within conversational range.

This product features a big bore cylinder that enables the compressor to pump significantly larger volumes of air at lower rotations per minute.


Cons

  • The Makita Mac700 air compressor has a 2.6-gallon air storage tank that falls below the optimal volumes for a machine of its power.
  • This product is quite hefty in terms of weight. It weighs almost 60 pounds, which is rough twice the weight of most of its competitors in its class.

The verdict

California Air Tools 5510SE is the best portable air compressor

Regardless of your choice, all the above products are an excellent pick and are among the top selling items available on the market right now. However, the California Air Tools 5510SE stands out from the competition. This unique item delivers unprecedented power and air storage volume that is unlike any other witnessed from the competition. My money is therefore on the California Air Tools 5510SE.


Conclusion

The best portable air compressor for home and business use has to combine the aspects of versatility, power, and portability. The air compressors I have talked about above all meet the set criteria to different extents. The ease of operation and the storage volume further earn points for a portable air compressor unit. For varied uses ranging from DIY home use to business uses, all the above air compressors are valid candidates.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article and learning about the various portable air compressors available. I sincerely hope that with the newly acquired knowledge, your decision on the item to purchase will be an informed one. Feel free to share your comments, thoughts, and opinions in the comments section provided and share with a friend. All the best!

Jose A. Brown
 

Jose A. Brown is a mechanic engineer and an enthusiastic blogger whose mission is to provide the readers with the best tips, guides in the Home Improvement, DIY Project, and Industry.

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