Your dream garage is all set up, but what about the air compressor?
Do you have the right one to power your air tools?
A garage air compressor should have a maximum PSI of around 135 and come with a 6 to 8-gallon tank. It ensures all of your small air tools, from impact wrenches to pneumatic air guns and tire inflators, have the power they need to get the job done.
So, which air compressor do you need and how do you know if you are buying the best one?
You’ll find buying tips, along with our picks for the best air compressor for your home garage, in this article.
The Best Air Compressors for Home Garages
Best Overall: Dewalt Pancake Air Compressor DWFP55126
The Dewalt Pancake Air compressor weighs around 32lbs, making it easily portable. You won’t strain a muscle moving the air compressor around your garage. Two universal couplers allow you to finish jobs quickly. You can connect two tools at once. You may only use one tool at a time, but you don’t need to disconnect one to use another.
With a 6-gallon tank, you have plenty of power to finish a job. The 2.6 SCFM delivers 90 PSI, giving you a long run time and a short recovery period. It doesn’t take long for the portable air compressor to refill and be ready for your next project.
You will appreciate the relatively low noise level, though protective ear coverings are still recommended. The 78.5dBA won’t give you a headache from the noise. It’s also not loud enough to disturb your neighbors.
The air compressor is easy to use. The controls are labeled and protected by a removable covering. You also don’t have to worry about draining any oil. The compressor is oil-free to extend the life of the pump. It is basically maintenance-free.
- 165 max PSI 6.0 gallon tank (22.7 L) and 2.6 SCFM* delivered @ 90 PSI pump
- High efficiency motor for easy start up in cold weather
- 75.5 dBA** noise level for a quiet work environment
Runner Up: Craftsman Air Compressor Combo Kit CMEC1KIT18
The Craftsman air compressor combo kit comes with everything you need to inflate tires, power air tools, and drive two-inch brad nails.
It comes with a hose, so there is nothing extra to purchase. Plug the electric cord in, attach the hose, and turn the air compressor on. It’s all you need to do to get started working on your projects. It’s also just as easy to keep the portable air compressor maintained and ready for your next project.
The pump is oil-free, reducing maintenance. You also don’t have to worry about checking oil levels. It’s one less thing you need to worry about.
With the 6-gallon tank, capable of 150 maximum PSI, you are ready to quickly inflate low tires. The air compressor also works great with your air-powered tools. Just connect the tool to the coupler and turn the compressor on. It’s ideal for working on trim and garage baseboards. You have the power to drive 18-gauge nails. It’s compatible with nail sizes measuring 5/8 inches up to two inches in length. You can even tackle shoe molding.
The Craftsman air compressor is a little heavier than some comparable models, but it’s still easily portable. It weighs a little over 35 pounds, so you won’t pull a muscle moving it around your garage. Since it is a Craftsman model, you know it is built to last. The air compressor also comes with the manufacturer’s warranty if you purchase it directly from the factory or approved seller.
Best Upgrade: Makita MAC400 2.5 HP Big Bore Air Compressor
The Mac400 by Makita is ready for home garages and job sites. It is a hefty model, weighing a little over 80 pounds. You’ll quickly notice it’s not designed for portability. Instead, the garage air compressor is designed to produce the power you need for multiple types of large and small projects.
Constructed from cast iron, the pump is durable and long-lasting. The material is resistant to wear and tear, reducing the need for routine maintenance. It is an oil-lubricated pump, which is something you need to keep up with. Letting the oil run low can cause unnecessary wear, reducing its efficiency. It can also damage the pump.
You’re not limited on where you can use the air compressor. It boasts a protective roll-cage, making it a good choice for use on job sites. While you can’t carry the air compressor, it’s fairly easy to move around on a dolly. The dolly is an extra purchase, but it’s worth it if you need a mobile air compressor.
When it comes to power, the 2.5 HP motor has you covered. It produces 90 PSI at 4.2 CFM. You get the pressure you need to power most residential and commercial use air tools with minimal noise. Protective ear coverings are still recommended, but the air compressor will give a relatively quiet work environment. Add in the low amp draw, and you have an efficient garage air compressor.
- Powerful 2.5 HP 4-Pole motor produces 4.2 CFM at 90 PSI for increased productivity and lower noise
- Pump runs at lower RPM (1,730) resulting in lower noise (79dB) and improved pump durability
Alternative #1: PORTER-CABLE PCFP12656 Finish and Brad Nailer Combo Kit
Porter-Cable has included everything you need to install trim, baseboards, crown molding, and more with its PCFP12656 garage air compressor. It comes with 100 Brad and 100 finishing nails, so you are ready to get to work once the air compressor is plugged in.
Unlike some other air compressors, this one is gas-powered. You don’t have to worry about cord length or finding a compatible electrical outlet. The air compressor also won’t throw a breaker the minute you start it up. It’s one less thing you have to deal with when you are trying to finish a project.
Weighing a little over 40lbs, it is a portable garage air compressor, but watch out for its weight. It’s often easier to move it with a small hand truck. Chances are you already have one in your garage.
The 6-gallon tank is ideal for larger jobs. You won’t need to wait for the tank to recharge to finish driving the last few nails. With a maximum of 150 PSI, you have the power to drive two-inch nails. Best of all, the garage air compressor comes with a 25-foot hose. You won’t have to struggle to reach corners or constantly move the air compressor around.
Alternate #2: Husky 4.5 Gal. Portable Silent Air Compressor
The Husky garage air compressor comes with a 4.5-gallon tank and a powerful 1.3 HP motor. You get all of the power you need to inflate everything from tires to pool toys and drive finish and brad nails.
When it comes to portability, you won’t have a problem. The air compressor has an adjustable handle and rubber wheels. Adjust the handle to your specified height and roll the air compressor over to the project.
Two couplers allow you to connect multiple air tools. You don’t have to unplug one to use another. It’s a great time-saving feature that’s also convenient. You’ll also appreciate the durable metal control panel. It makes operating the air compressor a breeze.
Every component of the air compressor is designed for durability and easy maintenance. The pump is oil-free, and the 4-pole induction motor lasts twice as long as others. The air compressor comes with a manufacturer’s limited warranty.
If you are looking for a quiet air compressor, this one operates around 65 dBA. The noise level won’t drive you out of your garage or bother your sleeping neighbors. It is still a good idea to wear ear coverings when you are working with air compressors and other noise-emitting equipment.
- Airflow is 3.0 SCFM at 90 psi and 4.0 SCFM at 40 psi
- Motor is 1.3 HP 4-pole induction motor lasting 2X longer life
- 2 quick couplers allow 2 tools working simultaneously
- Quiet operation with noise less than 65 dBA
Before You Buy a Garage Air Compressor…
Whether you are familiar with air compressors and just want to check a few aspects or it’s your first time buying one, this guide will help you choose the best one for your garage. You’ll also find answers to most of your questions.
What Can You Do With an Air Compressor?
An air compressor has more uses than keeping tires on bicycles and vehicles inflated. It’s compatible with all types of air tools, some you may not be familiar with. If you aren’t sure how to use an air compressor in your garage, here are some of the most common uses.
- Blowing dirt and leaves out of the garage and off of the patios and walkways.
- Getting rid of wood dust after sanding. You can also use the air compressor to blow the dust off of homemade furniture before painting.
- Filing tires and balloons.
- Connect air nail guns and other air tools to finish projects faster.
- Use with a pneumatic sander or grinder.
- Connect an impact wrench or ratchet.
- Painting with a spray gun.
- Connect a grease gun.
Air compressors with universal couplers allow you to connect most air tools so you can start and complete a variety of DIY projects.
The Size of the Air Compressor Determines Which Tools You Can Use
As you’re comparing different air compressors, you want one that is compatible with your air tools. It includes the tools you have in your garage, along with any new ones on your list.
The size of the air compressor tank determines the type of tools it can power. Smaller tanks 6-gallons and under will power impact drivers, brad nailers, pneumatic hammers, and reversible drills, to name a few. Blowguns are also compatible with smaller air compressors, though you may need to pick up an attachment. It’s inexpensive and available at most hardware stores.
When you need to drive more powerful tools, you may have to upgrade to a larger air compressor.
If you aren’t sure if your air compressor can drive your pneumatic tools, check their SCFM and PSI requirements. You can usually find it listed on the tools’ packaging under the product description.
Pay Attention to the SCFM Rating
SCFM measures the airflow from the compressor. It’s a little different from the PSI. The tank size tells you the capacity, and PSI gives you the maximum pressure. A higher PSI rating means you can operate a variety of pneumatic tools.
The SCFM rating lets you know if the compressor is capable of producing the necessary airflow. For example, a compressor with a high PSI and low SCFM will not be able to power tools like impact drivers and wrenches. They need plenty of pressure for optimal operation.
Most garage DIY projects need an air compressor with an SCFM between two and five.
Types of Garage Air Compressors
There are two types of garage air compressors, single and dual-stage. Most DIY projects only require power from a single-stage air compressor. Dual-stage models are usually used in commercial and industrial applications, but you may have a large project that requires an additional boost in power.
Piston or single-stage air compressors are often portable and easy to maintain. It’s not uncommon for them to have oil-free pumps, reducing the amount of maintenance.
Single-stage air compressors only fill once, and when the tank is empty, it will need recharging. The PSI for these models is between 120 to 135 PSI. You can drive most of the pneumatic tools commonly found in home garages.
You aren’t going to be moving a dual-stage air compressor around by hand. These are powerful models that come with a lot of weight. Along with their hefty size, the noise emitted from a dual-stage air compressor will not make you any friends with your neighbors. If your neighborhood has a noise ordinance, it’s not a model you want to bring home.
It does give up at least 175 PSI, and some models go higher. You can drive large tools without a problem. You also don’t have to wait for the tank to recharge after a single use.
Parts to Look For On a Portable Air Compressor
Air compressors usually come with the same components, but they can vary depending on the make and model. To make it easier to check and regulate pressure and stay safe while working, you want the air compressor to come with the following.
- Tank pressure gauge: The gauge lets you know how much pressure is in the tank.
- Regulated pressure gauge: The gauge regulates the pressure going into the hose. It should also be lower than the tank pressure to avoid rupturing the hose.
- Regulator: The knob on the outgoing hose that allows you to manually lower the pressure as needed.
- Power switch: An on and off switch is standard on most air compressors. Do not purchase one that automatically turns on when plugged in. It’s unsafe and hard to use and control.
- Safety valve: The valve is present on almost all portable air compressors, but double-check. It allows you to release the pressure manually. You never want to leave an air compressor under pressure when it’s not being used.
- Air hose coupling: You need a place to connect the air hose, or the compressor is useless.
- Tool coupling: Some air compressors come with one coupling, while others have two. The couplings are where you connect your pneumatic tools. The number of couplings depends on the make and model.
Check the Noise Level
You aren’t going to find a completely silent garage air compressor, but you can find some that won’t make your garage sound like a construction site.
Noise levels are measured in decibels (dB) and listed as dBA. Exposure to noise over 75 dBA for eight hours daily can result in hearing loss.
Some portable garage air compressors boast a relatively low dBA, around 60 to 70 dB. It’s not loud enough to permanently damage your hearing, but it’s still a good idea to keep your ears covered.
One thing to remember, the higher the PSI, the louder the air compressor.
Consider a Compressor Pump
A garage air compressor can have one of two types of pumps. One is oil-free, and the other is oil-lubricated. Both work, great the difference is in maintenance and its impact on the environment.
Oil-free pumps are lower in price, easier to maintain, usually, last longer, and are better for the environment.
Oil-lubricated compressor pumps are also durable and are capable of producing more power. The downside is the amount of maintenance they need, along with their carbon footprint. These types of compressor pumps are also heavier than oil-free ones.
Portability is a factor for many garage owners. Not all of their projects are completed on the work table. When portability is a factor in your buying decision, check the air compressor’s weight. You can find some models that weigh between 30lbs to 40lbs. Anything over forty pounds may require a truck cart or dolly to move around.
Rubber wheels and an adjustable handle will also make the air compressor easy to move around.