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What Size Air Compressor Do I Need

Air tools like the air compressor are very efficient and are used in numerous industries. So, whether you’re a DIY mechanic or a professional, an air compressor is a must-have in your tool kit. But as air compressors are available in numerous sizes, choosing the right size can be hard. And this is what this article is all about.

Below, you can find all the information required to help you choose the right size of a compressor. So, if you’re interested, let’s begin.

What is an Air Compressor?

An air compressor is a device that converts electric energy or other power into potential energy, which is stored in the form of pressurized air. It’s used for different purposes like filling cylinders of clean air, supplying clean air to a submerged diver or inflating tires, etc.

Here are some points you need to consider for choosing the right size of an air compressor.

What Kind of Power Source Do You Have?

Usually, you can plug all types of air compressors in-home outlets. However, some types require more power or a 240 volt power source. And in some cases, the air compressor runs using gasoline where you need not worry about the outlet.

So, check the power source you have and the power source that your compressor needs.

How Much Space Do You Have?

Air compressors, most of them, occupy a lot of space. So, you need to buy one according to what you can accommodate. If you have a small space, you can go for a 6-gallon pancake compressor. It fits in almost any place. However, if you go for a 30-gallon compressor, it needs spacious accommodation. So, you need to choose wisely.

Where Will You be Using It?

Where you need to use it also makes a significant difference on what size will work for you. For example, if you’re not on the move and do the jobs at your garage, the design won’t matter to you. But if you want to move it around, you should prefer buying a compressor that is lightweight or has wheels. This way, you can choose the right size of air compressor for your use.

Tank Size

A tank is where the compressed gas is stored. You can find different tank sizes ranging from 1 to 60 gallons. You can even find more than 60 gallons, but that is for industrial usage. The tank size tells us for how long the air tools will run before you can turn the motor on once again.

Knowing the tank size is important as some tools like grinders and sanders need a regular flow of compressed air. And in such cases, you need a large tank. Also, the life of your tools depends on how many times you have to turn the motor on and off.

Let’s say you’re filling an inflatable pool using a 1-gallon compressor. In such a scenario, you need to run the motor constantly. It’ll help you get it done in a few hours. But if you have a bigger tank of 30 gallons, it’ll fill up the pool within minutes.

If you choose a stationary compressor, you’ll have to purchase a hose reel and place it somewhere in the center for convenient usage.

Compressor Specifications to Keep in Mind

Below are the specifications of the compressor that you should consider: –

What Is CFM, and How Much is Required?

CFM means cubic feet per minute. It’s a unit used for measuring the volume of air produced by an air compressor each minute. And the CFM can tell the power a compressor can deliver to pneumatic or air tools.

CFM is affected largely by the atmosphere. It is because the air that can go into the inlet depends on wind conditions, humidity and heat. If you know the CFM, you can determine the type of tools you can use with the compressor.

How Much is CFM Required for Air Tools?

Now, this depends on the tool that you’re working with. Usually, it’s recommended to overestimate the energy usage by up to 40-50%. So, if your tool requires x CFM, you need to find a compressor that can provide you with up to 150x the compressed air your tool requires.

This way, even after years of use, you can expect your compressor tools to get the job done. However, make sure that you do not go for a compressor with super high CFM capacity. It’s because compressed air usually consumes up to 10% of electrical energy in the manufacturing world. So, make sure to keep the electricity factor in mind while choosing the CFM.

What is PSI & Air Compressors with What PSI do you need?

PSI means pounds per square inch. It’s a measurement unit for air pressure. You can also find it written as ‘PSIG.’ ‘PSIG’ stands for pounds per square inch gauge. It’s basically telling us about the psi in relation to the atmospheric pressure.

So, higher is the PSI, higher will be the air that you can store in your compressor tank.

Now, the right psi depends on the type of tool that you use. The air or pneumatic tools for light applications like metal or woodworking require between 90-100 PSI. And heavy-duty jobs for industrial purposes require way more than 100 PSI.

Common tools such as blowguns die grinders, impact drivers, brad nailers, and paint spray guns use mostly between 90-100 psi. And tools like grease guns or/and tire inflators need about 120-150psi.

Air Tools CFM Chart

Let’s learn about some common air tools and PSI & CFM required by them in the form of a table.

Air Tool Avg. Operating PSI Avg. CFM @ 90 PSI
Air Hammer 90-100 4
Angle Grinder 90-100 5-8
Blow Gun 90-100 2-3
Brad Nailer 70-90 0.5
Die Grinder 70-90 5
Disc Sander 90-100 20
Drill 70-90 4
Framing Nailer 100-130 2
Grease Gun 120-150 3
Hydraulic Riveter 90-100 4
Impact Driver (1/2″) 90-100 4
Impact Driver (3/4″) 90-100 7
Impact Driver (1″) 90-100 12
Impact Wrench (3/8″) 90-100 3
Impact Wrench (1/2″) 90-100 4
Impact Wrench (1″) 90-100 10
Orbital Sander 70-100 6-9
Paint Spray Gun 90-100 4-8
Ratchet (1/4″) 90-100 3
Ratchet (3/8″) 90-100 4
Speed Saw 90-100 4
Staple Gun 70-90 2
Tire Inflator 125-150 2


The right size of air compressor that you need depends on some common factors. You need to check what you need it for, i.e., the application and the type of tools you want to use. And before that, you need to check how much space you can provide to your compressor.

It’s because compressors consume a lot of space. So, if you keep these basic factors in mind, you can easily decide the right size of the compressor

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