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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Things to Consider When Purchasing a Portable Air Compressor

Air tools can make your work much easier and efficient, and a portable air compressor is a necessity if you want to use them. Air compressors are available in many sizes and capacities. Some of the larger ones have wheels and handles to help move them around. They have different horsepower and pound per square inch (psi) ratings. They are typically powered by gas, electric, or diesel. The nice thing about the electric ones is that they can be used in spaces where you don't want to deal with the fumes. Of course, gas gives a high degree of reliability for frequent use, and is perfect when you need maximum portability. There's just not always a current bush around when you need one.

When you are in the market for a portable air compressor you need to take a look at your requirements. For example, if you are planning on using it for airbrushing, then a five liter tank capacity and approximately 30psi would be sufficient. If you need a larger volume of air then you obviously need something with a larger capacity. Otherwise, you'll be standing around waiting for your tank to fill up and that will not only decrease how efficient your work is, but it will also drive you crazy. I use a small pancake unit that works great for my brad nailer, but is constantly kicking on and refilling when I use the air blower attachment.

A portable air compressor is, well, portable. That means that you can move it around. So ask yourself how you'll be using it. If you need to fix the shingles up on the roof then portable is great. If you really just want something to fill the tires in the garage then maybe a portable unit will work, but you may want something with a higher capacity. Either way, just make sure you consider the various uses you may have before you buy.

Another thing to consider is your power source. Most air compressors in the US run on 110 volt, but some of the larger ones do run on 240 volt. Make sure to check in advance of your purchase. You should also consider the pump type you need. A belt driven pump is great for heavy use, and a direct-drive is designed for light use. The belt driven pump is quieter but needs the oil changed from time to time.

It may go without saying, but knowing the requirements of your air tools before you buy a portable air compressor is essential. Then, add a margin of safety of 50 percent. Each tool you have will have its CFM requirement on the box. The great thing about air tools is that they deliver more power with less weight and generally have a lower cost than regular electric tools. Always use proper eye protection and consider using ear plugs, especially with the gas-powered units.

How much does a portable air compressor cost? Well, like most things it can vary quite a bit. A basic setup can cost a couple hundred bucks, whereas a more powerful compressor with all the bells and whistles can run you into the thousands.

MJ is a free lance writer for Click Shops, Inc., where you can find the perfect portable air compressor for your specific needs at

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