Lately, I have been wanting to expand my skills with Do-It-Yourself repairs and home improvement projects that I feel cheated with the basic equipment found in my tiny tool box. Watching a lot of shows on the tube and online on upcycling, refurbishing and restoration has instilled in me a curiosity to give the small enterprises featured a go in my actual abode, despite its lack of space. And for the longest time, staring at my bland walls and lackluster windows pushed me to try some drilling and nailing some home accessories. I even tried repairing a few pieces of furniture and window panes with a set of nails and a manual hammer.
The time it took me to almost finish anything was enough to turn me off from becoming the DIY whiz I had dreamed of. I was so close to just purchasing new pieces from IKEA to get it over with. But taking a closer look at these home improvement shows revealed that I was lacking a few vital components: power tools and a hell of a good air compressor.
I’ve dabbled with the likes of air compressors before. Personal and portable models are fairly simple to operate, and will start whirring at the push of a button. In fact, I often borrow a relative’s or neighbor’s compressor to inflate the tires of my car. However, these types aren’t apparently strong enough to work power tools. The difference in air compressors lies in a number of factors including horsepower, CFM and at times, tank size.
Determinants in Choosing the Right Air Compressor
It doesn’t take a genius to know that there are specific types of air compressors for particular jobs. I realized after ample research that the tire inflator I borrowed on a constant basis provided enough power to also operate trim and brad nailers. Here are a few more things buyers like me should take into consideration.
With air compressors, horse power is equivalent to the amount of air the machine can produce. Compressors with a higher horsepower need an equally high CFM rating in order to operate bigger and heavier pneumatic tools. If you plan to use your compressor for longer periods of time for home repairs and similar projects, I suggest you get a unit with both high horsepower and CFM rating so you don’t get frustrated with it overheating or constantly stopping to refill pressure. Also keep in mind that some units will feature both gas-driven and electric motors such as wheelbarrow Ingersoll Rand air compressors. Its electric motor is characterized by a 2 HP motor while its gas-powered version has a 5.5 HP Honda motor.
The cubic feet per minute or CFM is the basically the amount of air produced by the air compressor. Apart from horsepower, the CFM rating of an air compressor is also directly related to its pounds per square inch or PSI. The CFM measures the air flow of the compressor. Certain pneumatic tools will require more air than others, thus needing a higher CFM rating to keep it functioning. Smaller tools like inflators and brad nailers require less than 2 CFM while higher CFM tools such as impact and ratchet wrenches require at least 5.5 CFM and above.
While the CFM rating indicates air flow or how much air the unit can produce, the PSI measures the strength of the air pressure. Because most of these air tools work best at a default 90 PSI, a good air compressor would have a maximum PSI rating that exceeds that to prolong the machine from re-cycling. Be sure to check the air pressure of the compressor at the tool’s maximum air flow. If the pressure falters from 90 PSI (usually to 70), you end up losing up to 30% of the tool’s power and risk its efficiency. However, there are tools that need 100 PSI or more such as the staple guns which run at 1.8 CFM and the blow gun which runs at 2.5 CFM.
The tank capacity is how much gallons of air the tank can hold. They come in a variety of types, vertical, horizontal, pancake, etc. When choosing a tank for personal use, I suggest purchasing one with a tank large enough to complement the motor. This is because more powerful motors will require more air and once its volume dips below the standard minimum, the engine turns on and refills the tank with air. Not only is this disruptive with jobs but can strain the motor over time, more so if you use your compressor on an often basis. But for smaller jobs, Craftsman air compressors have pancake models that are both portable and effective.
Of course you will need to consider how often you will use the compressor, for what specific jobs and the location of its operation. Outdoor operation and storage will require a more heavy duty design and casing preferably out of full cast-iron to ensure durability. These types of models need to withstand all types of conditions, whether in the extreme cold or heat. Ingersoll Rand air compressors has a number of models that can take on hardcore weathering as well as projects that need a stronger unit to supply air to tools.
Portability and mobility
Think of where you will be keeping your beloved compressor; in a garage cabinet or in your trunk. Think of the space needed for storage and how you are going to be moving it from site to site. Lighter compressors are perfect for personal and home use, and can be quiet enough to use indoors. On the other hand, larger compressors make use of an innovative slim vertical design for easy storage and feature wheels and a handle (which sometimes doubles as a coil wrap) for mobility. Craftsman air compressors are famous for their transportability and have become favorites of consumers looking for units for home use.
After reading up on these machines, I’ve become more attracted to either Ingersoll Rand air compressors or Craftsman air compressors to operate my power tools. I have not made a sound decision yet on which brand to dabble into. It’s still a debate over portability versus durability, and I am still in the process of weighing the pros and cons of each as well as delving into further research on specific models. All in all, I am excited to get started and will post some more notes on my findings.