What is the Best Air Compressor for a Home Shop? (2022)

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Let me guess… You’re probably reading this as you’ve been frustrated in your search for the best air compressor for your home shop. Am I right?! Many people find this process so complicated and time-consuming that they settle on any compressor that seems popular. That shouldn’t be the case!

This article offers a simple but detailed analysis of what you should consider when buying a home shop air compressor. I hope you will have discovered the best air compressor for your home shop by the time you are finished reading this.

Discover the Best Air Compressors for Home Shops and Garages

The air compressor market is wide and understandably confusing for the typical buyer. A few decades ago, the air compressor was a reserve for industries and gas stations. Technological advancement arrived and brought compressed air technology closer to the masses.

We have innovators to thank for simplifying this technology from industrial grade heavy duty machines to modern day portable air compressors fit for home use. Not to say the former air compressors are out of the market- they are still available and very much applicable for power tools.

The best air compressor for home shops and garages comes with several components and control to help the user get optimum value. The ports, ON/OFF switch and pressure adjustment keys are a common feature in most air compressors. The output pressure adjustment function, also called the regulator, controls pressure release from the compressor.

For safety purposes, the best air compressor for home shop also comes with a safety valve. Use this feature to remove remnant compressed air from the equipment after use. The air compressor should not be stored with pressurized air, as the resulting condensation can promote rusting. A drain valve is important for preventing this challenge.

When it comes to choosing the best shop air compressor, Cubic Feet per Minute (CFM) is everything. This is the measure of air volume generated. Most tools in the shop or garage have their specific CFM rating.

Choose the best portable air compressor for home shop using the highest rated tool. Of course, the rule of the thumb demand you allow a factor, say 30%. Here is an example. If your home shop has an impact wrench (10 CFM), sander (9 CFM) and nail gun (2 CFM), then the best rotary screw air compressor rating is calculated as follows:

Compressor rating= 10 *1.30= 13CFM

There are several other elements of the best air compressor for home shop, including PSI, tank size, duty cycle and horsepower (HP). The Pounds per Square Inch (PSI) rating is an output measurement of an air compressor. Ever wondered why most portable air compressors have peak PSI at 120? Majority of pneumatic tools are rated at 90 psi as an industry requirement.

But there is one benefit of having higher PSI rating- it allows for storage of more air. You will probably not find a car tire inflator for home shop without a noticeable indication of motor horsepower (HP). If you want to focus on this rating, deal with rated HP, as this is the maximum horsepower that most home power tools can accommodate.

The Advantages of Owning a Home Garage Air Compressor

A home garage air compressor is one of the most important equipment you can have at your home shop. When spray painting, a small air compressor is the best. The home air compressor provides the power and technique to reduce the amount of time spent on a task. It also does the job cleanly. Using a brush instead lowers quality and requires strenuous effort to operate the air tool.

If you have pneumatic tools in the home workshop, then having the best air compressor helps you do a lot of jobs. Some homeowners opt to buy battery operated power tools instead of compressed air tools, but these can be expensive at upwards of $200. Just make sure the air compressor has the right duty cycle, voltage rating and so forth, and you will never regret.

Pneumatic tools are typically more affordable, yet their performance is second to none. Use the portable air compressor for a wide range of air tools including impact wrench and nail gun.

For your vehicle maintenance needs, the air compressor is the go-to equipment. Keep tires pressure ok and never miss a trip. Use your spray gun any time you need. A garage air compressor is great for saving time and money spent looking for auto repair shop or mechanic.

The Best Home Air Compressors for DIY Tools

An air compressor for home shop on its own doesn’t elicit excitement, right? Yes, it comes with a powerful motor and good airflow, but blending it with your favorite air tool does bring out the magic. Now connect your most favorite DIY tool and you discover why most homeowners are searching for the best home air compressors for DIY tools.

Cheaper and more efficient than manual or battery powered tools, there is no better alternative to an air compressor that will make lengthy and boring DIY projects something to look forward to. Unsure how the best home air compressors for DIY tools make sense? Consider the following popular applications.

This air compressor is the answer to your DIY car repair needs. Working on gear boxes is easier with a pneumatic tool such as an air ratchet of about 3 CFM rating.

If you are into carpentry and wood crafts, you need a nail gun. This should be fine with 2 CFM rating and 4 gallon portable air compressor.

How can you possibly search for the best air compressor for your average air tool without considering spray painting projects? Get a home garage air compressor capable of delivering 12 CFM.

In short, Framing, tightening nuts and other tasks need specific pressures, so the selection process is extremely important. Start with the ratings on your air hammer, impact wrench, nail gun and all the other air tools and then select the best air compressor.

How Much Noise Does An Air Compressor Make?

Many buyers associate home garage air compressors with loud noise, and they are right for the most part. The foghorn noise in most compressors comes from motor, exhaust and moving parts. He device can be as noisy as a power machine or busy hotel. That’s within the range of 70 and 90 decibels.

The source of most noise in an air compressor is the air intake part. By default, air makes noise whenever it moves. During the exhaust too, lots of noise is produced.

Vibration noise is also an issue for air compressor. It can especially be troublesome when certain factors are at play. For example, an air compressor mounted on a wooden floor produces substantial noise as compared to another placed on concrete.

When you are identifying a quiet air compressor for home shop, target conversational sound pressure level. So avoid devices with noise rating above 80 decibels.

There are some noise reduction methods, but ultimately, these noise reduction tricks may not be enough and the only option is to buy a quiet air compressor. For the quietest models with about 40db noise level, you may need to dig deep into your pocket. But which option is better, spending a few more hundred dollars or being crucified by your neighbors?

Manufacturers have heeded to the call for quieter air compressors for home shop and come up with appropriate designs. Today, some compressors rightfully belong to the quiet category.

Best Large Home Garage Air Compressors

One way to determine best size of air compressor for home garage air tools is to look at the pressure rating. Most systems have a set pressure of 120psi. The preset lower pressure for most tanks is 60psi.

Some power tools only require a small amount of air pressure, so they will operate on a small tank capacity. More powerful ones like orbital sander and sand blaster need a bigger tank.

Most large home garage air compressors run on 20A and 115 volts. But what is the size requirement for different tools in the home shop? One of the less demanding tools is the brad nailer, which can run on merely 1 CFM @ 90 PSI. The smallest brad nailers will do just fine with 60 PSI.

Small sandblasting jobs are good with a 10CFM air compressor, while industrial grade sandblasting is more demanding- at least 50 CFM is needed. Air guns need substantially higher pressures, with some having 3,000 maximum PSI rating.

Here are other air tools and their pressure requirements:

Tool

Nail gun

Air hammer

Air Impact Wrench

Air ratchet

Pressure Requirement (max PSI)

120

90-100

90-100

90-100

Ever wondered why tanks, regardless of their sizes, have drain bungs underneath? When you store the tank, the air cools and settles at the bottom. When cool, air has less air-absorbing ability, so moisture tends to settle at the bottom of the tank. During the cooling period, the motor and pump also rest, thus enhancing lifespan.

Top Considerations Before You Buy an Air Compressor for Pneumatic Tools

Capacity

The capacity of an air compressor is depicted by the tank size, and given in gallons. Smaller tanks may be easier to carry, but larger tanks deliver more powerful airflow and work for longer. If you must use a smaller tank, you want to pair it with a compressor with high CFM. This helps in refilling the tank faster.

Type (Oiled or Oil-Free Air Compressor)

Some air compressors are oiled, meaning that they need constant oiling of the moving parts. Oiling is necessary for not only sealing air, but also efficient performance. There are also oil-free compressors. The oil-free design basically refers to the way the compression chamber works. Instead of using oil in the chamber, these compressors have an intercooler. In general, oiled air compressors are more durable, and more suited for longer running hours, such as in industrial applications, while oil-free compressors are usually lighter, more affordable and do not require as much maintenance, making them ideal for home use.

Power (HP, PSI and CFM)

When a user says that the compressor for air tools is incapable of meeting HP, PSI and CFM requirements, the implication is that the machine doesn’t have enough power. Horsepower shows how powerful or quick the motor is in refilling a tank or generating particular pressure. The CFM is the volume of air that can flow through the hose and outlet nozzle. PSI refers to the level of pressure that the full tank holds.

Size & Weight

The Stealth 20 Gallon Ultra Quiet Air Compressor (SAQ-12018) is ultra-quiet and powerful. But are you ready to move this product up the stairs every day? Larger, heavier units like this one are best suited for professionals and industrial settings. Noise is not a big concern for such applications. If you need to travel a lot, or can’t have your compressor out all the time, then you need to choose a smaller and lighter unit. Of course, this comes with downsides, such as a smaller tank.

Loudness (Noise Rating)

Before selecting the best air compressor for air tools, consider where it will be used and how it may affect the neighbors. Some compressors may be small, but they produce a lot of noise. In the yesteryears, oil-free models used to be louder than oiled ones. Fortunately, technology has since resolved that problem.

Cost

Air may be free, but compressed air isn’t. The question is, how much are you willing to pay? Many factors affect the initial cost of an air compressor including PSI and design. In general terms, reciprocating designs tend to be more affordable than centrifugal and rotary screw air compressors. After that, the cost is affected by the capacity, the power, and all of the other factors described above.

Warranty

A warranty gives peace of mind, because you know there is someone to turn to in case things go awry. Most quality compressors for air tools come with a full warranty. However, you will note some disparities when it comes to the specifics. Some providers cover specific components of the air compressor on popular terms such as 10 years, 7 years and 3 years.

Customer Reviews

Finally, remember to go through customer reviews. Manufacturer ratings such as CFM and noise can sometimes be exaggerated to make a product seem like the best compressor for air tools. If a product is good, the reviews will generally suggest so and vice versa. 

The 10 Best Air Compressors for a Garage or Home Shop

1. CRAFTSMAN Air Compressor, 6 gallon, Oil-Free Kit with Mechanics Tools Kit/Socket Set, 57-Piece (CMEC6150K & CMMT99446)

(Our #1 Best Value For Money Recommendation)

One of the best air compressors for home shop, the CMEC6150K is impressive on noise rating, maintenance, size and portability. Its pancake shaped tank accommodates 6 gallons of compressed air. Its shape and accompanying handle placement are perfect for portability. This product is rated at 150 Max PSI, thus applicable for a variety of jobs in the shop. With a flow rate of 2.6 SCFM* @ 90 PSI, this CRAFTSMAN Air Compressor has an attractive recovery time. It is maintenance free and starts easily in cold weather. This set comes with an accessory kit carrying a safety-enhanced blow gun, tire gauge, inflator adaptors and several other components.

Specifications

Product Dimensions (inches): 16.5 x 16.5 x 17.88

Weight: 32.5 Pounds

Oiled / Oil-Free: oil-free

Capacity: 6 Gallons

Power Source: corded electric

HP (Horsepower): 1.5

Max. PSI (Air Pressure): 150 Max PSI

CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute): 2.6 SCFM* @ 90 PSI

Noise Rating: 71 decibels

Package Includes: CMEC6150 Compressor

Warranty: One year

Pros

  • Many attachments
  • Affordable
  • Good pump up time

Cons

  • Some rare quality control issues

2. California Air Tools 8010 Steel Tank Air Compressor | Ultra Quiet, Oil-Free, 1.0 hp, 8 gal

(Our #1 Overall Recommendation)

The 8010 Steel Tank Air Compressor demonstrates accomplished design and workmanship synonymous with the manufacturer. This product is extremely quiet at 60 dBA and has on oil free pump. A running power of 1.0 HP and compact design make for a reliable but easy-to-transport air compressor. It weighs in at only 48 pounds and comes with a strong wheel kit. This device caters for user safety with thermal overload protector, heat dissipation and a couple of pressure control gauges.

Specifications

Product Dimensions (inches): 26 x 14 x 23 inches

Weight: 48 Pounds

Oiled / Oil-Free: oil-free

Capacity: 8 gallons

Power Source: Corded-Electric

HP (Horsepower): 1.0

Max. PSI (Air Pressure): 120

CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute): 2.2O CFM @ 90 PSI 3.10 CFM @ 40.

Noise Rating: 60 decibels

Package Includes: 1 air compressor

Warranty: 1 year

Pros

  • Super quiet
  • Great for light jobs
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Reports of it being slightly unstable on the ground
  • Gets hot quickly

3. DEWALT Pancake Air Compressor, 6 Gallon, 165 PSI (DWFP55126)

This is another great air compressor for home shop. It starts easily in cold weather thanks to the high efficiency motor. For best results, the manufacturer recommends that the product be placed away from obstruction such as walls. Air tools perform optimally with the couplers and regulator. The pancake air compressor has a 6 gallon tank and has a 165 PSI maximum pressure rating. It has an air flow rate of 2.6 SCFM* delivered @ 90 PSI pump. With this run time and recovery time are highly enhanced. There is also a cord wrap that promotes easy transport and storage.

Specifications

Product Dimensions (inches): 17.2 x 16.6 x 20.1

Weight: 30 Pounds

Oiled / Oil-Free: oil-free

Capacity: 6 gallons

Power Source: corded electric

HP (Horsepower): 0.9

Max. PSI (Air Pressure): 165

CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute): 2.6SCFM @ 90PSI

Noise Rating: 75.5 dB

Package Includes: 1 compressor

Warranty: 1 year

Pros

  • Compact
  • Sturdy, stable design
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Occasional quality control issues

4. TC•BL Portable Air Compressor 110V,Ultra Quiet Air Compressor Oil Free and Lightweight Small Air Pump

(#1 Electric Air Compressor)

Most home-based DIY users and professionals alike would love this item, for not only low noise level, but also modern features. The TC·BL Portable Air Compressor is compact and lightweight, but packed with power. The product has a pump capable of delivering between 40 PSI and 130 PSI. Weighing it at 16 pound, this item offers quick recovery and long run time. A permanent magnet-based motor design promises 10-times life compared to conventional motors. Use the universal coupler to use this portable device for dust extraction, inflation and powering nail guns and so forth.

Specifications

Product Dimensions (inches): 11.81 x 7.09 x 9.06 inches

Weight: 16 Pounds

Oiled / Oil-Free: oil-free

Capacity: 130 PSI

Power Source: corded electric

HP (Horsepower): 1.2

Max. PSI (Air Pressure): 9 bars

CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute): 2.5 CFM@90 PSI

Noise Rating: 68 Db

Package Includes: 1 air compressor

Pros

  • Compact and lightweight
  • Fast
  • Powerful
  • Very quiet

Cons

  • Heats up quickly
  • Capacity could be higher

5. Metabo HPT “THE TANK” Pancake Air Compressor, 200 PSI, 6 Gallon (EC914S)

(#1 Pancake Air Compressor Recommendation)

For more pressure than your usual pancake air compressor, the Metabo HPT “THE TANK” is a high recommendation. It has 200 PSI capacity and a flow rate of 4 CFM @ 90 PSI, which is 30% more than the ordinary pancake air compressor. The nickname “The Tank” perfectly defines a small compressor capable of running several tools at a go. It can power up to 5 brad nailers simultaneously, including fewer combinations of framing nailers, siding nailers or roofing nailers. The air compressor is highly productive and durable, thus suitable for a wide range of terrains and job requirements.

Specifications

Product Dimensions (inches): 18.5 x 16 x 16 inches

Weight: 41 Pounds

Oiled / Oil-Free: oil free

Capacity: 6 gallons

Power Source: corded electric

HP (Horsepower): 1.3

Max. PSI (Air Pressure): 200

CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute): 4 CFM @ 90 PSI

Noise Rating: 73 dB

Package Includes: EC914S compressor

Warranty: one year

Pros

  • Great for limited space
  • Fills up quickly
  • Stable
  • Easy to use (quick disconnect)

Cons

  • Quite loud

6. California Air Tools CAT-4610S Ultra Quiet & Oil-Free 1.0 hp 4.6 gallon Steel Twin Tank Electric Portable Air Compressor, Silver

The CAT-4610S is among the quietest air compressors for home shop with 60 decibels rated noise level. It comes with an oil-free dual piston pump system 1.0 hp motor for low maintenance. The design is also suitable for uneven terrains and a wide range of temperatures. Combined with 1680 RPM performance, the motor is highly durable. It can run for 3000 hours before it requires maintenance. Also designed for portability, the steel twin tank product weighs in at 62 Pounds and has a sturdy ergonomic handle. Conveniently placed gauges and strong base make the machine even more attractive.

Specifications

Product Dimensions (inches): 19.1 x 16.7 x 19.7

Weight: 62 Pounds

Oiled / Oil-Free: oil-free

Capacity: 9.2 Gallons

Power Source: Corded Electric

HP (Horsepower): 1.0

Max. PSI (Air Pressure): 120

CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute): 3.10 cfm @ 40 psi – 2.20 cfm @ 90 psi

Noise Rating: 60 Decibels

Package Includes: Air Compressor & Air Filter

Warranty: 1 Year

Pros

  • Quiet
  • Fills quickly
  • Adequate capacity

Cons

  • Some reports of poor quality control – some fittings may break

7. Craftsman Air Tools, 2 Gallon Portable Air Compressor 1/3 HP Oil-Free Max 125 PSI Pressure, Hot dog, Model: CMXECXA0200243

At 17.64 Pounds weight, compact and ergonomically designed, this product qualifies as portable. It is low maintenance too thanks to an oil-free 1/3 HP UMP pump that also starts easily in cold weather. Together with the decent 2 gallon capacity, the durable pump creates a powerful air compressor that fills up quickly. The maximum capacity is 125PSI. This compressor is suitable for a variety of applications including stapling, fastening, tire inflation and bolting. It is usable in the home garage, workshop and even jobsite. The Q235b steel housing structure is evidence that this product is designed for tough job requirements.

Specifications

Product Dimensions (inches): 8.6 x 14.6 x 18.44

Weight: 17.64 Pounds

Oiled / Oil-Free: oil-free

Capacity: 2 Gallons

Power Source: corded electric

HP (Horsepower): 1/3 HP

Max. PSI (Air Pressure): 125

CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute): 0. 7 CFM@40 PSI, 0. 5 CFM@90 PSI

Noise Rating: 78 dB

Package Includes: 1 x Compressor ✔ 1 x Ball Valve ✔ 1 x Quick Coupler ✔ 1 x 6 Feet Cord

Warranty: 1 Year Manufacturer and Distributer Limited Warranty

Pros

  • Portable
  • Compact
  • Lightweight
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Reports of poor customer service

8. CALIFORNIA AIR TOOLS CAT-1P1060SP GAL 56DB Air Compressor

The California Air Tool CAT-1P1060SP wins in the quiet operation segment- 56 decibels! This property is highly enhanced by the smooth .6 HP, which runs at a mere 1680 RPM. This low speed promotes durability too. Small it is (only 29 lbs), but this product is durable and reliable. The secret is a Large Single Piston Pump design. Its portable and ergonomic design is perfect for a variety of home jobs. The air compressor has an oil-free pump that allows for use in difficult terrains and cold weather. For ease of use and control, the compressor features conveniently placed and designed control panel.

Specifications

Product Dimensions (inches): 17 x 13.2 x 17.1

Weight: 36 pounds

Oiled / Oil-Free: oil-free

Capacity: 1 Gallon

Power Source: electric

HP (Horsepower): 0.6 HP

Max. PSI (Air Pressure): 290

CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute): 1.2

Noise Rating: 56 decibels

Package Includes: air compressor

Warranty: 1 Year Limited Warranty

Pros

  • Great for small jobs
  • Quiet
  • Perfect for off-roading (instead of 12v tyre inflator)

Cons

  • Errors reported in user manual
  • Some rare quality control issues

9. Freeman PE20V1GCK 1 Gallon 20 Volt MAX Cordless 1/3 HP Portable Electric Oil-Free Air Compressor Kit

This attractive product from Freeman weighs in at 14 pounds and is extremely compact. Contractors can find it easy to move from site to site thanks to the ergonomic carry handle. The highlight though is the rechargeable lithium-ion battery that nails 700 brad nails per charge. This air compressor features 2 easy-to-read gauges that are conveniently placed to measure air pressure. Some users may find the 78 decibels a little loud, but this noise level won’t interfere with normal conversation. There are anti-vibration stands to absorb some of the noise. As for power, the 1/3 hp motor is enough for most easy projects.

Specifications

Product Dimensions (inches): 14.76 x 10.11 x 11.34

Weight: 14 Pounds

Oiled / Oil-Free: oil-free

Capacity: 1 gallon

Power Source: battery powered

HP (Horsepower): 1/3 HP

Max. PSI (Air Pressure): 8.28 Bars

CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute):

Noise Rating: 78 decibels

Package Includes: 1 Gallon 20 Volt Cordless 1/3 HP Air Compressor; Rechargeable 20 Volt 4 Ah Lithium-Ion Battery; Quick Charger

Warranty: Freeman’s Professional 1 Year Limited Warranty

Pros

  • Compact
  • Portable

Cons

  • No replacement batteries

10. Stealth Air Compressor, Ultra Quiet Air Compressor 1 Gallon ½ HP Max 125 PSI 0.8 CFM@90PSI Oil-Free Light Weight Portable Air Compressor

(Our #1 Recommendation for a quiet compressor)

This attractive product from Freeman weighs in at 14 pounds and is extremely compact. Contractors can find it easy to move from site to site thanks to the ergonomic carry handle. The highlight though is the rechargeable lithium-ion battery that nails 700 brad nails per charge. This air compressor features 2 easy-to-read gauges that are conveniently placed to measure air pressure. Some users may find the 78 decibels a little loud, but this noise level won’t interfere with normal conversation. There are anti-vibration stands to absorb some of the noise. As for power, the 1/3 hp motor is enough for most easy projects.

Specifications

Product Dimensions (inches): 14.76 x 10.11 x 11.34

Weight: 14 Pounds

Oiled / Oil-Free: oil-free

Capacity: 1 gallon

Power Source: battery powered

HP (Horsepower): 1/3 HP

Max. PSI (Air Pressure): 8.28 Bars

CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute):

Noise Rating: 78 decibels

Package Includes: 1 Gallon 20 Volt Cordless 1/3 HP Air Compressor; Rechargeable 20 Volt 4 Ah Lithium-Ion Battery; Quick Charger

Warranty: Freeman’s Professional 1 Year Limited Warranty

Pros

  • Compact
  • Portable

Cons

  • No replacement batteries

Conclusion

Low maintenance, durable, quiet and yet applicable for a variety of home shop tasks, the California Air Tools CAT-4610S Ultra Quiet & Oil-Free 1.0 hp 4.6 gallon Steel Twin Tank Electric Portable Air Compressor, Silver is our top recommendation for the best air compressor for home shop or garage. Many online reviewers are impressed by the swift performance coupled with low noise and adequate capacity for most jobs.

While we have our list and our best product, what’s yours? How do you like our recommendations? Maybe you would wish to add or remove some from the list. If you have any views or suggestions, please share with us in the comments section and we’ll respond soonest possible.

Here are our other recommendations:

Best Oil-Free Compressor:

Best Portable Air Compressor:

Best for Tool Inclusion:

Hopefully, these reviews and buying guide have helped you select the best air compressor for your home garage. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments!

Jeff Stelling

Jeff Stelling is an air compressor obsessive who has been working with compressors for over 25 years, since he was an apprentice engineer in the mid 90’s. He designed Aircompressorcompare.com to offer technical guidance and buying advice for compressors.

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