air compressor sizes - Samco

Walking into a hardware shop you may notice the array of different air compressors to choose from. Today we do a breakdown of air compressor sizes and types to help you choose. Read more below…

Air compressors are among the most vital industrial tools found and used extensively in several industries. These mechanical devices, irrespective of their sizes or type, boost pressure in gases such as air or several compressible fluids. Compressors power air tools, abrasive blast equipment, paint sprayers, propel gas through pipelines, etc.

Air compressors come in different types and sizes, from fit-in-the-glovebox units used for inflating tires to the giant turbocompressor or reciprocating machines used extensively in pipeline service.

How Do Air Compressors Work?

The most common type of air compressors is the single-stage, piston-type models. These are often suitable for most home uses and work efficiently in several applications around your workshop or home.

A typical air compressor works this way: a gasoline engine or electric motor drives a specific piston. This piston compresses air and then forces the compressed air into a storage tank. 

As the driven piston forces more air into the storage tank, the air pressure significantly rises. As soon as the pressure reaches a particular level, the air compressor stops operating.

But as you use the stored and compressed air in the storage tank to power aero machines or tools in your workshop or around your home, the compressor restarts itself in order to build up the air pressure to that specified level. This is the modus operandi of most air compressors, irrespective of their sizes or shapes.

Two-stage air compressors are generally equipped with 2 pistons. These pistons serve different purposes within the air compressor.

The first piston in a 2-stage compressor efficiently compresses air and pushes the compressed air through what is known as a check valve to the second piston. The latter compresses the air and then delivers it to the storage tank.

Two-stage air compressors are often commercial, heavy-duty models capable of delivering greater volumes of air at higher PSI levels than regular compressors. They are excellent choices for powering multiple tools simultaneously or for continuous use in workshops, factories, etc.

air compressor sizes - Samco

Types Of Air Compressors

Air compressors are available in a wide variety of sizes. This is important to know so that you can make the best buying decisions when shopping for one that is suitable for your daily operations.

The 2 major types of air compressors are stationary and portable air compressors. Let’s take a quick look at each of them:

  • Stationary Air Compressor

Stationary air compressors are large, high-horsepower devices primarily designed for positioning in a garage or shop. They come with large storage tanks capable of holding enough air that allows for extended periods of uninterrupted operation or use.

Stationary compressors showcase a vertical design that significantly minimizes the floor space they take up.

  • Portable Air Compressor

Portable air compressors generally come with smaller storage tanks. They have wheels or handles that make it easy for you to move them from one spot to another within a workshop or garage. They are usually more compact compared to their stationary counterparts and are available in the following styles/models:

  • Pancake Compressor

This type of compressor comes with a flat and round storage tank mounted right on the bottom of the unit. Its unique design boosts its stability, and it doesn’t take up much space, especially compared to other models.

  • Hot Dog Compressor

Hot dog compressors showcase horizontal designs with one cylindrical tank.

  • Wheelbarrow Compressor

This type of compressor comes with twin cylindrical tanks. It often features handles and wheels for smooth and easy mobility.

  • Twin-Stack Compressor

This stacked compressor model comes with 2 horizontal, cylindrical tanks that add air capacity without increasing the unit’s particular floor space.

Portable air compressors are perfect for quick, light applications such as powering the several types of nail guns you know as well as airbrushing.

  • Inflators

The smallest type of air compressor is the inflator. However, inflators do not come with storage tanks. This is why inflator motors must continually run in order to supply air non-stop. 

Inflators are primarily designed to inflate tires, small floats, sports equipment, etc.

Crucial Specifications of Air Compressors You Need to Know

Before you purchase an air compressor, know some specifications are in order.

For instance, the HP (horsepower) rating of an air compressor is an indication of the power output from the machine’s motor or engine. Devices with higher horsepower generate greater air pressure, often measured in pounds per square inch (PSI).

When a compressor has a higher PSI, it implies that the machine can store more air in the tank than its average counterpart. This air compressor type allows you to operate any air tool for longer. 

Standard cubic feet per minute (SCFM) and cubic feet per minute (CFM) refer to the volume of air a compressor delivers at a particular PSI level. The CFM value is indirectly proportional to PSI changes, i.e., the lower the PSI output, the higher the FM rating.

Compressors with higher CFM ratings deliver more air and are highly suitable for powering heavier applications such as operating framing nail guns, air wrenches, etc.

Air compressor makers or manufacturers generally rate the storage tank of these devices in gallons. Compressors equipped with small tanks that range from 4 to 6 gallons are often ample enough for a wide variety of projects such as operating nail guns or brad nailers, airbrushes, etc.  

But compressors with larger tanks store more highly compressed air at incredibly higher pressures. These air compressors are suitable for larger tasks requiring sustained or prolonged airflow, such as remodeling projects, automotive work, etc.

It must be mentioned that although the horsepower of an air compressor indicates its power output, it is most often the CFM ratings at specified PSI levels that determine the exact tools the compressor will power.

Wrapping Up Air Compressor Sizes and Types

Air compressors are crucial industrial equipment used comprehensively in a wide range of industries ranging from oil and gas to petrochemicals, engineering industries, etc.

The type of air compressor you choose for your business depends significantly on what you want the machine to achieve for you. It is important to know the different types of air compressors on the market, important specifications you need to know about air compressors, etc.