Which Air Compressor Size Should You Go For?

air compressor size

Last updated on September 12th, 2021 at 12:45 pm

Air compressor sizes range from 2 gallons to more than 80 gallons. The larger the tank, the greater the capacity of the pump, so it can fill up the tank and recover quickly when the air runs low.

Since there are different sizes, the question everybody asks themselves at first is, which air compressor size should I go for?

If you’ve ever considered getting one, I’m sure you’ve asked yourself that question too. You may wonder, should I go for a very big one or a small one?

Answering this question correctly and choosing the correct size can be quite tricky, especially if it’s your first time. But, with the guidelines in this article, we’re sure you’re going to pick the right size for your project.

To choose the correct size for your application, you need to first determine what you want to use it for. The kind of projects you want to carry out with it or the type of tools you want to operate.

When you know this, then you will be able to pick the right size. Air compressors have many applications at home, in the garage/workshop and on the jobsite.

You may want to use it to power a paint sprayer to spray cars, houses or furniture, to power air tools like nail guns, grinders, air hammers, ratchets, wrenches for working on cars and so on. Or you can use it for inflating stuff like tires, matrasses and football.

Like I said above, all you have to do is determine the type of projects or tools you want to power with it. That will tell you the size to go for.

To make it easier, we’ve divided the projects or uses into 5 broad categories and have recommended air compressor sizes for each of these 5 categories.

Category 1: Air Compressor Size For Inflating projects

inflating projects

The first category of users are those who want to use it for inflation projects. If you want to inflate your car tire, your kid’s football, rafts and matrasses, then you fall into this category of users.

Most likely, you don’t need an air compressor for this, since you are not really powering any air tool. What you need is an inflator, which is likely cheaper.

An air compressors sole purpose is to store air in a storage vessel like a tank as a form of energy to power air tools.

If you want to inflate a football or a matrass at home, you don’t need compressed air energy to do this. You need a device that can provide a steady stream of air, which is an inflator.

So, consider buying a good portable inflator instead, if you just intend to inflate things at home.

On the other hand, if you really dig getting an air compressor for this, then you can go for a small 6 gallon pancake or hotdog type. That will be sufficient.

In case you intend to power air tools in the future, it may also come handy.

Category 2: For Small Fastening Projects

air compressor size for small fastening projects

Some other users engage or may want to engage in small projects like installing trim moldings in a room, or framing a single room or so.

If you want to operate a trim nailer to install crown or base moldings, or if you want to power a pneumatic framing nailer to frame a single room, build a small deck or build a fence around your home, then you need a small inflation and fastening compressor.

You don’t need a very big size air compressor for these projects. You one with a small 6 or 8 gallon tank to get the job done.

Trim and framing nailers don’t really require a constant flow of compressed air to operate. They only require air intermittently, so they don’t consume a large volume of air at once.

So consider getting an air compressor with a 6 gallon sized tank like the Bostitch BTFP02012, the Dewalt DWFP55126 or even the super quiet 8 gallon California air 8010. They’d fit in perfectly.

Remember, this is for installing trim moldings in one or two rooms, or framing one room. You’ll need a bigger size air compressor if you intend to tackle large projects like framing a whole building or installing trim moldings in a full building.

Category 3: Larger Fastening Projects and Simple Auto Maintenance Project

larger fastening projects

What if you are not just framing a single room, but you’re framing a whole building? Or what if you’re not just building one piece of furniture, but you are building a whole lot of them?

Then you don’t need a 6 gallon air compressor anymore. You need one with a larger storage capacity, preferably 30 gallon.

Although the size you choose will largely depend on the type of tools you’ll be using in this instance. You need to check the SCFM requirements of the tool you’ll be using, and then make sure that the air compressor produces more than that SCFM in order for it to power your tool comfortably.

A 30 gallon air compressor is also ideal for small or simple auto maintenance projects in your workshop.

Nothing complicated here, just simple auto maintenance projects, or if you want to make simple repairs to your lawn equipment like sharpening of lawn mower blades with a grinder.

Category 4: For Auto Body Shop, Workshop or Garage Use

auto restoration projects

If you want to get serious in your workshop with some pretty serious auto maintenance or body shop projects, especially if you will be having a buddy working with you, and both of you will be using tools like pneumatic sanders, die grinders and cut-off tools which usually consume a lot of air, then you DON’T need a portable compressor.

What you need in this instance is a big stationary compressor that needs to be bolted on the ground, preferably a 60 gallon or larger to power these tool.

If you’re going to be running these kind of tools and projects, it is usually recommended that you go for as large an air compressor size as you can afford, because these tools use up a large volume air. Their CFM requirements is high.

That means, if you don’t have a large enough tank and a suitable pump to match, your tools will be using up the compressed air pretty quickly, and you’re going to have to continuously wait for the pump to recover and fill up the tank.

To make things easy for you, always check the CFM or SCFM requirements of the pneumatic tools you’re going to be running, and then make sure the air compressor is rated to produce at least 20 percent more than that. If not, it won’t be able to keep up with your tools.

Category 5: For Spray Painting Projects

spray painting projects

With a paint sprayer lying around and a suitable air compressor to match, your spray painting projects will just become more fun.

The issue however is choosing the right compressor that can keep up with the the paint sprayer throughout the project.

When it comes to spray painting projects, the least air compressor size you should go for is 30 gallon.

One with a 30 gallon sized tank will be suitable if you are tackling small projects like spray painting furniture. If you are in a car body shop environment, you can use it to spray paint one car panel, then you have to wait for the tank to recover before you continue.

You can’t spray paint multiple car panels with one charge if your tank is 30 gallon.

If you intend to tackle larger projects like spray painting multiple car panels in one charge of the tank, then you have to get one with a 60 gallon tank or a larger 80 gallon.

If you will be spray painting an entire car, then you should consider an 80 gallon air compressor. Like I’ve stated before, the larger the project you intend to cover, the larger the size you should go for.

Also take note of the SCFM requirements of the tools you’ll be using and make sure the compressor produces more than that in order to power the tools conveniently.

Ask yourself, am I going to be using the air compressor by myself, or am I going to have someone with me, using it at the same time with me?

If more than one person are going to be using it at the same time, then you must add up the SCFM requirements of the tools you’ll be using and make sure that the air compressor produces 20 to 30 percent more than the total SCFM of both tools.

Then you can use it with peace of mind, knowing that it can keep up with the air demands of the tools you’re running with it.

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