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  1. #1
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    Barely on topic - air compressor advice?

    I've been looking to buy a compressor for my home shop. There are a wide range of choices available - different sizes, configurations, prices, etc. I'm just looking for some guidelines from someone who knows about compressors.

    I might use it for inflating bike tires - especially mountain bike tires with Schrader valves - and maybe for blowing off dirt, doing the trick for slipping on hand grips. I'd also use it for keeping my truck's tires inflated, and I'd probably invest in a brad nailer and maybe even a nail gun for framing, roofing, etc.

    Any advice? I would of course like to spend as little as possible, and have it last as long as possible, but I'm always willing to spend a bit for quality, especially when it comes to tools!

    Also, it needs to run on 110 volts.

    Thanks in advance!

  2. #2
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    Look for a good warranty (and read it carefully), parts availability, store/service location. As with all tools, you get what you pay for and spend as much as you can afford. The bigger the tank, the less it will need to run to keep it full. If you are just doing tires, you can get away with pretty much anything but if you think you might use it for other air tools, consider that and buy big. I would recommend at least 10+ gal. If you plan on ever using continuous use airtools (grinder, sander, etc) go real big 25+gal or bigger

  3. #3
    Making a kilometer blurry waterrockets's Avatar
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    I recommend oil-lubed belt-driven compressors. They are (MUCH) quieter and more durable. I bought a beat-up 20 year old Craftsman 15g compressor out of the classifieds for $60. It's 28 years old now, and works perfectly.

    Get as big and powerful of a compressor as you can. Once you have one, you'll find yourself wanting to do a lot more with it than you originally planned. Blowing dirt takes a lot of air (it's great for cleaning car interiors -- blow into a shop vac).

  4. #4
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    There's a big difference between inflating tires and blowing off dirt. Just about any cheap compressor will do the first, but once you start blowing air, it won't keep up. Not a big deal, unless you want to use air tools, in which case you want at least 5 cfm.
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  5. #5
    Senior Member nagsheadlocal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by waterrockets View Post
    Get as big and powerful of a compressor as you can. Once you have one, you'll find yourself wanting to do a lot more with it than you originally planned.
    Boy, that's the truth. You'll start out inflating tires. Then you'll use it to clean the shop floor. Next thing you know, you'll be looking at the butterfly wrenches in the air tool display case. And an air hammer really makes short work of frozen lug nuts. An air-powered orbital random-pattern buffer shines up the car in no time. A portable air tank will make you the hero when the wife/GF/husband/BF has a flat at the mall . . .

    It's worse than drugs . . .

  6. #6
    biked well well biked's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by waterrockets View Post
    I recommend oil-lubed belt-driven compressors. They are (MUCH) quieter and more durable.
    +1......I've got an old Campbell-Hausfield like that that I had leftover from my contracting business, 26 gallon capacity, 110v. It's a great powerplant. The only downside is if you want to move it around, it's pretty heavy. But for a shop setting, that's the way to go-

  7. #7
    You Know!? For Kids! jsharr's Avatar
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    I would agree with the comments on the belt driven compressors. They are bigger but not as easily movable.

    I use a Porter Cable from Home Depot. It was under $200 and came with a brad nailer/stapler, hose, etc. It is noisy, but fine for low demand air tools, inflating tires, tubes, etc. It is easily portable and easily stored under my tool bench.

    http://www.homedepot.com/webapp/wcs/...01+1519+524403
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  8. #8
    Senior Member Thumpic's Avatar
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    The biggest risk to home compressors is tank rust. Buy new (unless you can confirm the routine maintenance) and drain the tank religiously. Literally....like every Sunday before church........make it part of your routine. You DON"T want a tank failure.........a large compressor tank failure can be catastrophic.........

  9. #9
    Senior Member capwater's Avatar
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    As an irrigation contractor, I use air compressors all the time; from tow behind big ones to small on the truck models. I have a craftsman 4 hp 25 gallon that has given me well over a decade of service. Even fell off the back of my truck one time at 35 mph and still works. The key, as someone stated is to drain the moisture out of the tank. I do it after every use. For small job there are some tankless models that will work fine.

  10. #10
    Senior Member cornholio's Avatar
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    Look at the CFM rating on the tools you want to run, and pick your compressor based on that rating.
    Also get an oiled compressor and save your hearing if you are going to be using the compressor indoors.

  11. #11
    Bill
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    +1 nagsheadlocal and others
    I rewired my portable for 240V mainly to minimize people borrowing it. Also bought a small pancake one cheap from Harbor Freight and used with air stapler to install 3/4" wood flooring and loaning out. It works good. You might start small to meet your immediate needs (tires etc) and start saving (payrol deduction is good) for the time the addiction part kicks in.
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  12. #12
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    Sears Craftsman are good, not necessarily the cheapest though.
    I use a 240 v, 6 HP with 10 gal tank (for garage space).

    Al

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    If you must operate it on 110V you are limited to about 1-1/2 to 2 HP on a dedicated 20 Amp circuit. Sears Craftsman models in that range are readily available and quite good. Be sure to get one with an accumulator tank so you have a reserve.

    A compressor that size will certainly fill tires and blow off dirt and dust. It will operate some smaller air tools and spray guns/air brushes but nothing large or with a high air demand.

  14. #14
    biked well well biked's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HillRider View Post
    If you must operate it on 110V you are limited to about 1-1/2 to 2 HP on a dedicated 20 Amp circuit.
    The compressor I mentioned above (110v, 26 gallon, oil lubed/belt drive Campbell Hausfield) has a big sticker on it that says "5 hp." That would be 5 peak hp, but I think that's the way air compressor motors are usually labeled. You're thinking of sustained hp when you say 1 1/2- 2hp limit on a 110v circuit. But again, I think air compressor motors are usually labeled with their peak hp rating, not their sustained hp. A 5 peak hp, 110v compressor with a fairly big tank can run all common air tools. For a one person shop, it's all you really need-
    Last edited by well biked; 05-15-08 at 08:05 PM.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by well biked View Post
    The compressor I mentioned above (110v, 26 gallon, oil lubed/belt drive Campbell Hausfield) has a big sticker on it that says "5 hp." That would be 5 peak hp, but I think that's the way air compressor motors are usually labeled. You're thinking of sustained hp when you say 1 1/2- 2hp limit on a 110v circuit. But again, I think air compressor motors are usually labeled with their peak hp rating, not their sustained hp. A 5 peak hp, 110v compressor with a fairly big tank can run all common air tools. For a one person shop, it's all you really need-
    The "5HP" sounds like advertising hype. A 20 amp circut at 110V will support a maximum of 2200 watts or 2.95 HP (745 watts/HP) so about 2HP is all you can rely on using in sustained service. Most electric motors have a starting surge much higher than their steady state amp draw so the 5HP may refer to a momentary surge and it relies on the fuse or circuit breaker having enough delay not to blow immediately. There is no way a typical 20 amp/110V circuit will run a true 5HP compressor. A 40amp circuit would run a 5HP motor but no normal home has circuits this big or the wiring gauge needed to use it.

  16. #16
    biked well well biked's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HillRider View Post
    The "5HP" sounds like advertising hype. A 20 amp circut at 110V will support a maximum of 2200 watts or 2.95 HP (745 watts/HP) so about 2HP is all you can rely on using in sustained service. Most electric motors have a starting surge much higher than their steady state amp draw so the 5HP may refer to a momentary surge and it relies on the fuse or circuit breaker having enough delay not to blow immediately. There is no way a typical 20 amp/110V circuit will run a true 5HP compressor. A 40amp circuit would run a 5HP motor but no normal home has circuits this big or the wiring gauge needed to use it.
    I agree, it is advertising hype regarding the high horsepower ratings. That's why I explained that these are peak hp ratings, not sustained hp. And I agree, 1 1/2 hp or so is the most sustained hp you can get out of 110v. But I believe the very compressors you recommended, the Craftsmens, are labeled with their peak hp ratings, not their sustained hp ratings. I was trying to keep the OP from thinking that if he goes to Sears to buy a 110v compressor, he's not going to be limited to compressors that are LABELED as 1 1/2-2hp compressors, as you implied. He'll actually be limited to compressors that are LABELED as 5hp or so, and those compressors are actually quite capable of running almost all air common air tools in a one man shop-

    EDIT: I stand corrected, I looked on the Sears site, their compressors are apparently labeled with their sustained hp ratings. My mistake. I guess my old C-H compressor with its obvious 5 PEAK hp rating is the exception and not the rule regarding how they're labeled. My bad. I'm surprised, because I remember Craftsmen power tools were usually labeled with their peak hp ratings, while brands like Delta labeled theirs with the sustained hp ratings-
    Last edited by well biked; 05-15-08 at 08:39 PM.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigBlueToe View Post
    I've been looking to buy a compressor for my home shop. There are a wide range of choices available - different sizes, configurations, prices, etc. I'm just looking for some guidelines from someone who knows about compressors.

    I might use it for inflating bike tires - especially mountain bike tires with Schrader valves - and maybe for blowing off dirt, doing the trick for slipping on hand grips. I'd also use it for keeping my truck's tires inflated, and I'd probably invest in a brad nailer and maybe even a nail gun for framing, roofing, etc.

    Any advice? I would of course like to spend as little as possible, and have it last as long as possible, but I'm always willing to spend a bit for quality, especially when it comes to tools!

    Also, it needs to run on 110 volts.

    Thanks in advance!
    The most important rating of a compressor is CFM (cubic feet per minute) at 90psi (where most air tools operate at). Horse power is total BS in many cases as it gets inflated by the marketing liars. So far they haven't figured out how to lie about CFM!
    Find out the largest CFM requirement of the tools you want to use and try to get a compressor with CFM equal to or greater than this. With 110V you will be quite limited though. Note that any compressor that does not have a CFM rating is likely pure junk and should be avoided like the plague.
    Belt driven compressors turn much slower than the motor and make much less noise than the cheaper "direct drive" models.
    Oil lubricated compressors are far more durable than the cheaper "oil free" models.

  18. #18
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    I'm air compressor illiterate and mine is currently sitting at a friend's house, waiting for me to buy a house.

    However, I went to the big orange hardware store, plunked down $200 for a big blue things that works on 110v, stuck the thing in the corner of my then garage, plugged it in, left it at 40 psi, and pretty much left it alone for about 5 years, maybe 6 years. I sometimes unplugged it to use the plug for something else and I sometimes remembered to turn it off. Usually it stayed on, at least the first few years it did, starting up every now and then to maintain pressure in the cannister thing.

    I use it to air out the garage (blower), impact wrench often to swap wheels on cars or loosen bits and pieces on usually suspension/brake/exhaust stuff, inflate car/van tires. I never used it for whatever small grinding jobs I had because I used an electric motor grinder (I thought it was a tremendous waste of energy to pump up air in the tank and then use it to whirl a little stone) but I have a grinder nonetheless.

    cdr

  19. #19
    Senior Member nagsheadlocal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bikingbrit View Post
    The most important rating of a compressor is CFM (cubic feet per minute) at 90psi (where most air tools operate at). Horse power is total BS in many cases as it gets inflated by the marketing liars. So far they haven't figured out how to lie about CFM!
    One of the re-marketers - people who buy stuff and then have their names slapped on the case - got dinged by the Feds a couple years ago for lying about horsepower on air compressors. I remember seeing the signs in Costco saying you could apply to get a check for a few bucks if you had bought one of those compressors.

    Coleman Powermate filed for bankruptcy back in March after a history of making bum compressors (some with their name, some with the Home Depot store brand, and other store brands) according to the story I read in WSJ. I remember they and Home Depot got dinged by the Feds for selling compressors with a high failure rate - what they would do is when Home Depot discovered a lot with a particularly high return rate, they would put them in one of those parking lot "tent sales" and sell them for 50% off. A lot of these were DOA out of the box. If you brought it back to Home Depot, they'd tell you to contact Coleman since you bought it on sale. I friend of mine got one of these and had to have the NC Attorney General's office get involved to get a refund.

    http://www.forbes.com/markets/feeds/...fx4792466.html

  20. #20
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    Wow! This is exactly the type of information I was hoping for. Thanks everyone!

  21. #21
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    I am no expert here either. But my dad made sure to tell me beore he passed away that the AC in our shop is a 'True' 5HP AC. when it fires up, the lights flicker a little. the motor on this thing is gigantic. Its about the size of the motor in my old 93 mazda 626 with an inline 4 cylinder... I am not sure what size tank it is, but its got enough CFM to be able to run a small Brute Snadblasting pot.. Dad hard wired it into the shop, and put Air connectors all over the place so no matter where you are, you can turn around and there will be an air fitting for air.

    But depending on how far down the rabbit hole you go, depends on how much money your gonna end up spending. CFM is king though, as others have stated. the higher the CFM at 90psi, the better off you are.

    Also, good quality AC's are $$$$$$. Get a made in USA AC. Chinese AC's are junk.

  22. #22
    My bikes became Vintage OLDYELLR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by carpediemracing View Post
    I went to the big orange hardware store, plunked down $200 for a big blue things that works on 110v, stuck the thing in the corner of my then garage, plugged it in, left it at 40 psi, and pretty much left it alone for about 5 years, maybe 6 years.
    No point in setting the pressure that low, since you'll get more air for just blowing stuff off if you set it at 100. However, You should drain the water out of it at least once a year, especially after humid weather, or you'll end up spraying water and the tank will rust out. If you don't use it at least once a week, it's also cheaper to shut it off until you need it.
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  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ducky View Post
    I am no expert here either. But my dad made sure to tell me beore he passed away that the AC in our shop is a 'True' 5HP AC. when it fires up, the lights flicker a little.
    I can assure you he wired it into a 220V circuit.

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