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When looking at air compressors, there are numerous factors that come into play. Depending on your needs, you will need an air compressor that provides sufficient pressure, power, and versatility to the job for which you need it. But how do you decide which air compressor is right for you? What are the different kinds of compressors, and for what are they used? Fortunately for you, we have developed a comprehensive list of the types of compressors, various applications of each, and provided detailed examples of different compressors for sale.
Air Compressor Basics:
For the uninitiated, let's dive into the basic mechanics of an air compressor. As its name would suggest, this device pumps in air from the outside and pressurizes it through compression. While there are multiple ways to do this, one of the most common is with a piston. The air flows in through an intake valve and then is pushed into a storage tank where its volume decreases and the pressure increases. Once the tank has reached its capacity, the system shuts off. Most air compressors utilize a storage tank to help regulate the overall pressure of the system and allow for operation without the motor having to continually bring in the air.
When it comes to using an air compressor, there are a wide variety of tools and applications that are best suited for air compression. These applications include filling tires, operating small instruments such as a brad nailer, or sometimes even operating a large power saw. Air compression is also used for industrial applications to power pneumatic tools, like a jackhammer. The kinetic energy stored in the compressed air is what powers the device, rather than electricity. The benefits of using compressed air instead of a more traditional source of energy include safety, higher torque, higher RPM output, increased versatility, and more power generated. Thus, more and more tools are operated with air compression.
Different Grades of Air Compressors:
When choosing an air compressor, it's important to know what duties it will be performing. There are three basic categories when describing compressors, and knowing the difference means you can better choose the right compressor for your needs.
Consumer Grade Air Compressors
This level of air compression is designed for small jobs around the house. The first application of an air compressor is to inflate something, like a basketball or a bicycle tire. If you have ever bought an air mattress, you have seen a small, portable air compressor that inflates the mattress much quicker than if you tried doing it yourself (i.e. breathing into it). If inflation is all you need, then a consumer grade air compressor is ideal. These are much cheaper, more portable, and require less energy than other grades. Many consumer compressors can be powered by a battery, rather than being plugged in. In some cases, however, this class can be used to power small tools, such as a brad nailer or staple gun. Ideally, though, you would want a contractor grade compressor to operate any tools.
Few consumer grade air compressors are
- Very portable and Affordable
- Perfect for minor inflation such as balls and tires
- Pressure gauge and clip on inflation easing inflation
- Compact as it has small compartments for storing extra accessories
- Clear, visible indicator lights and switches
- Allows recharge from car's cigarette lighter
- Hose and accessories fit tightly enhancing efficiency
- 11.5 x 9 x 8 inches dimensions tells us how easy to carry this MV50 model compressor from Q Industries
- Fast, Simple to Use & Easy to Store
- The air compressor also has an integrated air pressure meter gauge which is perfectly accurate so as to supervise the tire pressure during inflation.
- The MV-50 comes with an alligator clips for attaching directly to the terminal of your car battery so as to maximize the power it takes and to ensure it gets full battery output.
- The maximum rated output pressure is 120 PSI and can inflate a flat car tire in about two to three minutes, so there ought to no compelling reason to stress over about burden cycle for most applications.
- When on and functioning, the air compressor is pretty quiet and does not bounce nor vibrate around.
- Easily portable and long hose for makes it easy for huge vehicles. With the carry bag and the light weight, this device can be easily conveyed inside your vehicle while embarking on a travel. They barely add up any additional space. It truly serves as a good emergency for all each of those long outings that you make with your companions. The air hose is separable detachable and can be easily coiled up for better portability.
- Perfect ideal for those long off-road trips, this is a must have that saves you from getting stranded in the highway due to punctured tires. Comes with a 16 feet coiled up long pipe hose that helps to connect the tires of massive trucks and the air compressor.
- The unit is impeccable for all sort of tremendous utility trucks or any such cars.
- Includes attachable needle tip for inflating household item.
- It has a max amperage of 30
- The unit is equipped with an automatic protection device. In circumstance the device attains a hazardous working temperature, a protection circuits will cut power to prevent damage to the unit.
- It has an inbuilt circuit device that automatically shut down and starts all over again when the device try's to exits its maximum temperature. Then it takes maximum of minutes of 14 for the compressor to return normal temperature, depending on surroundings conditions.
- This compressor includes a 10-foot power cable to stretch around the vehicle, a 16-foot separable pipe hose to connect from compressor to tire, a built-in pressure gauge monitor, and a pair of alligator hook to clip straightforwardly to the battery.
- The 120 PSI creates an air flow up to 2.54 CFM (72 lPM).
- It comes with a Complete Tire Inflation System
- Compact in size and powerful build quality to make the most of the household tasks.
- With 6-Gallon tank allows for longer operation and bigger tools.
- Two hose connectors enable you two work simultaneously.
- Very little noise in operation.
- High quality engine and good low intensity compressor.
- Carefully design to give Great performance and efficiency.
- Don’t need any break in procedure before using the unit.
Contractor Grade Air Compressors
Of all the compressor grades, contractor grade devices are probably the most versatile and have the widest range of diversity. These types of compressor are perfect for job sites, but they can also be used in a workshop or at home if you need something with more power. Contractor grade compressors come in a broad range of styles, such as hot dog or pontoon tank designs (we'll get into these classifications later), and can be portable or stationary. This grade of compressor is ideally suited for running multiple devices, as well as powering tools like nail guns and framers.
Commercial Grade Air Compressors
This level of air compressor is for large-scale, heavy-duty projects. Usually, a commercial grade compressor is used on site when a constant supply of compressed air is needed. This can include construction sites or auto body shops, where it will power numerous tools. Commercial grade compressors can also be used for large industrial projects, such as oxidation of petroleum. As a result of their power needs and level of output, commercial grade compressors are almost always stationary.
Different Types of Air Compressors:
Now that we've discussed the different classes of compressor and their applications let's get into the various methods of air compression. As we briefly mentioned, the most common type of compression is done via pistons, much like how your car's engine works. However, there are three basic mechanics when compressing air. Below are descriptions of each type, as well as their benefits.
This kind of compression is driven by a piston forcing air into a chamber. The airtight seal between the piston and the tank increases the pressure as it presses down. This system is very simple, but it has its limitations. Typically, a reciprocating compressor can only provide pressurization up to 250 psi at 50 horsepower. As a result, this system is much more versatile than other forms of compression, making it more common in consumer and contractor grade devices. This system can be air or water cooled, and oil lubricated or oil free. We'll discuss the difference between these methods later on.
Instead of using a piston to drive air into the tank, this system uses two matching screws that, when rotated, suck air from the outside, forcing it into the reservoir. Because of the way the screws turn, air can only go one way, which prevents it from leaking. The benefits of this system are that the screws can push air through constantly, without having to recycle, such as in a reciprocating system. Additionally, this method of compression is cooled as it operates, meaning that it doesn't risk overheating. That makes rotary screw compressors much more robust and easier to maintain. This system is best for applications that need a constant, steady flow of air.
This is the most powerful type of compression, and it is driven by a rotating impeller that forces air into the chamber. Centrifugal compressors operate at high speeds, which generates a constant flow of air, as well as higher pressurization. This type is mostly used for commercial grade compressors, due to its higher output and power requirements. Additionally, the benefit of using this kind of system is that it is oil-free by design, so the air coming out is perfectly clean.
Now that we know the different grades, as well as the different mechanics of air compression, we are ready to make our decision, right? Unfortunately, it's still not quite that simple. There are other factors that need to be taken into account before deciding on an air compressor, which we've listed below.
Powering an Air Compressor:
There are two methods of powering an air compressor: electricity or petroleum. Electric compressors are generally quieter than gas-powered but need a constant supply of energy. On some work sites, plugging into an outlet can be a bit of a problem, not to mention having cords in the way. For this reason, gas-powered compressors are sometimes used for construction. The downside to this method, however, is that they are louder, require proper ventilation for the fumes generated, and must be refilled with fuel.
Lubrication and Cooling:
Most air compressors are cooled by either water or air. Most commonly, air is the preferred choice, since the compressor is already sucking it in, so it might as well cool the device as it operates. Sometimes, however, for more powerful compressors, oil is used to cool the equipment, as well as keep it lubricated. However, there are oil free options out there, which makes the compressor easier to maintain and keeps the air clean. The downside to oil free compression, however, is the added cost. This is because these types of devices are much more sophisticated and high-tech.
When it comes to compression, the best way to determine the power of a machine is not by the amount of horsepower. While this classification is suited for cars, it doesn't necessarily mean anything for compressors. Higher horsepower doesn't always mean more output. Instead, what you should focus on is the amount of pressure given, known as PSI (pounds per square inch). Additionally, you need to know the amount of air generated per minute, which is called CFM (cubic feet per minute). The higher the PSI and CFM, the more powerful the compressor. Most tools will let you know how much of each is required to run it, so you can use that as a guide when deciding on a compressor.
Think About Portable Air Compressor:
When looking at compressors, it's imperative that you look at the size and maneuverability of the machine. In some cases, usually, when more power is needed, your options will be limited. If you need a large amount of constant airflow, then a stationary or truck-mounted compressor could be your best option. However, there are a plethora of portable, contractor-grade compressors that can be used in a variety of applications. The designs of these machines are broken down into different classifications. These are:
- Pancake: so named because of their flat, oval shape. Pancake compressors are highly portable but do not provide as much power.
- Hot Dog: again named for their shape, these compressors have a single, cylindrical tank that can either be mounted on the side of the machine or on top. Hot dog compressors provide more power than a pancake but are still limited.
- Twin Tank: this is similar to a hot dog style, but instead it has two identical tanks for increased storage and power.
- Pontoon: this compressor looks like a pontoon boat, as it has two large tanks mounted underneath the machine itself. These are usually heavier and less maneuverable but provide much more power.
- Wheelbarrow: this is similar to a pontoon, but has a larger storage capacity and is mounted on wheels, similar to a wheelbarrow.
- Truck-Mounted: this type of compressor is not very portable unless placed on a pickup truck's flatbed. This provides the highest amount of power unless you opt for a stationary or commercial grade compressor.
Now that we have covered all the aspects of air compression and the different types of compressors, we can look at real-world models and determine the best compressor for your needs. To keep things simple, we'll break down the best options by grade, and discuss the details of mechanics, power, and portability as we go.