Air compressors have grown more and more common over the years for a variety of purposes – much like much other electronic equipment. An air compressor is of use to many different professionals such as contractors, automotive technicians, heavy-duty mechanics and even serious hobbyists. It is important to have an air compressor that can keep up with the kind of purposes it is intended to be used for. We understand that a lot of factors go into buying an air compressor, and it can be challenging in the current market to take a final decision regarding what the best budget air compressor might be. This is where we come in – with our extensive research and painstaking analysis, to help you make that decision as efficiently as possible. We have finalized a list of factors that are crucial in determining how you can choose a good sturdy efficient product. without having to sacrifice your budgetary constraints. Our aim is not to just tell you what we think is best, but rather to educate you on the factors that should govern your choice so that ultimately, you can take the decision as a rational informed consumer.
Porter cable C2002
Can be used for multiple purposes
Can be used in dimly lit areas as it has LED-lit buttons
EPAuto 12V DC
Has a compact design
It’s easy to move around with
Comes with a sight glass to monitor the oil level
California Air Tools 5510SE
Produces minimal sound when turned on
Ideal for use in a minimal noise environment
It’s reasonably quiet when operational
Air Tools 8010
The frame is quite sturdy
BLACK+ DECKER ASI300
It comes with a storage unit for additional accessories
Factors To Consider In Choosing Best Budget Air Compressor
This constitutes one of the most if not the most important factor(s) that should be considered while choosing a compressor. It is really beneficial in determining what size of compressor would be best for you. The problem however is that in recent years, the scourge of marketing has sought to exaggerate this factor to expand the sales of big-box stores. In this regard, the horsepower ratings of industrial compressors are a lot more reliable. and therefore it is generally the case that a 3 HP industrial compressor is almost 3 times more expensive and large when compared to a 5 HP hobby-type compressor.
One of the best ways to judge whether or not a compressor’s HP is overrated, is to check the amount of electrical power that is used up in running the machine. In most cases, almost all overrated hobby-type compressors run on a normal 15 amp 110 volt circuit, which in reality, is only capable of running about 2 HP. In contrast, a true 5 HP compressor draws about 24 amps on 220 volt circuit (single phase power).
It should also be noted that gas engine HP is rated differently as compared to an electric motor HP. To cite an example of this, an industrial 5 HP electric compressor will take as much air as a 10 HP gas compressor.
Air Pressure (PSI)
The unit of measurement for air pressure is generally in pounds per square inch or PSI. When it comes to most average run-of-the-mill air tools, they require around 90 PSI to run on decent capacity. However, if you’re thinking of maintaining 90 PSI at the tool, a compressor with a much higher shut-off pressure is required. Most industrial compressors are two-stage. This means that they build up to shut-off pressure in two different stages.
The first stage is usually responsible for building up to about 90 PSI whereas the second stage usually builds to around 175 PSI. For cases of hobby compressors or small commercial duty compressors, they are usually single stage and shut off at 125-135 PSI. Although this may feel more than adequate air pressure, it could be deceiving. Once the pressure drop from the hose and couplers is considered, the PSI may get reduced to somewhere in and around 100 and there might not be enough pressure at the tool.
Cubic Feet Per Minute (CFM)
This particular unit is used to measure the volume of air that a compressor produces. It is important to mention that air tools require a certain volume of air to keep themselves running. It is perfectly natural to see several different CFM ratings at different levels of pressure on a compressor. It also isn’t uncommon to see a high rating on a displacement CFM. This is generally a calculated rating based on the size and speed of the compressor pump.
The value and use of this rating are limited because it is at 0 pressure and does not consider the inefficiencies of the pump. Most tools can generally run efficiently at a pressure-level of 90 PSI – and this is usually the most important CFI rating on smaller compressors. Consumers should be vigilant when it comes to CFM ratings, as these can also be exaggerated as a marketing tactic much like HP levels. It is prudent to look for at least 3-4 CFM per real HP at 90 PSI.
Air Compressor Tank Size
The size of the air compressor tank is important and is vital to the compressor’s performance. Since the compressor tank is only responsible for storing and not producing air, it makes a lot more sense to focus on the greater size of the pump and motor. If an individual is able to produce as much air as required, then the question of storing the air in small or larger spaces becomes largely redundant.
It should be kept in mind though, that in certain situations it is smart to save money by getting a smaller compressor with a large tank if the user plans to use air intermittently. For example, in a situation where a compressor is producing 10 CFM continuously, 20 CFM can be taken out of the tank for half the time. For purposes of running a 1’’ impact wrench (around 20 CFM intermittently), the user might have enough air in the tank to perform this function. Using this mechanism, the compressor is able to build pressure until the user is required to repeat the job.
However, there are certain cases where producing as much air as is possible could actually be beneficial. For instance, when a user intends to run a tool steady such as a sander, this principle should be taken into account. Smaller tanks generally have a greater flexibility in terms of the portability factor, whereas larger tanks do not store and start as quickly but they cool the air better. A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that a large tank makes the compressor run less but this is a misconception. A compressor with a larger tank runs the same as that with a smaller tank, the only difference being that the former usually starts and stops less. The unit of measurement for tank size is usually US gallons.
Single-stage/Two-stage air compressors
The number of cylinders present in the single-stage air compressors is usually one or more, with each cylinder pumping air directly into the tank. Two-stage tanks are usually equipped with a minimum two cylinders and air passes through two consequent cylinders before ending up in the tank. The passage through which air moves in a two-stage compressor usually involves a cooling tube into the smaller second-stage cylinder at about 90 PSI and then eventually to the tanka at about 175 PSI.
For those rare applications that require a high level of pressure, two-stage compressors are very much useful. Another myth that needs to be taken down, is that two-stage compressors are better than their counterparts as a general rule. The truth is, however, that most industrial quality 5 HP compressors are two-stage, and they are better mainly because they are of a higher standard pertaining to industrial quality levels.
Direct drive or Belt Drive, Oil or Less Oil
Good compressors could be of both the Direct Drive or Belt Drive varieties. However, it has been found upon analysis, that most of the direct drive variants are of a lower quality, essentially because these are usually designed to keep the cost down for big-box stores.
Motor shafts are usually present for connecting direct drive compressors typically spinning at a rate of 1725 or 3450 RPM. Barring a few exceptions, most good quality direct-drive compressors generally have low RPM. The purpose for designing certain compressors that spin twice as fast is to get more air out of the compressors.
The problem is that these compressors usually have a much lower life expectancy and a lot of unwanted noise. There are still a few manufacturers who make low RPM direct drive compressors in smaller sizes. These can be a great option for finishing carpenters and other types of tasks which require greater levels of portability and quietness. Certain direct-drive compressors are also oil-free, which has used in certain applications such as breathing air or aeration. It is advisable to try and avoid high-speed oil-free compressors, however, if they are low RPM and have the right characteristics of design, they can have a much longer life.
Many European manufacturers are famous for making high-quality direct-drive oil-lubricated compressors. These are ideal for work related to the construction industry, owing to matters of portability and compactness. In recent times, certain Chinese variants similar to their European counterparts have sprung up across markets and like other types of Chinese manufactured products, some of them are good while others are not.
For purposes of higher air volume, and in cases where not much mobility or portability is required, direct-drive oil lubricated compressors should be the ideal choice. But the buyer is advised to be vigilant as there are are some high-speed aluminum pumps with a low life expectancy that are built for a low price much like their direct-drive counterparts. Belt-drive compressors are usually equipped with a pump that spins much slower than the motor, allowing for more efficiency and less wear and tear.
Many belt-drive compressors have a splash lubrication mechanism that enables it to splash oil in and around the compressor crankcase. For a value for money deal, consumers should consider getting a belt-drive oil lubricated compressor and avoid the high-speed, noise and oil-less ones.
Knowledge of the duty cycle is essential while purchasing a compressor. The duty cycle is expressed as a percentage and indicates the number of minutes the compressor is allowed to run out of a ten minute period. Low-quality hobby compressors usually have a 50 % duty cycle meaning that it should not be run for more than 5 minutes within a ten minute period. Exceeding the duty cycle overheats the pump and casts doubts on its long-term viability. On the other hand, most industrial compressors can be run continuously owing to their higher level of the duty cycle. It is prudent to spend a little more money to get a much a greater value with a compressor that has a higher duty cycle.
Greater activity of the compressor usually leads to greater heating of the device and that in turn causes greater moisture problems. Getting a bigger compressor is useful as it does not overheat easily and can work for longer hours before the heating becomes a problem. Humidity is also a factor which can aggravate moisture problems. A common misconception is that the water in the airlines can be reduced by draining the tank of the compressor. It is important to make sure that the user does everything possible to cool the air before it gets into the moisture trap.
It is important to consider this factor with clarity, before purchasing any kind of compressor. The buyer should try and get an understanding of the product’s life expectancy from the seller and in case the seller doesn’t know, it is prudent to call up the manufacturer. For every dollar spent in getting a bigger good quality industrial compressor, 2-3 dollars may be saved in the long run. The best way to go about purchasing the best budget air compressor 2018 is for you to simply consider how much the product costs per hour of life expectancy.
Although compressors may be large or small, it has generally been observed that larger compressors are favored a lot more because of their industry-standards. It has also been observed that most automotive air tools require around 10 CFM at 90 PSI to keep them going. As a general principle, it is overall a better option to have 2 and a half HP for each automotive tool. However, in cases of industrial air tools, they require a lot more air as opposed to the automotive ones.
Best Budget Air Compressors of 2020
1. Porter cable C2002
The C2002 is a great budget buy when it comes to air compressors – in part because of its exceptional portability and ease of use. This acts as a great device for a variety of functions, such as filling tires to firing nailers. The long life and impressive performance are partly down to the existence of an induction motor that is that optimizes all applications. An air pressure capacity of 150-PSI enables storing of more air in the tank for higher tool runtimes. In addition, the pump is extremely durable and can pride itself in not requiring any sort of maintenance. It also comes with a low AMP 120v motor that can be easily started in cold weather conditions. The most user-friendly aspect of this product is its oil-free pump that ensures no unwanted oil spills or other maintenance issues.
2. Tcisa Portable Air Compressor Pump
This Tcisa model is one of the best pocket-friendly air compressors available in the market, stacked with a number of useful features. It has a smart preset inflation mechanism, that allows you to simply preset the compressor to your target PSI and it automatically shuts off upon reaching that point. The LCD Backlit digital display, along with the LED lights allow for ease of operations in dark or low light conditions. In terms of durability and protection, this model proves hard to beat as its premium rubber protector and durable metal body ensures steadfastness for vigorous use.
3. EPAuto 12V DC
EPAuto is no stranger when it comes to producing durable and flexible products. This classy model is extremely convenient to use as it can be directly plugged into your vehicle’s cigarette lighter socket. It also provides an impressive maximum working pressure of 100 PSI and comes with a CE certification. The overheat protector is geared to automatically shut off the unit once the temperature exceeds 167 degrees Fahrenheit. It also has the additional feature of a bright LED torch light, allowing you to use the device in a variety of lighting conditions. Overall, considering all the factors as well as price, this really is one of the best budget air compressors you can choose to buy.
4. Bostitch BTFP02012
The Bostitch BTFP020126 is one of the best all-round air compressors with a great track record of performance and durability. The pump that is equipped with this compressor is oil free and does not require any maintenance, making it an instant hit among customers. It also boasts of a high-efficiency motor that starts up easily in cold weather conditions. Also in order to maximize performance, the device is equipped with a high flow regulator as well as couplers. Another one of its stark impressive features is the low noise release of 80 dBA for quieter working environments. All things considered, this compressor constitutes one of the most cost-effective and efficient ways of performing air tool-tasks.
5. Makita MAC700 Big Bore 2.0
The Makita MAC700 is a heavyweight air compressor in its own right and has the requisite features to get you excited. The cast iron pump that is attached to this behemoth of a compressor combines greater bore and stroke, ensuring the deliverance of maximum performance. It also boasts of a coating of oil that tends to minimize wear and tear, while also ensuring that the pump remains cool after running for extended periods. Other enticing features of this model include substantially low noise levels and a secured one-year warranty.
6. California Air Tools 5510SE
The 5510SE is a quintessential modern day air compressing tool that is designed to efficiently perform a wide range of functions. The oil-free pump ensures better tool operation along with the positive of nearly non-existent maintenance costs. It provides an impressive maximum air pressure of 120 PSI, while also maintaining a very low noise release of around 60 decibels. Additionally, the 5.5-gallon aluminum air-tank guarantees a long life for extensive use and is also very easily portable.
7. DEWALT DWFP55126
This Dewalt model is considered to be a strong contender for the best budget air compressor, because of its heavy-duty performance capacity and user-friendly operations. It has a high maximum air pressure of 165 PSI and the 6.0-gallon tank is designed to maximize longer extended run times with quicker recovery. For individuals requiring a quiet work environment, it’s a great option as it emits maximum sound levels of around 75.5 decibels. The device has a high-efficiency motor which allows for ease of use in cool weather conditions and weighing in at a conservative 30 lbs, it has a great propensity for easy movement.
8. California Air Tools CAT-1P1060S
This California Air Tools model is designed to be one of the best and most natural “light and quiet” air tools available in the market, and that too for a fantastic price. Weighing in at only a meager 20 pounds, the CAT-1P1060S is reported to make even less noise than an average conversation, with a maximum of 56 decibels of sound. In addition to this, it has an oil-free pump that ensures smooth, hassle-free operations at a variety of different temperatures, as well as terrains. A 1-gallon steel tank and a maximum air pressure of 90 PSI further corroborates this product as a solid, dependable and efficient air tool available at a value-for-money price.
9. California Air Tools 8010
California Air Tools are the pinnacle when it comes to the production of the most user-friendly air compressors. The company has released another masterpiece with its 8010 Ultra Quiet model with a tank that has the capacity to go from empty to full in an astonishing 165-second window. It also comes with a motor that packs a significant punch at 2 HP (peak). It also provides a healthy maximum pressure of 120 PSI and is known to cause 30% less noise than the average air compressor found in the market at this price range.
10. BLACK+DECKER ASI300
Black+Decker brings to you a quintessential air tool that can serve a wide variety of purposes, such as inflating sports balls, lawnmowers, bikes and vehicle tires. It has received huge acclaim for its pace saving features and a design that is based on aspects of portability. An impressive maximum pressure of 160 PSI, ensures that this tool can certainly pack a punch if required. It is also provided with an integrated gauge that is responsible for keeping tabs on the air pressure so that you don’t have to take the hassle of removing the hose every time to take a reading. All these features and many more make this one of the best budget air compressors 2018 has come up with, available at such a pocket-friendly price.