Air compressors to power pneumatic tools

Work fast without burning fossil fuels.

garage with tools
Working under pressure can be a good thing.NeONBRAND via Unsplash

As small DIY projects turn into larger and longer ones, keeping battery-powered tools charged and shooting nails with less-than-optimal punch might not cut it anymore. Fortunately, air compressors for powering pneumatic tools don’t have to be giant behemoths that take over your garage. These four models will help you work faster and smarter, without turning your home into a machine shop.

Craftsman Air Compressor
A portable choice from tools to tires.Amazon

This pancake air compressor holds six gallons of air and weighs just 30 pounds, so you can easily bring it along as you work in different parts of your house. You’ll get a maximum air pressure of 150PSI, which is sufficient for most DIY power tools. This model comes with 13 accessories including a blowgun for cleaning your workspace as well as a tire chuck and gauge you can use with your vehicle. If you’ve got a friend helping you with your projects, this machine can power two finish nail guns at once.

Dewalt Pancake Air Compressor
Shooting nails into molding might be therapeutic.Amazon

If you’re wondering how this small air compressor compares to the Craftsman, they are actually very similar (minus a few extra accessories with the Craftsman), and your choice might come down to your brand preference if you already have pneumatic tools. The Dewalt has a slightly higher maximum PSI of 165 (vs. 150), but for average use with tool at 90PSI both have an identical SCFM (standard cubic feet per minute), which gives you a reasonable amount of work time before the compressor needs to quickly recover. Both have oil-free pumps for simple tool maintenance, support two users, and weigh about 30 pounds.

California Air Tools 8010A Ultra Quiet & Oil-Free Lightweight Air Compressor
It’s got wheels.Amazon

Air compressors can be noisy, with the Craftsman and Dewalt pancake compressors hovering around 75 decibels (like running a noisy vacuum cleaner). This model is only 60 decibels, which allows you to enjoy a quieter work environment. The motor is rated one HP (horsepower) and can run at a peak of two HP with an eight-gallon capacity. It weighs a little more at 37.5 pounds, but it has wheels to help you maneuver it out of the garage and up and down stairs.

Senco PC1010 1-Horsepower Peak, 1/2 hp running 1-Gallon Compressor
Great for hobbyist households.Amazon

If you use power tools frequently enough to consider an air compressor but really loathe the idea of one more thing to cart around with you, this option weighs only 20 pounds. There are some tradeoffs, like a less powerful motor and smaller one-gallon capacity, which means you’ll get significantly less work time before the compressor needs to recover. However, if your household also wants to take advantage of the compressor to inflate bicycle tires or run an airbrush for painting, its portability can’t be beat.