Let's be honest. A small portable
inflator or air compressor is a great household tool.
They're great at inflating tires and toys. They also pack enough pressure to operate some air tools.
The keyword is "some" air tools.
Most inexpensive consumer-grade portable air compressors can operate short burst tools, such as an air brush or brad nailer.
Keeping your tires properly inflated is the easiest way to increase your gas mileage.
So, it makes sense to have an
in your trunk or garage. And, it sure beats trying to find an air pump at a gas station.
Inflators handle sports balls and rafts in a jif. They can also fill a car tire, but it can take up to 20 minutes to reach the right pressure. The trade-off is they are inexpensive and portable.
Pancake Air Compressors
On the other hand, small air compressors are much more powerful- and more expensive.
Pancake compressors are small (1 gallon tank) and lightweight (16 pounds) for easy storage and portability. They are oil-free and have no belts so there is virtually no maintenance needed.
These are great for inflating items, but still lack the power to run air tools. Also, because they're oil-free, they are quite noisy.
Hot Dog Air Compressors
Hot dog compressors are popular with hobby-ists because they have enough power to run small air tools, such as air brushes and staplers.
These have slightly bigger air tanks than pancake compressors and accordingly, are heavier. Hot dog compressors are equipped with handles for easier transportation.
These units are oil-less and have no belts, which means little to
no maintenance, but they are quite loud.
Twin-Stack Air Compressors
Twin-stack compressors have two air tanks, which means you can store more air so the compressor doesn't have to run as often.
If you're a DIY-er, a twin-stack compressor will be a good choice. They have enough power to run finish trim tools, such as brad guns and nailers.
These are still "portable" air compressors, but some units weigh as much as 70 lbs. which is no picnic for most of us.
Portable Single-Stage Air Compressors
Portable single-stage air compressors are popular with carpenters and folks who need to run air tools like nail guns frequently.
If you're re-siding your home, building a deck or framing an addition, these powerful compressors will do the trick.
With stronger engines and better compressor pumps, single-stage units are more expensive than other portable air compressors.
Stationary Single-Stage Air Compressors
Stationary single-stage compressors are great for around the home or garage for people who need affordable air on an occasional basis.
These compressors are useful for automotive work such as rotating tires and other small tasks. Quality single-stage compressors are built to give you many years of reliable air.
If you're running air tools with serious CFM requirements, you'll want to step up to a two-stage or rotary screw compressor.