Choosing the right air compressor

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Forum topic by Yomama posted 12-15-2011 11:11 AM 4334 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2 posts in 2381 days

12-15-2011 11:11 AM

Topic tags/keywords: air compressor purchase help air compressor help question

Hello! I’m really a LumberJockette, and would sure like some help choosing an air compressor. The market out there is boggling, and there is a lot of junk mixed in with the good stuff. Basically, I need a machine that will blow out the automatic sprinkler system, fill some vehicle tires (including the small, narrow ones), and wheelbarrow tires, etc. I use no high power tools. Since my use is limited, I’m reluctant to put too many $$ into this, but I don’t want to waste my money, either. ....would prefer American made….oil lube….portable/on wheels (or something I can pick up and carry easily)....
Do I need a large storage tank? How much hp? I will be running this almost always hooked up to electricity, so a large reserve tank isn’t necessary. When pushing air through the water lines, it will nedd to run about 5 minutes or so to purge them…and my guess is that I should have a system that at least has 125-135 max. pounds of pressure. Does this sound right? Any brand suggestions? I’d like to keep it under $150 if that’s possible.
....sure would appreciate any help you Jocks could offer. Thanks so much!!

14 replies so far

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3674 days

#1 posted 12-15-2011 11:24 AM

American made is not happening I think.

I would get one with a low center of gravity if I were you – or one
with wheels. I prefer the oil air compressors because they are
quieter and long-lasting, but the oil will leak out if you knock
them over.

For oil-less

I’d look at

and maybe the Porter Cable and similar “pancake” style air compressors
as they are easy to move around and resist tipping over.

Some models have roll-cages around them that make them easier
to pick up and move, but you may want to look at weight rather
seriously since those compressors emphasize toughness for jobsite
use over lighter weight.

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 3094 days

#2 posted 12-15-2011 03:51 PM

Any of the 1-2 gallon portable compressors would do just fine – for everything but blowing out sprinkler lines. For that job, you need a fairly high flow rate (cfm) at pressure over ~40 – 50 psi. That’s going to take a bigger compressor.

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View agallant's profile


551 posts in 2912 days

#3 posted 12-15-2011 04:37 PM

This what I have. I have had it for about two years I thihnk. I have never had any issues with it. It works great for all of the shop equipment and the times I have hooked air tools up to it it has done fine, it will cycle on big air tools like my 5/8 driver but besides that no complaints. It is a little bit more than you wanted to spend but I had a pancake compresser and it is one of those tools that once you have one you will start using it more and more and the pancacke was upgraded due to that. I say get the big one the first time and never upgrade.

View Bluepine38's profile


3379 posts in 3111 days

#4 posted 12-15-2011 05:46 PM

All of the lawn sprinkler service people around here have big scroll type aircompressors on their own trailers
to blow sprinkler lines out. Anything with a smaller capacity does not seem to be capable of blowing all the
water out of the lines and these gentlemen like to guarantee their work and not replace sprinklers and lines.
I do not think that you are going to be able to clear your lines properly unless you have a very small lawn
with very short runs.

-- As ever, Gus-the 79 yr young apprentice carpenter

View Bertha's profile


13529 posts in 2719 days

#5 posted 12-15-2011 05:55 PM

I’ve got a big boy and a small boy. The small one is a DeWalt Emglo (the bigger one); it’s the single tank guy on wheels. I’ve been very happy with mine but the CFM is a big exaggerated (7.5 Gallon (28.4L) Tank, 175 Max PSI, 4.6 SCFM). It’s very easy to move, relatively quiet for what it is, and it can run most everything except a sander. If you’re going to use a sander, you’ll want something delivering 8+ continuous. Good luck!

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View Manitario's profile


2630 posts in 2909 days

#6 posted 12-15-2011 06:47 PM

I have a small compressor from a big box store with a 6 gallon tank that I use to blow the lines out of my sprinkler system. It takes awhile and I have to let the compressor “catch up” at times, but it does the job. Most of the 6 gallon air compressors I’m sure would work the same for you. As others have mentioned, try and get one with wheels as they are heavy!

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

View Bertha's profile


13529 posts in 2719 days

#7 posted 12-15-2011 06:49 PM

^what Rob said. The black handle in the front of mine (above) pulls out to a comfortable length. The tires are actually air filled (they look solid in the picture) and it’s really easy to tote around. Getting it into the back of your truck is a little different matter but it’s do-able.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View live4ever's profile


983 posts in 3036 days

#8 posted 12-15-2011 09:19 PM

I don’t know if noise is a consideration for you, but it’s a big one for me. I’ve been shopping for a new one lately and a model that kept popping up with high marks is the Rolair JC10. It’s very quiet. It’s about 40lbs, so maybe heavier than you’re looking for?

-- Optimists are usually disappointed. Pessimists are either right or pleasantly surprised. I tend to be a disappointed pessimist.

View oldretiredjim's profile


206 posts in 2411 days

#9 posted 12-15-2011 10:52 PM

I have an older craftsman 6 gal pancake compressor that I got in the scratch and dent section after Christmas in 2004. I have used it for everything from building a fence to a 6 X 16 sun porch and annually blowing out sprinklers on a 1/4 acre lot. I throw it in the wheel barrow when I want to move it. I build a lot of things with T&G and plywood in addition to the general stuff you mention. I have a semi permanent setup in the shop with a 100’ rubber hose on a reel and I use a 50’ coil when I am out and about. It has never let me down. The only problem I have is my dog hates the noise.

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1520 posts in 4151 days

#10 posted 01-04-2012 08:48 PM

I’ve just had my Craigslist cheap Thomas Air-Pac go out on me. I’m trying to figure out how much effort I want to put into fixing it vs replacing it, and if I replace it, what my various options are.

My use pattern is a little different than yours, but perhaps not so much: I use various pneumatic nailers (recently I’ve been building my shop and have been using a stapler and a big framing nailer a bunch, usually it’s a pin nailer or two). I also use the compressor for blowing out the shop.

I’d like to do some basic spraying and sand blasting, but I’m realizing that those are really different activities from the other things, and that filling up a huge tank with a big compressor is kind of silly if I’m normally just throwing a couple of pins in a joint a few times a month.

So far, the front runners for me are the Rolair JC10, because it’s only 60dB (ie: you can talk over it), or the Makita MAC700, which is louder at 80dB, but which I’m finding a lot of praise for in various online forums (including here on LumberJocks).

The arguments for the JC10 are that it’s quiet (here's a video review of the JC10 in which the reviewer talks over the running compressor) and oil-less, which means I don’t have to worry about oil in the feed lines. On the other hand, my pin nailer is an oiled type, and the MAC700 is an oiled compressor, which is said to last longer and be more robust.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View a1Jim's profile


117119 posts in 3603 days

#11 posted 01-04-2012 09:23 PM

There are some conflicts in what you want. Most compressors that are going to keep presser for 5 minuets straight and last for a reasonable amount of time are Usually in the $ 200 plus range( Mostly plus) Other things to consider is noise and weight (how portable you want it to be) another point is many compressors are not made to run off of extension cords.
In short something has to give, ether the price or having it oil cooled or going used instead of new.
Some that are close price range are
and in the oil free type http:

another idea is go with a real cheapie compressor ,years ago I bought a cheapie compresses for small work and it lasted ten years to my surprise

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View jusfine's profile


2422 posts in 2952 days

#12 posted 01-04-2012 10:52 PM

I recently bought a Rolair for one of our jobsites, very nice machine, no complaints here.

Dan, my Thomas oilless (I bought new in 1985) is still running strong, never had an issue with it. Sorry to hear yours broke down!

-- Randy "You are judged as much by the questions you ask as the answers you give..."

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1520 posts in 4151 days

#13 posted 01-04-2012 10:56 PM

Randy, I’m pretty sure that it’s something simple, unfortunately the Thomas Air-Pac web site right now suggests that they’re in the process of some sort of restructuring, and I don’t know where to go for more insight.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1520 posts in 4151 days

#14 posted 01-04-2012 11:27 PM

Dang, Randy, I think I just destroyed any hopes of a new toy: The copper line that goes from the compressor pump to the tanks is cracked, I suspect that’ll be a $15 trip to the hardware store.

Sigh. I was getting my hopes up for that JC10.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

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