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Selecting the Right Air Compressor for Your Air Tool
An air compressor is used to power air tools such as spray guns, air sanders, air wrenches, air hammers, and much more. While not as widely used, air tools are more powerful than traditional electric power tools. Air tools offer more torque and RPM than electric tools not to mention that they are significantly lighter (since they do not have their own individual electric motors) which makes them much easier to handle. Air tools are also less expensive, more versatile, and longer lasting. Overall, an air tool accomplishes a task more rapidly and effectively.
When selecting an air compressor, it is important to understand the needs of your air tool. These are some characteristics of air compressors that you should look at in order to select one that will work best for your air tool needs.
Amount of Power Needed
One of the most important factors that must be decided is the amount or power needed for your air tool. While this power can be measured in several different types of units, the most useful is the CFM (cubic feet per minute). The more common household air tools require 0-5 CFM while larger air tools such as sanders or polishers may need 10 CFM or more. The air compressor you choose depends on the type or air tool you will be using.
Gasoline vs. Electrical Air Compressor
One of the first things you have to do is decide whether you want a gasoline driven-engine or an electrical driven-engine air compressor to run your air tool. I would recommend the natural gas air compressor. Natural gas air compressors are very reliable (at the 99.9 percent reliability level), cost effective, and reduce electric energy consumption. These are all very important characteristics if you are planning on using your air compressor frequently. However, an electric air compressor can be a nice alternative if you are using it in an enclosed area where fumes are intolerable.
Size of the Tank
Think of your air compressor tank as an air tank that you would use to go SCUBA diving. The longer periods of time you are using it the larger the tank you will need. Air Tools that are for shorter use (air hammers, impact wrenches, etc.) will not need as big of a tank as air tools that need a continuous flow of air (grinders, sanders, etc.).
Type of Pump
There are two main types of pumps to choose from: a direct-drive pump and a belt-driven pump. The direct-drive pump is lightweight and is meant to last for five hundred hours. This type of air compressor is not for heavy use but more for around the house projects. The belt-driven pump lasts three times longer, has less vibration and is quieter than the direct drive model. The belt-driven pump requires an oil change every now and then, but do not let this discourage you from it since these occasional oil changes are really not that much of a hassle.
Vertical vs. Horizontal Air Compressors
A vertical air compressor usually is stationary and takes less storage. A horizontal air compressor is more portable and can be moved from project to project. The style you choose from is dependent on what your needs are with your air tools and different projects.
When selecting an air compressor you should keep these different attributes in mind. The two main things you should remember are what type of air tools you will be using and the frequency that you will be using them. If you keep those two things in mind, you should be able to distinguish what features you need in an air compressor and pick the right one for you.
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