Going green is slowly seeping into the lives of thousands of Americans, especially homeowners. That explains the increasing following of environment-friendly power tools, such as electric air compressors.
Even though their main selling point is their clean power source, the best electric air compressors are no less capable and powerful than their gas-powered counterparts. They’re also less expensive and more convenient, making them a solid choice to consider for all your air blowing needs – be it inflating your car’s tires, replacing them with an air impact wrench, powering up your pneumatic nailer, or blowing leaves off of your house’s entrance.
Having said all that, you still have an essential task to complete, which is choosing the best electric air compressor. Worry not, though, as we’ve already done the heavy lifting and chose the top-performing products in this category.
Without further ado, here goes our best electric air compressor guide.
What Is an Electric Air Compressor
Simply put, an electric air compressor is a device that converts electric power into kinetic energy by pressurizing and compressing air in a storage tank, in which the compressed air remains until the need arises. Once called into use, the pressurized air is released in rapid bursts to operate different machines and equipment.
Air compressors are widely used in different industries for various purposes. Some of their uses include:
- Powering up pneumatic tools and machines, such as jackhammers and nailers, with a large amount of moderate-pressure air. This is the primary use of portable air compressors.
- Inflating tires, air mattresses, and any inflatable object.
- Supplying pneumatic HVAC control system valves with high-pressure, clean air.
- Filling gas cylinders with high-pressure, clean air.
As you can see, air compressors, especially portable ones, can be useful for a plethora of applications, thus their increasing popularity among tradesmen.
Types of Portable Air Compressors
Portable air compressors can be classified based on two criteria: either their power source or their design.
Power Source Classification
In terms of power source, portable air compressors can be either electric or gas-powered.
Electric Air Compressors
Electric Air Compressors are compact, lightweight, and extremely portable. You can easily plug one into any electric power outlet or even your car’s cigarette lighter receptacle, and you’re good to go. Although Electric Air Compressors are mainly designed for home use, many models are powerful enough for medium to heavy-duty tasks and projects.
Gas-Powered Air Compressors
Compared to their electric counterparts, gas-powered air compressors are bulkier and heavier, but they’re still pretty portable and easy to move around and transport. Gas-powered models are more suitable for heavy-duty projects due to the great power they offer. They’re also ideal for offsite tasks since you don’t need an electric outlet to use one. The downside is that because of the power they pack, these machines can be trickier to manipulate and use, especially by inexperienced tradesmen.
Based on their design, portable air compressors can be classified into four categories, which are:
Electric Pancake Air Compressor
Pancake Air Compressors are the far-famed kind of this power tool – mainly due to their lightweight and exceptionally compact design.
Generally, Electric Pancake Air Compressors rarely exceed 30 pounds in weight, and they feature a small tank, with a total capacity of one gallon or so.
This type is perfect for home use, as Pancake Air Compressors are oil-free and don’t feature any belts whatsoever, so there’s virtually no maintenance required. If you only need such a machine for filling tires and powering small tools, a pancake model can be the Best Electric Air Compressor for your garage.
Electric Vertical Air Compressor
Vertical Air Compressors, also known as portable single-stage air compressors, are popular among professional tradesmen who need to power their pneumatic tools, such as nail guns (see air compressor for nail guns) and jackhammers, frequently.
Compared to their pancake counterpart, Electric Vertical Air Compressor are a tad bit more expensive, which is expected considering that they feature more powerful motors and better compressor pumps. On the bright side, they last longer in the long run.
No matter what medium-sized project you need to tackle, be it building a deck, re-siding your house, or framing an addition, a Vertical unit would the trick just fine as your Best Electric Air Compressor.
Best Electric Air Compressor – Our Picks
Now that you understand what an electric air compressor is and what types it comes in, let’s dive into our picks for the title of the best electric air compressor.
WEN 2289 – Best Vertical Air compressor
Right off the bat is the WEN 2289 – our pick for the Best Vertical Air compressor. Although WEN is not as well-known as DEWALT or Milwaukee among tradesmen, it’s still one of the most reputable manufacturers of air compressors and similar tools, and the WEN 2289 reflects everything the company is known for – from fair prices to top-notch components and materials.
Everything in this tool is designed with both durability and portability in mind. On the one hand, the WEN 2289 air compressor features a reinforced steel tank with a capacity of 10 gallons and an oil-free pump, which should keep the machine going for a good number of years. On the other hand, it comes with a rubber-gripped handle along with a couple of seven-inch never-flat wheels, which make transportation a breeze.
The unit can deliver 4 CFM at 90 PSI and 5 CFM at 40 PSI, with a maximum pressure of 150 PSI. Now, those numbers are neither too high nor low, making this machine suitable for most applications and uses, from inflating tires and balls to powering up nail and spray guns.
We like the fact that this air compressor comes with an auto shut down feature for safety purposes. That, along with the wheels, durable construction, and two-year warranty, makes Wen’s price to value game is on fleek. If you’re looking for the real bang for your buck, the Wen 2289 is the best vertical air compressor that you can get.
As great as it may be, there’s one small niggle with this air compressor: the noise. This machine can be loud and irritating, so keep that in mind before choosing it as your best electric air compressor.
- Durable construction
- Auto shut down feature
- Easy transportation thanks to the handle and wheels
- Loud operation
Where to buy? : The best deal for this Wen compressor I have seen so far is on Amazon. You can check the current price of Wen 2289 compressor on Amazon.
Porter-Cable C2002 – Best Pancake Air Compressor
It’s easy to see why the Porter-Cable C2002 is a top-seller and has hundreds of raving reviews on Amazon. Not only is this fine piece of machinery affordable, but it’s also durable, lightweight, and compact, all while providing enough power to get all your pneumatic tools up and running for as long as you need them.
The Porter-Cable C2002 boasts a pancake design, with a weight of 34 pounds. Couple that with the small dimensions (18.3” x 18” x 19”), and you’ve got yourself a small machine that’s easy to move around and transport.
Don’t let the low price tag and compact construction fool you into thinking that this electric air compressor is weak though, as it’s anything but that. Since it’s compatible with most home circuits, you can plug this device into any power outlet and enjoy the wonders of combining an incredibly fast air-up and recovery time with an impressive capacity of 6 gallons. If you’re a nerdy kind of tradesman, know that the C2002 can deliver 2.6 SCFM (Standard Cubic Feet per Minute) at 90 PSI, with a maximum pressure of 150 PSI.
As for the coverage, the Porter-Cable C2002 pancake air compressor is covered by a one-year warranty that includes the internal components of the machine, which should give you some peace of mind since you won’t have to worry about costly replacements if a certain part turns out to be faulty.
Besides, the machine is pretty durable, with an oil-free, no-maintenance pump and a 120 V motor that can resist the harshest of weathers, so don’t you worry about the durability of the Porter-Cable C2002.
The only thing that users are complaining about is noise. The Porter-Cable C2002 air compressor is a loud machine, which can be a deal-breaker for some users (mainly those looking for the best Pancake Air Compressor for residential use).
- Lightweight and compact
- Short air up and recovery time
- Oil-free, no-maintenance pump
The online stores often offer good deals. I suggest you click here to check the Amazon price.
Powermate Vx PLA4708065 – Best Industrial Air Compressor
Both the Porter-Cable C2002 and WEN 2289 are great options to consider when looking for the best electric air compressor for small projects, but if you need to tackle heavy-duty tasks, there’s no turning around an industrial-level machine, such as the Powermate Vx PLA4708065.
The Powermate Vx PLA4708065 is made of steel and cast iron, which explains why it weighs over 350 pounds and measures 31.5 x 34.8 x 77 inches. Yes, it is heavy and cumbersome, but it offers an incredible level of durability. This tool is in it for the long haul, and once it enters your workshop, there’s no getting it out. The design is quite impressive, with an 80-Gallon steel tank and an oil-lubricated pump.
Thanks to its powerful 15-amp motor, the PLA4708065 electric air compressor delivers no less than 4.7 HP, with a maximum pressure of 155 PSI. In normal operation circumstances, the tool provides 14 CMF at 90 PSI. That’s more than enough to power up all of your pneumatic tools, including impacts, hammers, sprays, and ratchets. This is a tool that enables you to bring your A-game to every job.
As you know, more power equals more heat, which reduces the lifespan of power tools, but that’s not an issue in the Powermate Vx PLA4708065.
Why, you might ask?
Because it features a wired-formed belt guard that works on cooling the system and eliminating the risk of overheating altogether. Talk about efficiency, huh?
Other features that we like in the Powermate Vx PLA4708065 include the 3-cylinder design, durable, stainless steel flex valves, and oil level indicator, all of which contribute to making this air compressor all the more convenient.
The only flaw in this air compressor is that most of the weight is located on top. Considering that this is a vertical compressor, that makes it prone to fall on its side, so keep that in mind when moving this machine around.
- Powerful 4.7-HP motor
- Heavy-duty construction
- Large-capacity, 80-gallon tank
- Most of the weight is located on top
VIAIR 400P – Best Tire Inflation Air Compressor
While most portable air compressors tend to be underpowered, the VIAIR 400P brings the power of a stationary model to meet the needs of most tradesmen – especially when it comes to tire inflation at remote locations. Granted, the VIAIR 400P is not as powerful as the Powermate Vx PLA4708065, but it’s also not nearly as heavy and big, making it a solid choice to consider when looking for the best electric air compressor.
To power up the VIAIR 400P, simply connect it to your vehicle or a separate 12-volt battery via the included dual battery clamp setup, start the motor, and voila! You’re ready to start pumping air into anything!
The VIAIR 400P can deliver a maximum pressure of 150 PSI, which, as you may have noticed, is pretty much the standard for air compressors on our list. This tool can easily inflate a marge tire in no more than five minutes, with a consistent airflow of 0 to 30 PSI. As we mentioned, that kind of power is perfect for inflating tires, or any kind of inflatable object for that matter, as well as supplying air to basic pneumatic tools.
As said above, the VIAIR 400P is our recommendation for the best electric air compressor for tire inflation. It’s not the most powerful around, but it does the intended job just fine. Besides, it comes with a plethora of accessories, including a deluxe carry bag, and anti-vibration tray, and much more.
- Perfect for off-road tire inflation
- Comes with several accessories
- Compact and lightweight
- Can be a bit slow for larger tires
DeWalt DWFP55126 – Best Portable Air Compressor for Beginners
If you’re just starting out with pneumatic tools, there’s no point in getting an overly-powerful air compressor. Instead, you should opt for a machine that’s easy to use and can get you by just fine without too many bells and whistles – a tool like the DeWalt DWFP55126.
At a weight of 30 pounds, this unit is easy to move around, and it comes with two couplers, which means that it’s suitable for two users. All the components in this machine are of high-quality, and they’re perfectly put together by DeWalt’s engineers.
The DeWalt DWFP55126 packs a 6.0-gallon tank, which, although may seem a bit lacking for advanced users, is more than enough for small tools used by homeowners and DIYers.
As for power, it can deliver a maximum pressure of 165 PSI (sorry, but that doesn’t mean that it’s more powerful than the rest of the products in our roundup).
All in all, if you’re looking for the best electric air compressor for beginners, you’ve just found it. The DeWalt DWFP55126 offers enough power for all your small jobs and tasks around the house, including inflating tires and powering small pneumatic tools, all without being too noisy or cumbersome. What else could a simple DIYer ask for?
- Easy to operate
- Lightweight and compact
- Doesn’t make too much noise
- The 6-gallon tank may seem lacking for some users who want to connect multiple air tools.
You can see user reviews and the latest price of Dewalt DWFP55126 here..
Picking the Best Air Compressor – Buying Guide
Those were our picks for the best electric air compressor in different categories. Now, to make your final decision, here’s a detailed buying guide that will facilitate the choice for you.
Why You Should Get an Electric Air Compressor
Getting the best electric air compressor can be the best investment for your workshop for the following reasons:
- This machine is environment-friendly: As opposed to their gas-powered counterpart, electric air compressors are environment-friendly.
- It will save you plenty of time in the long run. Using an air compressor, all of your sprayings, sanding, and the nailing task will become a breeze and won’t take a tad bit of your time.
- They’re easy to move around. Most electric air compressors are easy to transport and move around, making them suitable for both job-site and remote tasks.
- Electric Air Compressors are easy to maintain. Maintaining power tools can be a real pain in the neck, but not electric air compressors. Caring for such a machine doesn’t require more than regular checks every now and then.
What to Consider Before Buying
When it’s finally time to make your final decision, here are the main factors that you should consider:
Power is a broad factor, actually, as it includes three metrics that you must consider before choosing your best electric air compressor: horsepower, PSI (pounds per square inch), and CFM (cubic feet per minute).
As far as the horsepower goes, air compressors can pack anywhere from 1.5 to 6.5 HP. Some models go beyond that, but those are mainly designed for massive projects. If you only need the best electric air compressor for small home tasks, horsepower shouldn’t be of concern.
PSI shouldn’t bother you either if you need a unit only for your DIY tasks. Most air compressors provide enough pressure for everyday tasks and to power the vast majority of tools.
The CFM, or cubic feet per minute, is all about how fast an air compressor can supply air. Here, you need to make sure that your tools won’t be consuming air more swiftly than the compressor emits it.
Here’s what you need to keep in mind when judging the metrics of an air compressor: most pneumatic tools that use a portable air compressor for power require around 0 to 5 CFM at 70 to 90 PSI.
Air compressors, both electric and gas-powered ones, offer plenty of versatility, and they can be used for home projects and industrial jobs. Having said that, not all models are equal, and certain air compressors are designed for specific uses and purposes. That’s why you need to keep the capability of your favorite machine in mind before picking the best electric air compressor.
So, what does that mean, exactly?
It means that you need to ask a couple of questions before making your choice:
- Is the air compressor at hand suitable for industrial jobs or small home tasks?
You need to make sure that the best electric air compressor for you meets the requirements of your job, projects, and pneumatic tools. Simply put, you ought to get a stationary air compressor with a tank if you’re looking to tackle industrial projects and power up heavy machinery.
On the other hand, if you’re simply looking for a device that you can use around the house, then a portable air compressor will the trick just fine. Opting for an industrial-level air compressor may seem tempting, but doing so can be overkill if you only tackle small projects and tasks.
- Can your home/jobsite handle the power requirements of the air compressor?
Not only does the unit need to meet the requirements of your projects, but your house and/or job site should also have the proper circuit to handle the power requirements of the air compressor. That’s because certain models are pretty powerful, so they need a more durable circuit to operate. Quite the vicious cycle, huh?
As with most power tools, electric air compressors do make some noise (well, some models make a LOT of noise). This is a vital factor to consider before picking the best electric air compressor, especially if you’re planning to use the machine in a residential area.
Although some models do have a significantly lower decibel level than others, it’s essential to keep in mind that opting for a quite machine usually means that you’ll have to sacrifice some power. Just try to balance the two, and you’ll be fine.
The size is more often than not overlooked by tradesmen when looking for the best electric air compressor, which can be a huge mistake. Before making up your mind, you need to consider where you’ll be storing the unit and whether or not you have enough space to operate comfortably.
Electric air compressors come in different sizes, weights, and designs, which means that they offer different levels of portability. Some models are as light as 7 pounds, while others can reach 70 pounds in weight. Rest assured, though, as most compressors come with handles and wheels to make transporting them easier.
Picking the right size and weight boils down to how often you need to move your air compressor around and where you’re planning to store it when not in use. If you’re not going to transport the tool around frequently, make sure the hose is long enough to reach different spots within your garage, workshop, or Jobsite.
No matter which machine you’re purchasing, be it the best electric air compressor, angle grinder, or even small drill, you should definitely make sure the unit will last in your garage for a good number of years.
- Make sure the air compressor is made of high-quality materials that can withstand the test of time.
- Opt for a reputable brand whenever it’s possible. Emphasis on reputable, not mainstream. Many less-known manufacturers, such as Powermate and VIAIR, are trustworthy and well-respected.
- Check the product’s warranty, as it usually reflects how much trust the manufacturer has in their product.
Safety is yet another essential factor to consider when buying any power tool. Before choosing the best electric air compressor, make sure to check the features each model offers and how well-designed it is when it comes to the safety of the user. Here are some questions that you can ask yourself:
- Is the power cord long enough for you to operate freely and safely?
- Does the unit have a solid base to prevent tip-overs?
- What safety features, such as auto shut-off, does the unit have?
As mentioned above, electric air compressors come in two main styles: pancake and vertical. Choosing the right model for your needs will depend on one, your power needs, two, your available space, and three, your portability requirements. There’s an air compressor for everyone, so don’t throw in the towel if you have specific needs.
Whether you’re looking for an air compressor to power up your pneumatic tools or one that will help you inflate your vehicle’s tires while you’re on the road, you’ll definitely find something you like among our recommendations.
Any of the above products can be the best electric air compressor for your garage, job site, or workshop, but it all boils down to your own needs, preferences, and budget. Determine those, read our buying guide, check our recommendations, and the choice will be obvious.