Air compressors can be bulky, pricey tools. Sadly, you often need them and there is no real alternative to getting one. However, for those who aren’t keen to spend a lot of money and don’t want to drag around a bulky air compressor, there are alternatives.
I’m talking, of course, about oil-free air compressor. The oil-free air compressors are not only a lot lighter, but they are also a bit cheaper as well. So, they can be a good alternative for those who need a high-performance air compressor, but who don’t want to invest in a heavier oil-lubricated model.
In this article, I’m going to try to accomplish three things. First off, I’m going to explain some of the benefits of going with an oil-less model (which I already have done somewhat), secondly, I’m going to tell you what some of the currently best oil-free compressor models are, and finally, I’m going to explain some of the things to look for when buying an oil-free compressor.
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Why Go For an Oil-Free Compressor
I have already touched upon a few of the advantages of going with an oil-free model, but I want to take a more in-depth look at this because if you look elsewhere online, you will find a lot of strong opinions on the matter. So, I want to try and give you an unbiased look at the advantages of oil-free compressors and why you should, at the very least, consider an oil-less unit.
To start this section, I’m going to reiterate the first two pros that I already mentioned earlier. The first positive aspect of going with an oil-free compressor is that it weighs a lot less than an oil-lubricated model.
Why is this the case? Well, it is quite simple. Oil-lubricated air compressors have extra components inside that spread the oil around. Oil-free compressors don’t have any of these internal components because they come pre-lubricated. This is achieved by using special coatings on wearable parts. As a result, oil-less compressors are both lighter and smaller.
The same logic applies to the overall cost of the air compressor as well. Because oil-free air compressors don’t need to include these lubricating components, they can afford to be a bit less costly overall. The saved money also applies to overall maintenance costs. With an oil-lubricated air compressor, you need to invest in lubrication oil from time to time, which isn’t cheap.
Clean Dry Air
Since there is no lubricating oil splashing inside the compressor, the air is drier and much cleaner. Instead, oil-free compressors utilize non-friction coatings (such as Teflon) on the surface of moving parts to reduce friction.
Less Maintenance Required
Oil-free air compressors require a lot less maintenance than their oil-lubricated counterparts. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, oil-free air compressors don’t require you to actually fill up the oil reservoir, which means that there is one less job that you have to do.
Secondly, oil-free air compressors simply have fewer moving parts inside of them. This means that the chances of something breaking or jamming are significantly reduced. This, of course, means that you can spend less time poking around inside the air compressor trying to find out what is wrong.
Top 3 Oil-Free Air Compressors
In this section, I’m going to go over some of the best oil-free compressor options on the market right now. My selections are based on my opinion, as well as user reviews and the opinion of friends who have used these tools. So, you know that it isn’t just my own personal biases.
1. California Air Tools 8010A
A few things that I really like about the California Air Tools 8010 is that it is powerful and that it isn’t noisy, like some other oil-less options.
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Let me start with the power of this tool. The California Air Tools 8010 compressor can achieve a max power output of 2.0 horsepower. This translates to around 3.0 CFM.
While this isn’t the absolute most powerful option around, it gives you enough power to be flexible in what jobs you can take on. You never have to stop a job because you are worried that you don’t have enough power to do it properly.
The second aspect that I wanted to highlight is the noise. Now, I know that oil-free air compressors have a reputation for being noisier due to the lack of oil lubrication. While that reputation is justified somewhat, it definitely doesn’t apply to this compressor. It operates very quietly.
Coming in both steel and aluminum options, you really can’t go wrong with the California Air Tools 8010. I would definitely have no issues recommending this to anyone.
2. Porter Cable PXCMF220VW 20-Gallon Portable Air Compressor
The second air compressor that I, and several others, would recommend is the Porter Cable PXCMF220VW 20-Gallon Portable Air Compressor. Easily the biggest reason why I would recommend this particular model is because of its immense power.
The Porter-Cable is definitely a lot more powerful than the California Air. Whereas the California Air did about 3.0 CFM, the Porter-Cable puts out 5.0 CFM. Trust me when I say that that is a very noticeable increase in power output.
Also, while this is a personal preference, both I and many of the people I’ve talked to about this particular model love how mobile it is. It has a cylindrical tank design and wheels on the bottom, so even though I find it a bit on the heavy side (at least when compared to other oil-free models), it still remains very easy for me to move around.
3. PORTER-CABLE C2002 Oil-Free UMC Pancake Compressor
While I personally don’t use pancake air compressors, I recognize that they are good for a lot of people who otherwise don’t have enough space for a larger air compressor. So, I asked some people I trust to tell me what a good pancake compressor option is that also happens to be oil-free. The answer I got was the PORTER-CABLE C2002 Oil-Free UMC Pancake Compressor.
The main things that stand out about this particular air compressor seem to be its size. Like all pancake compressors, the C2002 is great for those who are already having trouble finding space to store their tools. The tank takes up little space and it can be easily stored just about anywhere when not in use.
Another thing that my friends raved about is how surprisingly durable this compressor was. Oil-less compressors are generally accepted to be slightly less durable than oil-lubricated options. This is just because of the simple fact that the components inside the compressor will be grinding up against each other more.
However, this doesn’t appear to be an issue with the PORTER-CABLE C2002 Oil-Free Pancake Compressor. I’ve heard that it is an extremely durable and reliable oil-free air compressor.
What to Look For When Buying an Oil-Free Air Compressor
In this final section, I just want to go over some tips to keep in mind when you are out shopping for an oil-free compressor.
While shopping for compressors the thing you should look for is the output air pressure and CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute) or the volume of air. Depending on the type of power tool that use and these numbers will vary. Pick the ones that have sufficient capacity for your pneumatic tools.
Oil-free air compressors tend to be a bit on the noisier side due to the lack of lubrication on the internal components.
But not all oil-less air compressors are made the same. Modern compressors that use dual pistons with direct drive has reduced the noise levels to a good extent. In addition to that many models are equipped with noise reduction techniques such as sound absorption, insulation, and vibration dampening. So, read reviews and try to find one that isn’t quite as noisy, your ears will thank you.
Much like with noise, oil-free air compressors have a well-earned reputation for not lasting quite as long as their oil-lubricated counterparts. Again, the key here is to realize that not all oil-free options are going to be the same. Some are going to be a lot more durable than others. Sadly, this can be hard to find out, so you need to be diligent when it comes to reading reviews.
The two most commonly used power sources are electricity and gas. My suggestion would be to go for electric air compressors and avoid gas-powered ones especially if you got health issues.
Make sure that you choose between the 120V or 220V units, whichever matches your requirements.
Outside of durability and noise, I recommend just keeping in mind the basic factors that you should always be aware of when shopping for an air compressor of any kind. This includes overall power output, tank size, tank shape, etc.
These factors are common for all types of air compressors. For example, if you are buying an air compressor for an impact wrench or an air nailer, low tank capacity and CFM rating would be sufficient. On the other hand, operations such as spray painting require large-capacity compressors to ensure the uninterrupted supply of compressed air.
I hope that the information that I provided about oil-free air compressors, as well as the product recommendations, will help you to pick out the compressor that works best for you.
Back to Contents
- Why Go For an Oil-Free Compressor
- Top 3 Oil-Free Air Compressors
- What to Look For When Buying an Oil-Free Air Compressor