Air Compressor for Nail Gun

Compressor for Nail Guns Looking for the best air compressor for your nail gun can prove to be burdensome. The jargon and terms for an air compressor can sound a little too ‘technical’ for common folks even if you knew what you were looking for. But this article has compiled a handy guide on things to look for while selecting an air compressor. Read on and find out!

What Size Air Compressor for Nail Gun?

A pneumatic nail gun is an intermittent power tool that does not require continuous supply of air. You need short bust of air to drive nails into the wood. So, all you need is a portable air compressor with at least 2 CFM rating and 2 to 6 gallon tank capacity.
Now the required specification varies according to the type of nailers and its use. Here is a handy CFM chart that will help to select the right air compressor for the nail gun according to their purpose.

Type of Air Nail Gun Compressor Type Specifications
Pin nailer Pancake/portable 2.0 CFM, 1 Gallon
Brad nailer Pancake/portable 2.0 CFM, 2 Gallon
Finish nailer Pancake/portable 2.0 CFM, 2 – 3 Gallon
Sheathing stapler Portable 4.0 CFM, 4 – 6 Gallon
Framing nail guns Portable 4.0 CFM, 4 – 6 Gallon
Roofing nailer Portable 4.0 CFM, 6 Gallon.
2-4 nail guns at once Wheelbarrow 6+ CFM, 6 gallon

Things to look for in an air compressor

What are the things to look for when buying an air compressor for your pneumatic nail guns? Here are 4 important factors and 3 supplementary things you should consider.

1. Tank capacity

The capacity of the tank depends on the work that you will be doing. If you require the nail gun for a long period of time, it is only fair that you will require an air compressor with a large tank capacity.

Most of the air compressors that are designed for powering pneumatic tools such as the power nailers have tank capacities from 1 gallon to 8 gallons. Of course, there will be air compressors available in the market with larger tank sizes. But if you are looking for portability and ease-of-use, especially if you are going to be handling a nail gun, 1 to 6 gallons should do.

Having a larger tank capacity does have its benefits. The idea is simple; with a larger tank capacity, it would give you the advantage of using the air for a longer duration. If the air compressor has a small tank capacity, it won’t be long before the air pressure drops. Before long, you would find yourself waiting for the motor to pump the air and refill the tank for use.

Nevertheless, as mentioned earlier, the size of the compressor would all come down to the purpose of the work. If you require the nail gun for normal house chores, a smaller tank capacity would do and vice-versa.

2. CFM

CFM stands for Cubic Feet per Minute. Before you buy an air compressor, you should make it a point to check the CFM besides the tank size as well. Technically, if for example, your air compressor has a 5 CFM, it means that it would blow a certain volume of air at 5 cubic feet of area in one minute. And putting that in plain words, CFM indicates the measure of the rate of flow of air in a given time.

It is advisable to choose an air compressor with a CFM that is slightly higher than the required CFM for your tool. This makes sure that your tool works efficiently with your air compressor and so as to avoid under- performance of your nail gun. If you want to find out the right CFM for your nail guns, all you have to do is multiply the required CFM of your nail gun with 1.5. The resulting value is the right CFM for the air compressor which is required for the respective tool.

Air nail guns are one of the power tools that require least CFM when compared to tools like impact wrench or spray painters. The finishing nailer and brad nailer can work with just 1 CFM while a more power hungry framing nailer require 2 CFM to operate properly.

Since a nail gun requires short bursts of air instead of continuous bursts of air, an air compressor with 2-4 CFM would be more than enough.

3. PSI (Pressure)

The term PSI is an acronym for Pounds per Square Inch. PSI indicates the pressure of the air per square inch of area. Nearly all the small air compressors from top brands offer adequate PSI to operate air nail guns. So you don’t have to worry too much about PSI and should focus more on CFM which is the key factor.

It goes without saying that having a large PSI for your air compressor also has its benefit. Higher pressure translates to higher amount of air in the same volume of tank. For example if you have an air compressor with a 1 gallon tank and a 150 PSI air compressor, it would contain the same amount of air in a compressor with a 1.5 gallon tank at 100 PSI.

CFM and PSI go hand in hand. Ensuring that your air compressor compliments the PSI and the CFM values will be beneficial in the long run for your tool. It is also advisable that you get an air compressor that has a larger PSI than required for your nail gun. A pro tip to find the right PSI for your tool would be to multiply the required PSI with 1.25.

4. HP

HP indicates the Horsepower of the air compressor. The HP of an air compressor indicates the overall power of your motor. In simple words, it defines the amount of work the air compressor can do in a given amount of time.

For small portable air compressor, the HP doesn’t matter much. When you choose a compressor with adequate CFM, PSI and tank capacity it will usually meet the required horse power.

It is in accordance that a 5 HP cannot do the same amount of work as a 10 HP air compressor. However, the fact that other factors such as the CFM and PSI of the air compressor comes into play as well. There can be instances where 5 HP and 10 HP air compressors will provide the same PSI at the rate of 10 CFM. In this case, it is evident that the 5 HP air compressor is providing efficiency while the latter is wasting power.

Therefore, having a larger HP does not equal efficiency and the right HP should be considered along with the CFM and PSI of the tools.

Additional features to look for:

Besides the technical requirements, there can be some additional features that you look for while selecting an air compressor:

5. Air-cooling system

An air-cooling system will ensure that your air compressor stays cools over the period that you using it. It not only cools the system but it enhances the life of your machines and pneumatic power tools as well.

6. Thermal protection

When you are using the air compressor overtime and if your air compressor does not come with an air cooling system, it is bound to get overheated. Overheating can damage the machine in the long run. Therefore, with thermal protection, your unit will come with an auto-off feature which will turn off the machine when it gets too hot.

7. Portability

A compact sized air compressor will enhance your productivity as well as ease-of-use.

A large air compressor that can power multiple tools makes sense for a shop floor or factory. However for builders, construction workers and home improvement projects portability is more important. When an air compressor is too large and heavy, the use of pneumatic tools such as nail guns becomes overbearing.

Also, the subject of storage pops up as well. So in order to mitigate those issues, make sure that you select right air compressor according to your portability requirement.

8. Noise Level

Some of these equipment are really loud. Initially you may feel like this will not matter much especially if you are using it occasionally for repair or DIY projects. However this can get really annoying after you start using the compressor for couple of times.

Which Air Compressor should you get?

Whether you buy an air compressor online or from the local store, you can find products ranging from small pancake air compressor to massive industrial grade systems. Some of these air compressors can offer additional features as well. But the important things to keep in mind are the technical requirements listed above which will ensure that your tools and machines remain long lasting.

In conclusion:

  • Nearly any portable compressor will have sufficient power to operate upholstery stapler, pin nailers and brad nail guns.
  • For finishing nail guns it is better to get one with 2 CFM to ensure uninterrupted nailing.
  • Framing nailers require more power and I recommend you to get a 4 CFM air compressor with 6 gallon tank.

Related Questions

Can I use the Porter-Cable C2002 air compressor for framing nailer?

The answer is yes. The Porter-Cable C2002 Oil-Free UMC Pancake compressor delivers 2.6 SCFM and has maximum pressure of 150 psi. This is sufficient to operate framing nailers.

However if you are nailing fast, this air compressor would need to recycle often. Hence I would suggest you to get a slightly higher capacity compressor for professionals. For most DIY and home improvement work the C2002 would work just fine.