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How To Choose The Right Air Compressor For Your Facility

Finding the right air compressor for your facility is a significant business decision.

If you purchase one that is not powerful enough to meet your needs it can impede the quality of your work and put other equipment at risk. If you select one that is more powerful than what you need, it will be costly, and you may not see an additional benefit.

Let’s look at a few factors to consider when researching a new purchase.


Choosing The Right Air Compressor

Determining Your Usage Needs

When it comes to how to choose the right air compressor for your facility, one of the most significant factors is usage. A ½” impact wrench will require heavier pressure and flow than a nail gun or paint gun.

There are hundreds of tools or usages for compressed air. Any device that requires it will come with the manufacturer’s specifications to make the selection process easier for you. It’s a good idea to understand how it will be used as you make your selection.

Understanding Air Compressor Specs

When you’re shopping for an air compressor, it helps to have an understanding of what they can do. It can be a little overwhelming if you’ve never shopped for a compressor, but we’ll break it down.

Three measurements you’ll often hear are horsepower (HP), pressure (PSIG) and capacity (CFM). Let’s look at what some of the measurements might mean for a shop owner. It takes at least 90 PSIG to run most air-powered tools.

The CFM would refer to the amount of air that a compressor can produce at a given PSIG. The more tools you run at one time, the higher the CFM level would need to be.

The horsepower refers to the motor’s ability to provide a given level of CFM and PSIG. A 5HP and 10HP compressor can often produce the same levels of CFM and PSIG. The 5HP engine would be a more fuel-efficient choice, giving you the same performance without working as hard.

That shop owner will want to look at all the tools that might be run at the same time. He’d want to add at least a 30 percent buffer to make sure that there’s always enough air.

Look at Tank Size

The tank size correlates with the usage duration. If your air compressor will be in operation for long durations, with high volumes of air, a larger tank will be needed. Sizes run from one gallon to 80 gallons.

To put it another way, a compressor that operates an impact wrench will require more air (and a larger tank) than a compressor that operates a nail gun. Choosing the correct tank size for your application will improve efficiency and extend the life of your equipment.

What Kind of Air Compressor Do You Need?

Once you understand your usage needs, you can determine what type of compressor to purchase. If you’re in manufacturing or the industrial sector, then an oil-injected compressor is likely the way to go. The same is true if you have a small workshop. The oil in the compressor is used to lubricate, seal, and cool the compressed air.

However, if you’re in the food or medical industry, the risk of oil contamination is too high. You’ll want an oil-free compressor. If any amount of oil is found in the air, it could have an adverse effect on the product or the people you serve.

Oil-free compressors can be more expensive, but they will mitigate the risk of contamination.

How Costs Can Factor

Air compressor costs can vary, but it’s important to consider the quality of what you are buying. Like anything else, a quality air compressor that fits your usage needs may be more expensive up front.

Other factors down the road such as installation, maintenance, or power can come into play.

Consider the location you want it installed. If it needs to be updated to accommodate the machine this can considerably add to the cost. Like any other major appliance, neglect can necessitate costly repairs. Routine maintenance and inspections can help you keep your air compressor in good condition.

As much as 76 percent of the lifetime cost of an air compressor comes in electricity costs. Your annual electricity costs can run about $51,000 per year, according to this PDF sheet from Energy Star. It’s easy to see how an air compressor that seemed relatively inexpensive at the time of purchase can have a high cost of ownership.



An air compressor is an investment. To make the best investment, it requires the right information and an honest, experienced compressed air expert to seal the deal.

Furthermore, you don’t want to be stuck in a position where you’ve made the purchase and have a significant number of questions, and no one to talk with. It’s better to go with a company that has a strong track record of preventative maintenance and installation.

Need help choosing the right air compressor for your facility? Contact us today!

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