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Last updated: July 10, 2021
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Many of the best tools in your garage or shop, from air wrenches to nail guns and more, require a heavy-duty air compressor to perform the way their supposed to. Because of this, choosing an air compressor for your tools is a huge decision that will affect nearly every project you work on in your shop – not to mention air compressors can be expensive. The best industrial air compressor provides significantly more air output and a higher tank capacity than standard air compressors, which allows you to work more efficiently and with more powerful pneumatic tools.
In our review of the best industrial air compressors on the market today, we considered features like tank capacity and air pressure above all else. These features define what tools your air compressor will be able to power and for how long you’ll be able to work before waiting for the tank to refill with compressed air.
We spent tens of hours researching popular industrial air compressors, reading through hundreds of customer reviews and poring over technical specifications. The result is our picks for the five best industrial air compressors you can buy, highlighted in the table below. Continue reading for detailed reviews of each compressor, complete with pros and cons. Our buying guide covers everything you need to know about choosing the air compressor that is right for your needs. Finally, we sum up our top three overall industrial air compressors to power your tools.
Users love this industrial air compressor from tried and true tool brand DeWalt. The compressor is a single-stage, oil-lubricated compressor and is designed for the ultimate durability. The five-horsepower motor comes with thermal overload protection to keep it from burning out and spins at low RPM to extend its overall lifespan. Plus, the pump itself is designed so that it dissipates heat easily, and the wire form belt guard built into the motor further helps prevent the unit from overheating during heavy use.
On top of all that, this air compressor delivers impressive performance. It is capable of a maximum pressure of 175 PSI and has a 60-gallon tank – check out our guide to the best 60 gallon air compressors, if a large capacity is important to you. Users note that the tank only takes a few minutes to fill from empty, and since the motor kicks on when pressure drops to 135 PSI it almost never runs out of air . The 13.5 CFM air delivery rate at maximum pressure is more than enough to power tools like air ratchets and won’t quickly exhaust the tank.
The compressor stands upright so that it takes up relatively little space in your garage. The only issue some users had was that it does not come with wiring directions, which is important since it requires a 240V shop outlet. DeWalt provides a two-year warranty on the pump and a one-year warranty on the tank itself.
What makes it special?
Highly durable motor with thermal overload protection
This inexpensive industrial air compressor from Industrial Air is perfect for handymen who need more portability but don’t want to sacrifice on power. The oil-lubricated, two-stage compressor is mounted on a pair of pneumatic wheels for easy transport and the tank sports a 30-gallon capacity. The tank itself is made from cast iron, so don’t expect this compressor to be lightweight and easy to lift – it weighs 185 pounds. However, an advantage for most garage users and for portability is that it is wired to plug into a standard 120V outlet rather than a 240V outlet.
Users loved the power of this compressor, which boasts a maximum pressure of 155 PSI despite its relatively small size. The air delivery rate is low relative to other air compressors – 5.7 CFM at 90 PSI – but even then this is plenty to power most standard garage air tools. Users also noted that the compressor is much quieter than larger industrial air compressors, which can be a major advantage in small shops where customers are coming in.
Industrial Air offers a two-year limited warranty, although users found few problems with the compressor and many report it working for years of use.
Although it comes at a price premium, this two-stage industrial air compressor from Ingersoll Rand is the compressor of choice for large shops that use this piece of equipment heavily. It has the largest tank of any compressor we reviewed, at 80 gallons, so it is sure to keep your tools running throughout a project even when you have multiple technicians powering multiple tools simultaneously. The compressor is also able to pressurize air up to a maximum of 175 PSI to power heavy-duty tools, and the air delivery rate is the most impressive we’ve seen – 24.2 CFM at 90 PSI or 23.1 CFM at maximum pressure.
All of this is powered by a massive 7.5-horsepower motor, which is oil-lubricated so that it is sure to last for years to come if it is well maintained. The motor needs to be wired to a 240V shop outlet, although this won’t be an issue for most industrial users. Ingersoll Rand also covers their motor with either a one- or two-year warranty, depending on your intended use. The only downside to this compressor is that because of the 80-gallon tank, it can take up a lot of space and is nearly impossible to move with any frequency.
This air compressor from Quincy is a direct competitor to the compressor from better-known DeWalt and comes in at a significantly lower price point. Like the DeWalt compressor, it is capable of a maximum pressure of 175 PSI and offers a large 60-gallon tank that keeps enough air to allow you to work with multiple tools for extended periods without waiting for a refill -. The air delivery rate is also similar – 15.4 CFM at 100 PSI – and provides plenty of air to power tools like air impact wrenches and air ratchets. The five-horsepower motor also features thermal overload protection to extend its lifespan. Note that you will need a 240V shop outlet to power this compressor.
Where this compressor fall short of the DeWalt model is in customer service and the quality of the pump. Multiple users report issues with pump failures, and when trying to call in the one-year warranty that Quincy offers on the compressor have met with mixed results. In addition, the design of the compressor is somewhat bulkier and is less ready for transport since the feet lack tie-down points like those found on the DeWalt compressor.
If price and noise are your primary concerns in an air compressor – as they are for many garage handymen who want to upgrade from a household air compressor – consider this quiet and inexpensive oil-free air compressor from California Air Tools. The compressor is relatively small, with a six-gallon tank and a maximum 125 PSI pressure, powered by a small one-horsepower motor. Although the small tank means refilling every few minutes when using air-hungry tools like air wrenches, users found that it refills quickly and the pump is extraordinarily quiet – producing only 60 dB of noise so that you can use it at night without waking the neighbors.
The small size of the compressor is an advantage for users who need portability – if this a particular concern, then a 12V air compressor might be your best match! It comes mounted on wheels for easy transport and weighs only 54 pounds so it is relatively easy to lift. Plus, an advantage for garage users is that it plugs into a standard 120V outlet rather than requiring a 240V outlet.
The compressor requires very little maintenance since it is oil-free, although heavy users will find that this design also ultimately limits the lifespan of the compressor. For that reason, California Air Tools only offers a one-year limited warranty on the compressor.
Why are we impressed?
Small size makes it portable and lightweight
Oil-free requires little maintenance
Extremely quiet at 60 dB
What negatives must you be aware of?
Small tank has to refill frequently
Only one-year warranty
Oil-free design will limit lifespan with heavy use
Now that you’ve learned more about our five favorite industrial air compressors, how do you choose between them to find the air compressor that is right for powering your tools? In our Buying Guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about industrial air compressors, including how they differ from household air compressors and the features you need to pay attention to when choosing a compressor.
Industrial vs household air compressors
The main differences between industrial and household air compressors are in the tank volume and maximum air pressure that they are capable of. Household air compressors typically have small tanks on the order of several gallons, which means that the tank need to refill with air and recompress it after only a short period of tool use. This can be a major problem in an industrial setting, where waiting for the air compressor is lost time and a major source of inefficiency in your shop.
At the same time, not having the pressure you need can limit the types of tools you are able to use in your shop. Industrial air compressors are typically capable of compressing air to 125 PSI and often to 175 PSI, whereas 125 PSI or less is the maximum pressure found on most household compressors. Having more pressure means you can use more powerful pneumatic tools like nail guns and air impact wrenches.
Features to consider before buying an industrial air compressor
Knowing what features are important in an air compressor is extremely important when making a buying choice, especially when there are so many different technical specifications competing for your attention. Here, we’ll highlight the most important features and explain how they affect the performance of your industrial air compressor.
Air compressor type
There are a several important choices you need to make about the type of industrial air compressor you will get before you even get into thinking about tank volumes and maximum pressures.
One or two-tank
The first thing to consider when looking at garage air compressors is whether the compressor uses a one-tank or a two-tank design. In a one-tank air compressor, air is taken into the tank one time only and compressed to its final pressure in a single stroke of the piston. This is in contrast to a two-tank, or two-stage, air compressor, in which air is compressed by one piston stroke, then pumped at pressure while being cooled to a second tank and compressed to an even higher pressure by a second piston stroke.
One-tank air compressors, like those from California Air Tools and Quincy, typically provide a maximum pressure of up to 150 psi. Two-tank air compressors can offer higher pressures, like the up to 175 PSI pressures found on the Ingersoll Rand and Industrial Air compressors.
However, one-tank air compressors generally have higher CFM ratings than two-tank compressors, since air is being compressed to the final pressure with every turn of the engine – although this may not matter if you opt for a compressor with a large tank.
Oil vs oil-free
The piston that actually compresses air and pressurizes it requires lubrication to function properly. This lubrication can either come in the form of oil – which needs to be added to the air compressor regularly – or in the form of a Teflon coating around the piston that provides permanent lubrication.
Oil-based garage air compressors tend to cost more, weigh more, and require more frequent maintenance than their oil-free counterparts. However, if oil-based compressors are properly maintained, they will last for a ridiculously long time and long outlive oil-free compressors since the Teflon will eventually wear out. In addition, oil-based air compressors tend to be much quieter, which can be important if you are working in your shop in the early morning or at night.
All of the industrial air compressors that we reviewed are powered by an AC electrical cord rather than by gasoline since this is typically much less problematic to use on a daily basis inside your shop. However, note that you may need a high-powered 240V shop outlet to use with the Quincy and Ingersoll Rand air compressors.
The tank volume is a major factor in your air compressor’s utility because it determines how much air you will have to work with after waiting for the compressor to come to pressure. If you frequently use air-hungry tools like air impact wrenches or air screwdrivers, having a large tank – like the 80-gallon tank on the Ingersoll Rand compressor – can make your work much more efficient since you won’t be constantly waiting on the air compressor to recharge. On the other hand, if you are powering a pneumatic nail gun, where firing each nail uses a small amount of compressed air and the compressor has time to compress more air between each nail, tank volume is relatively unimportant and you may be okay with a small tank like that found on the California Air Tools compressor.
Performance: PSI and CFM
The maximum pressure, measured in pounds per square inch (PSI), and the rate at which air is delivered, measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM), are the two main factors that define an industrial air compressor’s performance. Maximum pressure on industrial air compressors can vary widely, from the 125 PSI found on the California Air Tools compressor to 1the 175 PSI generated by the DeWalt and Ingersoll Rand compressors. At the same time, the air delivery rate depends on the pressure you are working at – typically the rate in CFM at 90 PSI is used to gauge the delivery rate. The pressure and delivery rate that you need depend largely on the tools you plan to use with your garage air compressor. When in doubt, opt for a more powerful compressor than you think you need since that way you will be able to power a more pressure-hungry tool later if you purchase one, rather than having to purchase an additional air compressor to go with that tool later.
Durability and warranty
An industrial air compressor is an expensive and important purchase, so you want to be sure it’s going to last for years of heavy use in your shop. Nearly all air compressors are constructed from steel with few or no plastic parts, but oil-free air compressors do not last as long as oil-based air compressors since the Teflon coating around the piston will eventually dry out and crack.
You should also consider whether the motor itself, the electrical wiring, and the air tubing is durable and able to handle frequent jobs near maximum output.
To protect your investment, also be sure to check whether the manufacturer offers a warranty in case of any problems with the compressor. Most manufacturers only offer a one-year warranty since compressors can see heavy use, although DeWalt and Industrial Air offer limited two-year warranties on their compressors.
The pressure you need will be determined by the tools you are planning to use with your air compressor. Check your tools’ manuals for their recommended pressures and always choose a compressor that can handle your tool with the highest pressure requirement.
Instrument quality air is free from moisture that can damage the actuator or control units in many tools or other monitoring systems that require compressed air. Typically, instrument quality air will only be compressed to about 20–25 PSI.
Our overall three favorite industrial air compressors on the market today are the DeWalt DXCMV5076055, the Industrial Air ILA 1883054, and the Ingersoll Rand 2475N7.5-V. The Ingersoll Rand compressor stands out for its impressive size and power – the 80-gallon tank is more than enough to keep large shops running air tools throughout the day. Plus, that compressor provides an impressive air delivery rate of 23.1 CFM at its maximum 175 PSI pressure. The Industrial Air compressor was much smaller, with a maximum 155 PSI pressure, but we love the portable wheel-mounted design for users who need to bring an air compressor to a work site. We feel the DeWalt compressor is the overall best industrial air compressor for most users thanks to its combination of rigorous thermal overload protection on the motor, a two-year warranty on the compressor pump, and serious power and air delivery through a 60-gallon tank