What can air compressors be used for?
Air compressors are used in many craft, repair, maintenance, and cleaning jobs. Tasks that involve driving nails, drilling and removing bolts and nuts, blowing and cleaning or giving a neat paint job are more precisely done and take a shorter time when an air compressor is used.
Specifically, you can use an air compressor to power pneumatic and power tools. Here are some tools you can use with an air compressor: staple guns, nail guns, drills, air hammers, paint sprayers, chisels, grinders, sanders, and blowers.
You can also use an air compressor to fill car and bike tires, air mattresses, and kids’ entertainment equipment.
Features to consider when choosing a pancake air compressor
The roundish design of the pancake air compressor lends stability to the unit and is one of the reasons the compressor is popular with many home DIYers. Like with any equipment, there are specific features that determine how good a pancake air compressor is. Pay attention to these features when buying an air compressor. These are the things that dictate the capacity of the compressor and what tools it can power.
The size of the tank determines how much your pancake air compressor can do. Pancake compressors mostly come in one-two-gallon-tanks and six-gallon tanks. Air compressors with one- or two-gallon tanks are much smaller and are only suited for small tasks like running a nailer. The bigger, higher-capacity six-gallon pancake air compressors can do pretty much everything else involving a pneumatic tool while remaining portable and lightweight.
With a high tank capacity, you won’t need to refill the tank often. You can go through two or three major jobs before exhausting the compressed air in the tank. Small tanks must be refilled often as they can only store limited amounts of air.
Measured in pounds per square inch (PSI), the max pressure indicates the maximum amount of pressure the air compressor can give. Higher-capacity six-gallon pancake air compressors usually have max pressure in the range of 150-185 PSI. The higher the maximum pressure, the longer the runtime you get to enjoy. Lower max pressure means a shorter tool runtime and, therefore, is best suited for small jobs. Two- and three-gallon pancake air compressors have a max pressure of 100-125 PSI, with some models recording sluggish performance above 100 PSI.
For the best performance, ensure that the air compressor produces far above the required minimum PSI for the tool you want to power. Note that each device has a different minimum PSI requirement. To ensure that your pancake air compressor can work with a diverse range of tools, note which of your appliances has the highest minimum PSI, and then choose an air compressor with a maximum pressure that is much higher than the minimum PSI you noted above.
If the biggest tool among your appliances requires a minimum of 120 PSI, buy an air compressor with a max pressure of at least 140 PSI. This way, the air compressor can effortlessly power appliances whose minimum PSI requirement is less than 100, while powering the bigger machine that requires a minimum of 120 PSI.
This is indicated by the decibel level of the noise produced by an air compressor. Levels above 85 dBA are considered unsafe with continuous exposure. For most pancake air compressors, noise level ranges between 75 and 82 dBA. If you’re in search for a quiet option, take a look at the Campbell Hausfeld DC060500, which produces only 68 dBA. You can have a normal conversation even with the DC060500 running right next to you.
Air compressors with higher dBA levels are noisy and can be more of a disturbance than something you’re willing to overlook, especially if you’ll be running them regularly, so weigh your options carefully.
The amount of air flow at a specific PSI is indicated in cubic feet per meter, denoted as CFM. The minimum CFM required is different for each tool. Your air compressor should be able to deliver the minimum CFM for the tool you’re running. An air compressor with a much higher CFM than the tool’s required minimum can run longer before a refill is needed.
Weight and dimensions
The weight of the air compressor determines its mobility. The best pancake air compressor is one that is easy to move around and one you can carry with ease. A weight of 25-35 lbs is okay and ensures portability. A compressor that is tedious to lag about would not be of much use to you, so pick a model that is light enough to carry.
Choose a pancake air compressor with a warranty, so that if one of its components malfunctions, you can get a replacement at no extra cost. Most manufacturers issue a one-year warranty, which appears to be the standard in the field of air compressors. However, some models, like the Dewalt DCC2560T1, come with a three-year limited warranty.
Pancake air compressors mostly use an oil-free pump, which means they are non-messy, easy to clean and use. Other notable features worth looking out for are:
- Rubber feet to prevent movement during use;
- Soft-grip handle for easy handling;
- Protective cover for the controls;
- Auto regulator.
Also check that the air compressor allows you to control the output pressure, which you’ll need to adjust for different tools.