The Best Portable Air Compressor

PORTER-CABLE C2002-WK UMC Pancake Compressor

Our Top Pick for 2016: PORTER-CABLE C2002-WK UMC Pancake Compressor
Read our full review.

See it on Amazon for $139.99*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
Too expensive? See our budget pick.

Air tools are totally cool. They tend to weigh less than manual or standard electric tools, have more power and have fewer parts that may lead to replacing the entire tool. However, they do require an air compressor to operate and not every home naturally has an air compressor the way we all have manual hammers and nails. Many people who are advanced do-it-your-selfers have large, non-portable air compressors in their workrooms. Even they usually require a portable air compressor in addition for tasks they cannot complete in the workroom such as spray painting walls. This guide is for people who have non-mobile air compressors and are looking for a portable version as well as for people for whom a portable air compressor produces enough pressure to meet their needs. Air compressors are useful for more than just powering tools. They are ready to inflate the air mattress for your guestroom, the pool toys, and with an inexpensive attachment, are an excellent assistant in cleaning up around the workshop. Let’s dive into the winners of our portable compressor evaluation and see how they can add to your accomplishments around the house.

Table of contents

amazon-available
amazon-available
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165 Max PSI
150 PSI Max Tank Pressure
Lightweight And Portable
6.0 Gallon Tank
2.6 Scfm At 90 PSI
One Horsepower Peak
2.6 Scfm Delivered At 90 PSI
6-gallon Pancake-style Tank
20 To 44 Drives Per Minute
75.5 DBa Noise Level
Low-amp 120-volt Motor
1 Gallon Air Capacity
Easy Start Up In Cold Weather
Oil-free Pump
One-year Warranty

*Price at time of publishing and may not reflect current pricing.

#1 Gold pick (Winner): PORTER-CABLE C2002-WK UMC Pancake Compressor

PORTER-CABLE C2002-WK UMC Pancake Compressor Gold Pick

View it on Amazon for $139.99*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-gold-winner“Pancake” compressors are compact, portable compressors with flat, oval air tanks that resemble pancakes. However, in spite of the silly name, this pancake packs a steak-sized punch. Our gold pick, the Porter-Cable C2002-WK UMC Pancake Compressor, is a fire-engine red beauty, weighing only 34 pounds and generally available for around $155.00.

Price, quality and convenience combined to make this our hands-down gold pick. For a tool to be actually portable, it must have more than a handle. This unit fills the handle requirement and is in fact light enough at 34 pounds for an adult to move easily. This is essential; you may not have several work sites that require this tool, but you will at least want to move it from room to room. The Porter-Cable C2002-WK UMC Pancake Compressor has two connections so two users can hook up to the compressor at a time. This is a substantial feature for such a small investment.

By far the majority of our reviewers were favorably impressed with the power of this unit. It powers even frame nailers for as long as desired, manages all smaller tasks such as clean-up and inflation projects, and is low maintenance.

Our reviewers consistently caution purchasers that this an excellent tool for home use and home projects. Though professionals do use this compressor, it is designed for lighter tasks. Think of building a fence in the yard or repainting a room rather than framing a new wing or painting the first floor. In this analogy, you see illustrated the difference in how long your need to run the compressor without interruption and the power draw.

All air compressors draw water and atmospheric dirt with the air, both of which are damaging to the unit. You need to drain the excess water out of the tank after each and every usage. Built up water, even in small amounts, is damaging. Additionally, considering the power of the engine and the size of the tank, you need to drain the tank at intervals during a long day of work, say every few hours of uninterrupted running. Build up water in the tank reduces efficiency and leads to corrosion.

For our gold choice, as for all the air compressors, you will choose best when you understand your needs. If you are an experienced craftsman and are replacing a previous model, you probably know the power and features you need. If you are new to air-powered tools, perhaps have been borrowing them and are starting to purchase some of your own, become familiar with the demands of those tools before purchasing to ensure your compressor is strong enough for your needs.

Here is an overview of the specifications for your information:

  • Induction motor.
  • A six-gallon tank stores 150 psi pressure which ensures longer running power to your tools.
  • 2.6 SCFM at 90 psi indicates quick compressor recovery which translates to less time spent waiting for the air pressure to build in the tank again.
  • Desirable oil-free pump to eliminate maintenance and extend the life of the unit.
  • 120 volt motor runs easily on home electrical supply.
  • 10 amp motor draw to prevent tripping circuit breakers.
  • Included 13-piece accessory kit including a 25-foot nylon hose, blow gun and attachments, tire chuck, tire gauge, quick coupler, plugs and Teflon tape. Estimated value: $30.00.
  • The hose of the accessories kit is factory installed to prevent leaks and save labor.
  • Two quick connect outlets to support two users.
  • Decibel ISO3744: 82
  • 90 day money back guarantee and three year warranty.
  • Convenient water drain at base of tank for easy removal of humidity taken in with air; necessary to avoid corrosion.

These features combine to create an attractive, strong yet compact air compressor. To address the portability function, the top of the unit is covered in a durable, plastic cover that protects the motor and forms a convenient handle by which to carry the unit. This cover includes a cord wrap for tidy storage.

The legs have strong rubber feet to prevent noise and motion as you run the compressor.

Porter-Cable support includes: repairing without charge any defects due to faulty materials or workmanship for three years from the date of purchase; this does not apply to accessories or damage caused where repairs have been made or attempted by others. Porter-Cable also maintains a 90-day money back guarantee. If you are not completely satisfied with the performance of your air compressor, return it within 90 days from the date of purchase with a receipt for a full refund – no questions asked.

Contact information: www.porter-cable.com or Customer Care Center at (888)-848-5175.

#2 Silver pick (Runner-up): DEWALT DWFP55126 Pancake Compressor

DEWALT DWFP55126 Pancake Compressor

View it on Amazon for $166.98*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-silver-winnerDonning the traditional yellow of all DeWalt tools is our silver pick at $150.00 the DeWalt DWFP55126 Pancake Compressor. If you’re looking for a low/no maintenance air compressor, you need look no further.

The DeWalt DWFP55126 has an elevated efficiency motor promoting easy start in cold weather or with an extension cord. It has a high flow regulator and couplers to increase performance and the oil-free design eliminates all regular engine maintenance.

Slightly quieter than the Porter-Cable C2002-WK UMC at 75.5 decibels, it is also four pounds lighter at 30 pounds. The DeWalt DWFP55126 is oil-free, relieving you of the regular oiling responsibilities that are a stumbling block for many home craftsmen. It has rubber-enclosed legs that reduce noise and prevent slippage and a large handle for even weight distribution and carrying.

This bumblebee air compressor, is powerful enough to power the tools most often required by home users such as brad and nail guns as well as any inflation or cleaning task about the shop. It includes a strong, impact and water resistant cover over the motor (note: This unit is not water or weather resistant.) that is removable for maintenance or to replace parts.

Truly portable at 30 pounds, many reviewers purchase more than one unit and keep them in different locations where its duties are needed such as campers, camping sites, vacation homes etc. It includes an easy access valve to remove water accumulated in the tank.

Since the DeWalt DWFP55126 does not include any accessories, you will have to provide them as needed.

Here is an overview of the specifications for your information:

  • A six-gallon tank stores 165 psi pressure.
  • 2.6 SCFM at 90 psi indicates quick compressor recovery which translates to less time spent waiting for the air pressure to build in the tank again.
  • Two quick connect outlets to support two users.
  • High efficiency motor for quick, easy start in cold weather or when using an extension cord.
  • Decibel ISO3744: 75.5
  • Well-placed ball drain valve for easy water draining from the tank.
  • Protective leg covers to prevent marring the floor, reduce noise and friction, and slippage.
  • Convenient cord wrap.
  • Oil-free pump
  • 120 volt motor runs easily on home electrical supply.

DeWalt heavy duty industrial tools are warranted for one year from date of purchase. They repair, without charge, any defects due to faulty materials or workmanship. For warranty repair information, call 1-800-4-DeWALT (1-800-433-9258). http://www.dewalt.com/

#3 Bronze pick (3rd place): Senco PC1010 Compressor

Senco PC1010 Compressor

View it on Amazon for $109.00*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-bronze-awardOur bronze pick, the Senco PC1010 compressor is a smaller operator than the gold and silver models. Costing only about $110.00, this unit supports its single gallon tank with a single horse power motor.

Very quiet and compact, you can carry this twenty pounder anywhere you need to work. Turning from the broad pancake design, the tank on this unit is shaped more like a short tube or hotdog. This makes it convenient for small workrooms, attics and other confined places. Keep in mind that this compressor is for indoor use only.

Designed to support only a single tool at a time, this small compressor is great for trim finishing, brad guns and small project air painting and crafting projects.

Some of our professional carpenters do use this little beauty for small finishing projects, particularly when carrying a larger, pancake style air compressor is unattractive. When you do use this tiny assistant, understand that you will often hear the motor go on to refill the tank. During refilling, you are not able to continue to work.

Also, though hardy, the Senco PC1010 is not designed to put in a full shift at work; it needs frequent breaks both to cool and refill. Additionally, you do have to drain the tank of water often to maintain peak performance.

This model comes with a filter. This is a big plus as you generally have to purchase the filter separately. The filter stops some of the dirt and water in the air from entering the tank, which improves performance and prolongs the life of the unit.

Here is an overview of the specifications for your information:

  • 20 pounds
  • 3400 RPM
  • Single connect outlet.
  • Decibel ISO3744: 73
  • Included filter.
  • Single horse power is peak; .5 horse power while running.
  • Oil-free pump
  • 115 volts
  • A one gallon tank stores 125 psi pressure.

Senco repairs or replaces, at Senco’s option and expense, any product or part that is defective in materials or workmanship after examination by a Senco Authorized Warranty Service Center, subject to the exceptions, exclusions and limitations for the one year warranty period. You must have a dated sales receipt or proof of purchase from the retailer to make a warranty claim and you must register the product with Senco.

To make a warranty claim, you must return the product, with proper receipt/proof of purchase and return transportation charges prepaid, to a Senco Authorized Warranty Service Center. A list of Senco Authorized Warranty Service Centers can be found at www.senco.com or by calling 1-800-543-4596 toll free.

If for any reason you are not satisfied, return with the original receipt to the place of purchase within thirty days for a full refund of the purchase price.

#4 Budget pick (Best cheap): Campbell Hausfeld Portable Compressor

Campbell Hausfeld Portable Compressor

View it on Amazon for $59.97*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-cheap-budget-pickThe economy model we selected is designed for very small, undemanding projects. The $70.00 Campbell Hausfeld Portable Compressor will fill bicycle and car tires, but not very quickly. Many reviewers who purchased this model wanted it for this very purpose and do not mind that filling tires is not instantaneous. Even to fill four tires, the compressor may well have to refill between each. The refilling process is not super-fast with the small motor of this unit.

This is also an oil-free air compressor so the responsibility of constant oiling is not a factor. The accessories included with this compressor indicate that kind of use Campbell Hausfeld consider appropriate. The accessories include an inflexible, short hose, inflation needles, male plugs, inflation adapter and tapered inflation. The unit includes a low-profile handle for easy transfer.

Beyond inflation of tires and air mattresses, this compressor can power small demand tools for short bursts. You can run a brad nailer for a short while or a stapler, but anything beyond that is too demanding for this blue baby.

As for clean-up tasks, such as blowing out hoses or cleaning up a work area, this unit is not a great match. It can hold up to blowing the dust out of a couple of computers and keyboards, but beyond that, you need a more substantial unit.

This model fills and refills slowly. You may need to wait between tire fills for the tank to refill, but you can complete such tasks with this compressor. It also generates a fair amount of noise. This may be more pronounced because reviewers naturally expect less noise from such a small product. However, our reviewers did not feel, for example, that you could converse naturally while using the Campbell Hausfeld.

For the modest investment and used as described, this fills a niche in the air compressor market nicely.

  • Max 110 psi pressure.
  • 0.39 SCFM at 90 PSI
  • Three gallon tank
  • 19.6 pounds
  • Oil-free pump
  • 115 volts

With all of the compressors we have reviewed, a recurring challenge is matching needs to product. If you purchase a product too weak for your needs, dissatisfaction is almost inevitable. Noise is another factor our reviewers did not anticipate; air compressors are noisy; smaller ones are less noisy than large, stationary ones, but they still generate noise. If you research and understand your needs before purchasing, you are much more likely to be pleased with your purchase.


Pre-purchase considerations

Purpose

We have already established that air compressor and air powered tools are cool. Beyond that consideration, you need to understand how you intend to use your air compressor before purchasing one. There are many general applications for compressed air around the home from inflating air mattresses for a camping trip to topping off your car and bicycle tires and almost any small air compressor can manages these simple tasks. Beyond these, what are your plans?

Though designed to be compact and portable, portable air compressors still consume a considerable amount of space in your workshop, garage or closet and you do not want to purchase one that is substantially larger than you need. Additionally, the word “portable” means that you can move the units around as needed, but many of us do not comfortably move 30-40 pound units distributed across an oddly shaped device with the greatest of ease. All of the units have handles to assist in moving, though none have wheels.

Before running out to add to your tool collection, examine your needs. If your sole air compressor use will be to power a spray-painter, you may be able to purchase the economy model and be fully satisfied with it. If you have small crafts projects and wish to save your arms from the impact of hammer and twisting of screws, again, the smallest model may be a good match for you.
If you are a do-it-your-selfer and gaining confidence, expanding the projects you undertake and ready for big game in the DYI safari, you might need to look at the more powerful compressors.

Look at the air tools you already own or are considering owning. Learn the amount of air pressure they require and estimate how long you may need to use them in a session. Air compressors have their own parameters and you want to make sure you purchase a unit with sufficient power.

Break ‘em in

Though not all of the air compressors we reviewed contain instructions for breaking-in the unit, many users and reviewers feel it is important. The breaking-in process is simply performing a dry run before using the compressor.

For this dry run:

  • Open the drain valve; this prevents pressure from building in the tank.
  • Plug the unit in and turn it on. You should hear air exiting the open valve.
  • Let the compressor run for 10-15 minutes.
  • Close the valve to stop the air from leaving the tank and allow the tank to pressurize.

All of the air compressors automatically shut off when fully pressurized. When you hear the compressor turn off, your dry run is complete. Power down and unplug the unit until you want to use it. Be sure to drain the tank of water after each use.

Understand Your Compressor

To select the correct air compressor for your needs, understanding the terminology of the unit is essential. The following is a list of common terms and definitions to assist you in your purchase:

CFM: Cubic feet per minute.

SCFM: Standard cubic feet per minute is a unit to measure air delivery.

PSI: Pounds per square inch; a unit of measure of pressure.

Code Certification: You may see codes such as the following on your unit; they indicate that they have been evaluated by an OSHA certified laboratory and meet the appropriate safety standards: UL®, CUL, CULUS, ETL®, CETL, CETLUS.

UL® is a registered trademark of Underwriters Laboratories used to indicate their evaluation.

ETL® is a registered trademark of Electrical Testing Laboratories and is used to indicate their evaluation.

Cut-In Pressure: The air compressor motor does not run constantly as a car motor does when driving. It turns on to bring the tank up to correct pressure and turns off when that pressure is reached. When the pressure drops in the tank, such as when you are using air to power a tool, the motor automatically starts again to regain the correct tank pressure. The low pressure at which the motor automatically restarts is called cut-in pressure.

Cut-Out Pressure: When you start your air compressor, the motor turns on to build pressure in the tank. When the pressure in the tank reaches the correct goal, the motor turns off. This high pressure at which the motor shuts off is called cut-out pressure.

Duty Cycle: This is the length of time of continuous usage. Most portable air compressors perform best and have the longest life if you follow the recommended duty cycle of the manufacturer. This air compressor pump is capable of running continuously.

Accessories

Your air compressor comes complete with everything needed to run the compressor. However, to use the compressor, you need a variety of accessories. When you purchase an air tool, you need to purchase the correct hoses and couplers to attach the tool to the air compressor. As you acquire more tools, you may get to the point where you have a collection of couplers and tools that support more than one tool. However, when you start out, you need to ensure you have all you need to use your tools.

Our reviewers and experts in the field recommend purchasing a filter for your tool hose. Your air compressor pulls air from the surrounding area. That air has water and a small amount of debris. As much as possible, you want to prevent that from entering your tools. You cannot fully filter out all dust particles and water droplets, but you can prolong the life or your tools by preventing as much as you can by using a filter.

One accessory that everyone using an air compressor needs is Teflon tape. It is your best friend when using air pressure tools. You need air to power your tools. You do not want it to escape from any loose connections. Use Teflon tape on all your threaded connections. It takes a minute to apply, but can save you hours in lost air pressure.

Safety

Modern air compressors have many built-in safety measures, but they are still powerful machines. Do not be blasé about the instructions. Understand what the gages mean, the parameters of your specific unit, the needs of your tools, how to maintain the air compressor etc. Not only will proper usage prolong the life of your unit and tools, it may save your own life.

All air compressors tend to spark a bit; this is considered normal. With this in mind, locate your compressor in a safe space. For example, placing it next to your most flammable liquids would be a poor idea.

All air compressors need room to breathe. To avoid overheating the device, allow breathing room all around the compressor.

The parts tend to get hot with prolonged use. Be careful with how you touch an air compressor you have recently used. You may be surprised at how hot some of the parts are.

Unplug the air compressor when not in use and before touching any of the metal parts to avoid shocking hazard.
Always drain the water from the tank after each use and always store your portable compressor unplugged.

Customer Service

All of the manufacturers of our reviewed air compressors want satisfied customers. In our research and from listening to our reviewers, a key cause of customer dissatisfaction is poor customer service. Unfortunately, there is often some complicity by the purchasers in this.

Understand that all warranties have limitations and provisions. To ensure you can take advantage of these warranties, use the air compressor in a timely manner after purchase. If you purchase and then leave it in the box for six months before using, you may miss many aspects of the support the manufacturer defined.

Keep your documentation until you are sure the product is working as it should. Many manufacturers require that you show the receipt to honor the warranty. Make it easy on yourself to take advantage of the warranty that we all hope we do not need.

Conclusion (Wrapping it up)

If you want a portable air compressor to inflate bicycle tires or to run your framing gun, you have great options in this review. These mighty minis are great for taking to job sites, moving around the house, or just for supplying the exact amount of pressure you need. Consider your needs before purchasing and then select one of the great products reviewed herein.

Discussion and comments

We want to know what you think. Do you own any of the products we discussed? Which did you buy and how did it work out for you?

Do you know of an even better product?

Comment below and help your fellow consumers make the right choice. Over to you!

Resources

  1. Best Portable Air Compressors – Updated March 2016, Best Reviews
  2. See Jane Drill, 5 Reasons Why You Need an Air Compressor, April 7, 2015
  3. Portland Compressor, Air Compressor FAQ
  4. ToolsAndHomeImprovement, YouTube, September 29, 2014
  5. DeWalt DWFP55126 Air Compressor Review, PowerToolsNinja.com
  6. Best Pancake Air Compressor Reviews, AirToolGuy.com
  7. Senco PC1010 Compressor Review, AirCompressorSpy
  8. Campbell Hausfeld FP209499 3-Gallon Air Compressor Review, AirCompressorBase.com
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  • Quietest Compressor

    This article is so much informative and well-detailed. There are so many new brands in choosing the Best Air Compressor For Home Use that would suit our needs. The best thing is now I don’t have to search whole of the google sites in order to grab any sort of knowledge about them.

  • Quietest Compressor

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  • Quietest Compressor

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