When it comes to air compressors, bigger usually is better. Now, that’s not to say that air compressors with smaller tanks aren’t useful, but there are a lot more benefits when it comes to using a larger tank.
Tool Tally’s guide is designed to help you get the best 60 gallon air compressor for you investment.
Air compressors with big tanks are great for both small commercial businesses, as well as the hobbyist. A bigger tank ensures that the compressor cycles less, which not only reduces its energy consumption but also limits the wear and tear on the machine.
Furthermore, larger compressors provide more power, as well as better and consistent air flow. A good rule of thumb to use when shopping for air compressors is to make sure that the tank has at least 2 gallons of storage for every CFM needed by the hand tools that you plan on using.
For example, since an impact wrench usually needs about 7.5 CFM, you’re going to want a tank that has no less than a 15-gallon storage tank.
Bigger storage tanks also mean that you can operate multiple air tools at the same time, which translates to increased productivity on site. And for tasks such as sandblasting or spray painting, a large tank is essential to ensure that the compressor can provide consistent airflow throughout the entire job.
Most of these 60gallon tanks only come in 230volt (sometimes called 240v). If you hunt around, you can find 2 horsepower compressors with 60gallon tanks that just need 120v. The challenge with these smaller motors is that they run continuously with heavy use and overheat. For occasional use, they can be nice for the long pauses of silence between recharges. Most 60Gallon shoppers need a tank that can handle sanding and spraying and multiple tools at once. If that is the case, it is worthwhile to spend more for the 230volt.
If you need a robust air compressor for home use, a 30 Gallon portable air compressor is a popular category that may be all that you need. But if you never want to risk being without enough power, the 60 Gallon is where it is at.
Air Compressor Reviews
Dewalt DXCMV5076055 5 HP Two-Stage Air Compressor
Ingersoll Rand 2340L5 5 HP 60 Gallon Two-Stage Air Compressor
Maxair C5160V1 60 Gallon Air Compressor
Porter Cable PXCMLC3706056 60Gallon Compressor
This is another great shop compressor for the dedicated Craftsman. Backed by the Porter Cable name and a 3-year warranty, this is one of those Compressors that should rank highly on any shopper’s list.
This is a single stage compressor with a little more than 3 horsepowers of output and requires a 230 v electrical supply. It’s an excellent single phase 60gallon compressor with dual stage cast iron twin cylinders. I’d put this one and the Ingersoll Rand that I review below in about the same category.
This compressor is overkill for most homeowners (ideal for the homeowner who craves a tiny bit of overkill) and could easily handle a woodworking shop of 4 to 6 guys.
One of my favorite things is how much air volume this “little” compressor can crank out. You can get 13.4 CFM at 40 PSI or 11.5 CFM at 90 PSI. This is enough to handle a sandblaster or spray gun. The max PSI is 135.
This is one of the best units for a luxury private garage or a small business startup. If you can spend a little more, look at the Ingersoll Ran SS3L3. This one is splash lubricated and ships prefilled with synthetic oil. Belt driven and seems to require replacement belts rarely.
Ingersoll Rand SS3L3 230 Volt 60 Gallon Compressor
Puma Industries PK6060V Air Compressor
Industrial Air ILA3606056 60Gallon Air Compressor
Our final review is the more power 240V Industrial Air compressor, with heavy-duty induction motors, as well as a solid cast iron twin cylinder air compressor complete with stainless steel read valves.
Industrial Air designs their products for tough, heavy duty use either in the shop, on the farm, or out on the construction site. Therefore, their electric air compressor features many heavy-duty components, which ensures that it can handle practically any job that you can throw at it.
The unit also features an oil-lubricated pump, with twin cylinders, one with a single-piece cast iron crankcase, the other with a 12-inch crankcase. Its powerful 240V induction motors provide pressures of up to 155 PSI for optimal tool performance for whatever you’re tackling.
This compressor is also equipped with a pressure gauge, on/off switch, and runs on synthetic oil to ensure high-performance and a long-lasting lifespan.
The ASME air receiver allows for maximum airflow, but that ASME receiver is pretty standard on most of these. The motor is splash lubricated, and I think you need to fill it up before you begin using it.
Buying Guide and FAQ
How does an air compressor work?
Essentially, air compressors work in a two-fold process, where the air pressure in the tank rises, but the volume drops. Typically, this is achieved by using a reciprocating piston and although there are other types of compressors, this type of compressor is the most common type you’ll see on the market.
All reciprocating air compressors use the following parts: crankshaft, connecting rod, cylinder, piston, and valve head.
For the most part, air compressors are powered by either electric or gas motors. On one end of the cylinder, there is an inlet, and a discharge valve, which appears on opposite sides of the cylinder head. The inlet valve works by sucking air into the cylinder, which is then released into the holding tank through the discharge valve.
There are also other models of air compressors, which work by using a set of rotating impellers.
Although there are smaller air compressors that don’t use a holding tank, most air compressors, especially those used in workshops and on construction sites, will have a storage tank for holding compressed air. The compressed air can then be used to power pneumatic tools as needed.
As the air in the tank is used up by the tool, the compressor’s motor will eventually start up intermittently to keep the air pressure at a certain level inside the tank.
What are the average airflow requirements for the most common air tools?
Air compressors are usually rated in two ways: PSI, or pounds per square inch, and CFM, or deliverable cubic feet per minute. These two measurements are the numbers used to determine the effectiveness of a compressor for different situations.
Therefore, to correctly choose an air compressor to meet your needs, you’ll first need to determine the PSI and CFM requirements of the air tools you plan on using.
Keep in mind that if you’re only planning on using one tool at a time, you’ll want to look for the device that has the highest PSI/CFM requirements to ensure your compressor can keep up.
On the other hand, if you plan on using multiple tools at the same time, then you’ll want to add up the total CFM requirements of each hand tool.
Below, we’ve put together a chart with some of the most common air powered tools and their CFM requirements. I also have an air compressor sizing guide that has even more tool air flow requirements.
1/2″ Air Drill
What are the different types of air compressors?
There are mainly 3 different types of air compressors: reciprocating compressors, rotary compressors, and scroll compressors.
Reciprocating compressors are the most common type of compressor you’ll find on the market. They use pistons, which are driven by a crankshaft, to draw in air, compress it, and pump it into the holding tank to be used at your convenience.
They can be driven by either gas or electric motors and typically range from 5 to 30 HP to suit a variety of different applications.
Rotary compressors typically use two rotating positive-displacement screws or impellers, which naturally force the air into a small space due to their shape. This type of compressor is generally used for high-demand, continuous duty operation in commercial and industrial facilities.
Finally, there are scroll compressors, which are sometimes referred to as scroll pumps. They use two interleaved spiral-shaped vanes to compress and pump lower volumes of liquids or gas. Scroll compressor vanes come in a variety of different shapes. Regardless, they operate at much quieter decibels than other types of compressors.
How do I adjust my compressor’s cut-in and cut-off limits, and the tank’s PSI output?
What does Duty Cycle mean and what types are there?
All air compressors are designed with a duty cycle rating. This is typically expressed as a percentage and refers to the amount of time that the compressor can run in a full-cycle, which includes both running and resting times.
Today, many high-performance air compressors are built with a thermal protection feature, which automatically shuts the compressor off when it reaches a certain temperature. However, there are many compressors without this feature, and it’s up to the operator to make sure to shut the machine down before it overheats.
A compressor’s duty cycle refers to the length of time that it can be operated at 100 PSI and an ambient temperature of 72 degrees. Therefore, if you’re running the compressor on either an extremely cold or scorching day, the amount of cooling time needed may vary. However, it rarely becomes noticeable except during extreme temperature changes.
Typically, you’ll find a compressor’s duty cycle expressed as one of the following percentages:
- 9% Duty Cycle – 5 Minutes On / 55 Minutes Off
- 10% Duty Cycle – 6 Minutes On / 54 Minutes Off
- 15% Duty Cycle – 9 Minutes On / 51 Minutes Off
- 20% Duty Cycle – 12 Minutes On / 48 Minutes Off
- 25% Duty Cycle – 15 Minutes On / 45 Minutes Off
- 30% Duty Cycle – 18 Minutes On / 42 Minutes Of
- 50% Duty Cycle – 30 Minutes On / 30 Minutes Off
- 100% Duty Cycle – 1 Hour Run Time or Continuous Duty
Single-Stage Vs. Two-Stage Air Compressors
The difference between a single and a two-stage air compressor is the number of times the air is compressed between entering through the inlet valve and exiting through the output valve. Simply put, with a single-stage compressor, the air is only compressed once, whereas, it is compressed twice in a two-stage compressor.
The process for a single-stage compressor is as follows:
- Air enters into the cylinder
- The air is compressed by a single stroke of a piston
- The compressed air is then pumped into the holding tank
The difference with two-stage compressors is that before being sent into the holding tank, the air is first sent into a smaller cylinder when it is compressed once again.
Both single stage and dual stage compressors have two cylinders. However, two stage compressors have one cylinder that is shorter. This allows the pressure to be raised to a higher level (such as 175 PSI). These dual stage air compressors are excellent for all-day use.
Choosing Tank Size
Another critical factor to consider when shopping for air compressors is the size of the storage tank that you’re going to need.
Air compressors work by storing compressed air in the storage tank. Due to this, the tank’s storage capacity will play a role in how well specific pneumatic tools with work with the compressor.
Therefore, a bigger tank is usually more beneficial, since once it’s been filled, the compressor won’t have to run as often to maintain the CFMs required by the tools you’re using.
In general, if you plan on using your compressor with tools such as a paint sprayer, then you’ll probably want to consider a larger tank since these tools require a steady, consistent stream of air to function correctly.
On the other hand, if you’ll be using tools that only require intermittent bursts of air, such as a nailer or grease gun, then your compressor will still work fine even if it has a smaller tank.
Just make sure that you have a tank large enough to produce the required CFMs of whatever tools you plan on using. For more on airflow requirements, see our guide on sizing your air compressor.
Vertical Verus Horizontal Tanks
It’s also important to decide whether you’re going to want a vertical or horizontal storage tank.
The tank’s orientation will not affect its performance. However, it will influence the amount of floor space needed to store your unit, as well as how portable it will be.
Both portable and stationary air compressors come with either a vertical or horizontal storage tank. So, no matter what model you’re looking for, it’s important to consider how much floor space you’ll need in the location where you plan on storing your unit
Air Compressor Performance Ratings
In general, you’ll find air compressors rated in terms of “CFM” and “PSI” rating.
CFM stands for cubic feet per minute and is the amount of air that the compressor draws in per minute. Whereas, PSI stands for pressure per square inch and refers the pressure that the compressor can output its air.
The higher the CFM rating on an air compressor, the more powerful the machine will be and the faster it will be able to draw in and then output air. However, a compressor’s CFM rating will vary depending on what the unit’s PSI rating is.
Another meaningful way that compressors are rated is by the size of its storage tank. This number is usually referred to in gallons or liters and describes the volume of compressed air that the container can hold.
Larger tanks aren’t only capable of holding more air. They’re also better at keeping the air compressed at higher pressures.
Finally, air compressors are also rated in terms of horsepower. This refers to the power output of the motor that runs the compressor.
Most air compressors range between 5 to 30 HP, but there are air compressors used in heavy-duty applications which run in the hundreds of horsepower. Just keep in mind that horsepower will not necessarily affect a compressors air flow, and many smaller motors are still capable of outputting large volumes of air at high pressures.
Oil-Lubricated Vs. Oil-Free Air Compressors
Today, air compressors come with either oil-lubricated or oil-free pumps. Oil-lubricated pumps require the oil to be checked and changed on a regular basis, whereas oil-free machines do not require this type of maintenance.
Just like any other machine, proper lubrication ensures that everything functions properly and doesn’t wear out as fast. This means that oil-lubed compressors usually have a more extended lifespan, which is why they are the more popular type of compressor.
Still, advancements in technology have made significant improvements to an oil-free compressor’s lifespan, and today, many are capable of providing several thousand hours of run time, which nearly compares to that of an oil-lubricated compressor.
230V Single-Phase, 222V Triple-Phase, and 120V Compressors
Although there are more powerful air compressors used for large commercial and industrial applications, most compressors used at home or on the job are either single phase 230V, triple-phase 222V, or 120V compressors.
230-volt motors are more powerful than 222V or 120V compressors; however, they’re usually only single-phase compressors. This means that while they can still supply large amounts of air, they’re not as good at compressing it as quickly as a dual or triple-phase compressor.
On the other hand, there are also 120V compressors, which are generally smaller than 230V and 222V compressors. These units are much more portable and are perfect for smaller jobs in the garage or around the house.
Generally, the more voltage a compressor needs, the more powerful it will be.