Knowing what makes the best home air compressor will help you to choose one that suits your own unique needs.
Compressors are used in all areas of industry, from construction, to auto-repair, and even in professional kitchens.
While some industrial compressors can cost up to $30,000, there are also highly capable and versatile units designed specifically for home use.
These units are small, portable, and in some cases they are even surprisingly quiet.
How we Define the “Best Home Air Compressor”
‘Best’ is all about perspective. Are we talking about the best air compressor for home garage or workshop use, or even the best air compressor for home mechanic use? Different people have different needs, different tools, and different expectations of an air compressor.
In determining the best air compressors for home use we look at a variety of factors. Portability is one, capacity is another. Flow rate comes in to the decision, as do considerations like size and noise produced.
Because one man’s best may be another’s worst, we’ve presented two capable, but vastly different compressors for you to consider. Even if neither of these extremes is your ideal machine, you will at least be able to get an idea of how your needs can be addressed when choosing your next air compressor.
Here’s a short video to get a basic understanding of the factors you have to consider when in the process of selecting the best unit that will best match your needs.
The DeWalt DWFP55126 6 Gallon Compressor
The DEWALT DWFP55126 6-Gallon 165 PSI Pancake Compressor is a relatively powerful portable compressor that would be perfectly suited to home DIY and garage workshop users, but it is especially suited towards home mechanics. The biggest advantage of this 6 gallon compressor is that it produces more CFM than most small compressors, and can maintain pressure for longer due to its 6 gallon tank.
Air flow is one of the most important aspects of any compressor, and this unit manages to produce 3.1 CFM @ 90PSI. The reason this is so important, is because it allows the compressor to power air tools like air filter cleaners, tire inflaters, buffing tools, and even 3/8” impact wrenches. This means that you can speed through cleaning your car, work on imperfections in the finish, add a wax coat, maintain the engine, and even perform maintenance like changing tires, suspension, and brakes etc. Of course you could achieve all of this without air tools, but these tools take out most of the work, which can save you time so that you can tackle more projects.
This compressor is well made, as you can expect from DeWalt. High quality metals are used throughout, and it uses standard industrial quick connects for connecting your tools. When paired with a high quality air hose, this compressor will handle all of your light to moderate air tool requirements.
The Porter Cable PCFP02003
Right on the other end of the scale is Porter Cable’s smallest air compressor. Unlike the DeWalt it doesn’t have the power to run automotive tools, and it doesn’t have the capacity for extended use without waiting for recovery. However, it can tackle small project tasks, which could make it the best air compressor for home garage use, providing that you’re aware of its limitations.
Many home workshop and garage users only need a compressor for lightweight tasks. These tasks might be brad nailing on craftwork or home improvements, or even light airbrushing for art or other projects. The Porter Cable will only produce 2 CFM @ 90 PSI compared to the 3.1 of the DeWalt, and it also features a smaller tank, measuring 3.5 gallons. That’s only half that of the DeWalt. This means that any near-continuously running tools are out of the question for the Porter Cable, and high intensity tools can only be used intermittently.
So why does this compressor feature as one of our ‘best’ picks? Because as was mentioned, best is a perception based on needs. If you only need a lightweight compressor to clean dust from electronics, run a small drill, or do some stapling and nailing, then the PCFP02003 will satisfy all of those needs.
Add to that the fact that it is incredibly well designed, weighs less than 30lbs, and is covered by a comprehensive one year warranty, and it’s hard to argue against this compressor as a compelling option for home users.
How about Cost?
Cost is going to be a factor when you decide on the best air compressor for your home needs, and it goes without saying that when the unit is intended for hobby or DIY use, an expensive compressor is probably not up for consideration.
The Porter Cable can often be found for under $100 from online dealers, while the DeWalt is in the range of $100 – $200. However, that money is well spent when you consider the extra power and versatility you will be getting if you opt for the more expensive compressor. At the end of the day, it all comes down to what you want to do, and what you think you might use your compressor for in the future.
Matching Tools to Your Compressor
Both of the compressors that we’ve looked at here are shipped with standard ¼” industrial quick connects, so you can mate almost any air tool with either compressor. That said, you’ll need to match the air flow of the compressor to your tools to get the best performance.
Make sure that your shortlist of air compressors for home use takes in to account the CFM rating to power all of your tools. It is also a good idea to leave a little headroom for extended work sessions.
Your ‘Best’ Compressor May Differ From Ours
Both the Porter Cable and DeWalt compressors that we’ve covered here could be considered the best in their niche of the market. This is not to say that they are your only choices. Senco, California Air Tools, Makita, and a number of other brands all produce high quality compressors, and of course there are a range of DeWalt and Porter Cable models.
Use this guide as your starting point, but remember to always buy based on what you want to do with your compressor. Utilize our detailed reviews if you want to know more about any of our featured compressors, and always research thoroughly before investing in a unit that might not be the best air compressor for home use in your situation.