Air Compressor vs. Air Pump

Air compressors and air pumps are often used interchangeably, but they shouldn’t be. Sure, they both move tons of air at a time, but that’s where their similarities end. Unsure of what you need an air compressor or air pump? This guide will straighten any misconceptions you may have about these two super-beneficial devices.

Air Compressors
Air compressors are devices that use either an electric or gas motor to convert power (the fuel source) into energy in the form of pressurized air. You may have come across air compressors in somebody’s workshop garage or at your favorite gas station. Air compressors are highly versatile tools used for a wide range of applications.

Pressurized air stored in the compressor’s tank is delivered through a valve where a tool is connected. Air that passes through the tool causes it to reciprocate, oscillate, rotate, or whatever the case may be in order to help with several home improvement or automotive tasks. The secret sauce behind air compressors is their pressure and airflow volume delivery rates.

An air compressor can have an output delivery rate of as much as 200 PSI or even beyond depending on the model. PSI denotes how much pressure is stress is forced onto a one-square-inch of surface. Higher PSI ratings indicate greater amounts of force which is used to counterbalance the resistance from oncoming force or object.

Do I Need an Air Compressor?
Air compressors are considered to be must-have tools in workshops and car shops, professional or otherwise, as well as for an assortment of home improvement jobs. However, this depends entirely on the set of tools you have on hand.

For most type of power tool out there, there are pneumatic (air) and electric kinds to choose from. Pneumatic tools are significantly more powerful and provide a level of accuracy and reliability that electric tools can’t match in many instances. Air compressors are the heart of the entire operation—without pressurized air at the right volume and pressure output, pneumatic tools are simply overpriced paperweights.

Air Pumps
Air pump is a blanket term that covers any tool made specifically for moving air, air compressors included. However, the general understanding is that air pumps are simple devices that push low quantities of air (volume and pressure) relative to air compressors. Air pumps are mainly used for lighter-duty tasks of introducing air into an enclosed space, such as inflating bicycle pumps and aerating hydroponic systems via the use of airstones.

There are numerous types of air pumps, but the two most widely used types are reciprocating, diaphragm pumps, and double-action pumps. Each type has a different maximum output capacity in terms of volume and pressure, making them appropriate to have for a limited number of applications.

Do I Need an Air Pump?
One could argue that an air pump is a more general tool than air compressors, although this depends on the person. But we will say this: if your child’s bike has a flat tire, or you need to inflate a mattress or backyard hot tub, a basic air pump would more than suffice.

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