Professional craftsmen and DIY-ers can both find value in air compressors. A good compressor delivers all the power you need for pneumatic tools like brad nail guns, paint sprayers, staple guns, just to name a few.
The right air compressor depends on the sort of tasks you work on regularly, but going for a portable machine is oftentimes the best choice.
What to Look for in a Portable Air Compressor
Like so many other tools out there, there’s no single air compressor that will work for every situation, but there’s a science behind choosing the right portable air compressor.
If you’re currently looking for an air compressor for your workshop, then you should consider the following specs.
For air compressors, the power of delivery is measured by horsepower (HP). Generally speaking, the higher the HP rating, the more powerful the unit is. For light tasks such as airbrushing or powering your brad gun, the perfect HP rating should between 1 and 1.5 HP.
Heavy duty tasks at construction sites might require an even more powerful HP rating of at least 2 HP. In this article, we’re going to focus on 2 HP portable air compressors since this is the sweet-spot for many professional and DIY craftsmen.
The tank size has a direct impact on the total recovery time – the total time needed for the air compressor to re-pressurize air in the tank. The common rule is that the larger the tank, the more time needed to recover. Most residential-grade air compressors should have a tank size of at least 1 gallon, but there are also 8-gallon tanks out there for use at home.
To make use of pneumatic tools like nail guns or paint sprayers, your air compressor should offer enough pressure so they can work properly. Take a look at your tools in the workshop and see their required CFM (cubic-feet-per-minute), SCFM (standard CFM), or PSI (pounds-per-square-inch) before purchasing a portable air compressor.
Compressed air leads to moisture condensation within the tank. If it’s left uncared for, then the condensed water droplets can cause rusting or corrosion to the tank. To eliminate this problem, air compressors should be drained every so often. Make sure the draining process of your air compressor is easy to do.
Ultra-Low Noise Level
An air compressor can be extremely loud and become a nuisance to your neighborhood. We suggest being friendly with your neighbors before purchasing an air compressor or finding a model that doesn’t produce a lot of noise. Some of the quietest portable air compressors produce around 70 decibels of noise – about the same volume as normal conversation sounds from 5 feet.
Weight and Portability
Of course, a portable air compressor should be able to be transported from place to place with little to no issues. However, even portable air compressors can be heavy – more than 100 pounds – but they should come with wheels and a handle to help drag the unit to and fro. Find a model that’s lightweight and/or easy to maneuver with the help of wheels.
Which 2 HP Portable Air Compressor to Get
Now that we know the basics of what to look for in a portable air compressor, it’s not time to decide which model works best for our unique needs. No one single model is a blanket solution for every person’s needs, but our pick of the top 5 best 2 HP portable air compressors should help you in making a purchase decision.
5 Ingersoll-Rand Garage Mate Model# P1.5IU-A9
The Garage Mate by Ingersoll-Rand takes the fifth spot on our list. It’s an excellent air compressor, but its 200-pound build makes it too heavy to load and unload from a truck without pulling a muscle. This unit is a 4.6 CFM at 90 PSI machine features a 20-gallon tank.
The unit comes with pneumatic wheels and detachable handle to navigate the unit horizontally, but vertical movement is a slight issue. Unlike many other models on the market, the Garage Mate comes with two air filters for its dual-piston setup. When running at full power, this air compressor produces roughly 80 decibels of noise – equivalent to the sound of traffic from inside your car.
4 Ingersoll-Rand Twin-Stack P1IU-A9 2 HP 4 Gallon Portable Air Compressor
The fourth-spot position goes to another one of Ingersoll-Rand’s models – the Twin-Stack. This unit is a small-reciprocating compressor mainly used for small, light-duty applications like finish nailing and filling up your tires. This 82-pound model comes with a carry handle situated above the tank to help users lift and move it.
The Twin-Stack features a 4-gallon tank and delivers up to 4.3 CFM at 90 PSI. Some users have complained about leaky hoses which cause the unit to recharge when not in use, but you can simply detach the hose to prevent wasting pressurized air. This unit produces up to 80 decibels of noise when running at 100% duty cycle.
3 California Air Tools 10020C Air Compressor
The 10020C by California Air Tools is an 82.5-pound portable vertical-standing air compressor. It might seem a bit heavy, but you’ll be glad to know that it features two pneumatic wheels and a handle to let users drag the unit around.
This is a versatile compressor that delivers 6.40 CFM at 40 PSI and 5.30 CFM at 90 PSI – enough pressure for all your home workshop power tools. It comes with an enormous 10-gallon tank so it’ll provide pressurized air for a long time though it’ll take a while for it to fully recover. It’s a super-quiet air compressor that produces around 70 decibels of noise at full capacity – not enough noise to drown out conversation.
2 Makita MAC700 Big Bore 2.0 HP Air Compressor
Makita’s MAC700 is a 52-pound portable air compressor with a top handle that lets users carry the unit wherever they need pressurized air. It delivers 3.3 CFM at 90 PSI or 3.8 CMF at 40 PSI so it’s fit to attach to a wide range of pneumatic power tools. While running at full power, the 12.4 amp motor produces around 80 decibels of noise, making it one of the loudest units on our list, but it’s still relatively quiet compared to other air compressors on the market.
The MAC700 features a 2.6-gallon “hot dog” tank. Although it has a maximum pressure of 130 PSI, many users have described the unit’s inability to consistently deliver more than 100 PSI.
1 California Air Tools CAT-4620AC Electric Portable Air Compressor
Finally, the number one spot on our list belongs to the CAT_4620AC by California Air Tools.
This electric-powered portable air compressor features rust-proof twin tanks that have a collective capacity of 4 gallons. This air compressor weighs 67.2 pounds and comes with a handle and rubber grip for easy carrying without causing cramps.
The CAT-4620AC delivers 6.4 CFM at 40 PSI up to 5.3 CFM at 90 PSI. The 14-amp motor only produces around 70 decibels of noise which is super quiet for an air compressor, and it features two quick-connect outlets that let users hook up two power tools to the compressor simultaneously.
Portable air compressors can be an invaluable addition to your workshop, especially if you frequently use pneumatic power tools like brad nail guns, paint sprayers, and grinding machines. If you’re considering purchasing your very-first portable air compressor, there are several things to take into account.
The HP rating determines how powerful the unit is, and for most home and commercial workshops, at least 2 HP is enough to power up all kinds of tools. The size of the tank – measured in gallons – determines how much pressurized air can be contained.
The larger the tank, the more air it’ll hold, but the longer it’ll take to fill back up with compressed air. The air compressor’s flow rate lets you know how much pressure it delivers.
Before you purchase a portable air compressor, make sure you know all of the CFM and PSI ratings of your power tools to ensure you choose the right air compressor.
The tank draining system and noise-production levels are also important in choosing the right air compressor for your work since you don’t want to be troubled with having to constantly drain the tank to ensure that there’s no corrosion on the tank’s inner lining, and the level of noise can be a disruption to you and your neighbors.
We’ve also offered our top 5 2 HP portable air compressor picks to help you in choosing the right model for your work, but in the end, it’ll depend on how much power you need and how much power your future air compressor can deliver.
Out of all the models we’ve looked at, we highly recommend getting the California Air Tools CAT-4620AC since it delivers more than enough power for a wide assortment of commonly used power tools, it’s super quiet when running at 100% duty cycle, and it’s lightweight to boot.