If you need pneumatic tools for woodworking or car detailing jobs, you’ll need to invest in a reliable air compressor. In this guide, we’re going to tell you our picks of the best 6-gallon air compressors you’ll ever find, as well as how to determine which model your garage needs.
Buying Guide: Choosing an Air Compressor
If you’re an aspiring contractor, woodworker, or diehard DIY-er, an air compressor can be an invaluable piece of equipment to have in your garage. This short guide should assist you in determining which air compressor you need for whatever purpose.
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The motor’s HP rating is a great place to start your search. Generally speaking, the higher the HP rating of an air compressor, the more air it can deliver at higher pressures. Keep in mind that when it comes to hobbyist-type air compressors, their HP ratings are typically overstated which is why a 5-HP industrial air compressor is significantly bulkier than a 5-HP residential-use model.
Airflow Volume and Pressure
You should take a look at the pneumatic tools you have on hand or plan on getting before deciding on an air compressor. Your tools will let you know how much airflow volume (CFM) and pressure (PSI) they need to operate properly. In most cases, they require 3 to 4 CFM at 90 PSI, but more demanding tools like impact wrenches, orbital sanders, and pain spray guns may require 5-plus CFM at 100 PSI.
Simply put, larger tanks store more air, but motor size and airflow delivery, both volume and pressure, are much more crucial factors. If the air compressor can continuously produce as much air as your tool needs, even a small 2- or 3-gallon tank will suffice. Small tanks can also be more cost-effective when using demanding air tools (impact wrenches, paint guns) intermittently.
Single- vs. Two-Stage
Single-stage air compressors comes with one or more cylinders that directly fill air into the tank, whereas two-stage models have multiple cylinders where air is passed through a cooling tube from one cylinder to another at 90 PSI and 175 PSI respectively.
Two-stage are compressors are ideal for continuously producing copious amounts of air to power more demanding air tool which, for most applications outside of industrial settings, can be overkill. A high-quality one-stage air compressor can get you far without costing an arm and a leg.
A hilarious name but it’s actually one of the most important factors to take into account. Expressed in percentages, the duty cycle denotes how long the motor can run continuously within a 10-minute window. For example, a hobbyist air compressor may have a 50% duty cycle that means it can run safely for 5 minutes out of any 10-minute timeframe.
If you exceed the duty cycle, the motor may overheat and deteriorate much more quickly than you’d like.
1. What size air compressor do I need?
The size of the most appropriate air compressor for your home depends on the range of air tools you plan on using. Pay close attention to the tools you have on hand so you can avoid the need to purchase multiple air compressors. It’s safer to go bigger, but it can be costlier as well.
2. Does air compressor tank size matter?
As we mentioned earlier in this guide, the size of the tank isn’t the most crucial factor, but it can affect productivity. If you need to work for longer, a larger tank that holds more air can provide more working time per tankful of air, but even then, the duty cycle will dictate how long you can work without breaking the air compressor.
3. What CFM do I need?
For most cases, at least in hobbyist garage settings, 5 CFM will suffice. This can power a wide range of tools, including nail guns, ratchets, tire changers, and smaller paint guns for minor touch-ups. It never hurts to go larger than 5 CFM, especially if you plan on expanding your set of air tools to include impact wrenches, die grinders, drills, and hammers.
4. Can a 6-gallon air compressor run an impact wrench?
Yes, you can, but once again the air compressor’s tank shouldn’t be the determining factor when settling on a particular model. That said, we wouldn’t recommend hooking up an impact wrench to your 6-gallon air compressor since this is generally the bare minimum requirement, and the tool will consume more air than the motor can replenish.
Air compressors are vital tools for a number of different settings—whether you’re an aspiring woodworker, a grease monkey, or need to fix upholstery and furniture pieces. In this guide, we’ve shown you not only our favorite picks of the best 6-gallon air compressors for your garage but also how to find the most suitable model for your home.