Air compressors come in a variety of different sizes and shapes, but their benefits are universal. First of all, an air compressor provides the fuel needed to operate air tools such as brad nail guns and impact guns. Second, you’ll no longer be at the mercy of going to your local gas station to pump up your vehicle’s tires. Another great benefit of owning an air compressor is that it makes cleaning up piles or wood dust and chips a breeze. If you dabble in the arts of DIY craft and minor home renovations and car repairs, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t own a handy air compressor.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at two very popular vertical air compressor models: the 2202 from WEN and the 10020C from California Air Tools. As vertical compressors, they stand upright and take up very little floor space so even the smallest garage can accommodate one of these machines comfortably. But between these two models, which has the better performance and valueLet’s dive right into our comparison.
CFM and PSI
CFM measures how much air is being shot out of the nozzle whereas PSI indicates how much force is being expelled. In general, greater CFM and PSI ratings mean more flexibility in terms of what air tools you can use. The WEN delivers 3.8 CFM at 90 PSI and 5.0 CFM at 40 PSI.
The CAT’s CFM and PSI ratings aren’t too different from the WEN’s, though even the slightest variation can mean a whole lot, especially if you plan on running large air tools like spray guns impact wrenches at the same time. The CAT produces up to 5.3 CFM at 90 PSI and 6.4 CFM and 40 PSI.
Conclusion: It’s always better to get an air compressor the delivers more CFM and PSI than you’ll need. Looking at these two models, we can see that the CAT delivers slightly more CFM at the same PSI thresholds as the WEN, making it the better option. However, if you plan on running multiple tools simultaneously- e.g., an angle disc grinder and a spray gun – you might need to look elsewhere for a more powerful air compressor.
If you plan on running multiple air tools at once, it’s important to have a tank that can hold enough compressed air and can maintain the right amount of pressure. This is what makes having a larger tank preferable to a smaller one. The WEN features a 20-gallon tank which is about the most volume you can get in a portable air compressor.
The CAT comes with a 10-gallon tank. A small tank isn’t always a bad thing, especially if the unit has a great recovery rate and you don’t plan on using multiple air tools at the same time. For a portable machine, 10-gallon tanks are just about the smallest size you would need for serious DIY and mechanic jobs.
Conclusion: Basically, a larger tank means you can work for longer. However, the main drawback of having a large tank is that the recovery time (more on this later) to re-pressurize air can be painstakingly long. It’s important to find an air compressor that has the perfect balance between tank size and recovery rate. However, larger tanks (in this case, the WEN) are preferred to smaller ones since they can maintain CFM at the desired PSI for longer.
The recovery time indicates how efficient the engine is at re-pressurizing air so you can continue working with reduced or no downtime. Most users have complimented the WEN for having a super-quick recovery rate, but it comes at the expense of ultra-loud noise production (we’ll talk about noise levels next).
As for the CAT, the standard recovery rate for the 10-gallon tank is about 25 seconds to re-pressurize from 95 PSI to 125 PSI. As we can see, the main benefit of a smaller tank is a quicker recovery rate, though you might find the engine kicking on every 10 to 15 minutes or so to compress air.
Conclusion: It’s important to consider both the recovery time and tank size in determining which of these two models is the better choice. In our opinion, the smaller tank of the CAT coupled with its ultra-quick air-compressing rate makes it the better choice. It ultimately depends on what the user is more comfortable with and how much/little downtime they can tolerate.
The WEN’s loud engine is really a deal-breaker for many people. You’ll either need to soundproof your work area, work in an enclosed area to prevent noise from leaking out, or bring your neighbors brownies every other day to bribe them into not calling the cops.
The CAT is on the opposite side of the noise-production spectrum. While recompressing air, the machine only produces around 70 decibels of noise – about the same noise level of a normal conversation from a distance of 3 feet. You won’t need earplugs when working around this machine.
Conclusion: If you’ve ever gone to a gas station to pump up your tires or basketball, then you’ll know how loud air compressor can be. However, imagine loud noises coming out of your air compressor every 10 to 15 minutes or so. A quieter air compressor won’t drive you or your neighbors crazy, so we feel that the CAT is the better choice. It only produces around 70 decibels, for goodness sake!
WEN vs California Air Tools: Verdict
If you can tolerate the horrendous noises coming out of the WEN’s motor and it’s seemingly random recovery rate, then the WEN might be a good option for your garage workshop. However, as normal human beings who can’t stand loud noises and have the patience of a toddler, the CAT 10020C is the obvious winner in this head-to-head battle between vertical air compressors.
Despite its “small” 10-gallon tank, you’re not going to bang your head against the wall every time the motor kicks into like to recompress air to the desired PSI level. Furthermore, it only takes around 25 seconds to produce 125 PSI from 95 PSI. In our opinion, go with the California Air Tools 10020C; you won’t regret it. We can’t say the same thing about the WEN 2202, unfortunately.