How to Choose an Air Compressor

Finding a suitable compressor for your facility is a vital business decision. If you buy one that isn’t powerful enough for your needs, it can put other equipment at risk and impede the quality of your work. If you choose one that is too heavy-duty, you’ll spend more than necessary and won’t receive any benefits for that added cost. 

There are many different types and uses for air compressors, popular in nail guns, paint sprayers, air hoses, and impact wrenches. They’re reliable machines that make tough jobs easy. So, how do you find the right air compressor for your business? Here are some factors to consider. 

Factors to Consider When Choosing an Air Compressor

How and where you plan to use your air compressor will largely dictate the type of machinery you choose. Instead of buying the most expensive or powerful compressor available or choosing the cheapest one on the market, you should carefully evaluate your needs according to these factors:

When you choose an oil-less EnviroAire Series compressor from Gardner Denver, you get a clean, reliable and efficient air supply that benefits both your business and your bottom line!1. Portable or Stationary? Outside or Inside?

Most industrial air compressors are stationary. But you might need something that can be moved from place to place. Fortunately, both portable air compressors and stationary compressors are available. But you may sacrifice some power with a portable unit. 

The elements are another concern. Both portable and stationary compressors should have some protective measures to safeguard against harsh industrial and outdoor elements. 

2. Drive System Type

Drive systems also vary with commercial air compressors. You can choose between a diesel-powered and an electric-powered compressor. Diesel might be a better option if you take your compressor to different job sites. Electric-powered compressors have a few benefits as well. They require less maintenance than diesel and are less costly to operate. However, they do require a constant source of electricity. 

3. PSI

Short for pounds per square inch, psi measures the amount of pressure produced by a compressor. This figure should match or be higher than your highest-rated tool. Pay particular attention to this when you shop for an industrial compressor. 

4. Cfm

Another essential step in selecting an air compressor is figuring out the right amount of power you require. With air compressors, you’ll want to use cubic feet per minute (cfm) rating to gauge the amount of air a particular compressor can produce. Here are different types of cfm measurements:

  • Actual cfm—This figure (Acfm) accounts for the particular conditions of an environment when measuring a pump’s output. It’s useful but challenging to calculate. 
  • Standard cfm—This is the easiest to figure out and compare units because Scfm allows you to measure the flow of free pressurized air using a standard set of conditions. 
  • Displaced cfm—Dcfm used the stroke, bore, and revolutions per minute in its calculations. It’s precise but less useful in real-world applications. 

To calculate the amount of cfm you need, add up the requirements of all the tools you expect to use simultaneously. Then add about 30 percent to that number as a safety buffer. 

5. Horsepower

The horsepower of a compressor can tell you some useful information about the machine. But your primary measurements of power should be cfm and psi. A manufacturer will usually list the running horsepower of a compressor and its peak horsepower. 

6. Electrical Requirements

Before selecting a compressor, ensure you have the proper electrical supply to support its operation. Most industrial facilities support three-phase electricity, and commercial buildings are limited to single-phase power. A qualified electrician might need to be involved. 

7. Tank Size

You will also want to consider the size of your storage tank, also referred to as the receiver tank. You will have a higher volume of air to work with if you have a larger tank. With smaller tanks, the compressor will have to work harder to produce the equivalent output. You should aim for a tank that gives you at least five gallons per cfm. There are also vertical and horizontal tanks, which you can choose depending on your space availability. 

8. Noise Reduction

Any compressor is going to give off some sound and vibration, but noise levels vary from model to model. Many units, however, will come with a noise reduction system, like a sound enclosure. Make sure you consider your work environment and team when deciding on the acceptable noise level. 

9. Cooling System

Air compressors need a system to remove heat to prevent overheating. This system might use air, water, or even oil to cool the internal components. It might also be an open or enclosed system. The type of cooling system can impact your compressor’s efficiency, reliability, and noise level. Also, you’ll need sufficient ventilation for appropriate cooling. 

10. Cost

Cost is probably a vital factor in your industrial compressor selection. The key is not to purchase a less or more powerful compressor than you need. While considering purchase price, don’t forget other factors like operating costs, maintenance, and useful life. When you buy a higher quality unit, it will give you more reliable service. 

Your Industry Plays a Role in Your Air Compressor Choice

Air compressors are used by a wide range of industries, including manufacturing, construction, agricultural, automotive, energy exploration, and many others. The type of industry and the tasks you plan to tackle will influence the type of air compressor you choose. 

Air Compressor Types

Most businesses choose a rotary screw air compressor for industrial applications. Other technologies are available, but they aren’t as powerful, cost-effective, and efficient as this type. 

Tool Type and Use

The type of tools that your industry uses will determine the required psi and cfm of your compressor. If you use these tools continuously, you will need a larger tank. But you can get by with a smaller tank if you use them sporadically. 


If you move from site to site, you’ll want a diesel-powered air compressor that is portable. But, if you’re in a single location all the time, you can choose a stationary air compressor that runs only on electricity. 

Need Help Choosing the Right Air Compressor?

Choosing the right air compressor can be confusing. And you may not have the time to go through this complex process. But it’s important to get it right. We can help. 

C&B Equipment in Kansas and Arkansas has staff available 24/7 to help with your air compressor issues. We can help service your current air compressor and guide you to the right high-quality air compressor when it’s time for a replacement. Contact us today to learn more about our products and services.

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