Air compressors are just plain cool. They save tons of time and allow the user to work efficiently and easily. The many uses of them go on and on, and their obvious benefit and value in so many different situations makes them a must have item for most shops. I worked for a couple hours today on installing some cedar siding on a wood shed. Without the compressor that job would have taken me much much longer. It was a huge time saver. The thought of fumbling around with a hammer and some finish nails just drives me crazy. If you have used a nail gun before then you know how indispensable they really are. Without the compressor, the nail gun just wouldn't work.
In this article I want to move beyond making a list of the many uses for them. I also want to move beyond a discussion of how they work. Rather, I thought a brief but focused discussion about some of the portable air compressors manufactured today might be helpful.
First up is a company called Campbell Hausfeld. This is a company that prides itself in their product line. And they should. They produce a nice range of air compressors over a wide range of prices and options. Their basic 1 gallon pancake type unit is perfect for inflating air mattresses, air brushing, or using a brad nailer or other small tool. This unit also packs quite a value into a small space. For just over a hundred bucks you get the compressor, a 25 foot recoil hose, a needle and adaptor, 2 inflation nozzles and the air chuck. It also has a handle for easy portability. Just plug it in, let it pressure up to where you set the gauge, and use. When you are done just turn the pit cock and release any extra pressurized air from the tank. This is important because it lets moisture out of the tank so it doesn't rust the inside away. This is a great unit for use around the home.
Another company you have probably already heard of that produces some really great air compressors is Powermate. They use both a Briggs and Stratton Intek gas engine as well as a Honda OHV engine. These are a jump in price, but as in everything else in life, you tend to get what you pay for. For between $800-$1200 you can get a 4 to 8 gallon unit that will provide the capacity and pressure you need for bigger jobs than the smaller pancake compressors allow you to have. These are really contractor grade machines meant for heavier and more continuous use. Liquid filled pressure gauges and brass cross fittings suit a unit with Swedish stainless reed valves and automotive style ball bearings. If you do roofing, siding, or other construction, then you can't go wrong with one of Powermate's air compressors.
Finally, Jenny Products puts out some really nice mid range air compressors that are second to none. A 1.5 gallon to 4 gallon unit will run you around $600. Some have single tanks and others come with two. If you run a roofing gun for long you'll be happy to have that second tank. Otherwise the thing keeps turning on and can get really annoying.
There are lots of portable air compressors on the market over quite a price range. Be bold when it comes to purchasing one and you'll never regret it. It's money well spent.
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