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Buying a Compressor

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  • Buying a Compressor

    Hi folks!

    Noticed all the great chats on here about compressors and such and wanted to run some questions by you knowledgeable folks.

    This is my first compressor and will be used in the shed/workshop and home/garage for various projects: maintenance on the lawn tractor, some woodworking, routine maintenance on both cars (mostly tire related - inflating and changing summer/winter tires twice a year) and probably some nailing (trim for sure).

    I will be lugging it back/forth between the house and workshop over a gravel driveway.

    Being from Canada, I have narrowed my choices to these:

    1. From Canadian Tire: Campbell Hausfeld 8G Compressor Auto Kit

    Nice - has a decent enough tank size (8gal), you get the impact wrench, ratchet, paint sprayer (don't see me using that, but who knows.. paint the underside of a mower deck perhaps...) and a nice tire inflator. Price is decent at $178 but includes no impact sockets - a starter set is $50... anything decent (metric / sae) is $100. So, to get the wheel nuts off, I'm into the kit for over $200.

    2. Also from Canadian Tire: Hot Rod 5-gallon Compressor with Tools

    Nice - slightly higher CFM than the CH above, paint sprayer replaced with air chisel (which I'm less likely to use than the paint sprayer) but it includes some impact sockets to get me started (not sure if I get the right size for my wheel nuts though...). Assuming I get the right sized impact sockets, the price is right, but the tank is considerably smaller - I wonder if am I in trouble here WRT the impact wrench?

    3. From Costco, both of:

    Campbell Hausfeld 1.3 HP, 15 L (4-gallon) Twin Stack Air Compressor
    Campbell Hausfeld 62-piece Air Tool Kit

    Nice thing is, this compressor is on sale this week for $80.. so with the associated tool kit, assuming that the right size sockets are included, I'm into it for about $150. Same concerns though, as with the Hot Rod above - with the smaller tank, am I going to run into problems with the impact tools?

    4. Costco also has on sale this week (in the store), for $249, a Porter Cable 17gal vertical compressor with hose, impact wrench and socket set. The specs on this baby though, are 3.3CFM @90psi.. lower than any other of the others. No other tools included and I suspect, harder to lug between the house and workshop.

    The CH compressors, both using the same motor (from specs), produce about 3.7CFM@90psi, whereas the Hot Rod produces 4.1... not sure if that makes a big enough difference to worry about.

    Given the tank size differences (8gal vs half that), what is the main reason and/or advantage for going with a bigger tank for the same size motor (ie: how would this affect my experience with the compressor?)

    Thanks for reading this far and checking out the links above. I really want to make this purchase count. As you can guess, I'm on a budget so I really want to maximize my value for dollar.


  • #2
    Re: Buying a Compressor

    I'm no expert by any means but hear a few thoughts.

    The size of the tank will determine how long a tool will run between on/off compressor cycles. With the same capacity compressor mounted, a larger tank will also take longer to fill. Of course a larger capacity compressor will also fill a tank faster. So how big and how fast depends on what you intend to use it for. The bigger the bulkier the heavier usually.

    There are also oilless and oil type compressors. A little bit of internet searching will turn up a few articles explaining the pros and cons of each.

    I'm not always a fan of kits. You usually end up with compromises. That's not always the case but more often than not. Buying each tool separately is often more expensive but at least you get to buy the tool YOU want and don't have to settle for what's in the box. Plus you don't have to buy it all at one time. Buy each tool as you need them. Carefully consider each major component offered in the kit and see if any of it leaves you wanting. If you have to go out and buy a better sprayer/nailer/whatever afterwards the kit suddenly becomes more expensive and not such a great buy after all. Having said that I bought a PC kit at HD because both the compressor and nailer were what I wanted at that time.

    Hope that helps a little and good luck with it.


    • #3
      Re: Buying a Compressor

      A couple more thoughts.

      You won't be able to spray much other than lacquer with less than 8 cfm unless you have a LARGE tank. Small stuff will be okay, but nothing the size of half a car, etc. Rotary tools (ie sanders, etc) also use up to 12 cfm. You can get by for a short time with a drill, etc, but with an air sander/grinder where it is used continuously, you need a full sized permanent compressor, or you will be waiting a lot for the compressor to catch up. Nail guns, ratchets, and impact guns don't use a lot of air continuously, so the compressor can catch up when you release the trigger.

      The impact and ratchets in the "kits" are usually underpowered (loose tolerances so little torque), so may be okay once you break the nuts loose by hand. (At least that has been my experience).

      Cast iron oil-type compressors last longer and are quieter. They are also much heavier and more expensive. Aluminum is the noisiest, and oil-less have the shortest life span. Scroll compressors push more CFM per compressor weight than piston type.

      If the distance from the shop to the house is not too far (a couple hundred feet or less), you may just want to invest in some extra lengths of hose for the car or nailer work. You'll probably be okay with 3/8 id hose for 100'. but over that you may want some lengths of 1/2"id coming off the compressor. Don't use 1/4" id for more than 10' or so.

      I have a "5 hp" 6.5 cfm @ 125 psi 26 gal Cambell Hausfeld Extreme Duty (cast iron piston type oil bath) that I am very pleased with. (I put the 5 hp in quotes because it pulls 15 amps on 110v which means it actually has about a 1 1/2hp motor, but there is a pulley size difference as the compressor is belt driven). I have painted 25' boats with polyurethane, but had to do it in sections waiting for the compressor. Also have the "Kit" 3/8 dr impact gun and 2 ratchets. The ratchets are almost useless, and the impact wrench will not break loose a wheel nut. The are handy after breaking the nuts loose by hand, and for reinstalling the wheels, but I final torque by hand. At 350 lbs, it is tough to pull it around the yard but if I did it a lot, I would just put bigger wheels on it as well as front wheels. It pulls okay, just doesn't have much ground clearance and the weight without a front wheel works on the back.

      Hope this helps.

      Practicing at practical wood working