Whether you’re powering a nail gun or just need to fill your tire, a 120 volt air compressor can be an essential piece of equipment to keep in your garage or shop. It can be hard to pick one out, with such a wide variety of equipment on the market, and the ideal one for you largely depends on what you intend to use it for.
The main thing to pay attention to is the capacity of the compressor, while something small for refilling your tires might not need much if you intend on running a pneumatic tool for an extended period of time you’ll need something serious to take care of things for you properly. Let’s take a look at five of the best 120v air compressors on the market now, and then we’ll discuss what you’re looking for in further detail.
PORTER-CABLE PCFP02003 3.5-Gallon 135 PSI Pancake Compressor
A great compressor that’s useful for most applications you’ll need one for around the house. While the smaller capacity probably isn’t ideal for running something that requires extended usage like painting, it’s perfect for intermittent usage tools like nail guns and die grinders. The high PSI lends it a pretty impressive capacity when you’re not running the compressor (see full specs) constantly, and it’ll still work fine for inflating tires which makes it perfect for most households, which makes this one of the best 120v air compressors for the money.
Campbell Hausfeld HL540100AV 8-Gallon Air Compressor
If you’re looking to power some serious tools that require heavier usage, then this compressor will be your new best friend. The 8-gallon capacity and 125 PSI will let you run grinders, automotive tools, and pretty much anything short of needing to spray a car with paint with a shocking amount of ease. The transportable design (see full specs) is nice as well, allowing you to wheel it around your property or the jobsite in order to get the most out of it without an excessive amount of hose attached. Hands down, it’s among the best 120-volt portable air compressors.
BE Pressure AC2010 10 Gallon Vertical Compressor, 2 hp, 120V
For the price, you’re not going to able to beat this compressor. You’ll be able to power almost anything with it, and the vertical design is great for those of us with limited shop or garage space. The controls are all fully integrated, and the 2HP design means that you won’t have to wait long if you do manage to run all of the air out of it. Keep this one in mind if you’re planning on painting or running some serious air-powered tools for whatever you may need. It’s among the best 120-volt air compressors you can buy.
Goodyear i8000 120-Volt Direct Drive Tire Inflator
If you’re just looking for something so you can take care of tire maintenance without having to run to the gas station, this compressor from Good Year is exactly what you’re looking for. It’ll quickly and easily take care of all but the most specialized tires from the comfort of your home or garage and comes with attachments for both sporting goods and inflatable rafts as well. If you’re not planning on using tools with your compressor, it’s a minimal investment which will pay off well around the home.
What You’re Looking for in the Best 120v Air Compressors
It’s obviously a personal choice as to what you’ll be looking for when you pick up an air compressor, so the first thing to look at before making a purchase is what you plan on doing with it. If you’re just looking for something to fill up your tires at home, just pick up the Vivair option and call it a day, but the rest of you will have to make some actual decisions.
The first thing to note is the capacity and PSI. Anything with less than five gallons of capacity is unsuitable for heavier tasks and even lighter tools like nail guns are sure to keep them filling up. While you can power almost anything with a smaller compressor, you’ll find yourself with a lot of idle time waiting for it to fill up.
While it’s definitely not a primary concern, if you’re running your compressor in a garage, shop, or other enclosed area it’s a good idea to take a look at the decibels produced by the unit. Too loud and you’ll have to wear ear plugs or risk a bit of damage to your hearing. Most units will stay within a safe range, but if you notice ringing after the unit shuts down it’s time to pick up something to protect your ear drums.
Automotive tools and nail guns are good examples of pneumatic tools which don’t require a lot of air use. Their use will mostly be short and intermittent, but if you’re doing some heavy framing or roofing work you need more air so you don’t spend a lot of time without being able to power your tool.
Larger tanks take up a lot of room in your garage or shop but they have some distinct advantages. When you run a die grinder or spray gun, you’ll typically be running it for an extended period. While grinders may be able to be used with cool down periods to achieve the same result, spray guns are generally used for somewhat time sensitive applications and a lot of downtime can wreck your project.
If you’re looking at getting some painting or grinding done, it’s definitely time to pick up something a little bit heavier. Keep in mind that a higher horsepower motor will charge the tank more quickly and produce a bit more noise as well.
In short, you’ll want to consider the following:
• Tires: Direct air feed is fine, no need for a tank unless you’re working with semi or tractor tires.
• Nail Guns, Automotive Tools: Smaller capacities can be used, but don’t go too small if you’re using them heavily.
• Spray Guns, Grinders: These tools are typically used continuously for extended periods and high PSI, horsepower, and tank volume is required to keep going until the job is done.
As long as you keep the above cheat-sheet in mind you’ll be good to go and you can take care of business and be able to find the best 120v air compressor for your needs. Again, the choice depends mostly on what you’re doing, and as long as you match the task to the tank, you can’t go wrong with any of the compressors we’ve described above. Good luck!