What Size Air Compressor Do I Need?

One of the most challenging tasks is finding a size of air compressor that will work correctly with your tools.

This is because there are so many compressors in the market each offering some features and better technology to make your work faster and efficient.

You will, therefore, need to have a deep understanding of the application and usage of your air tools to get the right machine.

The wrong air compressor can lead to inefficient operation as well as increased wastage of energy.  The best part about air compressors is that the models and size differ significantly.

This means that it’s possible to find just the right size of an air compressor for the projects you are looking at finishing.

What does an air compressor need?

Before we go into further details into the size of air compressor, let’s start with the basics.

You may be wondering why you need an air compressor, right? Well, an air compressor is a remarkable unit that can be used in a wide range of settings to make your work easier.

What Size Air Compressor Do I Need
Air compressors can be found at the gas station where they are used to inflate your car tires.
Credit: flickr.com

First, air compressors can be found at the gas station where you can use them to inflate your car tires.

You won’t miss an air compressor in construction or building sites for power grinders, jackhammers, sanders, and grinders.

Air compressors are also for home uses, workshops, and garages to make maintenance and repair tasks easy and faster. This is where they are used to power nailers, airbrushes, paint sprays among other tools.

The size of air compressor you chose will depend on the different applications and air tools you intended to use.

For example, if you are working in manufacturing or industrial projects, you will need a unit with high airflow.

What Size Air Compressor Do I Need
If you are working in manufacturing or industrial projects, you will need a unit with high airflow.
Credit: tinker.af.mil

Air compressor find application in manufacturing industries like cement and oil manufacturing companies.

It will also make your DIY with interest in crafts or carpentry or have a passion for performing your auto repairs jobs.

There is no beating on the versatility of an air compressor because there are countless jobs that can be used with an air compressor. Owning one is, therefore, a calculated and cost-effective move.

Size of air compressor

Unfortunately, when it comes to choosing an air compressor, it’s not a one size fits all tasks and projects. You will need to determine which size of air compressor fits your tools best.

The size of the air compressor can be determined by the following factors which are important in facilitating an efficient operation.

Consider the volume of the compressed air

Small tools do not need a high horsepower as compared to industrial equipment. Instead, these tools depend on the compressed air power for the air tools to be efficient.

This is usually expressed as Cubic feet per minute at a particular pound-force per square inch gauge.

Consider cfm for each tool

Your air compressor should be able to power a majority of your devices simultaneously. To find out this you can look at the manufacturer’s cfm and check them against each other.

Once you have the cfm requirement for each tool, you can add the cfm for all the tools that you can operate at the same time then check it against the CFM of the air compressor.

To provide for margin error, you need to add 25% to the totals.

Determine psig requirement

To determine the right psig to operate the tools you need to consider the device that requires the highest pressure to work as your measurement.

In most cases, this is related to the size of the air compressor.

Determine air compressor tank size

The smaller air compressors require a storage tank to provide a higher compressed air storage capacity.

However, the small-sized air compressor will only offer a high surge of power for a short time while a sizeable air compressor will run for a longer time before shutting down.

A video about the size of air compressor:

Why going for the right size so important?

The size of the air compressor is important because it determines the amount of airflow supplied to your air tool as well as the length of time an air compressor can run before it needs a refill.

To complete a given task, the air compressor has to provide enough pressure to run that particular tool for the required time.

You will, therefore, need to understand the amount of pressure that is required by your devices so as to buy a compressor of the right size.

Remember that if you choose a tank with insufficient air flow you will be required to take frequent tank refill which is wastage of time.

At the same time, a large air compressor might be costlier and may lead to wastage if you have only medium to small tasks to handle.

Did you also know that there is a relationship between air compressor tank size and PSI?

If for example, you use an industrial air compressor with a PSI of 200 to pump ratchet of PSI 90 then it will need you to adjust the pressure to 90PSI.

This means that the compressed air in the tank will last longer because you aren’t using the higher reservoir pressure of 200PSI but that of ratchet of 90 psi.

Moreover, there will be positive ramifications to the air compressor life as well as energy consumption because it will cycle less frequently.

But don’t do the vice versa by putting a large tank onto a small air compressor. It will have negative ramifications on your compressor life as well as increased energy consumption.

A video about why going for the right size of air compressor important:

What does cfm stand for?

CFM stands per cubic feet per minute refers to the amount of air an air compressor puts out. The rate at which this air is let out is through the cfm which changes depending on the pressure and the humidity.

To put both the internal and external factors into consideration, standard cubic feet per minute (sfcm) is used.

You should note that under sizing your air compressors will result to a low pressure that cannot complete your tasks while oversizing could lead to damages and malfunction of your compressor.

The CFM output should be more than the required amount to run each tool efficiently.

How big of an air compressor do I need to run air tool?

The tank capacity or the size of air compressor matters when it comes to efficiency and power.

With there being numerous types of air compressors that differ in size and capacity you may have a challenging time choosing one to run your air tools.

This should not be too much of a problem as all you need is the maximum pressure and the CFM.

An air compressor in the right size will also ensure that your air tools are supplied with the proper airflow and for a longer duration.

If your air tools require a large airflow for a longer duration, you have to ensure that you do not compromise on the size of the air compressor in which case you should go for a big machine.

What Size Air Compressor Do I Need
It will be very possible to determine the size of an air compressor you need.
Credit: woodmagazine.com

Noticeably, if you choose an air compressor in the wrong size will lead to a lag in your projects which may lead to extra costs.

With these two values, it will be very possible to determine the size of an air compressor you need.

Table of air compressor size for air tools


Air consumption

Air consumption (CFM)

Operating pressure (bar)

Operating pressure (psi)


Paint sprayer






Air nailers/ staplers






Air sanders






Tyre inflators/ pumps






Paint brush






What size of air compressor do I need for impact wrenches?

Am impact wrench is very important when you are looking for the best operations. However, an impact wrench will require you to have an efficient air compressor to achieve the best results.

When searching for an air compressor, you are likely to come across numerous types of impact wrenches which can make finding the best one for your air compressor a challenge.

To make this easier, you will need to check the amount of CFM your impact wrench requires being fully functional.

If you plan to run more tools using the same air compressor, then you will need to consider one that can offer the best results for all these cases.

It is important not underpowered your impact wrench as this would result to inefficient work.

Table of air compressor size for impact wrenches





Impact Wrench 3/8"



Small air compressor

Impact Wrench 1/2"



Small air compressor

Impact Wrench 5/8"



Small air compressor

Impact Wrench 1"



Small air compressor

Impact Wrench 3/4"



Small air compressor

The Bottom Line

Determining the right size for your air compressor can be a challenge because with the wrong PSI you will not be able to achieve peak performance.

The above information aims at helping you estimate the correct size for your air tools.

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