Budget air compressor for the shop?

Discussion in 'The Garage' started by Rottweiler, Mar 18, 2013.

  1. Rottweiler

    Rottweiler I'm a Believer

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    I'm poor as a church mouse right now but need an air compressor for use around the shop and farm. I'm thinking...

    - 115VAC since I don't have a 220 outlet available
    - enough flow/pressure to run a nail gun or impact wrench
    - big enough to air up a vehicle tire in reasonable time
    - able to be left on all the time
    - budget of, say, $300

    Anyone recommend anything in particular
    #1
  2. LuciferMutt

    LuciferMutt Rides slow bike slow

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    Maybe one of the Sears 30gal units. The CFM will be borderline for impact wrench work, but it will do it with some waiting every now and then for the tank to fill.

    Don't be tempted by the oil-less compressors, they are garbage.
    #2
  3. GH41

    GH41 Been here awhile

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  4. FLYING EYEBALL

    FLYING EYEBALL out of step

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    buy used
    #4
  5. Beezer

    Beezer Long timer

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    if you can live with low demand tools the compressor can be pretty small & a 30 gal is fine, maybe even overkill. I think going 120v is the real limiter... power is power. depends on your needs, with a smaller compressor, running a nail gun is no problem. an impact gun will work but you may have to wait for the compressor to catch up from time to time even with a 30 gal. tank. an air driven sander or die grinder.... not going to be happy.

    one thing you can do is look for a compressor with the highest pressure... that can help take the place of the high volume to an extent. you can run longer but will also have to wait longer for the pressure to come back up

    and ya, check Craiglist... there must be a ton of decent used out there
    #5
  6. Jamesville

    Jamesville a man of few posts

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    +1 on LuciferMutts advice on staying away from the oil less compressors. I saw one taken apart for a rebuild at work the other day and I was amazed how cheaply it was constructed. Absolute junk. I have been running a 5 gallon Ridgid oil type compressor in the garage for 5+ years and I have found it to be reliable and able to run various air tools if you are willing to wait for it to catch up on occasion.

    Bob
    #6
  7. mflora98ss

    mflora98ss Dual Sportin'

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    I know a few people that have had good luck with the Kobalt compressor's as well. They will last a long time for you if it's not running for long spurts like if your running an angle grinder or doing automotive painting.
    #7
  8. Rottweiler

    Rottweiler I'm a Believer

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    Thanks for the advice, keep it coming please. Looking at craigslist and Lowes (Kobalt). Never knew there were so many brands I've never heard of.
    #8
  9. Boatman

    Boatman Upward and onward!!

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    Just a caution about leaving any compressor "on" all the time. It's somewhat a dangerous thing to do. If there is a failure to hold air, say a hose breaks or something fails and the compressor runs constantly, there is danger of over heating and fire could result. I personally know of one woodworking shop that burned to the ground and one I was working in came close when the compressor caught fire.
    #9
  10. gatorgrizz27

    gatorgrizz27 Been here awhile

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    I try to plan ahead for the future with tool purchases so you don't end up throwing something out when you want an upgrade. As others have said, no 220v is killer for shop use with paint guns, die grinders, cutoff wheels, dual action sanders, sand blasters etc. Once you buy a compressor, you can pick up a ton of very useful tools for $20-$100. If you are able to add a 220v circuit where you live, it is worth doing. I just put one in the house we are renting for the year for about $100.

    If you plan to have a shop sometime in the future with a permanent compressor, I would lean towards the small, light end of things right now. 8-10 gallon compressors are great for construction, and can be used as an air tank to fill up a couple tires out in a field without power. If you buy a big compressor someday it will still be useful. Harbor Freight has a 2hp 8gal compressor on sale for $100 now with a coupon, buy the replacement plan for it and use it.

    If you don't think you will ever end up with a shop and 220v power, then the 30 gallon compressors are a better idea, but more of a pain when you want to use it somewhere else, and still not powerful enough for serious work. Harbor Freight has one for $280 now that is a "big style" compressor with a belt driven cast iron pump on it.

    Before people knock Harbor Freight compressors, I have the 60 gallon unit that I use in a professional shop every day and is over 3 years old with no issues. The motor is a Baldor that is used on most any name brand compressor, and it has a full twin cylinder cast iron pump on it. The only "cheap Chinese steel" on it is the tank, which holds up fine and will not rust out in my lifetime.
    #10
  11. Rottweiler

    Rottweiler I'm a Believer

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    My plan was to install a valve right at the outlet and just close that every time I walk away from it. Hopefully it is a lot less likely to spring a serious leak within the compressor itself. The "fill" time when starting a compressor from empty is an aggravation when I just need to top off a tire or something quick. Thanks for the good advice, I hadn't thought about it that far.
    #11
  12. Rottweiler

    Rottweiler I'm a Believer

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    After spending a good part of the afternoon looking at compressors, it seems like my $300 price point is an anti-sweet-spot. There's plenty of small, light, cheap stuff available for <$200 and plenty of "serious" compressors available for $500+ but the stuff in between seems like the worst of both worlds.

    So I might go the cheap & light route for now. But I just don't want to spend lots of time waiting for the compressor to catch up when I'm trying to inflate a front tractor tire from stone flat.
    #12
  13. LuciferMutt

    LuciferMutt Rides slow bike slow

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    All you need to do is just switch the compressor off or unplug it. You can leave the tank pressurized, but don't forget to drain the tank to get the water out once in a while.
    #13
  14. sailah

    sailah Lampin' it

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    I agree about not leaving the compressors on all the time. Especially non-commercial grade. I'd go cheap and small like a pancake compressor right now. They have a dual purpose and can run nail guns and are portable. Get a real compressor when you have 220 and the cash.
    #14
  15. mouthfulloflake

    mouthfulloflake Not afraid

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    constantly turning the compressor on and off, cost me a $40 switch once ( it was cold and brittle)

    so now i leave it ON all the time, and unplug it ( between cycles) when I wont be needing it.

    also a suggestion, I was in in your same predicament, went to an air compressor repair shop.

    got a 20 gallon with 5hp ( not reallly) cambell hausfield "professional series" about 18 years ago for $150

    it still works just fine, it was brought in to replace a burned up motor, shop replaced motor and upsold the custom a newer larger model, so this one was for sale.

    identical to this, but tank is silver instead of blue

    [​IMG]
    #15
  16. P B G

    P B G Long timer

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    Realistically -

    110 is your limit, not money. You can wire/run many things to run 110 or 220, but a real 220 compressor is going to allow you to buy a used higher quality unit for your price point.

    I'd adding a 220V outlet, I'd plumb in that valve, and I'd plumb in 2 pole single throw switch to turn it on/off at the wall. This is a much nicer arrangement because you can situate the switch near your light switch, if the tank is low it will turn on when you turn on the lights, and then when you leave the garage and shut off your lights it will be off.
    #16
  17. tvpierce

    tvpierce Been here awhile

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    I've had great luck with oil-less compressors. I have a high volume (5hp electric motor/something like 9 cfm @ 40 psi/6 cfm @ 90 psi) Craftsman in my garage that's worked flawlessly for 15 years with no signs of failing. My dad had a couple of oil-less compressors for decades that were fine.

    I also have an oiled (non-oil-less?) pancake compressor that I like lot. But I wouldn't characterize the oil-less as "junk".

    I think my Craftsman cost under $300 when I bought it. Not sure what a comparable unit costs today. But I think it's worth considering.
    #17
  18. WeazyBuddha

    WeazyBuddha Carbon-Based Humanoid

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    I got this a number of years ago and I'm happy. Many a tire change has been done. I also use it to top off tires and to blow debris out of parts and hard to reach places in the motorcycles.

    I did a bit of research at the time and even contemplated buying a much bigger unit but I hate clutter and figured I don't wrench enough to justify air tools. I did buy an electric impact wrench at HF and glad I did, it's come in handy.

    LINK

    [​IMG]
    #18
  19. SaharaJp99

    SaharaJp99 Been here awhile

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    I bought this one about 3 years ago and it does what I need:

    http://www.harborfreight.com/25-horsepower-21-gal-125-cast-iron-vertical-air-compressor-67847.html

    I use it for an impact wrench, ratchet wrench, cut off wheel(probably most often used for this), airing up tires, etc. With the cut off wheel sometimes you have to allow for recovery time, but it works great, i dont use it to make a living, so waiting a minute for recovery is no big deal. I change the oil in it every few months and it works as good as the day I bought it. I got it on sale for $139. Well worth it and less than half the cost of most other brands. For this hobbiest it is a great bang for the buck compressor.
    #19
  20. H96669

    H96669 A proud pragmatist.

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    I like that HF one above, I could double tank with my old one. Don't show me stuff like that.....:roflI don't have time to drive down to Spokane. Well maybe now.....!:roflBest price here for a similar unit is over twice that and for a few $$$$ more I could get a much larger 220V. Add a few thousands for a new 200A service to the shop.:cry

    I just read the reviews and the guy posting about the 20A circuit required is probably quite right. Even my old tired Speedaire is plugged into a 20A,speeds up the motor and that motor sure has a lot of hours on it. Even forgot to turn it off for a whole month when I was away must have ran 3-4 times a day and still going. Kind of comforting the "chuck a chuck" sound of that old compressor.

    The little one, 2 gallons (Imperial):wink: paid $40.00 for it new. It does inflate tractor tires, neighbor does that with his. Attach the hose to the tire valve and walk away from the noise for a period of time.:wink: I mostly use mine for nailers and staplers or move it around the property to inflate tires. Good for a few quick blasts of air when cleaning parts or carburators.

    [​IMG]
    #20