The joy of air compressors

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I’m almost wishing I’d plumbed our house for compressed air when we built it. It’s so handy for cleaning things out.


I have a big old one that sees regular use for filling tires, grinding metal, but most of all for blowing dry the circuit boards that I solder with organic flux, then rinse in hot water.


When you need an air compressor, nothing else will do; OTOH, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve needed the one that came with the house when we bought it in 2003. Most times, I use the canned air for computer cleaning.


If I wanted one of these to replace canned air - what (other than the compressor) do I need to pick up?

A hose?

A set of end fittings? Do I need anything else (regulators - quick connects ?) Trying to find this info only leads to 1000 articles on air flow - I know I don’t need a huge CFM number - I just want to know other than the compressor itself what you need to get going.


Compressed air: I never leave home without it.


Ideally some form of filter/dryer


Air compressors? Really?

What’s next, articles about pencils?

Oh, um, right…


I’ve often thought about an air compressor and nailer for finish nailing.


Most compressors tend to add oil and moisture to the air. If that matters for your application, you will need to filter or settle that out. You can buy compressors that provide clean air, but they are not inexpensive.


One of these would pbly be overkill if you’re just looking to replace canned air for blowing negatives or circuit boards. They are VERY LOUD when they fill the tank, and offer far more pressure than you’ll ever need. (Also, unless you’re in the desert, tank air is always damp; you might need to add a filter or pipe network to dry it out.) There are small on-demand compressors with built-in water filters that do a great job for benchwork. (If you’d just like a better price on canned air, try a fabric store; -)

But if you have tires to fill or light home repairs to make, pancake compressors are great friends to have handy. My fave is the 6-gallon 150 PSI unit from Porter-Cable; Lowe’s usually has ‘em for $100 this time of year. Only 34 pounds, oil-free, dual-outlet; mine work even outdoors in the Michigan winter. You’ll need a hose or two ($10-$25 ea.), some “air gun” tips (store brand kits will have a nice array of tips and a 20’ hose for $15+), and perhaps a water filter ($15+) and a coupla spare fittings.

(A $90 oil-free Bostitch narrow crown stapler is one of the first tools to add – crown staples can fix/affix so many things around the house!)


If all you want to do is replace canned air, there are handheld blowers that should be strong enough for that task, but I haven’t used any so I don’t know if they’re any good.
You could get a small compressor without a tank. It won’t be a perfectly constant stream of air and you can’t get higher pressure than the compressor can provide, but any compressor should probably be good enough for replacing canned air.
You don’t need quick connects, you can just use the built-in threaded connections (though if you’re going to change tools or hose length with any frequency, I would highly recommend quick connects so you don’t have to replace seals so often). Whether you use quick connects or directly screw the components together, use a thread sealant such as teflon tape.
A blower tool (links below to a few different types), a hose, and compressor are all you need to replace canned air, but a filter/dryer would probably be a good idea too.

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I’m compressing air right now!


Bean burritos can do that!


No bananas. Just look at them!


Why would a person buy a Harbor Freight air compressor from Amazon? Why would they buy a Harbor Freight air compressor?


I just fried my Crafstman 7 gallon tube compressor by not checking the oil level. Apparently my oil cap broke and every time I put it up on end for storage the oil leaked out so it seized the engine.

Anybody have recommendations for a decent compressor that will also handle occasional impact wrench and nail gun usage? I don’t think the pancake style has the capacity for air tools and I don’t want have room for the big room sized standup models.

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I have a 4.3 gallon Senco PC1131. Well reviewed, and I have a lot of confidence in it after 2 years of service.
It is rated for continual running and has decent running pressure, and it tops off fairly quickly, but at 4.3 gallons it is going to be slow with heavy wrenching or a roofing nailer. Of course, then you have my neighbor who is perfectly happy using an air wrench with a cheap pancake compressor during his brake changes, so ymwv of course!

If you are going to use a compressor somewhere noise is an issue, take a look at the California air tools compressors. They are dramatically less noisy than a typical small pancake compressor. I endrd up buying a porter cable kit with two nail guns, a stapler, and a bunch of fittings, a California air tools compressor, then selling the Porter Cable compressor cheap on Craigslist.


A shopvac can be used as an air blower, and is more convenient for many blowing tasks.