7 Best Small Air Compressors of 2020

Last update: Sep 24, 2020

For household use or recreational woodworking/DIY, you don’t need a big air compressor. A 1-gallon and 2HP motor air compressor would meet your needs. Other things that you should take into account are its portability, its durability, its quietness, and so on.

Here are the best small air compressors you can buy in 2020:

  • Ultra Quiet: California Air Tools Air Compressor
  • Ultra Compact: PORTER-CABLE Air Compressor Kit
  • Sturdy Build: Makita MAC210Q Quiet Series
  • Good All Around: Makita Big Bore 2.5 HP Air Compressor
  • Best Pancake Compressor: CRAFTSMAN Air Compressor
  • Best Combo Kit: BOSTITCH Air Compressor Combo Kit
  • High Capacity: California Air Tools Ultra Quiet
7 Best Small Air Compressors
Ultra Quiet
California Air Tools Air Compressor
    Ultra Compact
    PORTER-CABLE Air Compressor Kit
      Sturdy Build
      Makita MAC210Q Quiet Series
        Good All Around
        Makita Big Bore 2.5 HP Air Compressor
          Best Pancake Compressor
          CRAFTSMAN Air Compressor
            Best Combo Kit
            BOSTITCH Air Compressor Combo Kit
              High Capacity
              California Air Tools Ultra Quiet

                Ultra Quiet: California Air Tools Air Compressor

                California Air Tools Air Compressor
                California Air Tools Air Compressor
                9.4Outstanding
                Pros
                • Ultra quiet - 56 dBA

                • Lightweight and portable

                • Oil-Free pump

                • Super quick recovery time

                • Two pressure control gauges

                Cons
                • Not powerful

                California Air Tools Air Compressor is portable, which only weighs about 29 lbs. It features a 1-gallon air tank and an oil-free pump. With this oil-free pump, it won’t need much maintenance; plus, the output air will be pretty clean.

                Since the air compressor is pretty small, it has a super quick recovery time - it takes only 15 seconds to recover from 90 PSI to 120 PSI, and only 50 seconds to fill the tank from empty to full. It produces little to no heat, which dissipates quickly; besides, it features a thermal overload protector. The most significant advantage of California Air Tools Air Compressor is its super quietness - the sound pressure rate is about 58 dBA, which is even quieter than a normal conversation.

                The drawback of California Air Tools Air Compressor is its lack of power, which you can expect too much when it comes to small air compressors like this. It features a small motor, about 0.6 HP, that can produce an airflow of 1.6 CFM at 40 PSI or 1.2 CFM at 90 PSI - ideal for trim guns, air brushes, and tire inflations.

                California Air Tools Air Compressor Specifications

                Tank Size

                1 gallon

                Horsepower

                0.6 HP

                CFM/ PSI

                1.60 CFM @ 40 PSI / 1.20 CFM @ 90 PSI

                Noise level

                56 decibels

                Highlight Features

                Ultra quiet - 56 dBA
                Oil-Free pump
                Two pressure control gauges

                Verdict

                California Air Tools Air Compressor is ideal for trim guns, air brushes, and tire inflations.

                Ultra Compact: PORTER-CABLE Air Compressor Kit

                PORTER-CABLE Air Compressor Kit
                PORTER-CABLE Air Compressor Kit
                9Outstanding
                Pros
                • Super compact and lightweight

                • Water drain valve and rubber feet

                • 150 PSI max pressure

                • Oil-free pump

                • ISO 1217 standard

                Cons
                • Not so quiet

                In terms of smallness, no models can beat PORTER-CABLE Air Compressor Kit. It has more air capacity than California Air Tools Air Compressor, which is 1.5 gallons, however, less lightweight and compact. In fact, it weighs only 20 lbs. You can carry it everywhere with just one hand. The case is well-designed, which looks good and has rubber feet and a water drain valve - you can place and use the air compressor anywhere.

                PORTER-CABLE Air Compressor Kit is not so power - 0.8 HP and 2.0 SCFM at 90 PSI. The max tank pressure is 150 PSI. It also features an oil-free pump for no maintenance required. It meets the ISO 1217 standard for performance-tested compressors. All are great, however, the compressor is not so quiet. The sound pressure is rated 79 dBA.

                PORTER-CABLE Air Compressor Kit Specifications

                Tank Size

                1.5 gallons

                Horsepower

                0.8 HP

                CFM/ PSI

                2.0 SCFM at 90 PSI

                Noise level

                79 dBA

                Highlight Features

                Water drain valve and rubber feet
                Oil-free pump
                ISO 1217

                Verdict

                PORTER-CABLE Air Compressor is super lightweight and compact, meets ISO 1217 standard.

                Sturdy Build: Makita MAC210Q Quiet Series

                Makita MAC210Q Quiet Series
                Makita MAC210Q Quiet Series
                9Outstanding
                Pros
                • Ultra quiet - 60 dBA

                • Oil-free dual-piston pump

                • Lower RPM for longer motor and pump life

                • Complete roll-cage construction

                Cons
                • Under performance

                As the name has said, Makita MAC210Q Quiet Series is ultra-quiet - only 60 dBA, which is even quieter than normal conversations. This is a small air compressor with a 2-gallon air tank. However, it is not lightweight; in fact, it weighs nearly 50 lbs - even heavier than 6-gallon compressors. In return, you’ll have a super sturdy and durable compressor.

                Makita MAC210Q Quiet Series features a complete roll-cage construction, all-metal. This construction protects the pump and motor during transportation and on the job sites.

                You don’t need to worry about maintenance since the pump does not require lubrication. The motor is 1 HP and runs at a lower RPM. This helps enhance motor and pump life; however, reduces the power of the air compressors. It produces 2.0 CFM at 90 PSI, equivalent to a 0.8 HP motor.

                Makita MAC210Q Quiet Series Specifications

                Tank Size

                2 gallons

                Horsepower

                1 HP

                CFM/ PSI

                2.0 CFM at 90 PSI

                Noise level

                60 dBA

                Highlight Features

                Ultra quiet - 60 dBA
                Oil-free dual-piston pump
                Complete roll-cage construction

                Verdict

                Makita MAC210Q is a sturdy, durable, and ultra-quiet air compressor.

                Good All Around: Makita Big Bore 2.5 HP Air Compressor

                Makita Big Bore 2.5 HP Air Compressor
                Makita Big Bore 2.5 HP Air Compressor
                9.2Outstanding
                Pros
                • Good air capacity & power

                • Twin tanks for a stable operating pressure of 130 PSI

                • Oil-lubricated pump for enhanced motor life

                • Large automotive style industrial air filter

                • Roll cage construction

                Cons
                • Very heavy

                Makita Big Bore 2.5 HP Air Compressor is a great choice for non-industrial all-purpose. It has a high capacity compared to other small air compressors, about 4.2 gallons. It features two stacked tanks to sustain a stable operating pressure of 130 PSI. The motor is rated at 2.5 HP, providing 4.8 CFM at 40 PSI and 4.2 CFM at 90 PSI - this power is enough for two nailers.

                In terms of construction, Makita Big Bore 2.5 HP Air Compressor is super rough and durable with a roll cage construction. However, this makes the compressor pretty heavy - 81 lbs; It is still compact though. The pump requires oil lubrication for a more effective cooling effect and reducing wear. It features a large automotive style industrial air filter for a quicker recovery time so the waiting time is reduced and the working time is increased.

                Makita Big Bore 2.5 HP Air Compressor Specifications

                Tank Size

                4.2 gallons

                Horsepower

                2.5 HP

                CFM/ PSI

                4.8 CFM @ 40 PSI / 4.2 CFM @ 90 PSI

                Noise level

                79 dB

                Highlight Features

                Twin tanks
                Oil-lubricated pump
                Large automotive style industrial air filter
                Roll cage construction

                Verdict

                Makita Big Bore 2.5 HP Air Compressor is durable and heavy-duty, ideal for all-purpose.

                Best Pancake Compressor: CRAFTSMAN Air Compressor

                CRAFTSMAN Air Compressor
                CRAFTSMAN Air Compressor
                9.4Outstanding
                Pros
                • Pancake tank for both high capacity and portability

                • Quick compressor recovery time

                • No maintenance required

                • 13 piece accessory kit includes

                Cons
                • Loud sound before shutting off

                The pancake shape is a smart design for both portability and high capacity. The tank size is about 6 gallons - pretty impressive for a 30lb compressor like this CRAFTSMAN Air Compressor. It features a 0.8 HP motor, which can produce 2.6 SCFM at 90 PSI and 3.5 SCFM at 40 PSI. This is my recommendation for woodworking and other light to medium tasks.

                CRAFTSMAN Air Compressor has a quick recovery time to reduce waiting time during your work. It features an oil-free pump so no maintenance is required. Besides, it comes with 13 pieces of accessory, including an air hose, a tire chuck, a blowgun, a tire gauge, nozzles, and tips - quite everything is included in the package so you don’t have to purchase other accessories separately. However, there is a loud sound for 14 secs before turning off, which is quite annoying.

                CRAFTSMAN Air Compressor Specifications

                Tank Size

                6 gallons

                Horsepower

                0.8 HP

                CFM/ PSI

                2.6 SCFM @ 90 PSI / 3.5 SCFM @ 40 PSI

                Noise level

                71 decibels

                Highlight Features

                Oil-free pump
                13-piece accessory kit

                Verdict

                CRAFTSMAN Air Compressor is both high-capacity and portable, ideal for woodworking.

                Best Combo Kit: BOSTITCH Air Compressor Combo Kit

                BOSTITCH Air Compressor Combo Kit
                BOSTITCH Air Compressor Combo Kit
                9.2Outstanding
                Pros
                • Pancake tank for both high capacity and portability

                • No maintenance required

                • 18GA Brad nailer (5/8 - 2 inches)

                • 16GA Straight Finish nailer (1 1/4 - 2 1/2 inches)

                • 1/4 inches x 25' PVC air hose

                Cons
                • Quite loud while operating

                BOSTITCH Air Compressor Combo Kit is another pancake air compressor. It also comes with a combo kit, which includes an 18GA brad nailer to drive brad nails from 5/8 - 2 inches and a 16GA straight finish nailer for stronger holding needs. Besides, a ¼-in x 25-ft air hose with fittings is included in the package. Everything is ready for your household needs.

                Like CRAFTSMAN Air Compressor, you don’t have to worry about maintenance, portability, and recovery time. All are great. BOSTITCH Air Compressor Combo Kit is even slightly more powerful than the CRAFTSMAN Air Compressor as it features a 0.9HP motor. However, BOSTITCH Air Compressor Combo Kit is significantly louder.

                BOSTITCH Air Compressor Combo Kit Specifications

                Tank Size

                6 gallons

                Horsepower

                0.9 HP

                CFM/ PSI

                ‎2.6 CFM @ 90 PSI / 2.5 CFM @ 100 PSI

                Noise level

                78.5 dBA

                Highlight Features

                18GA Brad nailer
                16GA Straight Finish nailer
                1/4" x 25' PVC air hose

                Verdict

                BOSTITCH Air Compressor Combo Kit comes with a brad nailer and a straight finish nailer.

                High Capacity: California Air Tools Ultra Quiet

                California Air Tools Ultra Quiet
                California Air Tools Ultra Quiet
                9.4Outstanding
                Pros
                • Ultra quiet - 60 decibels

                • High capacity

                • Oil-free pump

                • Rust-free tank

                • Great maneuverability

                Cons
                • Not so tough construction

                California Air Tools Ultra Quiet is a quiet and small air compressor with an impressive tank capacity. It can hold 8.0 gallons of air in its tank despite being just 37 lbs. It also has two big wheels for easier maneuver. The compressor works quietly - the sound pressure is rated at only 60 decibels, which is even quieter than a normal conversation.

                California Air Tools Ultra Quiet features an oil-free pump and rust-free tank for no maintenance required. However, the construction looks not so tough. Unlike Makita's roll-cage air compressors, which seems unbreakable, this compressor seems like can be easily damaged when something heavy drops on it.

                California Air Tools Ultra Quiet Specifications

                Tank Size

                8.0 gallons

                Horsepower

                1.0 HP

                CFM/ PSI

                2.2 CFM @ 90 PSI

                Noise level

                60 decibels

                Highlight Features

                Ultra quiet - 60 decibels
                Oil-free pump
                Rust-free tank

                Verdict

                California Air Tools Ultra Quiet is quiet and small yet has an impressive tank capacity.

                How To Choose The Best Small Air Compressor?

                There are a few things that you should take into account when choosing a good small air compressor for home use:

                Horsepower and CFM/PSI

                For small to medium tasks, a 1HP motor that can produce less than 3 SCFM at 90 PSI would be both efficient and economical. Small air compressors tend to have the power of this level. This power is enough for household tasks and recreational woodworking.

                Tank Size

                The higher the tank capacity is, the longer runtime you'll get. For small tasks, a 1-gallon tank would be enough. For woodworking or medium tasks, you may need a 5- or 8-gallon tank.

                Noise Level

                Since a small air compressor tends to don’t have a powerful motor, you can expect it is pretty quiet. Some air compressors are really quiet - the sound pressure is rated below 60 decibels, which is even quieter than a normal conversation.

                Maintenance

                An oil pump has several advantages, such as reducing heat and reducing wear. However, you’ll need to lubricate it regularly. Some air compressors feature an oil-free pump so you don’t have to worry about maintenance yet it still works alright.

                Portability

                Small air compressors tend to weigh just above 30 lbs, pretty lightweight; plus it tends to be compact, making it super easy to maneuver. However, there are some air compressors weigh up to 80 lbs. A heavy air compressor tends to be more sturdy and durable, and a lightweight air compressor tends to be less sturdy and durable. You’ll have to make a choice between portability and durability.

                Which Brands Make The Best Small Air Compressor?

                California Air Tools

                California Air Tools was founded in 2002. Being a new brand in the industry, it bases its competitive advantages on innovative technologies. Their air compressors are well-known for its ultra quietness and no maintenance required. California Air Tools is a perfect brand for those who are looking for a small air compressor for household use.

                Makita

                Makita is a brand from Japan. It was founded in 1915, dedicating all their time and effort to designing and manufacturing the best motors and power tools. For more than 100 years of experience, Makita has successfully built a world-wide well-known brand on the product's quality and customer services. Makita is also famous for other lines of cordless/air power tools, such as drills, impact wrenches, impact drivers, cutters, and all types of saws.

                Porter Cable

                Porter Cable has a long history of designing and manufacturing machines and power tools. It was founded in 1906. Their very first merchandisable products are pencil sharpener, automatic tire pump, and gas lamps. Up to now, their portfolio expands to hundreds of power tools and accessories. Air compressors are one of their well-known and highly-rated products. With more than a hundred years of experience, Porter Cable has a good reputation for quality, performance, and reliability. This is a brand you can trust.

                FAQs

                Should an air compressor be drained?

                Sure. You should drain your air compressor after every use. Release the air and open the drain valve for a while to let out any moisture.

                Why does my air compressor make so much water?

                When air compressor draws in air, it also draws in moisture in the air. When summer comes, the higher humidity makes the output air wetter.

                How often should I change the oil in my air compressor?

                On average, you should change the oil every 3 months. However, you should consult the manual packaged with the air compressor to know the recommended time from the manufacturer.

                How do you get moisture out of compressed air?

                First, drain the compressor’s tank. Simply release the air and open the drain valve for a while to let out any moisture. Then, you may want to check or have someone check the Water Trap and Filter Regulator system to see if it works properly. If you want, you can use a dryer to dry out water vapor.

                Why is CFM lower at higher PSI?

                Since the motor produces the same power level to move a fixed volume of air, this air volume, if being compressed at a higher rate, will have a higher PSI and lower CFM, if being compressed at a lower rate, will have a lower PSI and higher CFM.

                Conclusion

                CFM/PSI, tank capacity, noise level, maintenance required, portability are several things that should be taken into account when choosing a small air compressor. I hope this article can help you choose a good one for your needs.


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