Understanding Air Compressor Specifications And Choosing The Right Device For Your Home Project

Posted on: 4 October 2016

If you are completing a heavy-duty construction project, like replacing the roof on your home or adding a new deck, then it is wise to use pneumatic tools to complete your work. Pneumatic tools, like air-driven nailers, can substantially reduce the amount of time the project takes. They can also reduce muscle stress. This is ideal if you have little upper body strength. If you do want to use pneumatic tools, then you can rent them. You also need to rent an air compressor. Keep reading to learn about how to choose an air compressor based on their specifications.


The CFM air compressor specification is the cubic feet per minute of air that is released from the device. This is the measurement that tells you how fast the machine will release compressed air from the holding tank. Specifically, CFM refers to the volume of air released from the air nozzle for every minute that the unit runs. Since the CFM or volume of air will directly translate to air pressure, this means that a higher CFM means more air pressure being released from the compressor.

The CFM that is needed to use your pneumatic tools will be listed directly on each tool that you rent. The average pneumatic nailer will use between about two and four CFM to release a nail into a substrate material. You may be tempted to rent a smaller air compressor to meet the direct needs of your tools. However, if you work quickly, then the flow rate of the device may not be enough for the tools. You may then need to wait for the compressor to recharge with air before continuing with your project.

You should instead rent an air compressor that exceeds your needs. Look for a device that offers about double the CFM you need, so you will have more than enough air. 

Tank Size

If the air compressor you rent has more than enough CFM to allow your pneumatic tools to run, then it may not seem like it would matter if the tank of the unit is large or small. However, this is not always true, especially if you do not want to listen to the compressor turn on and off all day long. The compressor tank holds pressurized air, and the compressor motor will turn on whenever the pressure drops significantly in the tank. 

If you decide to use a four CFM nailer and the tank of the compressor is only about 10 gallons, then the device will turn on quite a bit. One CFM is equal to about 7.5 gallons of air. This means that the nailer will use close to 30 gallons of air for every minute it runs. If you nail continuously, then the compressor will have a hard time keeping up with demand. However, if you choose a device with a 50 or 60 gallon tank, then the unit will not need to turn on nearly as often.

The only time that it may be wise to choose an air compressor with a smaller tank is if you need to place the compressor on an unstable surface, like a roof that needs to be repaired. Air compressors are made out of steel, and the larger ones will weigh quite a bit, even if they are considered portable. For example, a twin-stack compressor that is made for residential use can weigh as much as 70 pounds. If you are concerned about this, then make sure to inquire about weight when renting the device.

Air compressors are extremely useful if you want to complete projects fast with pneumatic tools. However, it can be difficult to choose just the right device for your needs. If you need assistance with picking out the right compressor, speak with the compressor rental expert in your area.