A reader wrote in, asking for compact air compressor recommendations. By default, my thoughts turn to Rolair. The Rolair JC10 2.5 gal quiet air compressor left me with a positive impression 2 years ago, not just of that model but of Rolair as a brand.
They’re looking for a small portable air compressor – something simple for general purpose and light nailer use.
Do you have a recommendation for a small (less than 5 gallon) portable air compressor? Just something that will run a small nail gun, blow up a tire, etc. I had a little DeVilbiss weenie compressor for about 20 years and it worked flawlessly (if not a bit noisily) until it finally kicked the bucket recently.
Any preferences on pancake style vs hot dog style? The red porter cable pancake compressor is ubiquitous but is it the bees’ knees? I’m willing to pay a little more $$ for a quality unit but I’m not sure of any differences between porter cable, craftsman, hitachi, campbell hausfield, etc…. Any brand or model suggestions or ones to avoid?
The Rolair above, although recommended, isn’t exactly as small or portable as a 2.5 gallon air compressor could be. Rolair has since come out with the AB5 Air Buddy ($155+ via Amazon), but its 1 gallon tank might be too small for Fran’s needs.
Makita is hardly ever my first choice for anything, but their reviews on Amazon makes me want to give them a try. Makita came out with a new 1-gallon air compressor earlier this year, but it might be too small for general use, due to its small tank and low airflow rating.
Porter Cable’s pancake air compressors can be found for $100 via Amazon (both 3.5 gal and 6 gal compressors are currently the same price), and are a popular way to go. For casual use, I would probably go with Porter Cable or Craftsman, based on pricing and the brands’ reasonably good reputations, but I don’t think anyone will see 20 years of use from either brand’s modern air compressors.
While the preference for hot dog-style air tank vs pancake-style will make for an interesting discussion another time, I think it comes down to what you’re looking for.
A hot-dog-shaped tank will be more compact, taking up less horizontal space, and I’ve found them to be more easily portable.
Pancake-shaped air tanks fit more volume with only a slightly wider footprint, but I find them to be a little more awkward to carry and transport.
Are there any small compressors you could recommend? Any that you would recommend against?
While Fran is looking for an air compressor that is less than 5 gallons, I think that 6 gallons might be a more common upper-limit.