Dewalt announced the Flexvolt cordless air compressor last July, and it’s been in stores for a month or so. Due to a shipping mistake, I received Stuart’s test sample (don’t worry, he got another one) and so I get to be the first to review it!
All the relevant specs were covered in our preview post here, so I’m just going to summarize them here:
- 2.5 gallon tank
- 135 PSI max pressure
- 1.2 SCFM at 90 PSI
- One-Turn regulator
- Can drive over 1220 nails per charge
- 60V Brushless motor
- Oil-free pump
- *Weighs 22 lbs
- Heavy duty roll cage
- 15.5″ H x 14″ L x 12.5″ W
- made in the USA (with global materials)
*My scale says it weighs 25 lbs. with the included 6.0 Ah battery, so they aren’t including the battery in their weight calculations.
The air compressor is sold in a kit, bundled with a 6.0 Ah Flexvolt battery (DCB606) and a fast charger (DCB118) for $299.
Note: The FlexVolt 6.0Ah battery is rated at its 20V Max charge capacity. At the operating voltage of FlexVolt tools, which is 60V Max or 54V nominal, the charge capacity is 2.0Ah.
Using the Compressor
I’ve been working on remodeling our hallway. It’s not the most glamorous project, but I’m finally getting around to finishing it some 15 years after I started it. Part of the project is replacing all the hollow core doors with 6 panel oak veneer doors. So I’ve been using the Dewalt compressor to hang the doors and put up the casing with my Porter Cable 16 gauge nailer.
Usually I had the compressor out in the living room where it was out of the way around the corner, but I had to move it into the bathroom with me to put up this casing. That’s when I began to wonder about how loud the compressor was.
For a tiny oil-less compressor, it’s pretty quiet, but it still can be loud enough that you may want to wear hearing protection if you are next to it. On the floor in my shop I measured 87 dB from 1 meter away.
When you’re in an enclosed space the compressor is noticeably louder. I repeated the measurement in my bathroom and I found the compressor generated a little more than 90 dB from a meter away.
Noise level aside, I really liked being able to use my pneumatic nailer without an intolerably loud pancake compressor, or running 50 feet of air hose from my garage compressor. There’s nothing wrong with cordless nail guns, but I like the feedback of a nail gun that fires instantly, not a fraction of a second after I pull the trigger.
Run Time Testing
Dewalt claims in their press release that “The compressor achieves up to 1,220 nails per charge using one 6.0Ah FLEXVOLT Battery (DCB606) and a DEWALT 18 GA Brad Nailer (DWFP12233).”
I don’t have that particular brad nailer, so I couldn’t verify the claims. In fact, I don’t have any 18 gauge pneumatic nailer. The closest thing I have is my Porter Cable 16 gauge, so that’s what I ran my own tests with.
For testing how many nails I could sink with a single battery, I didn’t just want to shoot nails into a board until the battery ran out of juice, I wanted to simulate normal use. I decided on shooting enough nails in succession to get the compressor to cycle 3 or 4 times and then let it rest for random lengths of time.
I set the compressor to 90 PSI, which seems to be the sweet spot for this nail gun. I found the compressor will pressurize the tank to 135 PSI in 2 minutes and 15 seconds. It kicks on again when the pressure drops to about 100 PSI, regardless of where the regulator is set. It takes approximately 30 seconds to charge the tank back to 135 PSI.
I started running a longevity test with a 6.0 Ah FlexVolt battery that I had just charged, and only was able to sink about 80 nails before the battery died. Something clearly went wrong.
It got me wondering and I noticed that it was one of the “Early Release” FlexVolt batteries. So I went back and ran the test with the 6.0 Ah battery that shipped with the compressor and got drastically different results.
For the second test I was able to shoot about 8-1/2 sticks (about 425 nails) in about 4 hours. That’s about 12 to 13 nails before the compressor would have to refill. So one 6.0 Ah battery refilled the compressor about 32 times.
Just for fun, I also shot some 1″ nails. I discovered that the number of 1″ nails I could drive before the tank refilled was the same as 2″ nails: 12 to 13.
As with all compressors, you’ll want to drain the water out of the tank. The 1/4-turn ball valve is located on the underside of the tank in the back.
Here’s a summary of all the results:
- dB @1 meter: 87 to 91
- Fill Time (0 to 135 PSI): 2 minutes 15 seconds
- Refill Time (100 to 135 PSI): 30 seconds
- Number of 16 gauge shots per refill: 12 to 13
- Number of refills on one 6.0 Ah battery: 32
- Number of 16 gauge nails on one 6.0 Ah battery: 425
My only complaint so far about this compressor is that it needs a low battery alarm, I was shooting nails into this door jamb and couldn’t figure out why my nail gun wasn’t sinking them. It took several nails before I realized I hadn’t heard the compressor run in a while. Sure enough, I looked at the pressure gauge and it was reading 60 PSI — the battery had died.
As for why I only got 425 16-gauge nails on a charge — I can think of several reasons. Driving 18 gauge nails takes less force (therefor less air) than 16 gauge nails. The Dewalt 18 gauge brad nailer could also be more efficient than my 15 year old nail gun. Regardless, I think my data still may give an accurate picture of the compressor’s abilities.
Another way to look at it is that manufacturers often pick the most flattering data to put their tools in the best light, but they aren’t always the most useful. Not everybody is going to use this air compressor to drive 18 gauge nails with the Dewalt nail gun, some people will want to drive 15 or 16 gauge nails, others might want to drive 23 gauge pins, and I’ve even seen Instagrammers using this compressor with framing nailers.
In short: I liked this little compressor. It was (relatively) quiet, easy to move around, and had more than enough capacity to power my 16 gauge nailer. Unless I only had to drive a few nails, I’d rather use this compressor with a pneumatic gun, then reach for a cordless nailer.
Here’s my reasoning: First off, cordless nail guns are bulkier and heavier. For instance, take the two Porter Cable nail guns shown above. The cordless nailer weighs 6.5 lbs vs 4.1 lbs for the pneumati,c and is quite a bit larger. Also, most cordless nail guns don’t have an instant response. Sure you can get used to the delayed firing, but would you put up with that behavior from your drill?
My final point is that this compressor might be an economical alternative to replacing all your pneumatic nailers with cordless ones. You get the advantages of not snaking long hoses to outside compressors, or trying finding power outlets without replacing all your pneumatic nailers. Buying just 2 cordless nailers will cost more than the $300 for this Dewalt cordless compressor.
Thank you to Dewalt for providing the test sample unconditionally.