So you want to convert your garage into a full-blown man-cave/workshop/mechanics playground. One of the first steps is to find the best air compressor for home garage setups. An air compressor allows you to run air tools and provides a single power source for all of your needs.

Air tools have many advantages over their electric-driven counterparts. Since they don’t need their own motors, they tend to be smaller, lighter, and less expensive. They also last longer and are more reliable since they are simple devices with little that can go wrong. Air tools are the standard in nearly all mechanics shops and factories, and there’s no reason not to have a garage air compressor.

Before beginning, you need to answer one question What size compressor do I need? Air compressors come in all shapes and sizes to suit any need. The best home air compressor will be one that runs all of the tools you want it to, is easy to install in your garage, and operates quietly so as not to disturb your household or neighbors.

The best size air compressor for a home garage tends to be smaller than those used in shops and factories, but on the other hand, larger than you might expect. You see, an air compressor is a reliable tool that can last decades if properly cared for. Plan your installation so that you can grow your tool collection without having to replace your compressor.

Best Air Compressors for Use in a Home Garage

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Large Capacity Tank Air Compressor — California Air Tools 15020C Ultra-Quiet Oil-Free 2.0 HP 15-Gallon Air Compressor

Rated at only 70 decibels, the California Air Tools 15020C is a great choice for an air compressor for a home shop. The 2.0-horsepower motor is about as powerful as you can realistically get with a standard home electrical setup, and the 15-gallon air tank is large enough to meet pretty much any home shop needs.

This is an oilless, low-speed (1,680 RPM) pump. The horizontal layout weighs 90 pounds and measures 31 by 17 by 28 inches. It comes with a one-year warranty.

Its maximum output pressure is 150 PSI, and at 90 PSI it puts out 5.3 CFM.

Small Garage Air Compressor — Makita MAC2400 Big Bore 2.5 HP Air Compressor

The Makita Big Bore air compressor fits an impressive amount of power into a small package. Its footprint is only 20 by 20 inches and weighs 79 pounds. The roll-cage design has twin stacked tanks, making it very portable for moving between different locations. The compressor can be set to deliver 6.4 CFM at 40 psi or 5.3 CFM at 90 psi. It produces about 79 decibels during operation, making it one of the best quiet air compressors.

The Makita is powerful, too, making 2.5 horsepower and producing 4.5 CFM at 90 PSI. This is an oil-lubricated pump, and the big-bore motors are low-speed 1,730 RPM models. That’s the best of all worlds, giving a reliable pump that will last decades with proper care. It comes with a one-year warranty.

Pancake Air Compressor for Garage — Craftsman 6-Gallon Pancake Oil-Free Compressor with Accessory Kit

Pancake air compressors offer a lot of power in a small footprint. Their smaller tanks might mean more cycling, but they offer sufficient power for most home garage applications. The Craftsman 6-gallon model maxes out at 150 PSI and delivers 2.6 CFM at 90 PSI. It’s an oil-free pump designed for occasional operation in the home environment. Best of all, it measures only 16 by 16 and weighs a lightweight 30 pounds.

This handy Craftsman unit comes with a 13-piece accessory kit to get you started. It includes a 25-foot air hose, tire inflator, blowgun, and multiple inflator adapters. Just add your favorite air tool, and you’re ready to go. Like the others, it’s covered under a one-year warranty.

Best Budget Compressor — California Air Tools 8010 1.0 HP 8-Gallon Ultra-Quiet Compressor

The California Air Tools 8010 is like a miniature version of the 15020C listed above. It’s much smaller, with a one-horsepower motor and eight-gallon tank. It measures 26 by 14 by 23 inches and weighs 54 pounds. It’s also slightly quieter, at a soft 60 decibels.

Of course, this smaller budget compressor makes a little bit less power than the others. Its maximum output pressure is 120 PSI. The oil-free pump has a running rating of one horsepower and a peak rating of two. It draws only 8.5 amps while running, so tripping breakers shouldn’t ever be a problem. It’s rated for a continuous run time of 30 to 60 minutes, depending on the selected CFM and PSI. At 90 PSI, it produces 2.2 CFM. At 40 PSI, it goes up to 3.1 CFM.

How to Setup a Garage Air Compressor System?

Setting up your new air compressor for your home shop requires a little bit of planning. Always read the manual that comes with your compressor to see any special requirements or installation tips.

Step 1—Safety First

Keep in mind that an air compressor can make an incredible amount of air pressure. When you get your air compressor, take nothing for granted. Don’t assume that the factory did everything right and that all the fittings and attachments are appropriately secured. Wear eye protection, rubber gloves, and sturdy shoes in case of any air fittings burst. Practice good shop safety, and remember that an air compressor is a power tool.

You will also want to wear some form of ear protection if your compressor operates often or during big projects. Even “quiet” compressors make a fair amount of noise, and if you’re trapped in a loud garage with one, it can be fatiguing.

Step 2—Plan Your Installation

Where should you put your new air compressor? Every garage is different, but there are a few key things to keep in mind.

  • Give your air compressor space on all sides. It needs to have air to bring in, and it also needs air flowing around it to keep it cool.
  • Figure out the power requirements for your air compressor. You cannot use an extension cord, so you’ll need to plan an installation near an outlet or have a new outlet installed.
  • Plan to keep noise to a minimum. Keep the compressor away from doors and windows. You might even want to think about mounting it with some sound-absorbing panels to deaden the noise.
  • Where will you use your tools? Figure out how much hose you will need, and then make sure you’ve got enough. But also remember, too long a hose will lose pressure unnecessarily.

Step 3—Outfit Your Compressor with Accessories

Depending on what comes with the air compressor you choose, you’ll likely need to outfit it with a few accessories. Air filters are always a good idea to keep gunk from getting sucked into the pump. If you plan on using your compressor for painting or sanding, you’ll also want to install a dryer/separator in the line.

Most compressors do not come with the product air hose, so you’ll have to pick up the proper size hose for your application. And of course, you’ll need the air tools you want to use!

Step 4—Attach the Hoses and Tools

Attach the air hose using Teflon pipe tape on the treads to ensure a good, leak-free seal. Most tools have quick-connect fittings.

Step 5—Adjust the Regulator

You’ll need to adjust the compressor to meet the requirements of the tools you use. The compressors are adjustable to ensure maximum flexibility and versatility with the greatest number of tools.

Step 6—Empty the Compressor’s Tank After Each Use

The air tank can build up condensation, so it’s best to empty the tank every day to ensure you don’t collect a lot of water. Water can lead to corrosion and rust problems in the long wrong and contamination in the airlines.

Step 7—Mind The Maintenance Requirements

Compressors are built to last many years, but you’ll want to read the manual and follow the maintenance schedule to the letter. Oil-lubed models will require you to check the oil level regularly and replace it occasionally. Oilless compressors don’t require that but still have moving parts that will need inspection and tending to. As with all machinery, it’s better and cheaper to keep an eye on its condition and maintain it instead of repairing it.

Conclusion

A garage air compressor can turn your workroom into a full-blown shop. Nothing will impress your friends more or make your projects easier. The best thing about air compressors is how many uses you discover after you install one. Most folks approach the purchase with one or two tools they’d like to use in mind and then wind up using it for all sorts of things.