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When it comes to selecting suitable compressors for your small DIY jobs at home, people often wonder which is better to have, a pancake air compressor or a hotdog air compressor. Both are small and portable, but they have their differences.

This article will provide you with all the relevant information on both, to help you gain a better understanding!

Table of Contents

What is a Pancake Compressor?

Pancake air compressors are very small compact and portable air compressors that are designed for running small pneumatic tools and performing the most basic air compressor tasks. Their tanks are small and cylindrical, and typically do not exceed 5-6 gallons in size. but there may be some exceptions where the tank size is up to around 8-gallons.

They tend to only weigh around 30 lbs which along with their compactness, makes them ideal for moving about and storing. The majority of pancake air compressors are designed with oil-free pumps to minimize the amount of maintenance they require, making them ideal for residential use.

Pancake air compressors offer great stability, which makes them an ideal choice for roofing jobs or anything similar. Most pancake air compressors deliver around 2 CFM, so if you need a small compressor for DIY projects at home or to move about, the pancake compressor is ideal.

Tank Size: 6-Gallons
SCFM @ 90 PSI: 2.6 SCFM
Noise Level: 78.5 dB

If you’re wondering what SCFM is, visit our SCFM vs CFM guide for more information!

Pancake Compressor Advantages

  • Generally quite quiet
  • Lightweight & easy to carry
  • Stable

Pancake Compressor Disadvantages

  • Can be difficult to carry over long distances as they have no wheels
  • Small tank capacity may cause stop/start
  • Sometimes need to invest more money into accessory kit

What is a Hotdog Compressor?

Hotdog air compressors, similar to their counterparts, are also highly portable and lightweight compressors that allow you to move between different spaces and have access to your compressed air.

Their cylindrical shape can cause storage challenges sometimes, but most models come compact enough to be stored away. Always look to get one with a carrying handle or wheels to help move it around.

Their tank sizes range from as small as 2-gallons up to 8-gallons, which allows them to run heavy-duty tools like angle grinders, air hammers, and impact drivers. Hotdog air compressors can be either oil-lubricated or oil-free. The oil-lubricated versions maximize performance but require more regular maintenance. Though that may seem like an effort, it’s generally worth the enhanced performance and longer lifespan.

Tank Size: 6-Gallons
SCFM @ 90 PSI: 3 SCFM
Noise Level: 60 dB

Hotdog Compressor Advantages

  • Portable
  • Powerful

Hotdog Compressor Disadvantages

  • Can have issues transporting wheels across rough surfaces
  • Liable to vibrations which can make them noisy
  • Require additional maintenance if oil-lubricated

Pancake vs Hot Dog Compressor: The Differences

The main difference between the two compressors is how they’re shaped. Pancake compressors are cylindrical, while hotdog compressors are longer and skinner, with a tank that’s shaped similarly to a hot dog, hence their name.

The “pancake” tank is literally just 2 dished ends welded together with no cylindrical “shell” between the 2 ends. A “hot dog” tank is 2 dished ends welded to a cylindrical “shell” between them, as can be seen in the examples provided further up the page.

Due to hotdog compressors having a larger tank volume, and tending to be slightly more powerful, they are capable of providing a higher volume of air than pancake compressors. And so, not only will they be able to complete all the same tasks as a pancake compressor, but they will be able to power additional heavy-duty tools that the pancake compressor may struggle with.

Pancake compressors are always wheel-free and oil-free, meaning you have to carry them at all times. In contrast, hotdog compressors are available with wheels, depending on their tank size, and can also be oil-lubricated.

Hot dog air compressors are known for their vibrations when operating. This tends to make them slightly louder than pancake compressors when comparing the two. Though this isn’t always the case, as the YouTube video below demonstrates how the Craftsman pancake air compressor is louder than his Makita hotdog compressor. But, this could be due to a number of factors including its age.

Also, some air compressors are designed to be ultra-quiet, like the California Air Tools hot dog compressor provided further up the page!

Pancake or Hot Dog Compressor: How to Choose

When trying to decide between a pancake and a hotdog air compressor, you should base your decision on the following 4 important considerations:

  • CFM
  • Tank Volume
  • Noise Level
  • Maintenance

CFM

You should consider the CFM of the air compressors in question as the first deciding factor when comparing any compressor. CFM (cubic feet per minute) is the amount of air the compressor can supply at any given time. If you do not have enough CFM, say less than your tools require, then your tools may not be able to function properly.

Generally speaking, you should take note of all your air tools and their CFM requirements and purchase a compressor that is capable of providing more than your highest tools rating, just to be sure.

PSI (pounds per square inch) is also an important factor, but all pancake compressors and hotdog compressors can generally operate at similar pressures and provide the necessary pressure for their projects so I won’t go into depth on it.

Tank Volume

Tank volume is another important factor to consider as the larger your tank, the more air it is capable of holding. Hotdog compressors tend to be a bit bigger than pancake compressors and so they can hold more air, and last a long time without refilling.

The smaller the tank size, the more frequent you’ll have to stop working to allow the tank to refill. Though the refill time will be shorter, so is the work time, and so, you find yourself having to stop-start constantly which can disrupt projects. Sometimes, you may wish to connect two air tanks together.

If you’re interested in Cleaning the Inside of Air Compressor Tank, visit our guide!

Noise Level

If noise levels are a concern, they often are as people opt to work in quieter and peaceful work environments if they can. You may wish to consider a pancake-style compressor rated with a very low dB (decibels) rating. By all means, some hotdog compressors will be quieter than pancake compressors, so your decision may come down to previous considerations.

Maintenance

Some people don’t like having to carry out frequent maintenance, or they are not comfortable doing so. Oil-lubricated hotdog compressors will require maintenance but there are oil-free hotdog compressors and pancake compressors available. Generally speaking, the oil-lubricated compressors offer more power and efficiency. So you will have to decide what is most important to you!

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Which is better hot dog or pancake compressor?

The better air compressor is simply down to a matter of your preferences. Both compressors are suitable for small home renovation jobs and DIY projects, to decide which one is best for you, you will need to consider the CFM, tank size, noise levels, and maintenance of the compressor. By knowing exactly what you require with respect to these four considerations will help you pick the BEST compressor for you!

What is a pancake air compressor used for?

Pancake air compressors are commonly used and are suitable for residential projects because they are lightweight, portable, and have a sturdy design. These sorts of projects include roofing, spray painting, and other small DIY projects.

Can a pancake compressor run air tools?

Yes, a pancake compressor is capable of running a host of air tools that include brad nailers, painting, and airbrushing. Due to their typically low CFM rating of 2-3 CFM, they are unable to efficiently power more powerful tools like impact wrenches and sandblasters.

What is a hotdog compressor?

Hotdog compressors are highly portable and lightweight air compressors that take up a tubular shape similar to that of a hot dog. They typically have tank sizes that range from 2-gallons to 8-gallons, and may come with wheels depending on their size. Hot dog compressors are available as oil-lubricated or oil-free models, and are suitable for home renovation and DIY projects.


If you have any questions about pancake or hotdog compressors, please leave a comment below, with a photo if applicable, so that someone can help you!