The Best Air Compressors for Your Home Shop

If you’re looking to set up your home garage or make it more professional, choosing a quality air compressor for your home shop is essential. Choosing the wrong compressor can lead to significantly underpowered tools.

We’ve compiled our top recommendations for air compressors for your home shop, organized by their output strength from the weakest to strongest. If you’re uncertain what requirements you need for your next compressor, keep reading to learn how to calculate the minimum PSI and ACFM output you need.

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What air compressor do I need for my home garage?

The air compressor you need depends completely on the requirements of the air tools you use, and how many you plan on using at a time. Air tools always have PSI (pressure, measured in pounds per square inch) and ACFM (a volume measure of air output, actual cubic feet per minute). 

The general rule of thumb for air compressors is that the output ACFM should be 1.25 to 1.5 times the greatest requirement of any air tools you plan on using, and at the PSI recommended by the manufacturer of your tools. This ensures that you will never be underpowered when working in your home shop. 

If you plan on running multiple tools at the same time, you’ll need a compressor that can follow the same ACFM ratio but for the total of the tools used at the same time. Generally, this means you’ll need a stronger compressor than your typical 6lb pancake air compressor.  

ACFM vs SCFM – What’s the Difference? 

Most air compressor manufacturers report the volumetric output of their products in SCFM, or standard cubic feet per minute. The difference between ACFM and SCFM is that SCFM calculation standardizes conditions (pressure via atms and temperature in F) of where the compressor will be used. This standardization can vary by manufacturer, but generally, it’s 1 atm (which is the pressure at sea level) and around 68F.

Note that when many tool manufacturers list CFM requirements, they actually mean SCFM. Anytime we reference CFM in this article, we mean SCFM. 

ACFM is the real CFM output based on your elevation & temperature, as these significantly impact pressure. 

To convert SCFM to the actual CFM you need, use this free calculator. 

What Other Factors Are Important When selecting my air compressor? 

  • Horsepower – the horsepower of the pump determines the pressure (measured in SCFM) the compressor is able to produce. A higher horsepower pump will generally produce higher CFM metrics.
  • Tank Size – The size of the air compressor tank determines how long you can use your tools before the pump must refill the tank. For longer sessions or multiple tool use, a larger tank (typically 10+ gallons) is needed. 
  • Electric or Oil Pump – Electric pumps generally require less maintenance and last longer than oil pumps.

Top Air Compressors for Your Home Shop 

Prices and images pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

BOSTITCH Pancake Air Compressor, Oil-Free, 6 Gallon

  • Horsepower: 0.8 HP
  • Max PSI: 150 PSI
  • CFM: 2.6 SCFM @ 90PSI, 3.7 SCFM @ 40 PSI
  • Noise Level: 78.5 dBA*
  • Pump Uses Oil? No
  • Weight: 31 lbs

If you have minimal ACFM needs and are looking for an electric compressor that is budget-friendly, the 6 Gallon Bostitch Pancake Air compressor may be for you. This small pancake compressor can easily handle your average staple gun, nail gun, airbrush, or blowgun. 

However, at only 2.6 SCFM output, this compressor does not meet the needs of most mechanic’s standard air tools. If you’re looking for an air compressor for your home auto shop, jump down to recommendations 4 & 5 – you’ll need something with more horsepower.  

*Note that the compressor is known to be louder when initially filling, and will be louder if using in an enclosed space. 

Craftsman 6 Gallon Pancake Compressor w/ Accessory Kit

  • Horsepower: 0.8 HP
  • Max PSI: 150 PSI
  • CFM: 2.6 SCFM @ 90PSI, 3.7 SCFM @ 40 PSI
  • Noise Level: 78.5 dBA*
  • Pump Uses Oil? No
  • Weight: 32.5 lbs

This 6-gallon Craftsman air compressor has the exact same specs as the Bostitch compressor above. We included this compressor in our list because of the accessory kit, which features the following:

  • 25′ X 1/4inches Pvc air hose with coupler and plug assembled
  • Tire chuck with plug 
  • Blowgun with plug
  • Tire gauge
  • Blowgun with OSHA safety nozzle, 
  • Rubber tip, 
  • Three inflator adaptors

Most first-time compressor buyers don’t have (or realize they need) some of these accessories, which can delay your project and is extremely frustrating. 

However, if you’re not a Craftsman loyalist, it is actually cheaper to buy a hose kit off of Amazon separately than pay the extra $50 (MSRP price difference) for the Craftsmen kit. And let’s be honest, you probably only need the hose, the adaptors, and the blowguns – you likely already have everything else. 

NorthStar Electric Air Compressor – 1.5 HP, 8-Gallon Vertical Tank

  • Horsepower: 1.5 HP
  • Max PSI: 125 PSI
  • CFM: 4 CFM @ 90 PSI, 5.4 CFM @ 40 PSI
  • Noise Level: 70 dB
  • Pump Uses Oil? No
  • Weight: 88 lbs
  • Tank fill time: 2.1 minutes

This air compressor by Northstar is perfect for the average home garage shop. The low-amp motor on the compressor is Honda made, known for their quality. Dual ¼ inch quick-connect connectors allow you to connect multiple air tools at the same time.

While heavy, the 7-inch flat-free tires make moving it around your shop a breeze. These quality wheels will allow you to move the tank easily around your garage or property. 

The biggest downside of this compressor is if the tank has been emptied, the bulk of the weight is up top where you tip it to pull, and not resting on the wheels. 

California Air Tools, 4620AC, Air Compressor, Ultra Quiet, 2.0 HP

  • Horsepower: 2 HP
  • Max PSI: 180 PSI
  • CFM: 5.30 CFM @ 90 PSI, 6.40 CFM @ 40 PSI.
  • Noise Level: 70 dBA*
  • Pump Uses Oil? No
  • Weight: 67.2 lbs

California Air Tools are well known for producing high-quality air compressors that are usually the quietest option on the market, and the 4620AC is no exception. This 4.6 gallon 2 HP tank produces 4.6 CFM @ 90PSI with a noise level of 70 dBA, which is quieter than even your standard pancake compressor. 

With this SCFM level, you can run with ease your standard home improvement tools like nail guns, staple guns, etc. This compressor is even strong enough to use with some of your standard auto mechanic air tools. 

The compressor features the California Air Tools patented Easy Start Valve, which helps for easier start-ups in colder weather and uses less energy to start. The free dual piston pump that powers the compressor has a 3,000-hour life expectancy, which is 6 times higher than average. 

However, at almost 70 lbs with no wheels, this compressor is definitely not portable. If you’re looking to move it around your shop, consider buying a furniture dolly with lockable wheels to rest it on. Another known issue is the quick connectors, which seem to be the only area for quality improvement for this model (and several others that California Air Tools produces). The aluminum faceplate that supports the connectors is somewhat flimsy and can bend or pull off if forcefully inserting or removing your hoses. 

California Air Tools 10020C

  • Horsepower: 2 HP
  • Max PSI: 125 PSI
  • CFM: 5.30 CFM @ 90 PSI, 6.40 CFM @ 40 PSI.
  • Noise Level: 70 dBA
  • Pump Uses Oil? No
  • Weight: 82.5 lbs

Another electric air compressor by California Air Tools, the 10020C is virtually the same compressor as the 4620AC (detailed above) but with a 10 gallon tank. Since the pump is the same, the CFM and noise levels are identical. The only difference in performance is that the max PSI of this model is 125, which is a result of the larger tank size. 

If you’re looking to use your compressor for extended periods of time at a high performance or use multiple tools, the extra 5.4 gallons of air capacity that this model offers will work better for you. 

Another improvement over the 4620AC compressor is that this model features a dolly-like design for easy transportation by tipping and rolling the tool. While this compressor weighs about 15 lbs more, the wheels make this a non-issue. 

This 10-gallon model has the same issues around the quick connectors as the 4.6 gallon – something to be wary of or completely replace them from the beginning. A known issue for this model is also being damaged in shipping, so if you do purchase it be sure to carefully inspect the compressor for damage and leaks. 

EMAX Hulk Silent Air 10 Gallon Compressor

  • Horsepower: 2 HP
  • Max PSI: 125 PSI
  • CFM: 5.77 CFM @ 90 PSI, 8.39 CFM @ 40 PSI.
  • Noise Level: 45 dB
  • Pump Uses Oil? No
  • Weight: 79.4 lbs
  • Fill time: ~3 minutes

Our top pick for your shop air compressor is the EMAX Hulk 10-gallon. While lesser known in the consumer market, EMAX offers a powerful and shockingly quiet air compressor that is strong enough to handle most standard home air tools. The 5.77 CFM output @ 90 PSI makes it the most powerful air compressor reviewed here. 

Unlike other compressors reviewed, the EMAX Hulk only has one hose connector so using multiple tools simultaneously is not possible. The biggest known weak point of this model is the 8-inch wheels, which some owners report are prone to bend inwards making transportation difficult. 

If even the EMAX Hulk isn’t strong enough to meet your needs, you likely need an industrial air compressor. 


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