Air Compressor Rental Guide: What Size Powers Which Tools

Do you need an air compressor to help you operate your tools? Renting an air compressor is a cost-effective way of powering your smaller devices. But how do you know which air compressor suits your needs best? You have to take into account the type and the size of tools you plan to use. You also need to match the compressor with the project and the environment you will be working in. Read on to figure out what type of air compressor you need to power your tools.

Air Compressor Purpose

Air tools are more powerful compared to traditional electric tools.  With an air compressor, you don’t need a bulky motor to operate your tools. It converts electrical energy into kinetic energy to power portable tools. The compressor’s piston and cylinder draw air in, compress it, and release it through a discharge valve into a tank. The air becomes pressurized and powers tools.

Air Compressor Portability

Before renting an air compressor, you need to know what you want to use it for. There are a few different types of compressors available for consumers. There are two broad categories:

  • Portable ones are either light enough to carry or, if large, come on wheels.
  • Stationary air compressors are better for garages and workshops. Usually, they are wired into the building, so most of the time you can’t rent them.

Portable compressors also come in several types:

  • The pancake has a round, flat storage tank mounted on its bottom. It takes up less space than others.
  • The hot dog has a single, horizontal, cylindrical tank.
  • Twin-stack has two horizontal, cylindrical tanks.
  • The wheelbarrow has two cylindrical tanks with a wheel and handles to move it.

Another thing to consider, when choosing an air compressor, is power. Gas power is best for outside jobs because it emits fumes. You also don’t have to worry about finding a power source. Electric power is a quieter option and it suits best for indoor jobs.

Air Compressor Tank Sizes

The amount of air in the storage tank determines how well certain tools work. Measured in gallons, tanks come in different sizes. They range from one to 80 gallons. If you need tools with constant air or have to work for long periods of time, opt for a larger tank of about 60 gallons. If you need tools with intermittent air or want to carry a lighter compressor, go with a smaller tank that is about five gallons.

Sometimes it’s better to go larger to minimize the motor strain and condensation. When the air in the tank falls at a certain point, the motor kicks back on. Turning on and off strains the motor and shortens its life. A compressor needs to cool down between cycles. A larger tank allows for that. Also, when compressed, the air becomes hot and holds more moisture. Condensation forms when you use compressed air. Larger tanks hold the air longer. This gives it a chance to cool down before entering the air lines.

Air Compressor Performance Ratings

A major factor to consider is the standard cubic feet per minute (SCFM) rating. This tells you how much air it can take in each minute. The higher the compressor’s SCFM, the more powerful it is. But the SCFM depends on the pounds per square inch (PSI). Lightweight compressors usually have 90 PSI. When comparing ratings, look for the SCFM at 90 PSI. The machine’s horsepower (HP) rating can tell you how powerful it is. Most have HP ratings between 1.5-6.5.

Air Compressor Requirements for Tools

Tools also have an SCFM, which tells you the airflow needed for operation. Smaller tools need 0-5 SCFM. Larger ones need 10 or more SCFM. Most portable compressors can only power one tool at a time. Some common tools you can power with an air compressor include nail guns, air hammers, sandblasters, and angle grinders.

To know the compressor’s rating, find the tool with the highest SCFM. Add 50 percent to its requirements. This is the minimum SCFM you need. For instance, if an impact wrench needs 5 SCFM at 90 PSI, you need a compressor between 6.25-7.25 SCFM at 90 PSI.


When renting an air compressor, you must consider several factors. First, where you plan to work on your project. Then, what tank size you need. And lastly, what types of tools you plan to power. For help in making the right rental choice, reach out to the air compressor experts at For a phone consultation, call at (888) 325-5172.

Related Posts

  How Do Generators Work?

  Haulotte HT85 RTJ PRO, JCB 3CX, Hyundai HX130LCR

  How To Use A Paint Sprayer Connected To An Air Compressor

  Excavator Sizes: Choosing the Right One for Your Project

  Are Boom Lifts Versatile Machines?

  How Does a Forklift Work

  Why Farmers Need a Water Truck

  Construction Dumpster Sizes: What To Get For Your Site

  How to Choose a Forklift and Available Attachments

  How Much It Costs To Rent a Crane