How Much CFM Is Enough?

As mentioned earlier, one of the most important ratings you should be looking at when purchasing a new air compressor is CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute). Central Pneumatic air compressors are available in a variety of CFM levels. Generally speaking, the larger the air tank, the higher the CFM (although not always). If you’re planning on exclusively using a brad nailer, which requires minimal airflow, then almost any model will do. If you’re planning on doing some auto body work and using tools such as sanders or grinders, a much more powerful compressor will be needed. An air compressor that’s perfect for someone may be useless for your needs.

Below is a chart showing the CFM requirements of some of the most common pneumatic air tools. While you can use this as a general guide, it would be best to look at the specific requirements of your current tools by looking through its instruction manual. Keep in mind that the CFM number is based on a 25% duty cycle, meaning that the air tool is in use for about 15 seconds of a minute. If you require tools that use air continuously, such as a die grinder, you will need to multiply the CFM number by a factor of 3 or 4.

Air Tool

Avg. CFM & 90 PSI

Brad Nailer

0.3

Framing Nailer

2.2

Impact Wrench – 3/8"

2.5 – 3.5

Ratchet – 1/4"

2.5 – 3.5

Drill

3 – 6

Chisel/Hammer

3 – 11

Grease Gun

4

Hydraulic Riveter

4

Nibbler

4

Impact Wrench – 1/2"

4 – 5

Mini Die Grinder

4 – 6

Cut-off Tool

4 – 10

Ratchet – 3/8"

4.5 – 5

Speed Saw

5

Angle Disc Grinder – 7"

5 – 8

Orbital Sander

6 – 9

Rotational Sander

8 – 12.5

Shears

8 – 16

Needle Scaler

8 – 16

Impact Wrench – 1"

10

Dual Sander

11 – 13