What Size of Air Compressor Should I Get?

Central Pneumatic makes air compressors in a variety of tank sizes. While CFM (cubic feet per minute) measures the amount of airflow that a compressor produces, tank capacity determines how long that airflow can be sustained. When it comes to determining what size the storage tank on your compressor should be, your main consideration should be the type of work you’ll be using it for. Here are is a rundown of different tank sizes that Central Pneumatic uses.

3-Gallon

One of the most common sizes for most brands of air compressors is the 3 gallon. This is your basic entry-level, low budget compressor which many get as their first compressor or if they will rarely be using it. Available in both pancake and hot dog shape (both delivering only 0.6 CFM at 90 PSI) these 3-gallon models are good for a number of light duty jobs.

Recommended for:

  • air brushing
  • brad nailing
  • stapling
  • inflating bike tires and toys

4-Gallon

This excellent 4-gallon twin tank compressor (model 62763) is quite a bit more powerful (3.5 CFM at 90 PSI) than the 3-gallon. It’s designed for rooftop stability and works great with framing nailers and even some ratchets. The 4-gallon model is surprisingly strong enough to run two nail guns at the same time.

Recommended for:

  • air brushing
  • brad nailing
  • stapling
  • small inflatables
  • inflating car tires
  • framing
  • roofing

6-Gallon

The 6-gallon pancake compressor is simply a bigger and stronger version of the 3-gallon. With an output of 2.5 CFM at 90 PSI, it’s not as strong as the 4-gallon but its capacity will allow it to run longer without having to refill. So if you need to inflate a large truck or SUV tire, this is where the larger size proves to be an advantage.

Recommended for:

  • air brushing
  • brad nailing
  • stapling
  • medium inflatables
  • inflating car/truck tires
  • framing
  • roofing

8-Gallon

Central Pneumatic’s 8-gallon compressors (models 68740 and 69667) are two of the most popular items it sells. Producing 4.5 CFM at 90 PSI gives you the ability to run a wider range of air tools. While it’s not oil-less so minor maintenance is needed, it’s one of the best bang for your buck compressors out there.

Recommended for:

  • air brushing
  • brad nailing
  • stapling
  • medium inflatables
  • inflating car/truck tires
  • framing
  • roofing
  • hobby paint spraying
  • impact wrench
  • ratchet wrench
  • die grinder
  • air hammer

10-Gallon

Next up is a 10-gallon (model 62441) which is both slightly larger and more powerful (5.3 CFM at 90 PSI) than the model above. The extra 2 gallons makes a big difference when you need continuous airflow such as when you’re using a die grinder or impact wrench.

Recommended for:

  • brad nailing
  • stapling
  • medium inflatables
  • inflating car/truck tires
  • framing
  • roofing
  • hobby paint spraying
  • impact wrench
  • ratchet wrench
  • die grinder
  • air hammer

21-Gallon

One of the best air compressors for a home garage, the 21-gallon (model 61454, 62803, 69091) is a popular seller. While slightly less CFM (4.7 at 90 PSI) than the 10-gallon, the large tank allows you to use air tools that are still off limits in the smaller sizes. While obviously less portable than a small compressor, it makes for a good garage centerpiece.

Recommended for:

  • brad nailing
  • stapling
  • medium/large inflatables
  • inflating car/truck tires
  • framing
  • roofing
  • hobby paint spraying
  • impact wrench
  • ratchet wrench
  • die grinder
  • air hammer
  • sand blaster
  • sander
  • spray gun
  • cut-off tool

26-Gallon

Here’s a compressor that has a couple things going for it versus the 21-gallon. Obviously, the larger tank will allow constant airflow for a longer period of time. Also is the fact that this model is oil-less so there’s little to no maintenance required. That said, with a lower CFM (4.0 at 90 PSI) and higher price tag, it doesn’t make sense to go with this model in most cases. Recommended usage is the same as the model above.

Recommended for:

  • brad nailing
  • stapling
  • medium/large inflatables
  • inflating car/truck tires
  • framing
  • roofing
  • hobby paint spraying
  • impact wrench
  • ratchet wrench
  • die grinder
  • air hammer
  • sand blaster
  • sander
  • spray gun
  • cut-off tool

29-Gallon

Now we’re back on track with the 29-gallon cast iron model (#61489). Along with the large tank you’ll get 5.9 CFM at 90 PSI making this an excellent choice for home auto mechanics or restorers. It will handle most any air tool with the exception of some large sanders and impact wrenches.

Recommended for:

  • large inflatables
  • inflating car/truck tires
  • framing
  • roofing
  • hobby paint spraying
  • impact wrench
  • ratchet wrench
  • die grinder
  • air hammer
  • sand blaster
  • sander
  • spray gun
  • cut-off tool

60-Gallon

This behemoth is the largest and most powerful air compressor Central Pneumatic sells (model 93274). Because it uses a 2-stage system, it can pump out 15.8 CFM at 90 PSI. This combination allows it to work flawlessly with any paint spray gun. It’s perfect for industrial, automotive, and commercial settings (or if you have a really large garage).

Recommended for:

  • large inflatables
  • inflating car/truck tires
  • framing
  • roofing
  • hobby paint spraying
  • impact wrench
  • ratchet wrench
  • die grinder
  • air hammer
  • sand blaster
  • sander
  • spray gun
  • cut-off tool
  • paint sprayers

So there you have it. A quick rundown of the different size air compressors that Central Pneumatic offers.