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Choosing an air compressor

Discussion in 'Mechanic and Repair' started by Jason Rose, Dec 22, 2007.

  1. Jason Rose

    Jason Rose LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,858

    What's better, a cast iron pump or an aluminum one that has cast iron sleves?

    I notice that most all major compressor mfgs. still use cast iron and they are generally labled as "extreme duty" type pumps, but are the newer style aluminum alloy pumps better?

    I've heard some "hype" about the craftsman compressor I have below, but would you pick it over the other one I have pictured? Lets assume that the price is almost the same for either. Both work on 110 and 220 volt.

    Campbell Hausfeld 2 HP 26 Gallon Compressor

    Heavy duty cast iron oil-lubricated, twin-cylinder pump powers a variety of tools for the serious do-it-yourselfer. Product life up to 5,000 hours. 2 running HP motor capable of running on either 120 or 240 volts. 26 gallon tank.


    Craftsman Professional 25 gal. Air Compressor, 2 hp, Horizontal Tank

    Single stage pump compressors air in 2 steps for more efficient and cooler operation 2 cylinder Oil Lube Pump with cast-iron sleeves and automotive pistons and rings Durable construction and a lower oil consumption for longer pump life Aluminum fanned crank case and a balanced Flywheel for improved heat dissipation.

  2. lucforce

    lucforce LawnSite Member
    Messages: 223

    I can not in good conscience recommend either of those compressors. If you want quality, don't look for cast iron vs aluminum, look for a quality product. If you use or need a compressor, buy quality and buy it once.
  3. jrc lawncare

    jrc lawncare LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 420

    I have one of the craftsman compressors pictured, about 20 yrs old, but mine is red. No issues so far.
  4. Jason Rose

    Jason Rose LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,858

    Then, by all means, please recommend a good one! I'd still like to stay the same size as the ones I pictured.
  5. Breezmeister

    Breezmeister LawnSite Bronze Member
    Male, from South Jersey
    Messages: 1,784

    Depends on what you are going to do ? Just run an impact gun or ratchet for a few minutes a week, go with the cheapest. But if you need to run a sander, die grinder or some thing that will need alot of air, go with the cast iron.
    Also, if you can, go with a bigger tank. I hate to have to wait for the compressor to build back up, both make alot of nose.
    ericg likes this.
  6. tomo

    tomo LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 660

    hello ,
    a compressor with AT LEAST 15 cfm to 17cfm
    3 hp motor or more
    twin or triple piston air pump
    v belt drive
    Look into whats called FAD [free air delivery ]
    The higher the better

    With the above specs the unit will not have to work to hard eg regain pressure quickly . This will all lead to a longer life for the unit .

    In my situation i have my good compressor and plug a cheap 2hp unit in also if i need MAX air .

  7. lucforce

    lucforce LawnSite Member
    Messages: 223

    Ok, I am not recommending this vendor or specifically any manufacturer. If you want budget and quality to be optimized, look the ss5l5 and the ss3l3 models on this page:


    These are "single stage" compressors and are more economic than the two-stage variety. With the models shown, you should be able to do all that you would ever need in the green world, and never have to be concerned about the thing failing. The two-stage are more efficient but will cost more up front.

    With the smaller-sized models like you presented, there is often not enough flow to run impact guns, or enough volume to run, say a sander or an air ratchet. They do a great jobs of filling lawn-mower tires, though.
  8. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653

    All right, lets just say in most cases the compressor is matched to the size of the tank, for the sake of argument I realized it was best this way, for me.

    So aside from that, the tank itself acts like an equalizer, which is to say the larger tanks supply steady pressure longer than the small tanks. Most of them kick on the compressor after more than a few seconds use, I don't think the compressor could keep up if use were continuous but in most cases it's not, so it also depends what you're using it for, and how much use it gets.

    A bigger tank will NOT alleviate certain problems such as the inherent loss of pressure in say a 100ft hose, but too small a tank will make it worse, far worse. Which, if you have 100ft hose then you will have to let go of the trigger at times to let the tank refill the hose, no matter how big the tank, but if the tank is too small then you don't have the air to back it up.

    Of course past a certain size and certain specs the price jumps. While you can get a decent deal for 250-400 it would seem then 100-150 dollar ones are too small, and any bigger it's like 1599.99 and so on...

    As a solo mine likely gets used an hour or two a week, mostly impact guns or ratchets, some tire refills, one or two other things.
    Mine is likely too small for a tire changer or a sand blaster, but other than that it does fine...

    This is the one I have:

    For myself I found this an excellent starter unit for the money, I've used it about 2 years now and never a problem, it has let me learn what I needed to learn and even today I do not feel the need for a larger unit, meanwhile the price was agreeable. Not saying this is the one you should get, but it's a decent tool, I think.
    That is, all the stuff is integrated, no need to buy regulators etc (DO buy a filter) but of course there is that drawback if any of those things ever break it's going to be a big repair... Hey, such is life.

    Other notes: 26 or 27 gallons would be my smallest tank recommendation, bigger is better, 5 gallons is too small, 15 is iffy, get at least 25 then there's less questions later.
  9. barnard

    barnard LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 618

    either of those will give good service.Not much difference cast verses aluminum. Ive been using an aluminum pump on the same compressor for over 25 years.Bigger is definately better when it comes to air compressors.
  10. KTM

    KTM LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 492

    If they have the brand Rol Air in your area I highly recomend them. We have several gas and electric, there high quality, good price and you can buy replacement parts for them. The one in the shop is over 20 years old and last year we bought a new tank for it. Stay away from oiless heads, ive seen a few last but not as long as a good oil lubed head. spend the money and get a good one it will be cheeper in the long run.

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