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Electric Air Compressors vs. Gas Air Compressors: Which is Right for Your Business?

Posted by Air Compressors USA staff on 11/2/2017 to Buyer's Guide
Electric Air Compressors vs. Gas Air Compressors: Which is Right for Your Business?

Electric Air Compressors vs. Gas Air Compressors

Are you in need of quality air compressors for your next project? Here's a handy guide to help you choose between gas and electric.

Deciding to buy a gas or electric air compressor can leave you scratching your head. 

You're tired of the noise. Not the noise of the compressors, but the noise of the "experts."

You want straightforward information so you can decide and move on. You've got a job site to run!

We understand how confusing it can be. There are a lot of choices. We want to help you find the right air compressor for your job.

We've put together a helpful list of things to consider. Just the facts. No hype, no bias, no opinions.

Read through these tips and you'll be able to make an informed decision.

Helpful Definitions

  • Pounds per Square Inch (PSI) - The air pressure delivered by a compressor.
  • Cubic Feet per Minute (CFM) - The volume of air delivered in one minute of a compressor running at its optimal conditions.

Categories of Air Compressors

  • Consumer - These are typically small units useful for inflating tires, sports balls, and running air tools with low volume and PSI requirements.
  • Professional- or Contractor-Grade - These mid-size units are capable of powering air tools with greater PSI and CFM requirements. Some of these can run multiple air tools at the same time.
  • Industrial - Larger machines with advanced features. They can deliver the highest needed air flow for extended periods of time.

Factors to Consider

Ventilation Safety

Gas air compressors require adequate ventilation.

This is important enough to repeat with added emphasis: Gas air compressors require adequate ventilation!

Gasoline motor exhaust contains carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide can build up to dangerous or fatal concentrations within minutes. You can't see it, you can't smell it, but it's there.

You also need to remember that gasoline is highly flammable. Even a tiny spark can ignite gas fumes. (That's actually how gas engines run, but you want to keep the sparks on the inside of the engine!)

These may be strong arguments in favor of electric air compressors. But keep reading, because they're not the only considerations.

Job Site Noise

Gas air compressors are generally louder than their electric counterparts. If you're working indoors, this is an obvious issue. But even if you're not in an enclosed space, you need to consider the noise factor.

This is not just an inconvenience. It's another safety consideration.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has established permissible noise exposures for the construction industry at 90 dB over an 8-hour day. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation's Construction Noise Handbook, an air compressor's sound level is 78 dB.

Add in the noise created by the backhoe, ground compactor, cement mixer truck, and various pneumatic tools, and your job site could be competing with the sound level of a jet plane engine!

Availability of Power

Electric air compressors require a power source. All. The. Time.

This may seem obvious, but you'd be surprised how many times people seem to forget that. Or they think the job site has power but it turns out that it doesn't.

Or worse--you have power, but you lose it in the middle of the day. Maybe you're working in an area where electrical storms are common. Fun fact about electrical storms: They sometimes create power outages.

Another common scenario is that you decide to "borrow" power from the homeowner. You power up all your nail guns and trip a circuit breaker. Now your customer--you know, the person writing the check--doesn't have power and it's your fault!

If your job site doesn't have its own power, or the power supply isn't reliable, you're going to want gas compressors instead of electric.

Opinions vs. Facts

There are many opinions about air compressors that are disguised as facts. Maybe they come from a reputable dealer. Maybe they come from your high school shop teacher.

Either way, those folks need to do better research.

Extension Cords

You may find dealers that say, "You can't use an extension cord with an electric air compressor." But they don't tell you why not.

However, the Owner's Manual for the Rolair Model 3095HK18 has a very informative Electric Extension Cord Table. It lists the minimum recommended wire size for extension cords, based on the length of the extension cord and the horsepower of the compressor motor.

Apparently, you can use an extension cord with an electric compressor.

Maybe those dealers don't carry Rolair. Or they never read the Owner's Manual.

Size and Weight

You may be told that electric air compressors are smaller and lighter, and aren't suitable for heavy-duty tasks. That may be true if you're comparing consumer models to industrial models. But let's compare two contractor-grade models.

The gas-powered Rolair Model 6590HK18 delivers 13.8 CFM and weighs 185 pounds. The comparable electric Rolair Model 3095HK18 delivers 12.5 CFM and weighs 240 pounds.

Both of these compressors are wheelbarrow-style, so portability and maneuverability aren't going to be a problem.

Still Can't Decide?

As we said earlier, deciding which kind of air compressor is right for your business can be confusing. There are many factors you have to consider -- from safety to job site location to weight and portability.

It's easy for some businesses. They always work indoors so they buy electric. Or they always work in areas with no power, so they buy gas.

But if your business is mobile. You work in different circumstances from job to job. What should you do?

You may want to cover all the bases and purchase both gas and electric. That way, no matter what circumstances you encounter or where your job site is, you can run your tools and get the job done on time.

We're Here to Help

We want you to find the perfect air compressor for your needs. We carry a wide variety of both gas and electric compressors from major manufacturers such as Ingersoll-Rand, Rolair, and Jenny.

And our help doesn't stop at the door. We provide every one of our customers with outstanding support after the sale as well.

Contact us today and let's start working together!

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