Air compressors and air compressor parts make up a large part of our business at  Ranch Rite. We are asked all the time, what size air compressor do I need for air tools? We have compiled a guide for you on the average CFM (cubic feet per minute) requirements of various air tools.  This will help you select the type of compressor that is best suited for your intended use.

Determine the Power Requirements of Air Tools

There are two measurements you need to consider in order to understand an air compressor’s effectiveness when it comes to different situations. PSI (pounds per square inch) and CFM (cubic feet per minute) are the two readings you will want to take into account before buying a new compressor.  First, identify the PSI and CFM requirements of the air tools you use now or are planning to use. If you plan to use one tool at a time, select the tool with the highest PSI and CFM needs. On the other hand, if you use multiple tools at once, calculate the total CFM’s required by each tool.

With this information, you should choose the air compressor that exceeds the PSI and CFM requirements of the highest rated air tool in your arsenal. We recommend you consider a compressor with 1.25 to 1.5 times the required CFM  since you will not get the most out of your air tools if you choose a compressor that is under-powered. Also, your air compressor motor will thank you for the stress you’ll be taking off the machine.

 

Examples for Single and Multiple Tool Use

Single tool use: If an Angle Disc Grinder requires *7.0 CFM @ 90 PSI, then the compressor should deliver between 8.75 – 10.5 CFM @ 90 PSI.

Multiple tool use: When running multiple air tools at the same time, you must add the CFM of each tool together to determine your needs. If your compressor needed to power an Orbital Sander (*6 CFM @ 90 PSI) and a Grease Gun (4 CFM @ 90 PSI), you should look for a compressor that can deliver 12.5 - 15 CFM @ 90 PSI or higher.

*Note: The chart below shows the average CFM for air tools at 90 PSI. Tools such as nailers are rated an intermittent usage factor. However, most tools are continuous running tools such as chisels, grinders and sanders.  For continuous use, multiply the average CFM times 4 to get continuous CFM ratings for the tools.

 

What Size Air Compressor Do I Need For Air Tools?

 

Air Tool

Average CFM @ 90 PSI

Air Reciprocating Saw

7

Angle Disc Grinder (7")

5-8

Angle Polisher

8

Brad Nailer

0.3

Buffer

13

Chisel/Hammer

3-11

Cut-Off Tool

4-10

Drill

3-6

Dual Sander

11-13

Framing Nailer

2.2

Grease Gun

4

Hydraulic Riveter

4

Impact Wrench (3/8")

2.5-3.5

Impact Wrench (1/2")

4-5

Impact Wrench (1")

10

Mini Die Grinder

4-6

Needle Scaler

8-16

Nibbler

4

Orbital Sander

6-9

Paint Spray Gun

7-9

Ratchet (1/4")

2.5-3.5

Ratchet (3/8")

4.5-5

Rotational Sander

8-13

Sand Blast Cabinet

9-15

Shears

8-16

Speed Saw

5