The 9 Best Pancake Compressors
9. Porter-Cable C2002-WK
- contoured carrying handle
- dual hose connections
- complicated break-in procedure
|Rating||3.6 / 5.0|
8. Campbell Hausfeld DC060500
- holds air for days
- feels extremely well-made
- poorly placed pressure release valve
|Rating||3.9 / 5.0|
7. PowRyte Elite
- simple push-to-connect couplers
- not excessively noisy
- not powerful enough for pros
|Rating||4.4 / 5.0|
6. Hitachi KNT50AB
- heavy-duty reinforced air hose
- includes a pair of safety glasses
- performs reliably day after day
|Rating||4.8 / 5.0|
5. Rolair D2002HPV5
- sturdy cast-iron cylinder
- one-year warranty is included
- rather heavy at 65 pounds
|Rating||4.5 / 5.0|
4. DeWalt DCC2560T1
- adjustable pressure output
- runs on a 20-volt battery
- drives over 1200 nails per charge
|Rating||4.5 / 5.0|
3. Bostitch BTFP02012
- onboard cord wrap
- never leaks air
- gets to max pressure quickly
|Rating||5.0 / 5.0|
2. Porter-Cable PCFP02003
- maintenance- and oil-free pump
- ideal for home use
- built-in condensation drainage valve
|Rating||5.0 / 5.0|
1. DeWalt DWFP551
- durable enough for professionals
- displays tank and regulator pressure
- sturdy carrying handle
|Rating||4.9 / 5.0|
Picking A Pancake Compressor
Anyone wondering why a "pancake compressor" is so called need only take a look at one for their answer: the actual tank wherein air is compressed approximates the shape of a pancake with its round, flattish shape. This design allows the pancake compressor to be a good deal smaller than standard air compressors, meaning better portability, easier storage, and more convenient use in smaller spaces, such as a residential garage or workshop or while a contractor or repairman works in an apartment or office.
Most pancake compressors can also be powered using a standard 120 volt AC outlet, which is another reason for their popularity both with professionals making house calls and with DIY types who are tackling their own projects or repairs. While some pancake compressors might not generate enough air pressure for the largest commercial grade devices, most units are more than adequate for use with anything from a brad nailer to a paint sprayer to helping you top off a vehicle's tire that has leaked some air.
While generally less expensive than full sized air compressors, top quality pancake compressors can still cost close to $350, meaning they are not exactly cheap. On lower end of the cost scale, you can get a pancake compressor for less than fifty dollars, though. As you might expect, with a higher price tag comes more capability and a better build quality.
With a high quality, higher priced pancake compressor, you can expect a unit that easily produces up to 150 PSI (pounds per square inch) of air pressure and that has a tank capacity exceeding four gallons of air. (The larger the tank, the longer the unit can operate before it needs time to re-pressurize itself.) You can also expect a durable machine made with solid parts designed to last for many years of regular use. Many people report getting well over a decade of heavy use out of good quality pancake air compressors, so you end up saving money in the long run when you don't have to replace a cheaper unit that is showing its age.
On the other hand, if you are only going to be using your air compressor a few times a month (or even less -- some people may only use such devices a few times a year, in fact) then there's no real reason to spend top dollar for a compressor unit. In the $100 to $150 range you can find many fine pancake compressors that should suit most needs of the homeowner and/or car care enthusiast. Choose based on features like length of air hose, prominence of display dials, and the accessories that come with the unit (various nozzle types, for example).
And don't overlook weight: many pancake air compressors weigh as much as sixty pounds, making them a burden for many people to move about. Others weigh less than half that.
Under Air Pressure: A Quick Guide
Whether you are filling the tires of your car with air prior to a long road trip or before you haul a trailer; whether you're about to hook up a new nail gun to your pancake air compressor, or if you're about to start using a spray painter to stain a fence, first read up on the right air pressure setting for the task. And that is to say check the vehicle's manual or read the literature that came with the tool in question; this is meant to be a primer on common air pressure settings intended to help inform you if you have tools properly matched with your compressor; it is not meant to serve as the final guide.
Generally speaking, though, a nail gun, brad nailer, stapler, and most other tools that drive hardware using compressed air have an ideal operating range of between 90 and 120 PSI. Any force much below the lower end of that range will likely fail to fully sink nails, brads, etc., while forces above that range risk driving the hardware too far into the wood, shingles, or other building material. The other risk you face when air pressure is too high is blowing a seal built into the tool you're using, thereby rendering it useless.
Standard car tires generally have a recommended air pressure range between 30 to 35 PSI. This varies where you are using high performance tires, when winter weather arrives and a bit of extra pressure is often warranted, or when you are going to be towing a vehicle or loading your car's trunk or bed with weight. In these cases, you may need to add a few more pounds of pressure to the rear tires -- never exceed the maximum pressure for which the tires are rated, though.
As for sporting equipment, the average air pressure for a football used in an NFL game must be between 12.5 and 13.5 PSI. Variation in ball PSI can cause sensational issues.
A Few Words On Standard Air Pressure Measurements
While PSI is the most commonly known air pressure measurement standard in the United States, it is but one of the widely used global measurement systems. Knowing a few of the other common standards can help clear up confusion you might otherwise face at times.
The Metric System uses a logical air pressure measurement standard known as the bar. One bar is roughly equivalent to the average ambient air pressure at sea level, which is created as a result of the earth's gravity acting on the atmosphere. One bar is equal to almost exactly 14.5 PSI.
Another common unit is simple called the standard atmosphere unit of pressure. It is a measurement commonly used in scientific realms and is equal to just less than one bar. In fact, the two measurements are so close that you can think of an ATM as being also equal to 14.5 PSI, thus that pounds per square inch measurement is the piece of data you should try to internalize as a reference point for converting other measurements when they arise.
If you wish to learn more about pressure measurement units, the next unit to study is the pascal, which was named for French mathematician and scientist Blaise Pascal. Things get confusing quickly here, though: one PSI is equal to roughly 6,894 pascals.