How to Use an Air Compressor?

When using air compressors, the working environment has to be safe. Apart from air compressors that use combustible fuel (gas and diesel), electric versions require safe operations. I’ll share many details about the safe operations, maintenance, and installation of air pressure systems.


Is It Necessary To Know How Compressors Work?

How To Use An Air Compressor

Understand how to use a power tool to increase confidence during operations. Professionals and DIYers prefer portable air compressors for lightweight tasks.

This preference for portability and ease of use makes air compressors important.

It’s better to use these air pressure machines according to manufacturers’ recommendations. However, not every owner of power tools and air compressors remember what is in the operating manual after installation.

This article can guide operators and veteran DIYers of pneumatic tools. It helps them to learns ways of optimizing the functions of their machines.

Before Installing The Air Compressor

Good Air Quality

One of the factors that creates a conducive environment for efficient air compressors is the workspace’s air quality. Usually, air pollution is high in production plants and manufacturing environments. When atmospheric air contains moisture and dust particles, it affects the compressor’s filter.

Construction sites and factories often have low air quality. To remove moisture content from gas, add a dryer to the compression system. Also, avoid working in a closed space that retains carbon monoxide fumes.

Increasing the workspace’s air circulation with proper ventilation can reduce this effect. Apart from ample ventilation, ensure the area is clean and dry.

Adequate Workspace

You might be learning how to buy and use an air compressor. These processes are simple when you know the general safety standards on usage. Avoid keeping air compressors in hot, humid, and dirty environments. 

It’s essential to plan layouts for the new air compressor’s installation areas. Normally, compressors come with air tanks that take a greater part of overall space. Don’t forget that operators need space when using power tools with air compressors.

The ease of moving about helps to enjoy the flexibility of work environments. Create at least 30 cm space between your belt-driven air compressor and the wall. Also, place the side that has the air compressor’s belt opposite the wall.

Make Good Buying Decisions

Spending hard-earned money on low-quality air compressors isn’t what many people want. Sometimes, the garage and workplace store might are full of broken and defective tools. Maybe buyers got the wrong products.

Also, poor handling and maintenance culture led to the failure of these tools. Every buyer needs to make great decisions when acquiring a huge investment. Applying the best buying decision is often a productive approach.

Consider air requirements for tools, safety features, and ratings before buying an air compressor. Especially with handy tools, they are must-haves for homeowners, mechanics, and DIY enthusiasts.

During work, air compressor motors vibrate and run with different noise levels. However, portable air compressors with wheel-lock mechanism will be stationary. This safety feature minimizes the risk of accidents and damage through the vibrations.

Understand What Duty Cycles Mean

The duty cycle rating of an air compressor is the work rate of its motor. Every air compressor comes with its duty cycle rating.

You’ll need to understand the overall capacity of pneumatic equipment that depends on your air compressor. However, it’s safe to get an air compressor with a rating of 100% duty cycle. It means the air compressor can work all day without the risk of breaking down.

Other models of air compressors with 50% duty cycle rating go on breaks for the same period they work.

Installation Area

Apart from portable compressors for home use, industrial air compressors come as a turnkey package. Industrial air compressors are large units with soundproof box frames.

Don’t forget that installation methods for this type should allow easy attachment with pneumatic tools. The air tank’s bottom with the valve should have space ( at least 1.5ft. off the ground) to drain residual water.

Also, the air storage tanks need to be at a level that maintains consistent pressure. You might need platforms for storing pneumatic accessories and pressure hoses. Usually, handy tools like framing nailing machines, air wrenches, and paint sprayers, drilling, and grinding equipment need safe storage.

Pros Of Using Mounted Air Compressors:

  • Air compressors with permanent mount designs often have high outputs of air pressure.
  • Their designs are often for heavy-duty tasks like industrial applications.
  • It’s is easier to upgrade some parts of compressors with permanent mount designs.
  • They have greater air compression capacity.

Cons Of Using Mounted Air Compressors:

  • They are not portable and can’t be used with pneumatic tools that need mobile applications.
  • When running mounted air compressors, operators often need long connections of the air hose to cover specific distances. This condition can increase the cost of operation.

How To Use Air Compressors

Use An Air Compressor

Operators of air compressors need some basic training and skills to run them. After reading the operating manual, prepare a maintenance checklist according to your technician’s instruction. Develop a chart for maintenance service after each operating cycle of the air compressor.

Ensure Safe Operations

Don’t expose electrical parts of air compressors to water – it might cause a shock! Usually, operators keep electric drain valves away from humid and moist areas. When gas-powered air compressors are active, refueling, and changing oil can cause safety hazards. Instead, operate when the machine is cool.

Also, don’t forget to connect air compressors in power outlets that have lightning arrestors. Keep fire extinguishers at strategic places near the machine too. Except your air compressors have higher pressure ratings, don’t allow the inlet to exceed 90 PSI.

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High air pressure can damage the performance of handy pneumatic tools. Knowing the air requirement for equipment like tools, dryers, air distribution systems is important. Modern models like the portable PORTER-CABLE 6HP air compressor use automatic shutoff valves to regulate excess pressure.

To avoid damages to air hose and tools, fine-tune their operations to meet the torque output of your air compressor. Operators might need to cut the source of air and bleed the air pressure from connecting hoses. When running the air compressor, don’t block the vents or place hands on hot parts of the machine.

Since the compression systems vibrate, check the fittings and connectors for loose parts and tighten them. Normally, vibrations lead to loose bolts, screws, and nuts.

Wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Before operating an air compressor, it’s proper to wear personal protective equipment (PPE). These PPEs include gloves, hard hats, safety goggles, and boots. If there’s a mishap during work, PPEs will reduce the impact of injuries on the body.

They also reduce the risk of damages to the environment. I recommend operators to wear polycarbonate goggles and other safety gear before operating power tools. Also, some air compressors don’t run quietly. You might need to wear a pair of ear muffs too.

Check Air Compressors’ Pump Oil Level

Before running oil-lubricated air compressors, checking the oil levels can help to prevent damages. Unless it’s an oil-free air compressor that doesn’t need regular lubrication checks. Ensure to switch off the unit from the power source before removing the oil level’s filler cap (plug).

“If the machine is not on a flat surface, the oil level indicator might give false results. Also, inspect the crankcase assembly for oil marks, and debris. Usually, lubricating oil doesn’t exceed the halfway mark of the sight glass”

Connect Pneumatic Tools

When you use quick-connect fittings, pull the spring-loaded collar, and release it to attach with the compressor firmly. Ensure a tight connection of pneumatic tools to the air hose of your compressor. It’s important to avoid loss of air pressure from intake valves of pneumatic tools.

If you want to disconnect the pneumatic tool from your air compressor, pull the collar and detach from the air hose.

Drain The Moisture From Air Tanks

When the air tank collects moisture from atmospheric air, compression causes its retention of vapor. This condition is common with air compressors in humid climates.

After work, operators can unlock the drain valves under air tanks to release moisture. However, they should release the air pressure inside air tanks before draining the water regularly.

Check Oil Levels

Check and change the air compressor’s lubricant every time you use it. Normally, the machine’s pistons need oil to function properly. Also, manufacturers recommend operators to top oil-lubricated pumps between 500 to 1000 hours of use.

Fill The Compressor’s Air Tank

Ensure there’s a plug on the drain valve of your air compressor’s tank. After closing the drain with an adjustable wrench, switch on the power source. Allow the pump to run some minutes without using the compressor immediately.

Monitor the air pressure gauge and see if the compressor makes an automatic shut-off when the air pressure gets to a maximum of 115 PSI. The maximum working pressure might vary with air compressor models. Some DEWALT products have a maxim pressure capacity of 150 PSI.

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Regulate The Air Control Valve

With your pneumatic tool’s air pressure rating, you can adjust the air valve regulator to match its requirements. Normally, turning the air control valve in a clockwise direction increases the air pressure.

Follow the operating instructions of your product’s manual to know the direction that increases the air pressure. However, keeping an eye on the pressure gauge can guide you to the right air pressure for your tool.

Ensure More Checks

The air compressor’s separator element regulates the excessive consumption of oil. However, operators must monitor the performance of air compressors regularly. Also, they should replace the separator elements after running their machines for about 1,000 hours.

Generally, the heat exchangers of air compressors are durable. When heat exchangers are dirty, you’ll notice a decrease in performance. The main function is to lower the air compressor’s operating temperatures.

Unlike separator elements that need replacement, heat exchangers need cleaning to boost the life span of air compressors. Also, clean intake vents of air compressors because a blockage can lead to strain of pump or compression of air. Without clear vents, your pneumatic tools might lack some efficiency.

If you operate an air compressor in a dusty and dirty environment, prepare to clean the intake vents regularly.

Keep Combustible Materials Away From Air Compressors

Generally, pneumatic tools and equipment like air compressors generate static energy. They send electrical charges that can ignite combustible (flammable) materials like explosives and fuel.

Choosing Between Electric And Fuel-Driven Compressors

After choosing a type of compressor machine that fits your purpose, use the tips in this article to improve its functionality. Depending on your project, gasoline (fuel) and electric air compressors are easy and convenient to operate.

However, they have their respective pros and cons. Most mounted electric air compressors use higher-voltage power options. Choosing the right air compressor for your project is very important.

Electric Compressors:

Pros Of Operating Electric Compressors:

  • It’s easy to connect electric air compressors to their source of power.
  • They are the best choice if you need permanent mount compressors.
  • Many electric versions like the Campbell Hausfeld portable air compressors weigh less and are compact.
  • Electric compressors with higher ratings have less recharge time when they power pneumatic tools.

Cons Of Operating Electric Compressors:

  • Gasoline compressors are indispensable when electricity is not available.
  • Extension cords of electric compressors can overheat and cause a fire outbreak.

Gasoline Compressors:

Pros Of Operating Gasoline Compressors:

  • Gasoline serves as an alternate source of power for air compressors.
  • They are ideal for working in remote areas that lack electricity.
  • Multistage gasoline compressors (portable or mounted) often meet the power demand.
  • They have compressor motor design options. A gasoline compressor could use electric motors or a clutch.

Cons Of Operating Gasoline Compressors:

  • It comes with the hassle of buying gasoline, and the risk of storing this combustible fuel.
  • They tend to generate more noise than electric compressors.


My first portable pneumatic equipment was a Makita 7HP air compressor. This product had high-quality components, but I spent much time maintaining it. The reason was because of my poor knowledge of operating pneumatic tools.

This article serves as a guide for operators, DIYers, and novices that want to operate air compressors efficiently. I am optimistic that a comprehensive guide is what you need to have a good experience with high-quality air compressors.

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