Several of the big box home improvement stores offer a version of a horizontal eight-gallon air compressor at a reasonable price. My recent purchase of one such compressor got me started on researching just how much I could do with it – without spending a fortune on tools.
I ended up combing through home improvement stores’ product listings and learned the little compressor is rated to power a wide range of tools that cost less than $100 – though sometimes only a few models can operate within the compressor’s capabilities.
8 Gallon Air Compressors
|Store||Brand||Horsepower||SCFM @ 40 PSI||SCFM @ 90 PSI||Customer Rating||Price|
Reasonable Performance, Good Bargain
Using air tools for DIY maintenance on motorcycles or cars has several advantages compared to electric power tools, such as their relatively low cost, better maintainability and, sometimes, better tool ratings (torque, speed, etc.). Some tools – such as an air hammer – don’t have an equivalent electric version.
Not everyone has the money, space or electric service to get a medium- or large-size air compressor. Large compressors often require 220 volt or 240 volt service – something that’s not an option to renters or can be expensive to run to a detached garage. Compressors larger than 30 gallons may be awkward to fit in a smaller garage or shed.
The eight-gallon compressors offer DIY mechanics access to enough power for intermittent use of a bunch of air tools and continuous use of a few while using a typical 15-amp circuit.
Though the tank is considered small, the compressors listed above sport 1.5-horsepower or stronger pump motors – which is about the same horsepower as some 20-30 gallon compressors. Tank size is a big factor in how long you can continuously operate an air tool, but the strong horsepower rating means the tank gets repressurized quickly. And the eight gallon compressors draw about 12 amps peak. This means you’re not maxing out capabilities of a 15-amp residential circuit – which you do with many medium-sized compressors.
For those who doubt whether a small-tank compressor that costs less than $200 at press time is too good a bargain to be true, online reviews say otherwise for two of the four models listed above. Menards doesn’t feature customer reviews on its website’s product pages, but the Harbor Freight Tools McGraw brand model and the Home Depot Husky brand version each boast ratings of 4.1 out of 5 stars or better.
Tool Requirements and Compressor Performance
The instructions for some of the compressors listed above specify that using a tool that requires more air than a compressor is rated to deliver is grounds to deny a warranty claim.
Could one of the compressors run a tool intermittently that required a little more air than it can pump out? Probably, as a tool’s SCFM rating is for its continuous use. For example, an impact wrench that “requires” 4 SCFM at 90 PSI needs that volume of air if you hold the trigger down for a few minutes or more at a time. A similar model tool that specifies 4.5 SCFM at 90 PSI would probably work fine if it’s used for a few seconds at a time. Deciding whether to do something that could void a compressor’s warranty is up to you.
Tools that are used for longer periods of time, such as full-size paint guns, full-size sanders and polishers really do need to be used with a compressor that can supply them with enough compressed air in order to function properly. I’ve read that such tools should be paired with a compressor that puts out at least 150% of the SCFM the tool requires to ensure no drop in the tool’s operation or performance.
If you’re new to shopping for air tools, you may notice that less expensive models of some tools require more SCFM – sometimes a good bit more – than the expensive models. I’m not an air tools expert, but my understanding is that some higher-quality air tools use air more efficiently than their bargain counterparts. So, while a tool may be more expensive, it may be worth buying it so you don’t have to buy a bigger compressor.
So what tools can I use with an 8 gallon compressor?
My research identified two or more models of eight common air tools that are affordable (retail for $100 or less at press time), are available through one of the four major big box home improvement stores and can operate within most of the eight-gallon compressor models’ output. The list doesn’t include several common, low-power air tools that an eight gallon compressor can easily power – such as a blow gun, tire inflator or brad nailer.
The one exception among the four compressor models was the Home Depot’s Husky-branded one, which does not supply at least 4 SCFM at 90 PSI or 5 SCFM at 40 PSI. If you decide to go with the Husky model, be aware you may get slightly less performance compared to the other models and may not be able to run some of the tools listed below without voiding your unit’s warranty.
Have I tried out these tools with my new compressor? Not yet. I make no claims as to the quality or longevity of the tools listed below. They are simply the ones I found that retail at or below my price limit and are rated to work within the specifications of most of the air compressors mentioned above.
But, I am looking forward to giving many of them a go in the future.
The full listings for the tools and eight-gallon air compressors can be found at 8-Gallon Air Compressor Tools Matrix.
|Name||Brand||Drive Size||Max. Torque (lbs.-ft.)||Price||Rating|
|1/2 in. Impact Wrench||Husky||1/2″||300||$39.98||3.1/5|
|3/8 In. Impact Wrench||Husky||3/8″||250||$62.98||4/5|
|3/8″ Butterfly Air Impact Wrench||Powermate||3/8″||75||$29.99||N/A|
|Name||Brand||Drive Size||Max. Torque (lbs.-ft.)||Price||Rating|
|1/4 In. Air Ratchet Wrench||Central Pneumatic||1/4″||15||$19.99||4.4/5|
|1/4 In. Mini Air Ratchet Wrench||Central Pneumatic||1/4″||20||$29.99||3.7/5|
|1/4 In. Stubby Air Ratchet Wrench||Central Pneumatic||1/4″||15||$19.99||4.1/5|
|3/8 In. Mini Air Ratchet Wrench||Central Pneumatic||3/8″||20||$29.99||4/5|
|1/2 In. Air Ratchet Wrench||Central Pneumatic||1/2″||45||$24.99||3.7/5|
|3/8 in. Ratchet Wrench||Florida Pneumatic||3/8″||55||$30.98||None|
|3/8 in. Ratchet Wrench||Husky||3/8″||50||$42.98||4.1/5|
|Pneumatic 3/8 in. Ratchet Wrench||Freeman||3/8″||60||$47.50||5/5|
|1/2″ Drive Air Ratchet||URREA||1/2″||50||$72.26||–|
|PRO 1/4″ Air Ratchet Wrench||Sanborn||1/4″||18||$44.99||–|
|Name||Brand||Barrel Size||Impact Rate||Price|
|Air Impact Hammer Kit||Central Pneumatic||Short||4,500||$12.99|
|Medium Barrel Air Impact Hammer||Central Pneumatic||Medium||3,000||$14.99|
|Professional Medium Barrel Air Hammer||Chief||Medium||–||$49.99|
|Air Hammer||Florida Pneumatic||Short||3,500||$19.12|
|Medium Stroke Air Hammer||Husky||Medium||3,700||$44.98|
|Air Hammer, Hex Shank with 4 Chisels||Capri Tools||Medium||3,000||$58.75|
|Pneumatic 1/4 In. Compact Die Grinder||Central Pneumatic||Straight||25,000||$14.99||4.5/5|
|Pneumatic 1/4 In. Front Exhaust Angle Die Grinder||Central Pneumatic||90-Degree||20,000||$24.99||4.3/5|
|Pneumatic 1/4 In. Professional Mini Die Grinder||Chief||Straight||25,000||$39.99||4.9/5|
|1/4 In. Professional Mini Air Angle Die Grinder||Chief||90-Degree||22,000||$49.99||4.8/5|
|Pneumatic 1/4 in. Die Grinder||Freeman||Straight||25,000||$29.99||4.4/5|
|1/4 in. Mini Air Die Grinder||Sunsex Tools||Straight||25,000||$30.99||5/5|
|1/4 in. Straight Die Grinder||Husky||Straight||20,000||$44.98||4.3/5|
|Air Die Grinder||Astro Pneumatic||90-Degree||20,000||$49.77||5/5|
|1/4 in. Die Grinder||Ingersoll Rand||Straight||27,000||$49.90||4.5/5|
|1/4 in. Angle Die Grinder with Accessory Kit||Husky||90-Degree||20,000||$64.98||4.5/5|
|4 oz. Adjustable Detail Air Spray Gun||Central Pneumatic||Gravity||4 oz||$14.99||4.3/5|
|Pneumatic 0.8 mm Tip Mini HVLP Gravity Feed Spray Gun with 125 cc Plastic Cup||NuMax||Gravity||125cc||$26.99||4/5|
|Pneumatic 1.4 mm Tip HVLP Gravity Feed Spray Gun with 600cc Plastic Cup||NuMax||Gravity||600cc||$28.19||4.7/5|
|Spray Gun, General Purpose with 1 Qt. Canister||Campbell Hausfeld||Siphon||1,000cc||$58.00||4/5|
|1 qt. Industrial Paint Spray Gun||Buffalo Tools||Siphon||200cc||$37.90||3.6/5|
|Basic Spray Gun||Powermate||Siphon||600cc||$42.76||3.6/5|
|Gravity Feed Pneumatic Touch-Up Spray Gun||DeWalt||Gravity||124cc||$49.00||4/5|
|Siphon Feed Detail Spray Gun||Husky||Siphon||200cc||$49.98||4.2/5|
|Gravity Feed Spray Gun||Campbell Hausfeld||Gravity||600cc||$56.88||4.3/5|
|Gravity Feed HVLP Spray Gun||Husky||Gravity||600cc||$64.98||4/5|
|Vx Gravity Feed Air Spray Gun||Powermate||Gravity||–||$29.99||–|
|2 In. Mini Orbital Air Sander||Central Pneumatic||2″||15,000||$29.99|
|6 In. Dual Action Air Sander||Central Pneumatic||6″||10,000||$34.99|
|6 In. Professional Orbital Composite Sander||Baxter||6″||12,000||$99.99|
|6 in. Quiet Dual Action Sander||Sunex Tools||6″||10,000||$59.99|
|6 in. Dual Action Sander||Husky||6″||10,000||$64.98|
|6 in. Dual Action Sander||DeWalt||6″||11,000||$69.00|
|Name||Brand||Blade Size||Max. Speed||Price||Rating|
|High Speed Metal Air Saw||Central Pneumatic||3.7″||10,000||$24.99||3.3/5|
|Vx Air Body Saw||Powermate||–||9,000||$29.99||–|
|Name||Brand||Disc Size||Max. Speed||Price||Rating|
|3 in. Cut-Off Tool||Florida Pneumatic||3″||20,000||$24.75||–|
|3 in. Air Pneumatic Cut-Off Tool with Metal Safety Guard||Steelman||3″||20,000||$34.99||5/5|
|3 in. Cut-Off Tool||Husky||3″||20,000||$64.98||4.1/5|
|3 in. Air Pneumatic Cut-Off Tool with Metal Safety Guard||Steelman||3″||20,000||$37.17||5/5|