How to Choose an Air Compressor and Accessories

Building a garage air station isn’t cheap, but it’s one of the better home improvement purchases I’ve made; providing me with usefulness and convenience that goes way beyond keeping car tires inflated.

  • A compressor with air regulator is an effective way to dust a cars interior vents and hard to reach places.
  • Quickly clean your workbench and tools. Very effective after sawing and drilling.
  • For any household furnishing or electronic that requires compressed air for cleaning; quit wasting money on air cans. Take the item to the garage, or if you have a long enough air hose, just pull the hose throughout the house – adjust the compressor regulator, and get to work.
  • Part of my Spring cleaning is opening the windows and blowing the debris buildup from the window sills.
  • After washing your car – blow the standing water from mirrors and lights to avoid water run marks.
  • Inflate toys, exercise equipment, large amounts of balloons, portable pools, or whatever.
  • For DIY building projects, a hand-carry compressor is suitable for air nailers.
  • Use an air sprayer to put a professional finish on furniture restoration, paint a fence or your whole house.

Air compressor accessories needed for a complete air station

A air compressor combo kit supplies the basic components for a starter air station, but selecting individual parts will create a personalized air station, while having the choice to choose better quality accessories.

How to build a garage air station
Main components needed for a complete air station.

Air Hose

With the many air hose choices, we reached out to a leading air hose manufacturer for clarification on air hose sizing; “Deciding factors would be CFM or flow requirements necessary for the application and simply how long of a hose you need. For all of the tasks you mention and 98.9% of all applications one would have in their home garage, a 1/4″ I.D. air hose would supply plenty of air” – Coilhose Pneumatics.

That takes care of hose sizing. The next consideration when choosing an air hose is deciding between a rubber or polyurethane air hose, plus factoring in possible chemical exposure and environmental temperatures. The answers for these questions can be found under individual product specifications on air hose manufacturers websites.

What hose is being used in the attached image? I went with a 1/4″ I.D. x 50ft. flexeel straight hose. Why? I like the lightweight polyurethane material – it’s easy to wipe clean, the choice of colors allowed me to coordinate my setup, and the specifications of the hose fit the hose reel I wanted.

Hose Reels

Keeping an air hose sprawled across the garage floor is a tripping hazard – and if you dislike chaos – you’ll want an organized solution.

A coiled hose is one answer to having a more compact hose, or you can hand roll a straight hose after every use and drape it over the compressor (which can get bothersome).

If you have the means, a hose reel and straight hose combination is optimal. High quality air hose reel brands include, Coxreels and Reelcraft. There are several mounting configurations to best match your needs: wall stud, ceiling stud, or thick bench top (see attached image).

Deciding on a hose reel involves: air hose length and diameter, budget, and space constraints.. The larger the diameter – and the longer the hose – the bigger the hose reel. The answer for me was the Reelcraft 5400 OLP. Reelcraft’s signature red color blended well with my Makita compressor (I’m a stickler for details), permitted me to use the hose of my choice (mentioned above), and needed to fit the vertical space between my compressor and underside of a Gladiator workbench, where I wanted to mount the reel.

Note: A hose reel doesn’t allow the full length of hose to be used (expect to lose 3-5ft.).

For those rare projects where I need more hose length, I bought a 25ft. length of the same air hose, giving me near 75ft. total. Now I can reach every corner of our house without moving the air compressor, and the extra hose is easy to store. Why not buy a longer single hose and different hose reel? Cost and size of a larger hose reel can surpasss budget and space constraints.

Leader Hose

If you choose a hose reel, you will need a leader hose to connect the compressor to the reel.

You may need to buy and attach couplers and connectors to the threaded end fittings. E.g. in the featured image setup, I needed to buy a leader hose with 3/8 NPT(M) threaded end fittings to fit the Reelcraft 5400 inlet, then had to buy a 3/8 NPT(F) to 1/4 FPT(M) connector to attach the opposite end of the leader hose to the compressors 1/4″ quick-connect outlet.

Fittings and Tools

The air compressor will have quick connect couplers for attaching an air hose, but not all air hoses come pre-assembled with matching quick connect fittings.

A compressor accessory kit will include common fittings, otherwise you must buy individual fittings to connect a leader hose and tool accessories, including air powered tools.

Also, make sure to match the right sized fittings to the compressors couplers and throughout your accessories ( 1/4″ MPT connector needs a 1/4″ FPT coupler). And, don’t forget to buy a role of thread seal tape for the threaded fitting connections.

Two useful and common air compressor tool accessories are the blow gun and air chuck, including one of my favorites, the professional grade Milton Dual Head Inflator Gauge (# S-506) (made in the USA). This inflator has a built-in liquid filled pressure gauge that reads between 10-160 psi and the dual head chuck fits any car wheel and valve combination.

Types of Air Compressors

To build an air station you’ll need a compressor with an air tank. The 12V portable compressors won’t provide enough sustainable pressurized air beyond slow inflation.

Hand-carry air compressors

A hand-carry compressor is portable, has a tank capacity of around 6 gallons or less, and uses a common 120v outlet. These types of compressors are the best choice for homeowners when considering cost, size, usefulness, and portability.

Depending on your wants and needs – compare smaller tank compressor (1-gallon) specs to that of a larger tank (6-gallon) compressor. E.g. a 6-gallon tank compressor will have a higher tank reserve for longer continuous use before needing to recycle, but costs more and weighs twice as much.

Uses: Tackle most home projects – minus automotive pneumatic tools. Automotive air tools need a bigger tank capacity and quicker recycle time for adequate CFM than these small compressors offer.

  • Inflate tires
  • Use for cleaning (cracks & crevices, window sills, auto engine bays, auto vents, appliance coils, bench tops).
  • Inflate balloons, sport balls, water toys, etc. (models with regulators help control inflation rate).
  • Operate air nailers for building purposes.
  • Blow water or moisture out of small unwanted areas.
Hand carry single tank and pancake style air compressors

Wheeled and Stationary Air Compressors

The wheeled 8 to 20-gallon air compressors are a nice upgrade from the hand carry models, while still being able to use a standard 15A / 120V outlet.

For the ultimate in compressors to handle air powered portable car lifts and tire changing machines, you’ll need a 240V model for that dream garage.

Uses: These compressors will handle any of the tasks mentioned for hand-carry compressors, plus have the needed tank sizes and CFM for pneumatic automotive tools.

Wheeled and Stationary Air Compressors