Gas vs. Electric Air Compressors

Determining whether you want a gas air compressor or an electric air compressor is one key choice in selecting an air compressor. This decision depends on your specifics needs, requirements, and application.

Gas-powered compressors are the best, if not the only option on sites where a lot of air is needed and there is no electricity. During the framing phase of new construction, this is seen most often.

Usually, these compressors are wheeled for portability because of the extra weight of the gas engines and the bigger pumps. They weigh from 120 to 200 pounds. Unless there is a lift gate or ramp, it will likely take two people to safely load and offload the compressor onto the truck at this weight.

This article will explain the differences between gas and electric compressors as well as what each is better suited to.

Gas Compressors

These compressors use gasoline to generate power. There are a few reasons to choose them over electric ones, the main one being the lack of an electrical hookup. You might need an extension cord if the site where you need to use the compressor is distant. Some electric compressors can’t function that way. If you have a gas unit, all you need to do is fill up the gas tank and get to work.

Another difference is that gas compressors don’t have an automatic mechanism to power them up or shut them down. They have a pilot unloader valve that closes and opens depending on the internal tank pressure. This mechanism makes it possible for gas compressors to operate without interruption. It makes the perfect for jobs requiring continuous pressure. They are usually used for heavy-duty applications and tend to feature heavy-duty design.

Not Used Indoors

Gas compressors are not safe to use indoors. They work fine outdoors, where fumes and noise are not much of a problem. Gasoline is highly flammable and proper maintenance is a must.

Gas compressors tend to be very large, which is another drawback. The whole transportation process becomes an issue.

Electric Compressors

Even with all their advantages, gas compressors still aren’t as popular as electric ones. Electric ones are easier to use, cheaper, and more convenient. You’re better off with an electric compressor if the job site has a power outlet. Electric compressors are neither bulky nor heavy unlike gas models. They are much smaller and lighter. They come in various sizes and styles, which makes them highly versatile.

Most electric units have an easy, intuitive “start-stop” switch. This starts the motor when the pressure drops below a specific value and shuts down the motor when the tank pressure reaches its upper limit. When there are no power tools attached to the compressor, the switch will also do the same. Make Sure you check AirCompressorsUSA to know more about electric compressor features.

Not Used with Extension Cords

Admittedly, the most obvious drawback of an electric unit is that one cannot attach an extension cord to it. If there’s no place to plug it in, even the most powerful electric compressor is going to be useless. Electric units are great for trimming and finishing work and indoor repairs, but not for heavy-duty jobs. Gas compressors are far noisier than electric units, which provide very quiet operation sometimes.

Electric Compressor Motor Types

Most electric air compressors that are available for sale have either an induction motor or a universal motor. DIY enthusiasts should opt for universal-motor compressors. There are some improvements in design beginning to introduce these motors into the industrial arena as well.

Induction motors are heavier than universal motors, putting them at a disadvantage when it comes to consumer preference. Another disadvantage of induction motors is they start up slower than universal ones. As a result, the peak amperage is significantly shorter. Amperage protects your motor from excessive amp draw and prevents annoying trips to the breaker.

The gap between induction and universal-motor technology is constantly narrowing. When choosing a compressor, be sure to consider the options.

The life cycle of an induction-motor compressor is normally twice that of a universal motor one. That said, the former is typically more expensive than the latter. Given the efficiency of an induction motor, it will offer a higher CFM than its universal counterpart. The induction motor may well be the compressor to choose for those on a more generous budget, who can provide a dedicated circuit.


Air compressors are available in a number configurations, the most common of which include  horizontal air compressors, wheelbarrow air compressors, twin tank air compressors, air compressor generator combo units, and vertical air compressors.


Remember to look at the PSI or CFM of each compressor. PSI is the pounds per square inch and CFM is cubic feet per minute that the unit provides in terms of airflow. You’ll want to match your tool power to your air compressor’s power as much as possible.

Your unit needs enough air pressure to supply a number of air-powered tools. Thus, it needs more than the air pressure requirements of your most powerful tool. This is very important because your air compressor has to put out a pressure that’s sufficient to power all your tools at the same time.

Power and Size

Most gas compressors are the wheelbarrow type with an engine and twin tanks, which is good for keeping up with heavy jobs outside. The heavier you go in power and size, the noisier the unit will be. It’s a good idea to opt for an electric generator as long as you have access to power. These are less noisy and more fuel and power efficient. You don’t need to refill the tank.

Screw Type

The main air compressor types use rotary and reciprocating screws. The latter are best and most commonly used indoors. Rotary screw compressors are good for construction sites and industrial applications because they can provide a steady air supply. They’re better for applications where compressors need to be running continuously.

No matter what type of compressor you end up choosing, be sure to take the type of jobs, pricing, and usage area into account. You’ll be able to select the best electric or gas air compressor for your needs as long as you weigh each component carefully before making a purchase.

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