There are two types of air compressor, gas or electric, but each of these types is available with a few variations. Some compressors are small and portable, others are very large and stationary - the amount of power your compressor has generally coincides with its size. These large, stationary compressors are best suited for industrial applications and can be used by more that one person simultaneously. Compressors also vary from single stage to two stages; a two stage motor has the ability to change speeds during more constant and rigorous actions - essentially a two stage motor works harder when you need it to. Lastly, some compressors require oil lubrication while others run entirely without oil. Oil lubricated compressors tend to run more quietly; they do, however, require oil changes, operation on a flat, level surface, and may release an oil mist into the air which is highly ill-suited for applications like painting. Although many craftsmen prefer to use oil-lubed compressors because they tend to last longer and run quieter (as with any other type) they may not be practical for some applications.
Gas powered compressors are optimal on jobsites or construction zones that have not yet been outfitted with electrical power. These compressors provide the power and speed of pneumatic tools without the need for power cords or electricity. Gas compressors must, however, be used in open and well ventilated areas. Electric compressors are generally the best choice for home and shop use. They tend to run more quietly and don't stink up the joint, if you will, with a gas motor.
Keeping your air compressor well maintained will truly determine how long your compressor will keep on kicking. There are a few simple steps to ensuring your compressor remains in optimal condition, and you certainly won't regret the time you spend caring for your tool. The compression that occurs in the air tanks of your compressor causes moisture to accumulate inside those tanks. That moisture, in turn, runs the risk of rusting out the tanks, and potentially destroying a paint mixture (if used with a paint sprayer). On the bottom of the compressor there is a moisture release valve; it is crucial to release this valve with every use, this should prevent rust or other water damage. An in-line filter can also be be purchased for any compressor to eliminate water mist in your air lines.
Its important to inspect your compressors; periodically check and tighten any fasteners, make sure your air filters are running clean and replace them when necessary, check your hoses often for breaks, cracks, or leaks and be prepared to replace them when needed as well. Its also important to be certain that the compressors safety valve is functional. The safety valve (either automatically or manually) releases air should the compressor become over-pressurized; a vital feature, so be sure its operational or have it repaired. If you have an oil-lubed compressor, check the oil levels before each use to make sure the tool is properly lubricated. Change the oil as the manufacturer recommends. As far as cleanliness is concerned, its always beneficial to keep all your tools clean as a whistle and especially important to keep the compressor's intake vents clean and clear. If you have a gas compressor you may also consider periodically cleaning the fuel tank for good measure.
A good compressor is a superior tool, and can truly take the edge off a jobsite or home-repair project. With unmatched speed and power a compressor and their partnering pneumatic tools will change the way you build. Love your compressor, purchase the model that best suits you, keep it well-maintained, and your compressor will work as hard as you do.