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Complete Guide to Renting an Air Compressor

Category: Equipment and Solutions

When renting an air compressor, choosing the right size matters. The type of compressor you need depends on several criteria, such as the work you need to do, the kinds of tools you use and your budget. Following an air compressor rental checklist will help you know what to look for and will guide you to the best model for your job.

How an Industrial Air Compressor Works

Before choosing a compressor, it’s helpful to understand how different models operate. Knowing the basics of an industrial air compressor will help you make an informed decision on the best type for you. Generally speaking, there are two types of air compressors—rotary screw and piston.

How Rotary Screw Air Compressors Work

Larger industrial air compressors tend to use a pair of screws inside to squeeze the air to the needed pressure. Inside the compressor, you will find a couple of interlocking screws with space between them that decreases down the screws. Air compresses as the screws turn until it reaches the desired pressure. Some of these types of compressors will adjust the engine speed to enhance efficiency. Since the screws can compress air on-demand, these types of air compressors do not require an air tank for storage.

Due to their larger size, rotary screw air compressors typically have internal combustion engines. Models may have a portable design for towing behind a truck or a much larger site-built format.

How Piston Air Compressors Operate

A piston air compressor requires a separate air tank for operation. Despite the need for a tank, these types of compressors tend to have smaller sizes and operate with either an electric or internal combustion engine. When renting this type of compressor, you will also have to specify the size of the air tank and engine’s horsepower to ensure you have enough air available for your work.

To create the pressurized air, the compressor uses a piston to press down on air, which moves to the air tank for storage. Applications that require significant amounts of compressed air will require larger containers or more waiting time before the air tank refills with compressed air.

To ensure you have an appropriately sized tank, look at the amount of air your tools use in cubic feet per minute and the pressure in pounds per square inch. For example, a 1/2-inch impact wrench uses 90 psi pressure and requires five cfm of air. Other tools may use considerably more air. The rental company will help you choose for the correct size of air tank to use with your piston air compressor.

Checklist for Air Compressor RentalChecklist for Air Compressor Rental

When searching for an air compressor for hire, you need to decide how you will use it before choosing the best size and type for your project. Differences in fuel, compression, air output, tools, space and portability will help you narrow down your options.

When choosing from among the best commercial air compressor brands, look at the factors that make the compressor distinct from others. How long-lasting is it? How much air can it compress? Will you be able to use it with multiple tools? Both commercial and the top industrial air compressor brands come equipped with robust Cat® engines to ensure long-lasting, high-quality performance.

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1. What Is the Difference Between Fuel and Electric Air Compressors?

Consider the type of engine inside an air compressor. Most models today use rotary screws, which run on fuel-burning engines. The extra power from the internal combustion engine allows for higher output from the compressor and better efficiency.

The downside to any fuel-burning equipment is the location where you can use it. You need to operate diesel or gasoline air compressors outside to minimize exposure to exhaust fumes.

Electric compressors often have a smaller size and use the piston operation design. Any air compressors that use this method for creating the needed pressure will have a separate air tank, requiring additional room. Because these types of units do not generate harmful exhaust, you can use them in enclosed spaces.

For the operation of a fuel-burning or electric air compressor, you need to think about how you will power the unit. Air compressors with internal combustion engines will need regular refueling with diesel or gasoline. Most will last for eight to ten hours per fill up, but that means you will need to refuel once a day. Have enough space around the compressor to allow for quick refueling as needed. Electric-powered air compressors require a nearby power source to operate. Check the requirements of the compressor to ensure the outlet has enough power to run the device.

2. What Can I Do With an Air Compressor?

How you will use the air compressor will determine the amount of output you need from it. You can use an engine-driven compressor for interior work as long as you have the compressor outside and a long enough hose to reach inside. However, the longer the air supply line, the higher the pressure drop over that distance. For every 50 feet of a 1-inch diameter hose, the pressure drops by five psi. Inform the rental company of any lengths the air lines must cover.

If you must operate multiple tools with the compressor, that will also factor into the type of air compressor and size that you need. Using more tools and those that require higher amounts of air will put a more significant burden on the air compressor, requiring higher output.

When you know what you want to do with the air compressor, you need to determine the type and location. If you need a smaller portable unit, where will you tow it to? If your operations require a stationary, fixed piece, do you have space for it? If you have multiple air compressors, allow for enough room for refueling those that run on diesel and space for the exhaust to leave to the atmosphere without building up in an enclosed space.

3. How Much Does It Cost to Rent an Air Compressor?

The cost to rent an air compressor depends on the size you rent. Stationary units cost more, but they provide more horsepower and air. If you need multiple portable air compressors, the cost will increase with the number.

Many companies and individuals rent the power tools that run with the air compressor at the same time. If you choose this option, the total cost will increase, but you will get to use high-quality, well-maintained tools in addition to an air compressor that also has those features. For specifics on the cost of renting an air compressor, you can request a quote from NMC The Cat Rental Store.

4. What Size Air Compressor Do I Need for Air Tools?What Size Air Compressor Do I Need for Air Tools?

The size of the air compressor you need depends on how many tools you will operate at the same time and the types of equipment you’re using. For example, the following tools use 100 psi and have similar air usage.

  • Jackhammer: 115 cfm
  • Chipper hammer: 30 cfm
  • 60-pound breaker: 75 cfm
  • 90-pound breaker: 90 cfm

Some tools will have higher pressure and air usage requirements. Even tools of the same type may vary in the amount of air and pressure they need based on the brand or size of the tool. For instance, sandblasters may require pressure between 50 and 140 psi and air from 11 to 450 cfm.

When selecting a screw-type compressor, you only need to find a model that can reach the cfm and psi you need. For smaller piston-type compressors with air tanks, you may need a larger air reservoir for multiple tools or for tools with heavy compressed air usage.

The performance of air compressors depends on their standard cubic feet per minute, scfm. While cfm tends to come close to the actual cubic feet per minute, scfm reflects ideal conditions. To compare various air compressors, look at the scfm at the same psi. If the smallest compressor has a minimum pressure of 100 psi, compare the scfm for all other compressors at that pressure level to find the one that puts out the most air. Higher horsepower ratings for the engine also reflect greater power for the compressor.

5. What Types of Air Compressor Power Tools Can I Use?To make choosing an air compressor that is compatible with your tools easier, rent both from the same place.

The types of tools you can use with an air compressor include those the compressor can support with its air output and maximum pressure. High-powered applications such as boring and drilling typically require higher pressure from an air compressor, 250 to 350 psi. On the other hand, standard tools such as painting equipment or sandblasters may only need 150 psi. Check the equipment’s specs because the tools can differ in their air usage and pressure depending on the size and manufacturer.

To make choosing an air compressor that is compatible with your tools easier, rent both from the same place. When you rent tools and an air compressor together, you can take advantage of the rental company’s knowledge and expertise to help you match the right air compressor to the right tools.

Generally, to make sure you get adequate airflow from a compressor, the rental company will add the air needs for all your tools together. To allow for unexpected use and avoid renting you an undersized unit, the representative typically adds 30% to 35%. This calculation comes in handy for large portable units or stationary air compressors, which can handle multiple tools. Smaller compressors that can handle only one tool at a time will have to have usage that matches the tool’s needs while allowing for a small amount of extra use.

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Air compressors are relatively easy to set up and use with your set of air tools. If you have an oil-based compressor, ensure that the level inside the oil tank reaches about 2/3 of the way up before operation. Then, attach the hose to the regulator valve while the compressor is sitting on flat ground. After you have pushed the pointed end of the hose into the compressor’s valve, you can then plug your air tools into the hose and lock them into place.

When operating a portable compressor for hire, you must take safety precautions such as wearing goggles, closed-toed shoes and — depending on the loudness of the compressor — earplugs. To begin operation, pull the safety valve, make sure you can hear air escape, and then turn on the compressor. It may take a minute for the tank to pressurize, so wait until the needle has stopped moving and maximum pressure is indicated before use. Every air tool demands different pressure, so adjust the compressor to the desired psi.

As soon as pressurized air is in the hose, your air tools are ready to go. As you work, the pressure in the tank will decrease with continued tool use and automatically refill as you go along. If your tool suddenly stops working, check the pressure gauge and give the tank time to fill back up. Always remember that different tools require different psi, so you must recalibrate the unit if you switch air tools.

Always make sure everything is fully off, unplugged and kept together when you finish using an electric compressor for hire and prepare to return it. Because hydrogen and oxygen interact to form water inside

7. What Safety Precautions Do I Need to Take?

When operating an air compressor, you must still take necessary safety precautions. These devices are loud. Wear earplugs or earmuffs to protect your hearing when working around an air compressor. Always wear eye protection and other personal protection equipment required by your job, such as a hard hat or reinforced footwear.

Along with wearing the appropriate equipment, it’s important that you use a tool that has safety features built-in. OSHA requires a safety device at the supply that reduces air pressure if the hose breaks loose. Air-powered tools must also have clips to prevent any attachments on them from flying off from the pressure. Check that safety devices are installed before renting an air compressor.

8. Is There a Difference Between Stationary and Portable Air Compressors?

You have the choice between stationary and portable air compressors. While mobile, portable units tend to be more popular for commercial or individual use due to their smaller size, stationary compressors also have a place in industrial and commercial applications.

Stationary units get delivered to your site. They stay in place throughout the rental and provide higher output with the ability to run multiple tools at once. You must have enough space for the stationary unit to run, have adequate exhaust ventilation and room around it for servicing.

You can tow a portable unit behind a pickup truck and bring it to your job site on your own. Because the sizes of portable air compressors vary, make sure your vehicle has the towing capability to haul the compressor. Some small pickup trucks may not be able to pull the largest portable air compressors.

9. Answer “What If?” Questions

As with any new equipment you introduce to your working area, you must consider any problems that could arise and how you will handle them. These “what if?” scenarios serve as a valuable planning tool to prepare yourself for any type of incident the air compressor could bring.

For example, if you have the compressor in a warehouse or manufacturing facility where forklifts or similar vehicles operate, what will happen if a lift truck runs over the air compressor’s hose? You should plan to prevent such an incident by clearly marking the path of air compressor hoses. Additionally, you need to stock extra tubes to replace a damaged part.

What will happen when the air compressor runs out of fuel? Assign one person the task of checking out the compressor’s fuel level at the beginning of each shift to avoid having to pause for fill-ups in the middle of the workday. Similarly, plan on who you will contact for maintenance and repairs of the compressor. When you’re renting, the rental company should handle repairs and maintenance.

Rent an Industrial or Commercial Air Compressor

Whether you need a full-sized industrial air compressor or a smaller commercial one for individual work, you can find the right one at NMC The Cat Rental Store. Browse our stationary and portable air compressors to find the one you need or request a quick quote from us to find the right compressor for your budget. With the right air compressor, you can use your tools more efficiently and finish the job sooner.

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