Portable productivity

Compressed air is a necessity in the shop, but shop owners don’t necessarily need to purchase stationary air compressors to meet their needs. In some cases, portable compressors may produce enough air to meet shop requirements, while offering the additional flexibility to move around.

When it comes to selecting a portable air compressor, there are a variety of options to consider. Key among them is the type of portable compressor on the market.


For smaller air needs, an electric-powered, hand-carry compressor may be an ideal solution. This type of unit is highly portable with a single handle for easy lifting. Also, because hand-carry compressors operate from a 115-volt power source, they can be plugged into any standard electrical outlet around the shop.

Hand-carry compressors range from about 1.5- to 6-gallon capacities, and typically offer up to about 4 CFM (cubic feet per minute). Obviously, these units won’t be able to handle an air wrench, but they can be handy to keep around for less demanding uses.

There are two configurations hand-carry air compressors:

Single tank: These compressors have one air tank which may be shaped like a cylinder or flat like a pancake. The pancake style models generally have the highest capacity of all hand-carry units.

Dual tank: Dual-tank models have two cylindrical tanks, either in a stacked or side-by-side pontoon configuration.


Oftentimes, a hand-carry compressor doesn’t have the volume to meet a shop’s needs. That’s when larger, wheeled-portable units come in handy. These are available with 115-volt and 230-volt electric motors, as well as gas engines for outdoor use.

Wheeled-portable air compressors have capacities ranging from approximately 8 to 30 gallons. Similar to hand-carry models, there are both single- and dual-tank models.

Wheeled-portable compressors are equipped with a single air tank on a set of dual wheels. The tanks can be either horizontally or vertically oriented.

Dual-tank units have two pontoon tanks positioned side-by-side. Generally, they come equipped with one wheel located between the two tanks and they are transported like wheelbarrows. Some manufacturers also offer a dual wheel option.

Dual-tank wheeled-portable air compressors typically have less capacity than single-tank models.

Even after understanding the basic different varieties of portable air compressors, it is still important to do some research. There are plenty of compressor manufacturers, making the number of choices on the market even broader.

But after determining air needs and searching for reputable suppliers, a person will be better prepared to find the right combination of portability and productivity for the shop.


Dan Leiss is president of Jenny Products. With roots dating back to the 1870s, the company is a manufacturer of hand-carry, wheeled-portable and industrial-stationary air compressors. www.jennyproductsinc.com.