How to Choose: Gas vs. Electric Air Compressor

gas or electric air compressor

One key choice in selecting an air compressor is determining whether you want an electric air compressor or a gas air compressor. This decision depends on the specifics of your application.

On jobsites or in situations where there is no electricity and a lot of air is needed, a gas powered compressor is the only solution. This is most often seen during the framing phase of new construction.

Because of the extra weight of the gas engines and the bigger pumps, these air compressors are generally wheeled for portability. These units typically weigh 150 to 200 pounds. At this weight, it will likely take two people to safely load and offload the compressor onto the truck, unless there is a lift gate or ramp.

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

Electric compressors provide much quieter operation than gas compressors. Most electric air compressors on the market today have either a universal motor or an induction motor.

Universal-motor compressors are often recommended for the DIYer, although improvements in design are starting to push this style of compressor motor into the contractor arena as well. One significant advantage of universal motors is they tend to be lighter in weight, which is always a key issue for mobility and flexibility. Another advantage of universal motors is they start up faster than induction motors. This results in significantly shorter peak amperage, which protects your motor from excessive amp draw and keeps you from making frustrating trips to the breaker.

Air compressor manufacturers continue to close the gap between induction and universal-motor technology, so be sure to consider the options when selecting a compressor.

Induction-motor compressors are typically more expensive than universal-motor compressors but the motor itself is more efficient and, barring any defects, will have more than twice the life of a universal motor. Given the induction motor’s efficiency, it provides more cubic feet per minute (cfm) than its universal counterpart. For those who can provide a dedicated circuit and have a little more money to spend, the induction motor may well be the compressor to choose.

Learn more about our electric and gas air compressor options to find the best air compressor for your needs.