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How Do I Size a Piston Compressor for my workshop?

Learn how to properly size your piston compressor based on your needs

Air compressors should be sized based on the volume of air (cfm/m3h) and air pressure (psi/bar) needed to do the job and not horse power. Single stage air compressors have a maximum pressure of around 130 psi (9 bar) while two stage air compressors have a maxinum air pressure of 175 psi (12 bar). Tank size is typically not a critical factor in sizing a compressor.

Calculating your need

  1. What is the maximum pressure you need? (refer to the table below for a general guideline)
  2. What is the electrical requirements (voltage/phase)?
  3. How many people will be using air at any time (maximum)?
  4. Is this a body shop or mechanical shop?
    1. Body Shop: 12-15 cfm/person X # of people
    2. Mechanical Shop: 3-5 cfm/person X # of people
  5. Now add at least 25% to your total cfm required in order to allow for duty cycle.


Typical cfm consumption by tool

Tool/Equipment Air Pressure (psi) Air Pressure (bar) Air Consumed (cfm) Air Consumed (l/s)
Impact Wrench 3/8-1/2 70-90 4.8-6.2 5 2.36
Impact Wrench 1/2-3/4 70-90 4.8-6.2 10 4.72
Impact Wrench 3/4-1 3/4 70-90 4.8-6.2 20 9.44
Air Ratchet 70-90 4.8-6.2 3-5 1.42-2.36
Body Sander (Oribital) 70-90 4.8-6.2 12 5.66
Tire Changer 125-150 8.6-10.3 2 0.94
Bead Breaker 125-150 8.6-10.3 12 5.66
Blow Gun 70-90 4.8-6.2 3 1.42
Die Grinder 70-90 4.8-6.2 7 3.3
Screwdriver #2-6 Screw 70-90 4.8-6.2 5 2.36
Screwdriver #6-5/16 Screw 70-90 4.8-6.2 10 4.72
Paint Spray Gun (Touch Up) 70-90 4.8-6.2 4 1.89
Paint Spray Gun (HVLP) 40-60 2.7-4.1 15 7.08
Nailers/Staplers 70-90 4.8-6.2 2-4 0.94-1.89
Chart intended as a reference only. Actual air consumption may vary.


    Tool/Equipment Air Pressure (psi) Air Pressure (bar) Air Consumed (cfm) Air Consumed (l/s)
    8.6-10.3
    Chart intended as a reference only. Actual air consumption may vary.


      Tool/Equipment Air Pressure (psi) Air Pressure (bar) Air Consumed (cfm) Air Consumed (l/s)
      8.6-10.3
      Chart intended as a reference only. Actual air consumption may vary.

      Thank you CP Compressors for this video.


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      Air compressors are used in many different applications and provide essential compressed air to many businesses and individuals with different air needs. No matter what your CFM, PSI and HP requirements are, the electronic controller on your air compressor is the motherboard for keeping your unit running as efficiently as possible. It is your eyes into your machine.


      The emergency stop, "e-stop", is for true emergency situations only. When hitting the e-stop, all power is halted from the machine and the unload process isn't achieved. The emergency stop button is intended to help with possibly hazardous situations that are developing. Common conditions of having to use the e-stop is the misuse of the equipment in ways that weren’t intended, predictable failures not addressed or failing to consider all the foreseeable uses of the compressor.


      Air compressors are helpful for an enormous range of applications such as air filling, packaging, tools, HVAC control, and more! One possible drawback is the amount of electricity they use; air compressors can be a huge drain on energy if used ​inefficiently​. If you are running them too long, allowing leaks to exist, or using the wrong type of compressor, you are wasting ​energy and money​. This article will go over some of the biggest power-wasters and how to
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