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Tool review: Portable Air Compressors

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Other points worth noting
Campbell Hausfeld controls
Enlarge Image
 
Campbell Hausfeld's controls are
protected within the plastic housing.
The hose regulator and gauge sit
together to avoid confusion.
Makita compressor connector
Enlarge Image
 
Most of the tested compressors have
hose couplers that hold in a retracted
position, making one-handed hose
connection easy.
Husky compressor drain valve
Enlarge Image
 
Quarter-turn ball valves (shown on the
Husky) allow you to drain tank moisture
quickly and easily.

Other points worth noting

Readability and placement of gauges and switch. Only a few compressors have pressure gauges you can read from a standing position. We like the ones on the Campbell Hausfeld MW250000, shown, and the Husky because they use a larger gauge for the regulated hose pressure--the gauge you need to see most often because it's the one you adjust for different tools--than for the tank pressure. Most of the others have identical gauges that can't be as easily read.

And both of those units, as well as the Bosch and Bostitch CAP2000P-OF, nicely position the gauges and on/off switch so they're easy to reach yet well protected against damaging blows. On the other hand, we found the gauge-and-switch assemblies on the twin-stack compressors from DeWalt, Hitachi, and Senco difficult to use and more exposed to potential damage.

Hose couplers. We like the quick-connect couplers, like the one shown, that stay retracted when not hooked to a hose, because you can make easy one-handed hookups. With the others you must manually retract the sleeve on the compressor coupler with one hand and, with the other hand, insert the hose nipple. (You must use two hands to uncouple the hose from all the compressors.) As with the gauge-and-switch assemblies, beware of hose couplings that stick out beyond the compressor's protective zone, setting them up for potential damage.

Six of the 11 tested compressors have two or more hose connections, so you can operate two tools at the same time (on separate hoses). As you'd expect, two tools drain the tanks faster than a single tool. Still, all six maintained sufficient air pressure to power two large nailers at a normal work-application rate.

Drain valves. To avoid rusting inside, drain the compressed air (and unavoidable moisture) from the tanks at the end of each work session. For this easy task, we prefer the quarter-turn ball valves, shown, found on all but three models. The Craftsman 15216, Porter-Cable C2002-WK, and Senco compressors use a threaded stem valve that's more difficult to open and close.


Continued on page 3:  Here's what we'd buy

 

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