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How Do I Size a Piston Compressor for my Shop?

Air compressors Compressors Piston Compressors

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
8.6-10.3
8.6-10.3

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