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5 Tips for Purchasing Your Portable Air Compressor

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January 31, 2022 Bradley Whitfield

Portable air compressors, no matter the size or size of your company, are a major purchase. It is important to consider your options carefully before investing in such a vital and integral part of your operation. To help guide your decision-making, below are five tips to help you make the most of your portable purchase.

#1 - Know the capabilities of your downstream, end-devices/equipment

Air is energy. To size a compressor to the job, a thorough understanding of the energy needed to perform the work is critical. Getting the most out of your machine means aligning the right compressor specs with the requirements of the job. For example, ask yourself how many pavement breakers can we operate with the air compressor? The Sullair MPB-90 consumes 60 cfm so ideally, you can run up to three MPB-90s on one Sullair 185 compressor. Similarly, in media blasting, a #6 nozzle at 100 psi will require a 200 cfm compressor package while a #5 nozzle requires 140 cfm. Knowing the requirements will help you avoid making a costly mistake.

Also, be familiar with the potential utility of the machine. Whether the air compressor is intended to be your primary source of compressed air or used solely for standby air will determine if the investment in a more durable, long-lasting machine is justifiable and a good return on capital.

#2 Choose a Portable with Good Operator Training Available

Your air compressor investment should come with a reliable partner who is at the ready to help train you and your team to get the most out of your air compressor. Many issues that arise in the field are often due to operator error. Simple functionality can be seemingly intuitive such as how to start and run the machine and how to change dirty filters (a very common source of malfunction) but added training on how to read the information panel helps the equipment run more efficiently. Having an expert on hand can help conserve fuel, alleviate downtime and whether the training is through your dealer, distributor or manufacturer, over the phone or hands-on, quality and available training will make owning and maintaining your air compressor headache free.

#3 Know Your Power Node

While it may seem obvious, knowing what is providing your air compressor’s power can make the difference between a machine that lasts and one that quits when you need it most. Worldwide partners such as CAT, John Deere, Perkins and Kubota are globally recognized and come with strong reputations for quality and performance. And, aftermarket support (parts, fluids, etc.) tends to be better with the larger engine suppliers. Some air compressor machines may offer a lower acquisition cost but may include engine partners with a less reliable track record and a smaller dealer support network.

#4 You Get what You Pay For

This one piggybacks on tip number 3, but the adage, “you get what you pay for” holds true with large machinery purchases like a portable air compressor. If you properly maintain your air compressor, the air end could last through three to four engines. Sullair, for example, uses the same engineered air end in our portables as in our stationary machines. We have customers with portable air compressors that have logged more than 30,000 hours!

The durability of the machine and the strength of your investment is often measured in the warranty. If the warranty and reputation of the machine are strong, then so is your investment.

#5 Lease, Rent or Buy

Whether to lease, rent or buy is a very user-specific determination. Spend some time looking at your business plan to determine the right path for your needs. With owning comes more maintenance and storage costs/issues, but there is greater assurance that the air compressor will run when you need it and it may save you money if you frequently need compressed air for your operations. Owning can also allow for certain tax considerations. Tax guidelines allow for capital depreciation over time, so consult with a tax professional for a funding method that is right for your unique circumstance.

So, I promised five tips for purchasing your portable air compressor, but I am adding in a sixth: When You Don’t Know - Ask. At Sullair, we are subject matter experts. We live and breathe air compressors, so leverage our knowledge. We have even more tips and tricks to run your machine more efficiently, just ask, and we can help you make the right decision for your operational needs and your business.

5 Tips For Purchasing Your Portable Air Compressor
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