Last Updated on September 14, 2020
When most people think about air compressors, the first word that comes to their mind usually isn’t “quiet.” However, there’s no reason to believe that you have to get a model that hurts your ears and disturbs the neighbors. There are plenty of low-noise options on the market today, and if you’re looking to get the best model for your needs, you’ve come to the right place.
We believe that well-informed customers can make great decisions. That’s why our reviews show you the good and the bad in every model. With that information, you’ll be able to pick the model which best fits your needs, and you won’t end up with a model with a flaw you can’t stand.
Also included is a buyer’s guide, which is designed to help you evaluate quiet air compressors like an expert would, so that you be confident that you’re getting the right product when you’re ready to buy.
|Best Overall||California Air Tools 2010A 2-Gallons||
|Best Value||Bostitch BTFP02012||
|Kobalt Quiet Tech||
Noise level: 60 dB
The California Air Tools 2010A (60 dB) 2-Gallon Air Compressor is one of the quieter models on our list, and a great choice for people looking for a quiet air compressor that will let them do their jobs without putting their ears through too much of a ringer. It comes with a two-gallon tank, which is enough to fill tires and balls, as well as use some lighter tools on the job. Plus, it only produces 60 decibels maximum, so it’s definitely one of the quieter models on the market today. In fact, it’s not much louder than a loud conversation while it’s running.
This model also comes with an oil-free pump. That means you’ll never have to change the oil, saving you time and money that you would have otherwise spent on replacement oil. It also weighs just 35 pounds, which makes it a good portable model. Unfortunately, some units ship with leaky fittings, which is something that most people will be able to fix at home, but you shouldn’t have to deal with it. Overall, this is a great, quiet air compressor, and one great for people who don’t want to do a lot of maintenance.
Noise level: 59 dB
The Hitachi EC28M Ultra Quiet (59 dB) Compressor is easily one of the quietest air compressors that you’ll be able to find on the market today. At only 59 decibels, you may not notice that it’s running if you’re 20 feet or more away, and simply wearing headphones could be enough to drown this machine out at roughly any distance. Plus, it comes with an oil-free pump, so you’ll have to do very little maintenance across the life of the compressor. It even comes with a high-quality steel roll cage. If you accidentally drop it, it’s less likely to be damaged than other models, and it’s durable to survive riding from jobsite to job site in the back of a truck.
Plus, it only weighs 25 pounds, so just about anyone will be able to carry this compressor around without any kind of a problem. The only real gripe we have with this model is that it only comes with a one-gallon air tank. That makes it very portable, but it also means that you won’t get the best runtime, which is why we’ve taken it out of first place, despite it being slightly quieter than our top model.
Noise level: 79 dB
The Bostitch BTFP02012 6 Gallon (79 dB) is one of the quietest pancake air compressors that has ever been made. It comes with an oil-free pump, so you won’t have to worry about maintaining it. Since you don’t have to change the oil, you’ll save a lot of time in the money in the long run with this machine. It’s also very portable and weighs just 30 pounds, and comes with a handle, so despite its big tank, it’s still light enough to be easily portable. Plus, the motor comes with a high-efficiency start. If you’re using a long extension cord or trying to start this machine in cold weather, you’ll love that it starts up more easily than other models.
You can also get this model for about 60 percent of what you’d pay for the top models on our list. That makes it great overall value for the money, which is something anyone can appreciate. What ultimately keeps it out of the top two is that it’s not as quiet as the other models on our list. Still, if the price is your first concern, this model strikes a nice balance between price and quiet operation.
Noise level: 71 dB
The DEWALT D55140 1-Gallon (71 dB) is a reasonably quiet air compressor that comes with some other upsides that make it worth most people’s consideration. It’s one of the smallest air compressors you’ll find anywhere, which makes how quiet it is somewhat surprising, given that many compact models struggle in this area. It’s small enough to keep in an RV full-time or to store under a kitchen cabinet when it’s not in use. It also comes with a roll cage, so it’s durable enough to ride in the back of a truck without sustaining any kind of damage. Plus, it comes with an oil-free pump, so you won’t have to do much maintenance across its lifespan.
However, this model isn’t perfect. It only comes with a one-gallon tank. If you’re filling tires on a vehicle, that probably won’t affect you, but if you’re looking to use it with tools, you’re probably going to find that it’s not up to the task. The other big downside is that it refills very slowly. That means you have to wait a few minutes before you can start using it again, which greatly reduces its value, and makes it a poor overall buy.
Noise level: 65 dB
The Kobalt Quiet Tech 4.3-Gallon (65 dB) has one of the largest tanks on our list, making it a good choice for people who are looking for a quiet-operating air compressor that could potentially power tools. The 4.3-gallon tank is more than double the size of the next-largest compressor on our list, giving this model a lot of inherent upside on that front. Plus, this model line has a good reputation for running quietly, which means there won’t be any surprises where the unit you receive will be louder than you expect it to be. The large wheels on this model also make it easy to wheel it around and ensure that you can always get it where it needs to go.
However, this model has underwhelming power. We’d like it more if it refilled more quickly and was able to hit more than 150 PSI. Some models seem to have a problem where they aren’t able to hit that maximum PSI. Some units also have overheating problems, which can be dangerous. While we like a lot of the things that this model is doing in theory, the execution isn’t good enough to rise above the last place on our list.
You may already know which model you’re going to buy after reading our reviews, in which case you can skip this buyer’s guide. If you’re not yet sure which model is right for you or want to make sure that you understand air compressors well before you buy, then this buyer’s guide is for you. We’ve packed it full of great general information that will help you understand what makes for great air compressors and what makes for models you’ll be better off avoiding. We’ve also included some information on getting great value for your money, so if you’re looking for a great deal, make sure you read this guide.
The most important thing to consider when shopping for a quiet air compressor is how loud it actually is. Most noise ratings are given in decibels, and the measurements are generally taken ten to twenty feet away from the air compressor when it’s on. If you’re right on top of your air compressor, it will typically be louder than its given rating.
At the low end, you should look for around 55 to 65-decibel range, which is roughly as loud as a normal conversation that you would have in your home. At the high end, it could be like a conversation you’re having at a busy restaurant.
Some models can be found in the 66 to 75-decibel range, which is roughly as loud as a vacuum cleaner or hairdryer at the low range, and as loud a garbage disposal at the high end. Any louder than that, and you’re not getting a “quiet” air compressor.
So, if you really value quietness, you’ll want to invest in an air compressor that produces around 65 decibels of noise, or less. There are other steps you can take to reduce the sound you hear even further. Some air compressors can live in an enclosed container, which can further reduce the noise you hear, and wearing headphones or ear protection can further reduce your exposure to the noise.
The tank size on an air compressor is an often-underrated feature. The larger the tank size, the longer you’ll be able to work without having to stop to let the tank refill. Unfortunately, most quiet models don’t have massive tanks. That’s because of the larger the tank, the more power you need to fill it in a reasonable amount of time. As you have guessed, more power means more noise in most cases.
Consequently, the largest tank that ranks on our list is a six-gallon model, which also happens to be the loudest one. However, this relationship isn’t always linear. The second-largest model on our list is also the third-quietest, and only produces 65 decibels of noise.
However, most quiet models only come with one- or two-gallon tanks. If you’re looking to power tools with tanks of that size, you may be disappointed with the amount which you’re able to use them at a time before the air compressor has to refill. On the other hand, if you’re using your air compressor to inflate balls or tires, then you probably won’t have a problem in this area.
Getting a tank that’s too small for your needs is one of the quickest ways to end up with a model you don’t like, so if you want to get great value for your money, make sure you do some research and see what kind of tank size you’ll need to run your equipment for extended periods.
Cubic feet per minute, or CFM, is the measurement of how much work an air compressor can do at a time. CFM is only meaningful relative to the pounds per square inch, or PSI at which the air is compressed. Most manufacturers list their air compressor’s CFM relative to 90 PSI, though that is something that you need to watch when you’re comparing models.
SCFM stands for standard cubic feet per minute. Air pressure varies based on temperature and humidity, so those factors change an air compressor’s effectiveness. If you’re working on a very hot or very cold day, you could see big changes in how effective your air compressor is. Standard cubic feet per minute overcomes that problem by assuming that the temperature, pressure, and humidity are all held constant, so this measure makes for easy comparisons between models.
Bigger is better with this number. Models with a higher CFM will be able to power more powerful tools without the tank running empty. Depending on the task and the size of the tank, you may only have to listen to it run once at the beginning and be able to complete the task before the pressure falls enough to require refilling the tank.
The big idea behind oil-free pumps is that you’ll never have to change out the oil, which can be a huge benefit. It saves you time, and also saves you money in replacement oil, making it one of the best overall choices for people looking for value when they’re shopping for an air compressor.
The trick with oil-free pumps is that they actually have oil, but it’s kept relatively clean within a sealed compartment. That keeps it in good shape and helps it maintain its lubricating properties for a long time.
Plus, most of the moving parts in the pump are coated in Teflon. That gives them very little friction and helps them run for a long time on the same oil. What ultimately brings down an oil-free pump is the Teflon coat wearing off. When that happens, the internal parts become much more vulnerable, and the heat and friction eventually wear them down.
Generally speaking, pumps that require regular oil changes can last for decades with proper maintenance. Oil-free pumps last as long as a decade, though they don’t incur any additional costs over that span, giving them a lower cost of operation.
Many people start with the price tag when they’re trying to get great value. While that sometimes works, it’s important to keep in mind that getting a product you don’t like, no matter the price, leads to poor overall value.
So, it’s a good idea to start with a process that will result in you getting a machine you’ll like using. The best way to do that is to consider the features you’ll need to have a good experience. With quiet air compressors, that could be the noise level, the tank size, the CFM, and the portability, though some people will have a different set of requirements.
Figure out what levels of performance you need in each of those areas, and then make a list of air compressors that live up to those requirements. Then, rank them by price, and choose the cheapest model. It has all the features you need for a good experience, but delivers them at the lowest possible price, making that model the best overall value for your money.
Getting a model you like at the best price is sure to leave you happy for years to come.
You may be interested in reading:
The California Air Tools 2010A (60 dB) 2-Gallon Air Compressor is our favorite model due to its large, two-gallon tank, oil-free pump, and quiet operation. The Hitachi EC28M Ultra Quiet (59 dB) Compressor is the quietest model on our list and comes with a steel roll cage and an overall lightweight, though its tank size keeps it out of first place. The Bostitch BTFP02012 6 Gallon (79 dB) is good in cold weather, very portable and comes with two couplers, all at a low price, making it the best overall value for the money on our list. In fourth is the DEWALT D55140 1-Gallon (71 dB) which has a roll cage and an oil-free pump, though it suffers from a small tank and slow refill. The Kobalt Quiet Tech 4.3-Gallon (65 dB) does have a large tank and quiet operation, but its underwhelming power and overheating problems drop it to the last place on our list.
Hopefully, our reviews and buyer’s guide have helped you better understand air compressors and have helped you find the model which is right for you.
Hi there! My name is Adam and I write for HealthyHandyman. I have a great passion for writing about everything related to tools, home improvement, and DIY. In my spare time, I'm either fishing, playing the guitar, or spending quality time with my beloved wife. You'll also often find me in my workshop working on some new project!