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Air Compressor vs. Air Pump

Most people tend to confuse an air compressor with an air pump. The two words are sometimes even used interchangeably. They may look similar, but they are still very much different from each other. Understanding the differences between the two is essential, especially if you want to use the right tool for the job.

Air Compressor vs. Air Pump:

An air pump pumps air from one place to another, similar to a blower in your car. An Air Compressor compresses air and stores it in a pressure tank. This pressurized air can then be used to power various air tools. An air pump works continuously, but the output is at a much lower pressure, it generally is cheaper, and it does not store any air.

We have carried out a detailed comparison to help you differentiate between an air compressor and an air pump. With this blog post, you learn about the differences between the two types, and it can help you decide what type to use.

Air Pump vs. Air Compressor: A Comparison Table

Air Compressor
Air Pump
Stores pressurized air in a tank
Does not store air
Very high output pressure
Much lower output pressure
Output pressure can drive various power tools and can fill most tires
Output pressure can drive a few air tools and is ok to fill a low-pressure tire.
Blows pressurized air until the tank is empty, then the tank needs to be refilled with air
Blows air continuously
More expensive
Has adequate storage capacity
It has no storage capacity
The air compressors are powered by electricity or gas. 
Most air-pumps are powered by electricity or by hand

Air Pump and Air Compressor, how do they work

● Air pump

Air pumps work by forcing air through a small hole. Like a water hose with a small hole, the air is pushed out at a higher pressure. Most air pumps use a piston-powered by an electric motor to force the air out of the machine. But you can also have hand-operated air pumps like a bicycle pump or a foot pump for your car. Air pumps are used in a lot of applications, like in a bathroom or an aquarium.

You can find Air Pumps here.

● Air Compressor

An air compressor is a device that stores pressurizes air in a tank. This pressurized air can then be used to power all kinds of devices like a nail gun, a spray gun for painting, a power wrench, and many more power tools. Other uses are to blow water from pipes if you have to winterize them, cleaning something with the pressurized air. One of the advantages of using power tools that are using pressurized air is that they will have high torque and can be used in locations where electric tools or gas tools can pose a danger.

You can find Air Compressors here.

Where are Air Pumps and Air Compressors used?

● Air Pumps

Air pumps are used in many different locations. You will find them in bathrooms and houses to refresh the air in aquariums to add oxygen to the water. Others use ones to fill your bicycle or car tire, a lot of those pumps are hand-operated. Similar air pumps are used to fill footballs and other balls or inflate an air mattress. You can find Air Pumps here.

● Air Compressor

Air compressors are used for many different kinds of jobs:

  • Air Tools: To power air tools
  • Pneumatic tools: Gives a large amount of moderate-pressure air to power pneumatic tools, such as jackhammers
  • Painting: For air sprayers
  • Tires: To fill all kind of tires
  • Winterizing: To drain water from an irrigation system or pipes so they can not freeze in the winter.
  • Fill gas cylinders: Supply high-pressure clean air for filling gas cylinders
  • Diving: Supplying air to submerged divers
  • HPA: To fill high-pressure air tanks (HPA)
  • Industry: There are all kinds of industrial processes where high-pressure air is used.

Here you can find air compressors.

Types of Air Compressors

● Air Compressors

In the form of pressurized air, compressors transform power from an electric or gas-powered motor into the potential energy stored. The compressor compacts air into storage tanks thereby increasing the pressure. Two key types of air compressors exist. They are the Positive-displacement compressor and the Dynamic compressor. Both types are subdivided into different categories and the ways they work vary from each other.

Some of the benefits of using an air compressor and air tools are:

  • Reliable: Air compressors  are more reliable
  • Economical: They are economical
  • Productive: They ensure the growth of productivity
  • Safe: The tool connected to an air compressor does not use electricity, and can be safer in dangerous environments.
  • High torque: They have a higher torque rating

– Positive Displacement

The positive-displacement compressor takes in air and mechanically decreases the air space to increase the pressure. Once the highest amount of pressure is reached, a port or valve opens, and the air is delivered into the outlet system from the compression chambers. The positive-displacement compressor is divided into three types which include:

– Dynamic Compressor/ Negative-Displacement Air Compressor

Dynamic compressors apply the process of rotating impellers to move pressure to the air. An example of a dynamic compressor is a centrifugal compressor. Compared to other types of compressors, centrifugal compressors spin at higher speeds. They are designed for higher capacity as the flow through the compressor is continuous.

Types of Air Pumps

The two main types of air pumps are positive displacement pumps and centrifugal pumps. You can find air pumps here.

● Positive Displacement Pumps

The positive displacement pumps transfer the air by pumping it into a discharge pipe. At any given speed, irrespective of the discharge pressure, they can produce the same flow at a given speed, making them continuous flow machines. Positive displacement pumps come with a relief or safety valve on the discharge side to avoid line bursts. If a positive displacement pump operates against a closed discharge valve, the pressure inside the discharge increases, causing a line to burst, this, in turn, damages the pump. Reciprocating pumps (piston, plunger, and diaphragm), power pumps, steam pumps, and rotary pumps (gear, lobe, screw, and vane) may be categorized as positive displacement pumps.

● Centrifugal Pump

A centrifugal pump changes input power to kinetic energy by quickening liquid in an impeller. The most common centrifugal pump is called a volute pump. Here, through the eye of the impeller rotating at high speed, the fluid reaches the pump. As the fluid accelerates from the pump chasing, a vacuum is created at the impeller’s eye. This vacuum provides more suction and draws into the pump more fluid. The maximum head is determined by the pump impeller’s outside diameter and the spinning shaft’s speed.

Difference between a centrifugal pump and centrifugal compressors

In terms of construction and design point, they are similar, but the difference lies in each element they carry inside. The Centrifugal pump pumps air while the centrifugal compressor compresses air.

Air Compressor vs. Air Pump- Which is best?

Depending on your needs, you have to choose between an air pump and an air compressor. If you need to fill tires, balls, a bounce house, or other similar products, an air pump is the best solution. This kind of jobs does not require high-pressure air, and an air pump is the best choice. An air pump can run continuously, so your bounce house is filled in a reasonable amount of time. You can find air pumps here.

If you need to power air tools or do a job where high-pressure air is required, like to blow the water from an irrigation system, you need an air compressor. An air compressor can deliver high-pressure air with enough energy to fill tires, but it would have difficulty filling a bounce house as it takes time to fill the tank. You can find air compressors here.

Final Remarks

The term “compressor” and “pump” are sometimes used to characterize one another. As much as some similarities can be found, there are still many differences.  And air pump transports air from one point to another, while air compressors compact air and store it in a high-pressure tank.

When choosing between an air compressor and an air pump, you have to consider your needs first. Now that we have come to the end of this article, we hope it has been quite helpful and has given you clarity on the differences between an air pump and an air compressor.