There are many reasons to choose air-powered tools over your standard, battery or electricity-operated counterparts. These tools are lighter, smaller, and you never need to recharge them.
But you do need a constant supply of pressurized air for them to work. That’s why air compressors and pneumatic tools go hand in hand. In industrial settings, increasing the number of tools connected to compressed air units most likely will not add too much load to the system.
In a small setting, like a workshed, adding something as small as a nail gun to your setup might be too much. You would need to know what size air compressor for nail gun use.
Finding the correct size compressed air unit is not always easy. But in our handy little guide, we will help you understand what size air compressor for nail gun use. We also included a few helpful tips to make your air compressor and nail gun experience more efficient.
But before we get into the details of our topic, there are a few key terms we need to get familiar with.
What Does Cubic Feet Per Minute Mean?
The cubic feet per minute or CFM measures the volume that air flows in and from compressed air units every minute.
What Does Horsepower Mean?
Horsepower simply refers to the power of your equipment.
Both these terms indicate the size of the job your air compressor can do. You will see the specs written on your compressed air unit. Your pneumatic tools also have their specs.
To achieve the best quality output of both pieces of equipment, the tool and the supplier must match or complement each other.
What Does Pounds Per Square Inch Mean?
Pounds per square inch (PSI) refers to pressure. It measures how much pressure the air in a one-inch space has.
What To Look For When Buying An Air Compressor
When you go shopping for a compressed air unit, one of the first things you will see is the specifications. For example, you may see something like 2 hp, 2.8 CFM, 3 gallons, 130 psi, 73 dB, and so on. These numbers tell you what the air compressor unit can do. Here, I will break down the meaning of each for you.
The numbers above show the key factors you need to consider about air compressors when matching this equipment with a nail gun.
- Check The Tank Capacity
Most portable compressed air units fit for power nailers range in capacity from one gallon to eight gallons. The size of the tank you need depends on the application for which you want to use it.
If you plan on using a nail gun for an extended amount of time, you will need an air compressor with a tank capacity large enough to do the job.
Of course, air compressors with larger capacity tanks are available on the market. But, if you want portability and ease of use, one-gallon to six-gallon tanks should be plenty, especially if the tool you plan to use is an air-powered nail gun.
There are advantages to having a compressed air unit with a larger capacity tank. The larger your tank, the bigger the job you can use it to do. So, this allows you to use the air for longer periods of time. If the tank capacity of your compressed air unit is small, the air pressure will drop quickly. Soon enough, you will have to wait until the motor pumps in more air to refill the tank so you can use it.
All in all, the size of the job will determine the size compressor tank you need. If you only need a nail gun for everyday household chores, a low-capacity tank will do.
If your nail gun has to complete heavy workloads, you need a compressor tank with the capacity to support that workload.
Here is a quick example.
A 1HP portable compressed air unit has a small capacity tank. It delivers only 2.0 CFM. A larger-sized nail gun will drive roughly fifteen nails a minute with a tank of this size.
That same capacity compressor will power a finishing nail gun of medium size to drive at least thirty nails a minute. And it runs an even smaller brand nail gun to drive over seventy nails per minute. So, the specs of a tool are what determines how well your compressed air unit performs.
- Look At The CFM
Before spending money on a compressed air unit, do not only verify the capacity of the tank. You need to do a CFM check as well. For example, if the air compressor you buy is one with a CFM rating of five, it should blast up to five cubic feet of air in a minute.
Selecting a compressed air unit with a CFM higher than what your nail gun needs to work is a good idea. That way, our tools will work well with each other. Neither one of them will underperform.
When compared to other small air-powered tools like spray painters and impact wrenches, nail guns use the least CFM. That’s because nail guns use small bursts of air rather than a continuous forceful stream. So, what size air compressor for a nail gun, you ask?
A compressed air unit of up to 4 CFM should more than suffice. But, we will take a closer look at nail gun sizes and their correct CFM in just a bit.
How To Calculate The CFM For A Nail Gun?
To find the correct CFM for your air-powered nail guns, multiply the CFM you need by 1.5. The number you get is the CFM you need from a compressed air unit.
Almost all compact compressed air units from the best brands offer PSI which is enough to run air-powered nail guns. As such, there is no need to worry about whether the PSI of these pieces of equipment is enough to support your nailer. The CFM and the capacity of the tank are the main things to which you should pay attention.
That does not mean that you should discount the importance of the PSI of air compressors. A higher PSI on an air compressor does have its advantages. The higher the pressure, the more air you can compress into a small tank.
Here is a quick example.
Your compressed air tank of one gallon with 150 PSI will trap the exact quantity of air as a 1.5-gallon tank with 100 PSI.
PSI and CFM work together to improve the performance of your air compressor and pneumatic tools. It will benefit your nail gun if the CFM level and the PSI complement each other.
Getting an air compressor with a PSI that is higher than what your nail gun needs is always a good idea.
How To Calculate The Correct PSI For Your Nail Gun
To find the PSI you need from your compressed air unit to drive your nail gun, multiply the desired PSI by 1.25.
Check How Much Horsepower The Air Compressor Has
The horsepower (HP) of an air compressor is a measurement of the motor’s overall power. In layman’s terms, it determines how much work a compressed air unit can do in a specific amount of time.
The HP of a small compressed air unit is not something you should be too concerned about. When you decide on a compressor with a big enough tank, sufficient CFM, and PSI, it will most likely meet the horsepower that you need for your nail gun.
A compressed air unit with a 5 HP air compressor will not complete the same workload as a compressor with 10 HP. But a 5 HP compressed air unit can have the same PSI rate as a 10 HP compressed air unit. What you get in this scenario is an efficient 5 HP and a 10 HP with wasted power.
So having a higher HP is not always a sign of efficiency. That is why the other specifications are more important. Assess the HP in conjunction with the PSI and CFM or the air compressor and the nail gun specs.
How Does A Nail Gun Work?
Like all pneumatic tools, the nail gun pulls in a breath of pressurized air. The air it sucks should give it enough power to sink in each nail.
Compressed air units do not force air through the hose directly. It maintains the pressure inside the receiver or the storage tank. Keep the pressure in a storage tank or receiver constant. A pressure regulator connects the hose supplying the nailer to this receiver or tank.
The nailer draws air from the receiver/tank as it needs. Whenever the pressure in the tank falls below a certain level, the compressor kicks on to supply more air.
There Are Different Compressed Air Unit Styles
Portable compressors, like the ones used to power nailers, exist in four different styles.
This kind of air compressor has a small tank shaped like a gas cylinder. It usually has a tank capacity of up to 3 gallons.
These compressors have a round tank with a flat bottom. They come with tanks that range from four to six gallons.
There are two cylinders on twin-stacked compressors. They hold up to 6 gallons of air.
These compressed air units are bigger, and they have wheels mounted to make moving them around easy. They come with tanks that can hold from 8 gallons to 12 gallons of air.
I will say that the design of the air compressor does not matter. It will not affect the way your nail gun works. What makes the difference in how your nail gun performs are the specs mentioned before.
What Size Air Compressor Is Needed For A Nail Gun
Like compressed air units, nail guns come with their specifications as well. And the best way to find what size air compressor for a nail gun is to match the specs on both pieces of equipment as closely as possible. One of the ways to do that is knowing the different types of nail guns, their purpose, and the power they need to work.
Each of the types of nail guns listed below is a different size. The list names them from smallest to largest.
- Pin nailer
Pin nailers can work using small compressors with a one-gallon capacity and 2.0 CFM.
- Brad nailer
These types of nail guns can work well on a small compressor with a two-gallon tank and 2.0 CFM.
- Finish nailer
A compressor with a two to three-gallon tank and 2.0 CFM is ideal for finish nailers.
- Sheathing staplers
A sheathing stapler will work well using a compressor with a four to six-gallon tank and 4.0 CFM.
- Framing nailer
For best results, use a four to six-gallon tank compressor with 4.0 CFM.
- Roofing nailer
A compressed air unit with a six-gallon tank and 4.0 CFM will do.
Keep in mind that if you want to run four or more of these nail guns together on the same unit, you will need something with more power.
A portable air compressor will not do the job. You need a wheelbarrow air compressor with a tank capacity greater than six gallons. A nail gun like that will also need upwards of six CFM.
Use These Tips To Make Your Nail Use Gun More Efficient
Finding the right size compressor to use with nailers is important. But, there are things you can do to make both these tools work better. You can find these tips listed below.
- Set your compressed air unit to the correct pressure for the tool you want to use.
- Choose the proper trigger.
- Use all necessary safety measures.
The ultimate determiner for what size air compressor for a nail gun has to be the application. What job do you want the nail gun to do?
If you plan to run one small nail gun, or even two, on your compressed air unit, one of the smaller machines will get the job done.
To operate one large nail gun or three or four small ones, you need a compressed air unit with more juice. That’s the only way to get the job done quickly.
Otherwise, you will have to stop and wait for the tank to refill over and over again before you can finish.
Remember, you can use compressed air units with specs that offer more than what your nail gun needs. You will be able to use them longer, without running out of air.