Ever purchased one of those really expensive compressed air canisters to air-dust your PC only to find out that one is barely enough? If you do the maths, a can of compressed air is seriously expensive considering you can get an air compressor for the price of 10 cans of compressed air.

So why would you even want an air compressor at home? In the grand scheme of things, air compressors aren't very expensive and have a myrid of uses. Our most affordable 2-horsepower (hp), 24-litre (L) EzyLif HP2 sells for RM338 while a slightly bigger 2.5hp, 40L model, the HP25 goes for RM451. EuroPower even makes a 3hp, 60L model, the GAX3060/EAX3060 for RM487.

With only a basic air hose and air gun, you can..

  • Blow off the dust bunnies inside your computer casing, car or even the ducting on your motorcycle helmet.
  • If you're into detailing, you can use the compressed air to quickly blow dry your car or motorcycle to prevent water spots from forming. You can even blow off dried residue from your polishing pads.
  • With a separate tyre adaptor and pressure gauge, you can air up your car or bike tyre at home - when your tyres are cold.
  • For hardcore mountain bikers, an air compressor also does a great deal to get excess water off (which prevents rusts from forming) after washing off all the mud.
  • The high-pressure air goes a long way to blow dry soaked riding shoes, boots or hiking boots.
  • A few shots of compressed air into the spark plug wells would typically blow out any sand particles from falling into your combustion chamber prior to removing and replacing your spark plugs.
  • Likewise, you can also blow dust off your air filter (inside out) to lengthen its service intervals (although manufacturers today frown upon such practices as they claim the high-pressure air would damage the fibres of the filter - either that or they just want to sell you more air filters).
  • You could blow out the ingrained dirt in your carpet and impress your significant other at the same time (this typically is a good excuse to justify buying an air compressor, let's just leave out the mountain biking and car detailing bits).
  • You can get back at your pesky neighbour who spent all night partying (while you're trying to sleep) the next morning.
  • Impress your buddies that you have an air compressor at home!

So what's the catch.. Why are they so cheap?

The under RM500 segment of portable air compressors are mostly dominated by the Chinese or Taiwanese piston-type air compressors. The piston-type air compressors have cooling fins which look and work very much like an air-cooled motorcycle cylinder block. 

An engine is basically an over-glorified air pump - the only difference between an air compressor and your typical four-stroke engine is the fact that no combustion takes place inside an air compressor.

How much would it cost to maintain an air compressor?

Apart from electricity and dusting out the air compressor's air filter every now and then, you would also need to change the oil twice or once a year depending on your usage. Generally, air compressor oils are inexpensive and typically costs about as much as a mineral-based motor oil per litre. In a pinch, you can even use a non-detergent 30W motor oil (if you can still find those) as substitute. 

Much like your engine, piston-type air compressors rely on oil for lubrication, sealing and cooling. The air compressor oil, graded by their ISO rating, e.g, ISO100, is somewhat similar to an SAE 30W oil in viscosity but differs slightly in the sense that it doesn't have detergents as there's no combustion within a compressor.

The problem with using regular motor oil is the detergents/dispersants which are intended to remove the byproducts of internal combustion would tend to foam up. Foam is bad in an air compressor simple because it can cause a loss of lubrication when entrained air, in the form of foamy oil, comes into contact with the air compressor's metal innards.

The scope of this article only covers the basic air gun and tyre valve adaptor and the basic piston-type air compressors, however the possibility are as endless as the types of air-powered tools available in the market today.