Air compressor: Which to choose Oil filled or oil free design

adkinsca(AL)July 3, 2008

I am considering purchasing an air compressor for light home use. It will only be used occasionally, and I wanted to get opinions as to which type unit to buy. I am not necessarily limited to the two models in this post, but these are the types of compressor I am considering.

I have liked this Husky model from Home Depot for several years. It has a 26 gallon tank, with a single stage oil-filled cast iron compressor.

The other style that seems more popular is the oil free pump, similar to this unit from sears. It also is a 26 gallon tank.

I have attached pictures of the two units that are mentioned here. Cost isn't that big of a driver. I want something that will last well with limited use, and operate in an effective and satisfying manner. My assumptions going into this are that the oil filled pump would be considerably quieter, and that the oil-filled would last much longer.

It seems however that there are many more oil-free units of this type being produced, so I wanted to get some opinions from users of either or both type. Maybe my assumptions aren't valid. I have seen oil-free designs that are portable with ~25 gallon tanks from DeWalt, Kobalt, Campbell-Hausfeld, etc. The oil free designs also seem to typically have a higher Max PSI rating. Thanks...

Example pictures of a couple of the compressors...

Oil free design...

Husky cast iron oil filled compressor...

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
canguy(British Columbia)

The oil free units are cheaper but are quite noisy and limited in output. IMHO, the cast iron oil bath pumps are the way to go. Be aware there are no parts and service centers available for the Husky, H-D is the only outlet.If it gives problems you are on your own and no, it is NOT made by Husqvarna.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2008 at 10:42PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Oil free are usually cheaper and lighter. They're also better if your primary application is paint spraying. However they're noisy and don't hold up very well.

Cast iron, belt driven, oil lubricated compressor are far superior in durability. For spraying paint you'll just need to add a drier to the output.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2008 at 9:46AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Oil filled compressors are the best type to have and use. The oil-free are for occasional tire filling, blowing dust off your work, or maybe spraying some weed killer on yer garden. but, for trouble free use, the type with the cast iron or aluminum block, which has to have the oil changed occasionally, and checked frequently, is better in the long run. Better for impact guns, air sanders, air grinders, anything for which you will need the punch of lots of supplied air. 2 cylinder is best.
the other thing to consider is this: Cubic feet per minute! The higher, the better! Commonly called CFM. The higher the better, as the compressor will be better able to keep up with air use. The cheaper compressors have an added appendage to CFM, which i can't recall at this time. It is designed to fool the uninformed into making them think it is better than CFM, which is advertising palaver!

    Bookmark   July 4, 2008 at 1:10PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Why do yo need one that big? I would shop around, ebay has them by the hundreds for atleast half price new. some are so cheap you pay more for shipping. More HP the bigger the extension cord has to be, unless it's 220V. they pull alot of amps especially beyond 80 PSI when the pressure and load on the motor builds.

Unless you are plannig on running air tools and do alot of painting or blowing you won't need a high dollar huge tank one IMO.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2008 at 6:11PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks for the advice on this topic. The comments about getting the oil-filled compressor confirmed my suspicions that I would be happier going that route. I ended up finding a used Husky on craigslist that is the same model number (VT6315) as the model shown in the pic at the top of this email. It has a 26 gallon tank with a cast iron 2 cylinder oil-filled compressor.
One concern raised was that parts for the Husky would be hard to find, but this is not the case. The compressor is built by Campbell Hausfeld, and parts are readily available at any place which carries CH parts. The model number VT6315 can be entered on the CH website to get the manuals, parts lists, etc. The compressor pump is CH model VT2030, and again parts are readily available if I should ever need any.
When I was looking around, I was actually surprised how many compressors were basically identical except paint color. This same basic unit has been made under the brand names of Campbell Hausfeld, Husky, Maxus, and Speedaire by Dayton at a minimum.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2008 at 12:25PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
tomhoffman(NE Iowa)

When I was going to build a house, I asked the local lumber yard. What do all the contractors around here use.

They told me about the Rol-Air. It was definitely a good decision. It has been in heavy use for almost 8 years now and it just keeps going. It will run a pair of roofing nail guns as fast as you want to go or it will run a DA Sander, or it will handle a Texture gun for drywall, as well as all the normal small air compressor tasks around the shop. Very portable. Easy to carry around and never seems to be down on pressure. All in All a very good tool.

Here is a link that might be useful: Rol-Air

    Bookmark   August 5, 2008 at 7:23PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I agree that the oil sump type is better. I just rebuilt an oil-free type for a friend. They have a single teflon type ring and a coated cylinder. Most run open crankcase designs and are prone to failure. They are noisy too. Good luck with you new Husky.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2008 at 12:44AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Rdaytrom mentnions a good point of open crankcase - My pump was ruined when mudbugs made a cacoon in the cylinder scoring the walls and teflon ring.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2008 at 2:06PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I purchased a Rolair Model 5520K70, 1.5HP 2 cylinder 20 gal compressor. The Rolair brand is expensive, but they are commercial quality. It is probably more than I need, but I am very satisfied with my purchase. Charles Ranheim

    Bookmark   August 6, 2008 at 4:03PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I looked up the Rolair. It has a better air delivery specs than the Husky I bought (6.9 cfm@100psi vs. 5.8 cfm@90psi). Charles, does this look like yours? It indeed looks to be a commercial quality compressor. I looked at the schematics for this Rolair as well, and it looks to be built extremely well. As you said, they are expensive. It looks like it is about double the price of the Husky if both are purchased new. The Rolair is definitely built to a higher standard that the Husky.

I also attached a photo of my Husky. It is the same model number as the one at the top of the page (VT6315), but they have reconfigured it a little in the recent versions to make it slightly more compact. I think mine is probably 4 years old. The air delivery specs have been revised a little in the newer model as well. It is rated at 5.5 cfm@90psi instead of 5.8cfm. At any rate, for me, this compressor is probably more than I will ever need, but I wanted to get one larger than I thought I would need instead of the other way around. I got a 25' hose, a 1/2" impact wrench, and a few assorted small attachments (like an air gun & tire chuck) in the deal.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2008 at 10:25PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
masiman(z7 VA)

Rol-air and Thomas are both good manufacturers.

The decision for non-pro users becomes, will I spend half as much and hope I like the compressor enough and just buy a new one in few years when it dies, or do I spend alot of bucks now?

As long as it serves you well and lasts a reasonable length of time, the box store variety compressor can be a great deal.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2008 at 11:30PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I noticed the Husky you pruchased has a three year warranty. The Rolair I purchased has a one year warranty. I think this is because they are mainly used commercially. The one I have looks exactly like the picture on their website. It is very well made. In some of the write-ups I've seen on "Why buy a Rolair?", they say all the components are pre-tested, and they run a final test before shipping to make sure there are no leaks, the pressures are OK, and the current draw is normal. It has a large motor that runs at the lower 1755 rpm. I spoke with the tech support people, and they seem to take great pride in their products. I certainly expect it to outlast me. I never heard of Rolair until I began asking around for recommendations on a reliable compressor. I'm sure you will be satisfied with your Husky. Take care, Charles Ranheim

    Bookmark   August 7, 2008 at 10:00PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I didn't notice any comments on breathing or water blow-out use. If you are ever going to blow out water lines or use the air in a confined place where you will probably breath some of the comptessed air ... oil machines generally have oil contamination in the compressed air even if you run it through a cleaner. Do not blow out your camper trailer water lines with anything that might put oil in the pipes you will be drinking water out of next year.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2008 at 8:50PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I have both types. The oil filled is quieter and will last longer, but for the occassional user, I don't think how long it last will be an issue. Another thing to consider with oil filled compressors are where you store them. If temps get really cold, the oil can thicken up and cause problems.

I bought a cheapo UST 4.3 gallon unit for my basement to run my nail guns. I think the cheapo ones from china are not balanced that great, because this thing moves around. As the saying goes, you get what you pay for. I don't care though, its works when I need it and I only paid $69 after all the rebates from pep boys.

Now my craftsman 30 gallon oil less compressor is another story. I paid alot more for this unit. Its loud, but it can support all my air tools. It runs my nailers, air gun, air ratchet, and air hammer. It will run my die grinder, but the die grinder empties the tank rather quickly so the compressor is running constantly. I usually let it cool off after a few minutes so I don't overwork the compressor. When I bought this compressor I didn't think I would own a die grinder, but things change. I don't use my die grinder that often so its not much of a problem.

Honestly, whether its oil filled or oil less is not that big of an issue for the once in a while user. Making sure your compressor is big enough to run you most air comsuming tool is. Most people focus on oil filled vs oil less, but in my eyes cfm and the duty cycle are more important. It doen't matter if your compressor is oil filled but can't support your tools. Its not much fun waiting for the tank to fill so you can run you tools for about 30 seconds, then stop to let it fill up etc.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2008 at 8:45AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I found one interesting thing about the Rolair compressors after I purchased mine. There is a feature you can get that allows it to run continously instead of the starting and stopping being controlled by the upper and lower limits of the control switch. The reason for this is that it is easier on the motor to run continously than starting over and over in a short period. This could cause the motor to overheat. The guidelines say the motor should not be required to start more than 15 times in an hour. That would be every 4 minutes. At first, it sounded like it might be a problem for me, but after thinking about it, my compressor would not be starting more often than that in my applications. If I were to use a large quantity of air, it probably would not cycle off for a while (until I stopped using the air). If I used small quantities of air, it would not cycle on very often. My compressor has a 20 gallon tank with a working pressure of 115 to 135psi. I use a lot of air when I am blowing loose paint, and little air when inflating tires or using an air wrench. No matter how I use it, the motor does not get hot at all. Do other brands of compressors have this 15 starts/minute restriction? I would have to go out of my way to overheat the motor the way I use it. I like my RolAir very much, and would buy it again if I needed another one. Charles Ranheim

    Bookmark   September 19, 2008 at 2:45PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I had an old Quincy, never had a problem with it till some A%%H&L% stole it. IMO Quincy is the top of the line in air compressor's been around for 70 years I think. If I wanted the the best money could buy it would be a Quincy QR-25.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2008 at 9:47PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

My sears oil free compressor is 13 years old now. It sees VERY occasional use. It has been trouble-free.

But it is VERY loud. If I were a regular air-tool user I would probably replace it with a quality unit like those mentioned above.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2008 at 12:59PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Oiled vs. Oil-less Air Compressors
Air compressors draw air in with a piston. The air is then compressed into a storage tank. For maximum efficiency, the piston chamber needs adequate lubrication, for which oil is used. These are oil air compressors. However, in oil-free compressors, the cylinder is pre-lubricated (mostly with Teflon) for permanent lubrication. The Teflon coating protects the pump. That's the major difference. While oil compressors need regular oiling, the latter doesn't require any lubrication.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   October 17, 2014 at 4:25AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

heads up for oil free pumps - do not store it outside. Even if in garage and only use it occasionally, watch for mud bugs (or whatever they are called) because they can get into the underside of the cylinder, they build a cocoon?? in my cylinder totally scoring it ruining the pump.
I got an oil pump instead- being enclosed that wont happen again.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2014 at 11:50PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Testing the new format X allowing multiple attachments.
I am back to two Lexan chain guides due to a chain...
Craftsman Snowblower Recall
Did anyone else receive a recall notice in the mail...
2-cycle engine troubleshooting
My 2-cycle blower cannot be started. There is a hot...
Electrolytic Rust Removal
Has anyone tried this, using a battery charger, "washing...
Troy Bilt Horse Drive Shaft Bearings
I took my horse apart because the front transmission...
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™