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difference between air compressor and air pump

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    Most people tend to confuse air compressors with air pumps. The two words are sometimes even used interchangeably. They may look similar, but they are still very different. Knowing the difference between the two is crucial, especially if you want to wholesale the right tool for your business.

    In this post, we’ve discussed the difference between an air compressor and an air pump.

    air compressor

    What is an air compressor?

    An air compressor is a more powerful device that takes air/gas at low pressure, converts it into very high-pressure air/gas, and stores it in a tank.

    Whenever you need this stored high-pressure air, you can use it from the tank. When you run out of pressurized air in the tank, you can start the compressor again to fill the tank with high-pressure air.

    While you can use an air compressor to inflate balls, tires, and mattresses just like an air pump, you can do more than that because of its high pressure. An essential application of air compressors is to power air tools such as wrenches and hammers.

    The automotive industry depends heavily on air compressors and air tools. Compressed and high-pressure air will power the tool; you don’t need electricity. You may have seen spray painting devices that also use air compressors.

    How do air compressors work?

    Air compressors work by forcing air into a container and pressurizing it. The air is then pushed through an opening in the tank, where pressure builds up.

    They are powered by engines that convert electrical energy into kinetic energy. It is similar to how an internal combustion engine works, using a crankshaft, pistons, valves, cylinder heads, and connecting rods.

    From there, pressurized air can be used to power various tools. Some popular options are impact wrenches, nail guns, paint sprayers, and sanders.

    Uses of air compressor

    Air compressors are used for many different types of jobs:

    • To power air tools
    • Air compressors provide a large amount of medium pressure air to drive pneumatic, such as jackhammers
    • In paint sprayers
    • Filling all kinds of tires
    • Draining water from irrigation systems or pipes so that it does not freeze in winter
    • Supplying high-pressure clean air to fill cylinders
    • Providing air to underwater divers
    • Filling the high-pressure air tanks

    Air pump

    What is an air pump?

    An air pump is an electric device that absorbs atmospheric air and converts it into slightly higher-pressure air. This high-pressure air can be used to inflate balls, tires, balloons, air mattresses, pool beds, etc. We also use small air pumps to aerate the water in aquariums and ponds.

    When you need high-pressure air, you connect the air pump to the power source, turn it on and start using the high-pressure air it comes out of. There is no storage system because everything is instantaneous.

    How do air pumps work?

    Air pumps work by pushing air through a small hole. Like a water pipe with a small hole, the air is pushed out at a higher pressure. Most air pumps use a piston driven by an electric motor to push air out of the machine. But you can also equip your car with a manual air pump, such as a bicycle pump or a pedal pump. Air pumps are used in many applications, such as bathrooms or aquariums.

    Uses of air pump

    Air pumps are used in many different applications. You’ll find them in bathrooms and houses to refresh the air in the aquarium, adding oxygen to the water. Other uses include filling bikes or car tires; many pumps are manually operated. The same types of air pumps are used to fill footballs and other balls or air mattresses.


    What is the difference between an air pump and an air compressor?

    It is clear from the discussion above that although both air pumps and compressors differ significantly in their basic operation and output pressure. But what is the actual difference between an air pump and an air compressor? Let’s discuss this in detail.

    Internal parts

    An air pump is a simple device with minimal parts and structure. A common electric air pump consists of a small electric motor, impeller, diaphragm, piston, and housing.

    Air compressors are more complex devices. A common electric air compressor consists of a large electric motor, pump, storage tank, drainage system, pressure controller, intake filter, valve, etc. In the case of a fuel-driven air compressor, there would be an engine instead of an electric motor and all the corresponding components associated with the engine.


    Air pumps and air compressors work very differently. In an air pump, the diaphragm turns with the motor when the motor turns. The diaphragm’s shape is odd; as it rotates, it creates a pressure difference between the intake and the output. This converts low-pressure air from the surrounding environment into slightly higher-pressure air and delivers it through a small nozzle. You can utilize this high-pressure air to inflate items.

    Air compressors are entirely different. There are many different types of air compressors and each of which works differently. Keeping it short, a simple air compressor has an electric motor operating pistons. This piston reciprocates in the cylinder and reduces the volume of air. As the volume decreases, the pressure increases. This high-pressure air can then be stored in a tank for later use.


    Air pumps are simple devices with low output pressure. So we use them to inflate balloons, car/motorcycle tires, air beds/mattresses, etc. Another primary application for air pumps is inflating small ponds and aquariums to pump air into the water.

    Although air pumps mainly generate high-pressure air, we can also use some pumps to push fluids such as foam, water, soap, etc.

    Everything an air pump can do, can also be done by an air compressor. But the nice thing about having high-pressure air is that you can use it to drive tools. Air tools run on compressed air, so as long as there are air tools such as nailers, wrenches, hammers, etc.), air compressor will be used.

    We also use air compressors in big vehicles such as buses, trucks, and trains to operate the air brakes. Paint guns also use compressed air to send high-pressure paint.


    For air pumps, no maintenance is required as they have fewer components and are relatively simple to operate.

    With a fuel-powered air compressor, you must take all the necessary maintenance steps as you would with an internal combustion engine. While electric motors are relatively maintenance-free, you must empty the tank that stores high-pressure air from time to time. This is because, under the action of high-pressure air and humidity, water forms in the tank and slowly fills it up. This can cause rusting in the tank.

    Output capacity

    The output pressure of the air pump is minimal. A tire inflator can deliver about 50 psi, while an air-inflaters for mattresses provides less pressure. But an air compressor is another story.

    Even the smallest air compressor can efficiently deliver 100 – 150 psi. Slightly larger machines that drive power tools can provide higher pressures.


    Air pumps are very cheap. You can buy air pumps that inflate mattresses and beds for $20 to $25.

    Regarding air compressors, a small electric air compressor for a home can cost around $110 to $150—slightly larger air compressors with one horsepower or more cost over $250. But BISON is air compressor manufacuter in China, we will provide you with the best air compressor at the factory direct price

    Air Pump Vs. Air Compressor – Which Should You Buy

    Choosing between an air pump and an air compressor can be challenging. Both have pros and cons, and ultimately it depends on your specific needs and which one is best for you.

    Air pumps are smaller, lighter, and less expensive than air compressors. It’s also easier to use, making it an excellent option for small projects or those just starting out with air tools.

    Air compressors are heavier and more expensive than air pumps but are more powerful and can be used for larger projects. It is also better suited for use with power tools.

    Ultimately, the decision between an air pump and an air compressor comes down to personal preference and the project’s specific needs. Before making a decision, consider the size of the project, the capabilities of the tools you will use, and your experience level.


    Now that we have reached the end of this article, we hope it was helpful and gave you a clear understanding of the difference between an air pump and an air compressor.

    BISON offers a comprehensive line of air compressors to meet you all air tools. To learn more about our suite of compressed air products and components and allow us to offer custom recommendations, contact us today at [email protected]. Our customer service experts are here for you now and in the future.

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