Air Compressor Vs Air Pump [What the Difference?]

Air compressors and air pumps are useful commodities that come in handy commercially or for daily use. Both the devices work on almost the same principle that is pushing air out with pressure. However, they aren’t entirely the same. Air compressors are big machines that are used commercially and for industrial use.

On the contrary, air pumps are compact tools that are used to pump air manually. You must have seen air pumps at bicycle workshops and homes to pump air in the bicycle tires and sometimes to aerate aquariums. We will see how an air compressor and air pump are similar and dissimilar to each other and their uses.

Air Compressor

Air compressors are pneumatic devices that are durably built and are electrically powered to push air out with pressure. Sometimes, air compressors also use engines to function. These machines draw in a large amount of air through an inlet to compress it. After that, this compressed air is forced through an outlet hose pipe which is released at extreme pressure.

You can also take an example of a balloon for clear understanding. A lot of pressure is created when you blow air into a balloon till it reaches its total capacity. Once the balloon’s capacity is overwhelmed, it explodes, releasing pressurized air.

Air compressors have various uses commercially and non commercially. For instance, they are used to fill gas cylinders with clean air. Other than that, they are also in the paint industry. The paint is mixed with compressed air, which is then sprayed on the surface for an even, mess-free and convenient application.

Moreover, they are also used as pneumatic tools such as jackhammers, power wrenches, and much more to bring convenience into your life. There are certain types of air compressors, for instance, positive displacement air compressors and dynamic displacement air compressors.

Positive displacement air compressors include rotary screw, rotary vane, and reciprocating types air compressors. On the other hand, dynamic displacement air compressors include axial and centrifugal types. These air compressors are built for the same purpose; however, they are operated on different modes and principles.

Air Pump

As the name suggests, an air pump is simply a pump that pushes out air and requires manual operation. An air pump is usually used to inflate the bike’s tires and aerate aquariums, and much more. These pumps are convenient, easy to use, and store.

It consists of a long cylinder, piston, inlet valve, outlet valve, and a handle. When you move the handle upward, the piston rises, and the air is drawn inwards through the inlet. Once the cylinder is filled with air, you push down the handle, which lowers the piston to increase pressure. Air is liberated through the hose when the valve opens to create pressure.

You can also find compact and handy air pumps that are operated with electric power. The air exerted through an electrical air pump isn’t as pressurized as the large air compressors, although they operate on the same methodology.

They are also used as inflating tires, aquariums, and ponds using air stones. It uses electrical energy to suck in air which is then moved by impellers, blades, or crankshafts to generate pressure.

Air Compressor Vs. Air Pump, Which Is Better?

You cannot say if an air compressor is better or an air pump because both devices offer multiple uses. However, the air compressor takes the lead because it offers a lot of purposes. Air compressors are used on commercial as well as non-commercial levels.

For instance, they are used in car wash workshops, agricultural plants, the paint industry, etc. In addition to that, they generate a lot of power, and the air is liberated with a lot of pressure. That doesn’t mean air pumps have no use. There are certain things that cannot be done using air compressors.

For example, you cannot use big air compressors to inflate your bicycle’s tires. You can only do that using air pumps; moreover, you can also use air pumps to aerate aquariums. Air pumps can be found in almost all the workshops to inflate small tires.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does an air compressor work?

Air compressors work by drawing in air through an open valve which is then compressed inside the container where pressure is built. This compressed air is released via a hose pipe with extreme pressure, which can be used for various purposes. There are many types of air compressors that work on slightly different principles but grant the same purpose.

How does an air pump work?

The air pump has a simple operation that is drawing in air and then letting it out with pressure. It consists of an elongated cylindrical container, a handle, valves, piston, air inlet, and hose pipe. When you pull the handle up, the air is drawn into the cylinder via the inlet. When you push the handle down, the piston moves down, creating pressure on the air, which is forced through a hose pipe.

Is an air compressor dangerous?

Air compressors aren’t dangerous generally, but accidents might happen if operated without care. There have been instances of explosions caused by compressed air, which has caused death in people due to air embolism. Other than that, high-pressure air also causes your organs and eardrums to rupture, causing internal bleeding and eventually death. Therefore, you should always wear protective gear when dealing with high-capacity air compressors.

Watch the video to know more about Air Compressor Vs Air Pump


Air compressors have been a necessity in many fields; similarly, there are many jobs that cannot be done without an air pump. The general functioning principle of both the devices is the same, that is, exerting pressurized air.

However, air compressors are advanced machines operated by motors and engines and draw in large amounts of air. Moreover, they are generally used for commercial and industrial purposes as they can exert air at very high pressure. On the contrary, air pumps have non-commercial uses and are manually operated.

The air exerted through air pumps doesn’t have as much pressure as air compressors have. We have discussed these devices in detail in the above section, their uses, and how they work.

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