Skip to Content

Are Air Compressors Electric? (Are They Best?)

Air compressors are a type of power tool that is commonly used in various industries, such as automotive repair and construction. They are used to provide pressurized air for a variety of purposes, such as inflating tires, powering pneumatic tools, and aiding in the operation of other machines.

Although an air compressor tank can be used at facilities and never moved it will sometimes be thrown on the back of a truck by contractors and used on a job site as well. Depending on how you plan on using your air compressor will depend on the specifications that you will want with an air compressor.

Large vertical air compressors are a good choice for indoor use or to be mounted to the back of a truck and used for a construction site. However, you will have to power those compressors (no matter where you use them at).

The question of whether air compressors are electric or not depends largely on what type of compressor you have. In this article, we’ll take a look at the different types of air compressors and answer the question “Are air compressors electric?”

Types of Air Compressors

There are two main types of air compressors: piston and rotary screw. Piston compressors use pistons to create compressed air from atmospheric pressure while rotary screw compressors use rotating screws to do the same thing.

Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important to choose the right compressor for your needs.

Piston Air Compressors

Piston air compressors use pistons to create compressed air by drawing in outside air and then compressing it inside the cylinder chamber. This type of compressor typically runs on electricity the majority of the time.

Although not all piston air compressors are electrically powered the majority of them are. That means they can be plugged into a standard outlet. However, there are a few piston air compressor models that run on gasoline or diesel fuel instead.

Rotary Screw Air Compressors

Rotary screw compressors use rotating screws to generate compressed air from atmospheric pressure. This type of compressor is also powered by either an electric motor or a diesel engine.

Electric motors are more common because they require less maintenance and produce less noise than diesel engines. Electric rotary screw compressors come in both single-stage and two-stage models, depending on how much pressure is needed for the application.

Are Air Compressors Electric?

When talking about buying air compressors it is important to know whether you can only get them powered by electricity or whether some of them are powered by another fuel source.

Piston air compressors are usually electric while rotary screw compressors can be either electric or diesel-powered. So although many air compressors are electric powered there are also some heavy-duty compressors that use gasoline or diesel fuel to start and run as well.

So you can find and purchase air compressors that use electricity (what many top brands offer) as well as more powerful stationary air compressors (with more horsepower and durability) that are diesel-powered.

If homeowners have some small projects around the garage, they won’t need a lot of HP so getting an electric air compressor that holds 10-15 gallons will be plenty of airflow. However, if you intend to use your compressor for construction, whole-house painting, etc. you will want to get a larger 30 or 80-gallon air compressor.

And if you are doing construction projects off-grid (or a long way away from plugs) then getting a diesel compressor will provide you the versatility that you need.

Electric Vs Diesel Air Compressors

Electric and diesel air compressors are two of the most common types of power supply used for compressing air. Each type has its own advantages and drawbacks, making them ideal for different applications.

The first difference between electric and diesel air compressors is their power source. Electric compressors use an electric motor to generate compressed air while diesel engines use a combustion engine to generate compressed air.

Electric-powered compressors have the advantage of being quieter, more environmentally friendly, and more efficient than their diesel counterparts.

Electric air compressors are also typically cheaper to purchase and easier to maintain. However, they require a reliable power source in order to operate, making them unsuitable for remote locations where access to electricity may be limited or unavailable.

Diesel-powered compressors offer higher power output than electric models but are generally noisier and less efficient. They also tend to be more expensive upfront as well as having higher running costs due to fuel expenses.

On the other hand, diesel engines can be used in remote areas where electricity is not available, making them suitable for many off-grid applications. Additionally, they often require less maintenance than electric models due to their simpler design.

When choosing between electric and diesel-powered air compressors, it is important to consider your needs and budget carefully before making a decision. Electric compressors are usually more affordable upfront and more efficient while diesel-powered models offer greater power output but at a higher cost.

Consider the usage requirements of your project before deciding which type of compressor will best suit your needs.

Pros and Cons of Electric Air Compressors


  • More efficient than gas-powered air compressors
  • Quieter operation compared to gas-powered air compressors
  • Easier to maintain and use
  • Less expensive to operate in the long run
  • Lower initial cost compared to gas-powered air compressors


  • Limited mobility due to being connected to an electrical outlet
  • Slower recovery time between uses
  • Regular maintenance is required to ensure that electric air compressors continue to operate safely and efficiently over time.

Pros And Cons Of Diesel Air Compressors


  • Higher efficiency and longer run time than a gas compressor
  • Reduced emissions compared to gasoline-powered engines
  • Lower fuel costs than gasoline engines
  • More power for larger jobs
  • Can operate in extreme temperatures
  • Increased portability (if you need a portable air compressor a diesel-powered one is best)


  • Noisier than electric compressors
  • More expensive upfront cost than electric compressors
  • Requires more maintenance than electric compressors
  • Longer warm-up times than electric compressors
  • Difficult to find replacement parts

Final Thoughts

So, are air compressors electric? Generally speaking, most piston air compressors are electrically powered while rotary screw models can be either electric or diesel-powered depending on their design and purpose.

It’s important to read the manual carefully before using any kind of air compressor so that you know what kind of power source is required for it to work properly as well as learn all the necessary maintenance and upkeep needed for your compressor.