Air Compressor Hose Buyers Guide (Types and Sizes Explained)

Whether you’re thinking about getting a hose for a new compressor or you’re looking to replace an old one, there’s much to consider. When it comes to air compressors, a hose isn’t just a hose. Choosing a hose at random could affect the performance of your air tools. It could also lead to damage to the air hose, depending on the type of environment you work in. 

So before you decide on an air hose for your compressor, check out this air compressor hose buyer’s guide. It’ll tell you everything you need to know about buying the right hose for your needs. 

What to Look for in an Air Compressor Hose

There are four major things to consider when purchasing an air compressor hose. These are:

  • Material – What hose material is best for your needs?
  • Length – How long does your hose need to be?
  • Size – What internal diameter is best for your needs?
  • Type – Would a recoil or standard hose be better?

We’ll also discuss air compressor hose fittings and when/if you should replace old hoses. 

Let’s dive in and talk about the different materials available. 

Hose Materials Explained

There are a surprising number of hose materials out there. Each material has its own pros and cons, each of which can make or break the type of hose for your particular needs. These materials are:

  • PVC
  • Rubber
  • Polyurethane
  • Nylon
  • Hybrid Polymer

1. PVC

PVC is a popular option in many home or garage shops, but its characteristics may not be the best for everyone.

PVC Pros

  • Durability – PVC is a mid-range durable hose material. It can take some damage, but it’s not the most durable hose available. 
  • Price – For those on a budget, PCV is a great option as it’s one of the cheapest air compressor hose options out there. 
  • Weight – This type of hose is also great because it’s not too heavy. In fact, it’s one of the more lightweight options available. 
  • Usage – It’s good for medium-duty usage, which is ideal for most home applications. 

PVC Cons

  • Temperature – PVC becomes brittle in cold weather, so it’s not ideal for use in winter if the shop or garage doesn’t have heat or if you work outside in cold weather. 
  • Flexibility – PVC air hoses are known for coiling and kinking, which can be frustrating.

2. Rubber

Rubber used to be a favorite for air compressor hoses, but they have fallen slightly out of favor in recent years. 

Rubber Pros

  • Durability – Rubber is a bit like PVC in its durability. It’s not the most durable option, but it’s a good mid-range hose in this regard. 
  • Price – Rubber falls in the middle of the price spectrum. It’s not too expensive and not too cheap.
  • Flexibility – Rubber tends to stay flat and not kink. This is a big pro for rubber air hoses. 
  • Usage – Rubber air hoses are great for all kinds of uses, including heavy-duty applications. 

Rubber Cons

  • Weight – Rubber is the heaviest option on the market. This makes it tough to use if you’re lugging it around the shop or garage all day. 
  • Temperature – Rubber isn’t good for use at low temperatures. Rubber air compressor hoses lose their flexibility and become brittle in cold weather. 

3. Polyurethane

Polyurethane hoses are very similar to PVC hoses in their uses and characteristics. It’s a pretty common material used in self-coiling hoses. 

Polyurethane Pros

  • Weight – This is one of the lightest options available, making it ideal for those who transport their compressors often or need to haul the hose around the job site or shop. 
  • Cold Weather – Polyurethane is a great option for use in cold weather. It doesn’t have problems until the temperature drops really low. 
  • Price – Like PVC, polyurethane is one of the cheapest options for compressor air hoses. 
  • Usage – Polyurethane holds up well in high-pressure applications, making it good for a wide variety of uses.

Polyurethane Cons

  • Flexibility – Polyurethane is not as flexible as other options, like rubber and even PVC. This is one reason why it’s good for self-coiling hoses. 
  • Durability – This type of hose is not as durable as others. It’s susceptible to many types of solvents, which makes it risky for use in paint shops. 

4. Nylon

Nylon air compressor hoses are ideal for use in shop settings where they’re used repeatedly for the same thing. 

Nylon Pros

  • Price – Nylon hoses are very inexpensive, making them ideal for certain applications. 
  • Weight – One of the lightest materials available for air hoses.

Nylon Cons

  • Durability – Nylon isn’t as durable as other hoses, and it’s not a good mixture with certain chemicals and polymers. 
  • Flexibility – Nylon is one of the least flexible options on this list. It tends to kink and keeps a memory when it coils, making it difficult to uncoil. 
  • Cold Weather – Nylon starts to have problems around 40-degrees Fahrenheit, which makes it a bad choice for cold weather usage. 

5. Hybrid

Hybrid hoses combine materials to give you the best of all worlds. The most common combo is that of an outer rubber shell and an inner PVC interior. 

Hybrid Pros

  • Flexibility – While not as flexible as rubber, hybrid hoses are pretty flexible compared to other materials. 
  • Durability – Hybrid hoses are very durable and they hold up well for many applications. 
  • Cold Weather – Hybrid hoses hold up very well in cold weather. This makes them great for anyone who works outside in the winter.

Hybrid Cons

  • Price – These are among the most expensive hoses on the market. 
  • Weight – Only rubber is heavier than hybrid, which makes these the second-heaviest air compressor hoses on the market.

What Length Air Compressor Hose Do I Need?

Now that we’ve covered air compressor hose materials, let’s talk about hose length. 

Pressure Loss

This is important because there’s always some unavoidable pressure loss as air moves through any hose. This is called friction loss and is the result of the air interacting with the inside of the hose. The longer the hose, the more friction loss you’ll experience. 

While this won’t matter much if your compressor is capable of a CFM output higher than the requirements for the tool you’re using. But if the air tool you’re using requires a CFM close to what your compressor is capable of, a longer air hose might cause enough pressure loss to affect the tool’s performance. 

Weight

The length of your air hose also contributes to the overall weight of the hose. And if you don’t need a long hose, you will most certainly end up paying more for a hose you don’t use, and, if you move around a lot, a heavy hose you need to lug around for no reason. 

Application

It’s important to think about what you’ll be using the hose for. If you use your compressor mostly at or near a workbench, you won’t need a long hose. On the other hand, if you are constantly moving around a large shop or a construction site, you’ll want a longer hose. 

Remember that a longer hose is preferable to using an extension cord for your compressor, as the wrong size extension cord can cause damage to your compressor’s components.  

What Size Air Compressor Hose Do I Need?

When we talk about the size of an air compressor hose, we’re talking about the internal diameter (ID). The most common sizes are ¼”, ⅜”, and ½”. The larger the internal diameter, the higher the air capacity. As such, air tools that require a higher CFM are generally best used with hoses with a larger internal diameter. Also, the larger the ID of the hose, the less friction loss you will experience. 

So deciding on the correct size of air hose requires that you know the needs of your air tools. For example, a ¼” air hose will be fine for air tools requiring between 1 and 4 CFM. You’ll probably want a ⅜” air hose for tools requiring a CFM above 4. And for really heavy-duty air tools, you’ll probably want to go with a ½” hose.

Standard or Recoil?

You’ve got two options when it comes to air compressor hoses: standard or recoil. Which one will be best for you depends on your needs. Let’s take a look at each of these. 

Standard Air Hose

Standard hoses allow for more mobility because they aren’t fixed into coils like recoil hoses. This can be both a benefit and a drawback, depending on your usage. Standard hoses need to be stored properly lest they get in the way in the garage or shop. 

If a standard air hose is what you need, you can’t go wrong with this one.

This heavy-duty, lightweight air hose is great for a variety of uses. It’s 50-feet long with a ¼” internal diameter. It’s flexible, cold-weather resistant, and abrasion-resistant. It comes with quick-coupler fittings so you don’t need to buy additional fittings. It also comes with a 2-year limited warranty. 

Recoil Air Hose

Recoil hoses look like big springs that can stretch out. This makes them somewhat limited in mobility. They can cause resistance when nearing the end of their length, and the coils can get caught on corners and objects. However, they hold their shape, which makes them easier to store, making them preferred by factories and shops, where they’re left hanging from above the workbenches. 

If you need a hose that you can move around the shop, a standard hose may be best. But if you’ll be working in a relatively small area and are worried about space, a recoil house could be the best thing for you. 

This polyurethane recoil air hose stretches to 25-feet and snaps back into shape easily for quick storage. It comes with ¼” universal coupler and I/M type plugs. It’s lightweight and smooth so it won’t scratch surfaces. 

Are Air Compressors Hoses Universal?

Most air compressor hoses come with standard fittings that will allow you to attach one end to your air compressor and the other to your tool. However, although these are standard, they’re not considered “universal.” This means you may need to buy fittings to attach your hose to some air tools. 

However, most air tools for home use are compatible with the standard male and female quick-release couplers that allow you to change tools quickly while enjoying a minimal pressure loss out of the coupler. 

If you’re not sure whether your hose will be compatible with your tools, you can always buy a hose with an accessory kit to cover all your bases. 

When Should You Replace Your Air Hoses?

A common question about air compressor hoses is how often you should replace them. It really depends on what’s wrong with the hose. Most industrial-grade hoses have a lifetime of five to ten years. However, this doesn’t mean that you won’t need a new hose before this time. 

Common hose damage and defects include things like:

  • A pinhole leak, puncture, or cut anywhere on the hose
  • A defective fitting or coupler
  • A twist or kink you can’t fix

If you’re getting more than normal pressure loss, you’ll have to determine if it’s coming from the hose, the connector, the air tool, or the compressor itself. It is more likely for a hose to be defective and cause air loss than a well-cared-for compressor. 

You may also want to get a new hose if your current hoses aren’t right for the job at hand. For example, if you only have a ¼” hose and you’re trying to use a new air tool with a high CFM requirement, you may want to get a larger diameter hose. 

Conclusion

As you can see, there’s a lot to consider when it comes to purchasing an air hose for a compressor. Things like length, size, material, and type are all factors to consider. If you’re using your compressor for simple things around the house, it won’t matter too much what type of hose you use. 

But if you’ll be using it in an unheated garage or shop, you’ll want to get a cold weather-resistant hose material. And if you don’t need a long hose, you won’t need to spend the extra money to get one. 

I hope this air compressor hose buyer’s guide has helped you determine what kind of hose is right for your needs!

Justin

Justin is a full-time blogger with a passion for anything DIY. When he's not hanging out with his wife and son, you can find him putting the finishing touches on yet another home project he's taken on. He's also the creator of AllAboutAirCompressors.com.