Air compressors are great for a bevy of projects. They’re so useful, most homeowners and renters have at least a small compressor in their garage or workshop. They can inflate bike and car tires, blow up rafts and sports balls, run air tools, and even facilitate painting jobs. But anyone who has ever been around a compressor has walked away with ringing ears thanks to the loud operation of these machines. Luckily, there are many ways to make an air compressor quieter. And they’re easier than you think!
How Loud Are Air Compressors?
Most air compressors available on the market have noise levels measured in the 40 to 90 decibel range. While 40 decibels isn’t very loud, anything above 85 decibels can cause permanent hearing damage.
Anyone who has been around an air compressor knows they’re loud. But how loud are they? And how loud is too loud? Should you worry about the health of your ears when working around an air compressor? We’ll answer these questions and more in this section.
Sound is measured in decibels. The higher the decibels, the louder the sound. And at a certain point, decibels can damage your hearing. So in order to understand how important it is to make your air compressor quieter, we need to understand how loud they really are.
OSHA says that noise levels above 85 decibels (dB) can cause permanent hearing damage. To give you an example, if you were to stand 100 feet away from a passing freight train, you would experience a sound level around 80 decibels. Around the 130 to 140 dB level, the average human experiences pain due to the noise level.
How Loud is Too Loud for a Compressor?
Most compressors — especially those for home use — won’t cause permanent hearing damage. But that isn’t the only consideration. You have other people around to think about, like those in your own family and your neighbors. You may want to dampen the compressor’s sound for your own sake, as the noise can make it difficult for some people to focus. For others, the noise causes headaches.
So determining how loud is too loud is really up to you and those around you. Most air compressors fall into the 70 to 80 dB range, which is just loud enough to be quite annoying for those around.
Why Are Air Compressors So Loud?
There are many factors that make air compressors loud. These include vibration, air intake, exhaust, placement, and materials. You can address one or all of these factors to make your compressor quieter.
All air compressors vibrate to some extent. The more violent the vibrations, the more noise the compressor is liable to make, especially if it’s placed on a hard floor.
Air compressors need to be able to pull in air in order to work. After all, their whole job is to compress air. And air intake is one of the loudest factors contributing to the overall noise level during operation.
Just as the air intake of a compressor generates noise, so does the exhaust. This combines with the other factors to contribute to the noise-generation of the unit.
Where the air compressor is placed is another factor. If it’s in a large, empty room, it’s likely that the noise the compressor generates will be echoed off the walls, making the noise worse than it otherwise would be. Luckily, there are easy ways to reduce this noise factor.
Materials and Type
There are many different types of air compressors. Some of them are made with built-in sound dampening materials or designed for quiet operation. Oil-free compressors tend to be a little bit louder than oil-lubricated models. Additionally, cheaply made models tend to be louder than high-quality compressors.
Gas-powered air compressors are louder than electric compressors, so if you’re looking for a quiet compressor, electric is generally the better option.
How to Make an Air Compressor Quieter
Now that you know what makes air compressors so noisy, let’s cover ways to eliminate some of that noise so that you can work without the loud and irritating cacophony caused by an air compressor.
1. Move the Air Intake
Since the air intake is one of the loudest parts of the compressor, it’s worth it to move the air intake outside. If you have a portable compressor, all you’ll need is a longer hose and maybe an extension cord.
By moving the compressor outside of your shop or garage, you won’t have to deal with the noise of the air compressor inside. The noise will dissipate when there are no obstructions for the sound waves to bounce off. Plus, the further you are from the compressor, the less noise you’ll have to deal with.
You can also install plumbing and a remote intake filter that is located outside. This will work to reduce the noise from the air intake, although it’s a bit of work just to knock a few decibels off your air compressor noise.
2. Use an Intake Silencer
A bit of an easier option to reduce your air compressor noise is to purchase an air intake silencer. Sometimes called an air intake muffler, these little components are excellent at reducing air intake noise.
They actually work as both a silencer and a filter that you install directly onto your air intake. They work by pulling air through noise dampening materials, which work to eliminate some of the noise as the air is pulled into the compressor.
Before you decide on an intake muffler, you’ll need to make sure it’s compatible with your specific compressor. This includes the filter model and the screw thread size. Whatever you do, make sure you don’t get a smaller filter than is recommended for your compressors, as this can damage your compressor.
3. Build a Soundproof Box
If you have a loud compressor and you’re looking for your next DIY project, building a soundproof box could be the ticket. Some other websites on silencing compressors recommend that you simply purchase a soundproof box, but this isn’t the best idea.
Compressor engines run hot, so sticking them in a box without proper ventilation is asking for an overheated compressor. Luckily, it’s possible to build a soundproof box for your compressor for fairly cheap. Or you can purchase a soundproof box and modify it with a fan or two to ensure your compressor doesn’t overheat.
However, the cost and the time this takes may not be worth it for some people. It’s best for those who like to build things and are looking for a fun project that will help them silence their air compressor in the process.
Here’s an excellent video demonstrating the best way to build a soundproof box for your air compressor.
4. Place the Compressor in a Another Room
This is a similar concept to the soundproof box above. If you can place your compressor into another room and you’re willing to spend a few dollars on soundproofing materials, you can have an easy solution. This can even be a “closet” that’s large enough to have adequate airflow for the compressor.
This could be an empty garage cabinet with doors that you can modify with a simple fan for airflow and some soundproofing material. If the cabinet is big enough, you may not even need a fan to keep the compressor from overheating.
5. Try Rubber Grommets or Pads
Rubber is a great material for reducing vibrations from an air compressor. If you have a compressor you’re looking to mount, you can use rubber grommets (like these) to reduce noise. The rubber grommets, when used properly, help to absorb the vibrations that would otherwise transfer from the compressor to the structure it’s mounted on.
If you have a compressor that is sitting on the ground, you can use rubber pads for the same effect. Most compressors already have rubber feet, but a little bit of extra padding between the floor and the feet can help reduce the noise, particularly if you keep the compressor on concrete or another hard material.
6. Use Hearing Protection
Okay, this one is a bit of a cheat. But it’s amazing how many people don’t consider wearing hearing protection when using an air compressor. This doesn’t do anything to silence the compressor itself, but it can help your ears while you’re working.
Using a set of ear muffs or earplugs in addition to implementing one or more of the tips on this list can help turn a loud compressor noise into a quiet background hum.
7. Purchase a Quiet Compressor
Once again, this isn’t directly telling you how to silence your compressor. Instead, this tip is for those who are looking for a compressor but are worried about the noise it will generate. The good news is there are quieter compression options out there. No compressor is completely silent, though. It’s important to remember that you’ll always have to deal with some level of noise when using a compressor.
Quiet Air Compressor Recommendation
Those who want a quiet compressor can’t go wrong with this California Air Tools 8010 Ultra Quiet model. This steel compressor features an 8-gallon tank and a max pressure of 120 PSI. The noise level won’t exceed 60 decibels, making it one of the quieter air compressors on the market — especially for the tank size. It has an oil-free pump for low maintenance and features wheels and a carrying handle for easy transport.