Which is more convenient to use; a pancake compressor or a hot dog compressor?
In this article, we’ll give you a guide on which air compressor is best used under certain situations, whether you’re set to inflate your 4×4 tires or you have a particular D.I.Y. project in mind.
What’s an Air Compressor?
Before choosing which air compressor fits your needs, you have to understand how an air compressor works. You may immediately think of your favorite meals for breakfast when you hear the terms pancake and hot dog in an air compressor, for the first time.
However, these should not be taken too literally because such names are derived from the air compressor design, pancake for the round-shaped body and hot dog for the tubular one.
An air compressor is composed of an electric motor that’s attached to a pump which sucks in air under pressure and deposits it into the tank.
There are two gauges in an air compressor; the small gauge attached to the tank measures the amount of air found in the tank, while the large gauge attached to the hinge surrounding the tank, measures the amount of air that you have to distribute or transfer to a specific object.
The large gauge has a regulator knob that you can turn up or down to adjust the air pressure according to the tool’s recommended rating, determined in Pounds per Square Inch (PSI).
When Size and Volume Matter
If PSI is an important factor in using air compressors, size also plays a vital role. This is because there are different sizes of air compressors depending on the type, which can go up to more than 150 gallons.
Moreover, a tool’s air volume is something you should consider as equally important because it tells the air volume that an air compressor can expel based on a tool’s certain PSI rating. Hence, it’s known as the Standard Cubic Feet per Minute or SCFM.
As a general rule, for tools that require repetitive use for every 10-15 minutes (e.g. sprayers), they need a large air volume as opposed to those you can only use once (e.g. air guns).
Pancake compressor is popular for being portable. In fact, it ranges only from 1 to 6 gallons which makes it easy to move from one place to the next. So if, you don’t want the idea of dragging an object due to the additional weight, a pancake compressor reduces the possibility of such an effort.
Tone down the Noise
Pancake compressor isn’t entirely quiet but for those who need to stay focused on their projects with minimal noise in the background, it’s the common preference.
This is because a pancake compressor is normally oil-lubricated. How so? Think of it this way, when two metal pieces are regularly lubricated or moisturized, they create a smooth and steady friction, during surface contact, contrary to those which have gone dry and rough.
Sound is measured in decibel (dB) and anything including a pancake compressor’s noise that falls below the 80-decibel range are classified as an undisruptive one. As a matter of fact, a pancake compressor’s noise level is only around 60-65 decibels.
Check out other sounds under 80 decibels and where they come from.
Different Sound Waves
|Produced by:||Decibel Range:|
|Breathing||Between 0-10 dB|
|Air Conditioners||40-60 dB|
|Piano Practice||65 dB|
|Vacuum Cleaner||75 dB|
Small but Clever
Despite its compact size, a pancake compressor can be used for various projects. It has been a favorite tool for inflating tires but it can also be used for the following:
- Air Brush – a tool used to spray paint, ink or dye on a surface for art or decorative purposes.
- Brad Nailer – a tool used to secure wood trims and moldings by ejecting thin-gauge nails to selected areas.
- Staple Gun – a tool used to put metal staples in attaching pieces of wood and plastic together for various household benefits including carpeting and upholstery.
Always Hungry for Air
Even though a pancake compressor is praised for its compact design and other features, its air-hungry tendency brings it down.
Since its tank capacity can only accommodate 6 gallons of air at maximum, it easily runs out of air supply which means you’ll have to fill it up whenever necessary.
Furthermore, you have to wait for quite some time in order for a pancake compressor to refill, which reduces your level of productivity. And you know perfectly well this can be a real pain when you’re under pressure and you’re expected to finish a specific number of chores every day.
Only Meant for Small Tasks
Sad to say, a pancake compressor’s usefulness is only limited to minor projects. If you ever find yourself the need to use heavy-duty tools (i.e. grinders) for significant jobs, it won’t be up for the task.
This is because a pancake compressor only consists of small motors that don’t have the capability to work double time for a long period. Plus, there’s also the idea that efficiency is lessened due to the surface contact which occurs among its various locomotive parts.
For an in-depth discussion regarding this matter and how to improve efficiency, click here.
Hot Dog Compressor
A hot dog compressor is loved for being a large air reservoir. Since its tank size can range from two to eight gallons, there’s no doubt it can store a greater amount of air than a pancake compressor.
And when it comes to air volume it can deliver an SCFM level that’s higher than 10, which is enough to help you operate heavy-duty tools such as:
- Air Hammer – a tool that’s meant to cut through metal pieces and also intended for stone carving.
- Angle Grinder – a tool that can turn typical metal sheets into fine sand grains and also used for polishing.
- Impact Driver – a tool that’s useful for engraving screws and securing lug nuts on different 4WDs.
Oil-free Is Hassle-free
Unlike a pancake compressor, there are some types of hot dog compressor that don’t have oil that needs to be changed for maintenance reasons. It’s convenient because it eliminates the regularly laborious checkups that go with it.
Lift It like a Pro
Another good thing about a hot dog compressor is it usually comes with a handle that you can use for carrying it around.
Sure, a pancake compressor doesn’t have a handle because it’s obviously smaller in tank size and in weight but it’ll still be bothersome to carry it in a hug-like position. Plus, sooner or later, your hands and arms will feel a certain amount of fatigue.
Put on Your Earplugs
Regardless of all the benefits that a hot dog compressor can bring, it’ll never be able to camouflage its dark sides, one of them is noise factor.
One thing to take note about this is the fact that it works louder than a pancake compressor. If a pancake compressor’s sound can range from 60-65 decibels, a hot dog compressor can still surpass it at 70-75 decibels.
While it’s still under the undisruptive sound category, you may want the added comfort of working in an environment with minimal noise as much as possible, to get things easily done. In other words, you’ll need some earplugs.
The Unnecessary Shaking
Another unpleasant thing about a hot dog compressor is it constantly shakes when in use.
In fact, there are even some instances wherein it rocks back and forth as a result of too much shaking, caused by movements in its motors and other internal parts.
Because of this, many hot dog compressor users recommend either putting a plain piece of cloth underneath it or looking for a particular model that already comes with a rubber base, as this keeps it in place on various surfaces.
How to Maintain Each Type
Both air compressors have 2 types of maintenance model; one is oil-free and the other is oiled.
An oil-free model has a completely sealed motor. It doesn’t require oil change on a regular basis, therefore making maintenance really irrelevant.
On the contrary, its oiled variant needs oil change depending on the manufacturer’s set time frame. Normally, you have to make oil changes on such annually.
Bear in mind though, whatever type you choose, both require water draining after every use via the drain valve because every time air under pressure is made, it creates moisture. Draining the water prevents the tank from rusting and exploding.
On the other hand, for a concrete way of maintaining an air compressor’s oiled version, we got it covered for you. Click here for the complete guide.
The Price Is Right
As far as price is concerned, price of both types of air compressor generally starts at $100 but it can reach to $1,800, if you’re looking for heavy-duty counterparts or those with additional perks.
For example, other manufacturers prioritize portability for a quick and easy storage. However, some go for a premium feature like the cold start design that reduces pressure on an air compressor’s trigger by giving it a grace period before it can pump out air.
These are the things you should know when weighing your buying options between a pancake and hot dog compressor. If you’re after a compact design with a hint of stability, a pancake compressor is your ideal ally. If you don’t mind a loud noise as long as your work productivity isn’t compromised, you need a hot dog compressor. Tell us which side you’re on by commenting below.
- Choosing an Air Compressor by This Old House
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