Pancake vs Hot Dog Compressor

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 Are Air Compressors?

Before choosing which air compressor fits your needs, you have to understand how air compressors work. 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.

Air compressors are composed of an electric motor that’s attached to a pump which sucks in air under pressure and deposits it into the tanks.

Air compressors have two gauges; 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).

Refilling air compressors appear to be an intimidating task at first. But the truth is, it only involves steps that are simple enough to follow.

Just be sure that the plugs are securely inserted into the power outlets and the air compressors’ red levers should be in proper positions, before and after the task. Horizontal position means they’re locked and vertical means they’re open. For the detailed instructions, click here.

Average Air Compressor PSI

Pancake compressors fall under the light-duty category of air compressors that normally have a 90 PSI. Hot dog compressors may also fall under the same category but because some of them are bigger and meant for more laborious tasks, they’re also classified under the heavy-duty category.

With this being said, hot dog compressors sometimes have a PSI of 150. Take note that PSI shouldn’t be confused with SCFM. The former refers to how effective or how strong air compressors can deliver air to the tools; whereas, the latter refers to how big the air compressors’ tanks are in terms of air storage.

The difference between the average PSI ratings of the two types of air compressors that’s 120 just goes to prove that hot dog compressors can generate more air power than their mini counterparts.

Average Size of Air Compressor

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 amount of air 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).

If pancake compressors have a maximum size of 6 gallons and hot dog compressors at 8 gallons, then the average tank size between them is 7 gallons.

Pancake Compressor


Pancake compressors are popular for being portable. In fact, they range only from 1 to 6 gallons which make them 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, pancake compressors reduce the possibility of such an effort.

Air Compressor Noise Level

Pancake compressors aren’t entirely quiet but for those who need to stay focused on their projects with minimal noise in the background, they’re the common preference.

This is because pancake compressors are 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 pancake compressors’ noise that falls below the 80-decibel range is 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
Whispering 20 dB
Air Conditioners 40-60 dB
Conversation 60 dB
Piano Practice 65 dB
Showering 70 dB
Vacuum Cleaner 75 dB

Compact Air Compressors


Despite the compact size, pancake compressors can be used for various projects. They’ve been a favorite for inflating tires but they 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.

Air Compressor Tank Capacity

Even though pancake compressors are known for the compact design and other features, their air-hungry tendency brings them down.

Since their tank capacity can only accommodate 6 gallons of air at maximum, they easily run out of air supply which means you’ll have to fill them up whenever necessary.

Furthermore, you have to wait for quite some time in order for pancake compressors 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, pancake compressors’ 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, they won’t be up for the task.

This is because pancake compressors 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 their various locomotive parts.

For an in-depth discussion regarding this matter and how to improve efficiency, click here.

Hot Dog Compressor

Hot dog compressors are loved for being large air reservoirs. Since their tank size can range from two to eight gallons, there’s no doubt they can store a greater amount of air than pancake compressors.

And when it comes to air volume they 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.

Hot Dog Compressor Benefits

Unlike pancake compressor, there are some hot dog compressors 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.

Another good thing about hot dog compressors is they usually come with a handle for easy carrying around.

Sure, pancake compressors don’t have a handle because they’re obviously smaller in tank size and in weight but it’ll still be bothersome to carry them in a hug-like position. Plus, sooner or later, your hands and arms will feel a certain amount of fatigue.

Air Compressor Rattling Noise

Regardless of all the benefits that hot dog compressors bring, they’ll never be able to camouflage its dark sides, one of them is noise factor.

One thing to take note about this is they work louder than pancake compressors. If pancake compressors’ sound can range from 60-65 decibels, hot dog compressors 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.

Another unpleasant thing about hot dog compressors is they constantly shake when in use.

In fact, there are even some instances wherein they rock back and forth as a result of too much shaking, caused by motor movements 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.

Types of Air Compressors

If you think that air compressors are only meant for D.I.Y. projects, you’re badly mistaken. They come in different designs based on their respective purposes. You may even be surprised there are others used for painting and washing chores.

  Pancake Compressors Hotdog Compressors Twin-stack Compressors Portable Single-stage Compressors Scroll Compressors
Design small, round, lighttubular, larger than pancake compressorstwo tanks of same size found side to sideheavy-duty engines, expensive compared to ordinary counterpartstwo rotating discs for pumping air
Uses for inflating tires, balls and boatsfor running air brushes and staplersfor brad guns and nailersfor deck building, framing and trimmingfor cooling, air conditioning purposes

Air Compressor Maintenance

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 compressors’ 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.