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Oil vs oil-free air compressor

Be it carpentry, mechanical work, construction work, or industrial production there is one tool in common, air compressors. They are used to power tools and complete many tasks. Since we have a large variety of options available the choice becomes difficult. The options are not just limited to the machine’s – size, weight, style, and performance nonetheless lubrication has also joined the race.

Along with the varying size, weight, and performance, lubricated pumps and non-lubricated pumps add a key difference in the choice.

Each type has its certain advantages. That is why it becomes important to know the difference between the two and what features they can offer for your use.

Oil-lubricated air compressor 

The oil-lubricated air compressor specific type of device used to increase the pressure of a gas by reducing its volume. It uses an oil-lubricated pump for pressurizing and transportation of liquid and gas. An oil-air compressor is best for a high capacity workload, they are more durable and functional. Due to the lubrication of oil, it produces less noise during its function. 

Oil-free air compressor

As the name suggests an oil-free air compressor does not require lubrication regularly. It has self-lubricating material on its cylindrical walls which allow the piston to slide in the cylinder and the lubrication in the sealed bearing. The working principle of both oil and oil free air compressors is the same. Since the process is not directly exposed to oil the risk of contamination is less. Air produced through oil free compressors is cleaner as compared to oil compressors. They are compact and lightweight which makes them great for household and non-commercial purposes. 

There are some factors you should consider while choosing the type that is right for your needs.

Type of job 

The most important factor to consider while choosing is what type of job will be obtained with the compressor. As we already know oil-lubed compressors have a high capacity workload, these compressors are commonly engine driven and deliver enough power for heavier work. It can deliver 10 to 25 cubic feet per minute of air whereas the oil-free air compressor provides 2to 5 cubic feet per minute of airflow and is run by a 120-volt electric motor, it has less workload and this makes the oil-free compressor best for remote use.


The Oil-lube compressor requires adding oil and changing the oil on a regular basis, if it is not taken into consideration the downstream filter stops filtering oil after a certain time so to keep the function going it needs to be supervised. Refilling depends on the design and the amount it has been used. The user manual mentions the oil quantity and how often it should be changed. 

Whereas oil-free compressors do not require that much attention. The pre-existing lubricant does not need change hence it saves from regular maintenance. 


This is not much of an important factor, but the importance changes depending on the job site. Perhaps it’s always good to know everything about your choice before your purchase. 

Oil compressors are best if you want to keep the noise low since they are well lubricated, they run more quietly. Oil-free air compressors are comparably noisy but the advancement of technology has overcome this shortcoming, there are oil-free compressors available in the market that are quite as well as compact.


If both the types do not concern you much then you can choose one considering the cost. Keep in mind the initial and total cost of ownership over the lifespan of the compressor. 

The price of compressors varies from model to model. Oil-lubricated air compressors are often a bit pricey than oil-free compressors. Oil air compressor requires 70 gallons of oil annually then the used oil needs to be disposed of following the proper guideline of government, the cost of oil and disposal sums up to be a huge amount of money moreover due to the exposure of oil the parts needs to be changed after a certain period, whereas oil-free compressors are a one-time investment. So, analyze your total use before investing.


The oil lube compressor weighs more than the oil-free compressor apart from the weight of parts the extra added oil increases the total weight. In contrast, an oil-free compressor has fewer parts, therefore, is lighter in weight. The designs are also often simpler than oil compressors.


Oil-free compressors are ideal for a small amount of usages, the parts inside are more tended to wear or getting damaged yet they generally last for 7-8 years.

If maintained properly then oil lube compressors can last for a longer period of time. They are more durable and can withstand more workload.

In the end, oil compressors are heavy, more capable, do not wear and tear, they are best for the use of industrial work, farming, roofing, and commercial use. And oil free compressors are compact, handy, require less maintenance, are best for household use.



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