CFM vs. PSI What’s the Difference

When you’re shopping for an air compressor, two of the most important factors to consider are CFM and PSI. But what exactly is the difference between these two measures Here’s a quick rundown

CFM vs. PSI:

CFM, or cubic feet per minute, is a measure of the volume of air that the compressor can deliver.

PSI, or pounds per square inch, is a measure of the pressure with which the air is delivered.

In short, CFM tells you how much air the compressor can deliver, while PSI tells you how forcefully it can be delivered. But which one is more important That depends on your particular needs. Read on to learn more about CFM vs PSI so you can make the best decision for your needs.

CFM vs PSI Which One Do You Need

The first step in understanding CFM vs PSI is understanding that they both serve different purposes.

CFM is concerned with volume, while PSI is concerned with pressure. If you need a lot of air to power multiple tools simultaneously, then you’re going to be principally concerned with CFM. On the other hand, if you need only a small amount of air but it needs to be delivered with a lot of force—for example, if you’re using an impact wrench—then PSI will be your primary concern.

Of course, these aren’t mutually exclusive concerns; both CFM and PSI are important in their own ways. That said, one will usually be more important than the other depending on your particular needs.

In general, here are some guidelines to follow:

If you’re going to be using primarily light-duty tools—for example, a Brad nailer or stapler—then you can get away with a lower CFM rating as long as the PSI rating is high enough.

When you’re going to be using mainly heavy-duty tools—such as an impact wrench or die grinder—then you’ll need a higher CFM rating to keep up with the demands of your tools.

If you plan on using multiple tools at once—or if you just want some extra headroom—then it’s always better to err on the side of caution and choose a model with a higher CFM rating.

Keep in mind that there are tradeoffs involved in any purchase; an air compressor with a higher CFM rating will almost always be more expensive than one with a lower rating.

It’s up to you to decide whether the extra expense is worth it given your particular needs. However, as a general rule, it’s better to have too much power than not enough.

After all, you can always dial down the pressure if your tools don’t require as much as the compressor can provide; but if your compressor can’t keep up with demand, then there’s not much you can do about it except buy a new one.


In short, when choosing an air compressor it’s important to consider both CFM and PSI ratings.

Depending on your particular needs, one may be more important than the other; but in general, it’s better to have too much power than not enough.

Keep these guidelines in mind when shopping for an air compressor and you’ll be sure to find one that meets your needs perfectly!

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