Whenever you think about air compressors, the first word that comes to mind is ‘noisy’. And you’re not wrong. Most air compressors make quite the racket. And unfortunately, they are too vital.
You cannot use grinders, spray painters, nail guns and the like without them. But what does this mean? Are you expected to simply put up with the mind-numbing din they produce?
Admittedly, you have a choice. You can always buy the high-end models, the kind that have been designed with special mechanisms to absorb the sound. But that isn’t much of a choice.
Those models are categorized as ‘high-end’ because they cost a lot more money than the average consumer can afford to spend on an air compressor. And fortunately, you have a second option, one that high-end quiet air compressor manufacturers don’t want you to know.
You can take an ordinary air compressor and make it quieter. Air compressor noise reduction devices are all the rage these days. But you don’t actually need them, not if you have the skill to put some of the methods we shall outline below into action.
How Loud is an Air Compressor?
Before you can create a makeshift low noise air compressor at home, you need to first figure out just how loud the average air compressor is. This will give you an idea of just how much work you have to do to reduce the noise levels.
The volume of sound is measured in decibels (dB). Most air compressors produce between 70dB and 90dB of noise. Larger, more powerful compressors tend to exceed 90dB.
For an air compressor to be classified as ‘quiet’, it needs to produce roughly 40 decibels of noise. This is because the average conversation produces 55 to 65 decibels of sound.
Therefore, a 40dB air compressor is the ideal because it is so quiet that you can have entire conversations while it does its work. However, 40dB air compressors that are also powerful are difficult to come by. This is why most people are encouraged to target units that produce 70dB or less.
70dB is not necessarily quiet. But it is tolerable and that is the minimum you should expect out of an air compressor that has been classified as quiet. A 70dB air compressor can be deployed within the confines of a home.
It is still too loud but you can use it without deafening yourself and the other people in the vicinity.
If you need a clearer picture of the kind of noise that some air compressors produce, the average lawnmower generates roughly 90dB of sound. Prolonged exposure to noise at that level is going to cause serious harm to your hearing.
And yet most air compressors tend to operate within that range. Things become even more problematic when an air compressor exceeds that mark. A plane generates an estimated 140 decibels of sound when it is either taking off or landing.
Any compressor that produces that much noise is a danger to human health unless you use mufflers for your ears whenever you activate it. But that won’t stop the unit from harming the ears of the other people in your vicinity.
Why are Air Compressors so Loud?
If manufacturers had it their way, every air compressor they sold would be as quiet as a graveyard. But more often than not, they don’t have that much control over the noise a unit generates. The noise an air compressor produces can be blamed on the following:
An activated air compressor tends to vibrate. This isn’t responsible for all the noise it produces but it is a contributing favor, especially if the unit has hollow sections. They will amplify the noise generated by the vibrations and that will feed into all the other sources of sound on the air compressor.
Compressors work a lot like vacuum cleaners in that they have an intake that they use to absorb air. Just like a vacuum cleaner, this process in an air compressor tends to produce quite a bit of noise.
The air intake is one of your compressor’s loudest components.
The exhaust is used to expel the waste the compressor generates while doing its work. The process of pushing this waste out of the compressor via the exhaust is loud.
Some compressors are made out of thick, dense raw materials that will absorb the noise the unit generates. Others use thin metals that rattle and vibrate, adding to the noise rather than reducing it.
Related: Air Compressor For Framing Crew
How to Make an Air Compressor Quiet?
While it is true that most air compressors are naturally loud, some people have found ways of reducing the noise they produce. If you can replicate some of these methods, techniques, and approaches, your air compressor will become a quieter, less disruptive machine:
1) Rubber Grommets
A lot of times, air compressors are noisy because they keep striking against the hard surface on which they have been placed. This impact, caused by the machine’s vibrations, will multiply the unit’s overall noise levels.
You can reduce this collision between the unit and the surface by using rubber grommets to separate them. Rubber is a powerful insulator that, when installed on the motor, will absorb the sound and the vibrations.
Make sure that the addition of rubber doesn’t make the surface below uneven. The air compressor must sit on a flat surface. Otherwise, it will make even more noise. If you can pair your unit with the right rubber grommets, they will significantly reduce the noise generated.
2) Air Compressor Silencer
This is a common solution to the problem of noise. A silencer (or muffler) will reduce the racket the air intake generates. Select the silencer carefully.
It needs to match the size of the intake. Fortunately, there are so many options on the market today that you shouldn’t have a problem finding a model that suits your unit’s air intake.
Bearings are responsible for the movement that occurs within your unit. Machines that have moving parts are almost always noisy because of the friction that can manifest between bearings that are moving in opposite directions.
You can control the noise levels in an air compressor by eliminating this friction. That means keeping the bearings properly lubricated. Lubrication will prevent the bearings from deteriorating.
The easiest way to reduce the noise your air compressor produces is to keep it away from locations that multiply sound. That includes internal areas like garages and basements which encourage sound to reverberate.
Air compressors are not as loud outside because the sound has no obstacles to reflect it. Better yet, keep the compressor as far away from you as humanly possible. The nearer the unit, the louder it is. The more distant the unit, the quieter it is.
Of course, if you have other people in the area, this method won’t help them.
5) Soundproof Box
A soundproof box is exactly what it sounds like. It is an air compressor enclosure. Once you place the unit in the box, it will absorb and dampen the noise it generates. Soundproof boxes are pretty easy to locate these days.
But if you want to save money, you can make your own. You just have to find some noise-canceling materials that you will use to make the walls, floor, and lid of the enclosure.
Don’t forget to measure your air compressor. The soundproof box you build should be large enough to hold the compressor. Otherwise, it won’t do you any good.
6) Sound Padding
If you cannot afford to place the compressor outside or far away from your workstation, you can save some time by placing it near a wall you have padded with soundproof material.
The noise the air compressor generates will be absorbed by the padding rather than bouncing off and assaulting your ears. You don’t have to pad the entire room unless you have the money.
Focus on the wall next to the compressor. If this approach sounds too difficult and time-consuming, get a sound blanket and throw it over the air compressor. It will work like a soundproof box. It will absorb all the noise the unit generates.
7) Keep the Intake Outside
Because the air intake is one of the loudest components of the compressor, you can reduce the noise it generates by extending it outside. This method will appeal to people that are using their units inside.
Attach a hose and use it to extend the intake outside. You won’t hear any of the sounds for which the air intake is responsible.
If all these options sound like they require more work than you are willing to commit, just wear earplugs. They are the fastest and most effective solution, but only as far as your own ears are concerned.
They won’t protect other people. You might be better off buying a low-noise air compressor. It would make all these methods unnecessary. But again, the quietest models that can still deliver the immense power you want are not cheap.
You are better off buying a cheaper model and using these techniques to reduce the noise it makes.