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PSI, CFM, and HP: Understanding Air Compressor Measurements


If you’ve been in the air compressor industry for any length of time, you’re likely familiar with the acronyms PSI (pressure), CFM (flow), and HP (power). These principles are essential in determining which size air compressor will fit your application – in fact, PSI, CFM, and HP are some of the most important elements to consider when selecting the best air compressor for your needs.

PSI vs. CFM vs. HP

PSI, CFM, and HP are the three main ratings that showcase exactly what a compressor can do.

  • PSI, or pounds per square inch, measures the amount of pressure placed on a square inch of space. In compressor terms, PSI is the amount of force that an air compressor can deliver.
  • CFM is cubic feet per minute, which indicates the compressor’s flow rate - or the amount of air that a compressor can produce at a given pressure level. Typically, compressors that have higher CFM ratings are able to provide more air, which makes them ideal for larger applications.
  • HP is horsepower, or the amount of work that a motor can perform. HP is not as important as pressure and flow in determining if your compressor will work for you, as newer & more efficient compressors can do more with less HP! Doing more with less HP will save you energy, as well as will give you larger returns throughout the life of the compressor.

Things to Consider

No matter your application, it’s critical to understand the PSI, CFM, and HP that your application requires. This will ensure that your application receives sufficient air flow (CFM) at the correct pressure (PSI) – and that the air compressor is providing your pressure and flow as efficiently as possible.

Atlas Copco is always available to assist you in your compressor selection. Our experts will guide you in your selection based on your application’s specific needs and rating requirements. Reach out to us today!

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