Inflator versus Compressor – Dad’s Summer Tools

I’m filling up the pool for the backyard. This year we got a little bit different pool. You can check it out here if you want some details.

For our purposes here, the pool requires that a rather large ring be inflated. Now, blowing it up with your mouth is out of the question. You can try a manual air pump, but be sure to setup in the shade, and I hope you are in good shape. A real man, of course, is thinking about tools to handle this job. Unfortunately, this is where the right tool is more complicated than it looks.

There are a combination of both “inflators” and “compressors” that could fit the bill. However, understanding them and how they work will often make one more useful than the other.

Compressors are often better suited for using with tools, like a nail gun or paint sprayer. The problem with a compressor is that it compresses air into a tank. So, far, so good. But, while a compressor powered tool uses short bursts of air, filling a pool or inflatable slide or something takes a single long lasting spray of air. That isn’t really what a compressor does.

When a compressor’s tank gets low, it automatically starts compressing more air to use. If you are using those short, powerful bursts, this is no problem. You won’t run out of air faster than it can be compressed. When filling something like a pool, the opposite tends to happen. As you start filling it up, the compressor detects that you are using up the air and starts compressing. However, it likely will not catch up with you. Instead, you’ll run out of compressed air, have to stop and wait for the compressor. This is frustrating considering how heavy and noisy a compressor is in the first place.

An inflator, on the other hand, works by just blasting air out of a nozzle continuously. There is no compression, per se. This is most similar to using a regular air pump.

There are two problems with inflators. One, the power supplies are often very stupid for use as a dad tool. Some are powered by batteries. This is fine for the first three or four things you fill. Then, the batteries start getting weaker and you start losing pressure. Replacing the batteries half-way through their useful life is the only solution, and that is very wasteful considering what 4 D batteries costs.

A plug-in inflator makes much more sense. Not only is the air flow constant, you don’t have to make sure you have fresh batteries on hand. Unfortunately, many of them come with 12-volt power supplies. That means it plugs into your lighter socket in your car or boat. This is fine if you are filling something up around your car or boat, but it is worthless for filling up stuff in the backyard, the front-yard, and in the house.

What a dad really needs to handle all of those inflatable, summer toys is a 120-volt (plugs into regular electric socket) inflator. No waiting for air to compress, not power loss, and grab your 100-ft extension cord and you can use it almost anywhere around the house (yours or someone elses).

If you’ll excuse me, I need to check the water. It won’t be ready yet, but the shape is weird. I’ll keep you posted.

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