Air Compressors are like children. At the beginning you’re filled with optimism about the things you’ll do together, only to end up stressed and deaf with the amount of noise they produce.
Even if your air compressor sounds like a foghorn, there are ways to reduce the noise:
- Use a Sound Blanket
- Attach a Muffler
- Reduce the Vibration
- Isolate Parts Using Grommets
- Moving it Outside
- Construct Soundproofing Around It
- Wearing Ear Protection
Each of these are quick fixes you can do today (maybe following a trip to the hardware store).
Ultimately, if these don’t do the trick, the best option may be to get a quiet air compressor. Modern models can be as quiet as 40dB. These are never the cheapest options, but it’s better than being murdered by your neighbors!
Considering an upgrade? Check out our comprehensive, 4000+ word guide to the quietest air compressors available today.
How to Quiet An Air Compressor
1. Use a Sound Blanket
There’s a lot of sources of noise in an air compressor: the motor, the exhaust, and the intake all play big roles.
The best way to quiet all of these is a with good sound blanket.
These are heavy, dense blankets that wrap around the whole of the compressor. Universal fit blankets like the one below (can also be used on an air conditioner) claim up to 40% of noise reduction. Just make sure to still allow airflow into the motor intake, and especially the exhaust if it’s a gas-powered model. If in doubt, consult or ask a professional to wrap it for you.
2. Attach a Muffler
While a sound blanket covers the whole compressor, you can also get a muffler to tackler the noise of the intake.
Note – this doesn’t silence the motor, but the air intake and filter. It’s not as substantial of an impact, but every little helps.
Mufflers are cheap, with quality options like the one pictured from Solberg available for under $20.
3. Handle the Vibration
With the motor cranking like crazy, a big issue with air compressors is their vibration.
This is especially true on hard, concrete garage floors – where almost all compressors are placed. You can counteract this by placing the compressor on some absorbant material – even something as simple as some pieces of old carpet or a rubber mat will do the trick.
4. Use Rubber To Isolate Parts
Subtle build material differences are part of what seperates high-end models to cheaper options. In most cases, manufacturers cut corners by using only metal to connect their components.
In an appliance like an air compressor, this means a lot of extra shaking, vibration, and noise. Thankfully, it’s fairly easy to reduce these using rubber grommets. S
If you don’t have some handy, they’re super cheap on Amazon – the pack pictured is often less than $10.
5. Take it Outside
If things are getting ridiculous, it might be worth placing the whole compressor outside.
This is simply done by getting an extended intake, to the point where you can work inside with the compressor being outside – fed through the door or a window.
It’s more of a last resort – especially since it involves exposing the compressor to the elements. Your neighbours may not also be big fans of this option! However, it’s a simple fix and can mean that you’re able to work for hours without deafening yourself.
6. Build Around It.
If you can’t take it outside – there’s another option, but it does take some elbow grease. Build a makeshift ‘room’ to contain the compressor in.
This can simply be done with some plywood or drywall, combined with foam insulation panels. Or, for a more serious application, specialized soundproof materials like these from SoundProofCow (what a name).
Again, if you have a gasoline-powered compressor, make sure to allow ventilation around the intake and exhaust.
7. Last But Not Least… Grab Some Ear Protection!
If all else fails, or even if it works – ear protection is the only solution guaranteed to help.
Either through construction-site ear protection or a good set of simple ear plugs (I love these ones from Mack’s), ear protection is the best way to guarantee a comfortable work environment.
Ear protection also makes sure you’re not hurting yourself, too.
Any sounds above 80-85dB can start to damage your hearing. Especially when exposed for an hour or more.
While you’d have to have a pretty awful machine to making that much racket, it’s not impossible. Stay safe, and don’t lose your hearing.
Why Are Air Compressors So Loud?
Even though they’re only working with air, these air compressors are doing a TON of work.
The motor is drawing in a massive amount of air and pumping it at high pressure into the container.
There’s a few different sources – mainly:
- The Intake: Pulling 5 cubic feet of air per minute into a container is no mean feat. The sound of the air being pulled, coupled with the motor whirring away to force that air into the container, results in a ton of noise.
- Power Source: Just like electric vs standard cars, an electric-powered model is guaranteed to operate more quietly.
- The Exhaust: Especially true for gasoline-powered models, the exhaust is a loud and constant source of noise. For these models it’s an extra challenge, since we can’t soundproof around it without creating a hazard.
- Vibration: Both for individual parts rubbing together, and the feet or compressor itself vibrating against the ground – vibrations catalyze any noises already being created. Thankfully, these are all quite easy (and cheap) to fix.
- Material: The build quality of a compressor can vary massively depending on the model. While high-end, quiet models will have as much soundproofing applied as possible – it’s the opposite for cheap models. You may save on upfront cost, but you’ll pay for it in listening to the WHIRRRR of a cheap appliance! Examples are in the connections between individual parts clanging around, or simply thinner, more hollower parts – which make any noises worse.
Finding a Quiet Air Compressor
Sometimes the best solution is to scrap the old model and bring in a new one.
Modern air compressors are much quieter than old ones – with some boasting less than 50dB in noise levels.
When you’re searching, make sure to look for the following:
- Ideally, look for a rotary screw air compressor. These are much quieter than the standard reciprocating model.
- The absolute quietest type is a ‘Scroll’ compressor, but these are typically for industrial uses.
- If you go for a reciprocating model, aim for a dual over a single-piston model. Two pistons halve the intake load between them – making for quieter operation.
- ‘Quiet’ or ‘Ultra-Quiet’ labels. This is the best sign that a manufacturer has included all the necessary rubber and padding to quieten the noise.
- Padding. When you look at the compressor, a quiet model will have it boxed in with an enclosure.
- Rubber. Look for rubber padding wherever possible – the more the better. Especially on the feet and around the compressor, these can substantially reduce the noise impact.
If you’re considering picking up a quiet air compressor – check out our guide following that link. It covers the best models, more details on what to look for, and best practices.
Air compressors can be a massive pain-point for any workshop. I hope this guide’s helped give you some ways in which to make yours bearable.
Picking up a quiet model and implementing a few of these tips mean you could have a quiet conversation over a coffee while in the same room!
But even if it just makes your old compressor sound bearable, this guide will have been worth writing.
If our content’s helped you, please consider checking out some related articles, or signing up to our mailing list!
Thanks for reading, and have a great day.