What Is CFM on Air Compressors? What Does CFM Mean? Guide

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CFM is a critical measurement of airflow volume in air compressors. All pneumatic tools and air compressors will have a CFM rating, and so, this article will provide you with all the relevant information to understand what CFM is.

What is CFM?

CFM stands for Cubic Feet per Minute and is a measurement that best describes the volume of air, measure in cubic feet, that an air compressor is capable of providing. CFM translates to the amount of air an air compressor can move per minute. For example, an air compressor with an output rated for 20 CFM is able to flow 20 cubic feet of air per minute.

Every air compressor will have a CFM rating that will indicate the amount of air that the machine will be able to pass through the air compressor lines to a pneumatic tool on a minute-by-minute basis.

The higher your CFM rating, the more air that the air compressor will pressurize and be able to deliver per minute. For applications that demand higher volumes of pressurized air, you will need a compressor with a higher CFM rating. Hence, it is typically recommended to size your air compressor based on your tool requirements.

In a factory setting, where you may find furnishings that are assembled along a conveyor belt, an air compressor will need to pressurize sufficient volumes of air per minute to drive the process along at a timely pace.

For some applications that require a more steady flow of air, the CFM will need to be at an adequate level to produce the desired constant supply. In general, though, high-powered pneumatic tools attached to the larger, stationary air compressors will require a CFM rating of 10 or higher, whereas tools attached to portable compressors may only require five CFM, or even less.

CFM describes the volume of air at a certain pressure or temperature. To measure CFM on an air compressor, the pressure is taken to around 90 PSI and a CFM value will be provided. Most air compressor manufacturers will provide air compressor CFM ratings at both 90 PSI and 40-50 PSI. CFM is therefore related to the internal capacity of an air compressor.

Another popular measurement is SCFM, standard cubic feet per minute, for information on the differences between SCFM & CFM, visit our guide here!

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

What is a good CFM airflow?

A good CFM airflow for the majority of air tools will be 10 CFM and greater. This will power all general use air tools along with larger tools. If you only need to power air tools for DIY and home use then you may get away with a portable air compressor that provides around 5 CFM.

How much CFM do I need?

How much CFM you need depends on the air tool you plan on powering. For small air tools used around the house that require 0 to 5 CFM, you will need a compressor capable of providing this. For larger air tools you may need a compressor that provides greater than 10 CFM. A good rule of thumb is to take note of the CFM ratings of all your pneumatic tools and multiple the highest rating by 1.5 to get the minimum CFM rating your compressor should be.

What is the CFM on an air compressor?

The CFM on an air compressor is a rating of the amount of airflow the compressor can deliver. CFM stands for Cubic Feet per Minute, so the CFM rating is the cubic feet of air that can be delivered to your air tools minute-by-minute.

What is CFM and how is it calculated?

CFM is a measurement of the amount of cubic feet of air that an air compressor can deliver each minute. Calculating air compressor CFM is not easy, you first need to understand the relationship between PSI and CFM before you can go forth on to estimating CFM. To learn more about calculating CFM on an air compressor visit this guide here!


If you have any questions about air compressor CFM ratings, please leave a comment below, then someone will be able to help you!

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