Air compressors can be excellent tools to have in your garage. However, if you find yourself reaching for them again and again, you’ll quickly notice how loud they can be. If you’re not able to get a quieter model for whatever reason, your next best bet will be to quiet it with other means. One of the best ways to lessen the amount of noise your air compressor makes is to get anti-vibration pads for it.
Anti-vibration mats are actually a great option for many machines we use in workshops. Large air compressors, air conditioners, dishwashers, washing machines, and other comparable appliances are all similarly loud.
However, before I get into the specifics of how rubber mats can help you, we have to figure out what kind of noise air compressors make. After we have a firm grasp of that, I’ll explain everything you need to know about how these machines work so that you know what you need to worry about in terms of noise. Finally, I’ll also give you a few tips that will help you set up your air compressor so that you can use it without worrying about disturbing the whole neighborhood.
About Air Compressors
In my review of several quiet air compressors, I tried to explain exactly how these machines work. Still, if you haven’t had a chance to read the article I’ve linked to above, let’s go over it again.
Air compressors are machines that have many uses. You can hook them up to pneumatic nail guns, staplers, sanders, or grinders. You can also use them to paint or wash your car, and use the air to blow sawdust away or inflate tires.
The machines consist of several parts, the noisiest one of which is the motor. As usual, the bigger and stronger the motor is, the more noise you’re likely to get. However, in the case of air compressors, that motor also powers the pumps that push the air into a pressure chamber.
Those pumps are the things that are actually responsible for most of the racket you may hear. As I’ve previously explained, the pistons inside of the compressors are connected to a crankshaft. As the pistons move up and down, the crankshaft rotates, thereby causing vibrations that could easily transfer onto the floor.
Some kinds of compressors are quieter than others though, such as the ones with rotary compressors and weaker motors. Still, even though most of the units in my reviews of quiet air compressors are reciprocating compressors rather than rotary ones, they are all exceedingly quiet.
In fact, the real problem, noise-wise, often comes up when you work on big projects. For example, if you’re a carpenter, or you just like to overhaul old furniture, you’d want to use a pneumatic sander. However, sanders require a lot of air, so you’d have to get a really powerful compressor. And trust me — units with tanks over 8 gallons are loud.
What Kind of Noise Do Air Compressors Make?
So now we know that strong air compressors tend to shake more than the smaller units I recommended in my recent reviews. Most of the quiet compressors I recommended only make about 65–70 decibels of noise, anyway.
However, even that upper threshold can get uncomfortable if you’re going to be working for a while. Imagine having to vacuum for hours on end. That’s about the same level of noise you can expect from some of the quieter air compressors.
Naturally, most compressors are much worse, as they can even be louder than 80 decibels. That’s about twice as loud as 70 decibels — which can actually damage your hearing. And that’s only the airborne noise that reaches your ears. But that’s not all, is it?
If a machine is strong enough to vibrate while it’s operating, it’s probably strong enough to shake the ground you’re standing on as well. That is, if you have cement floors in your workshop, the impact noise will easily travel through it. And just think of the havoc it might wreck if it manages to shake your tools off the shelves.
Fortunately, anti-vibration pads should be able to prevent most of the noise. As always, you cannot hope to achieve total silence without finding a way to completely close off the air compressor. However, a bit of rubber would be just the thing you need if you wanted to reduce the vibrations, at least.
Choosing the Best Anti-Vibration Pads for Air Compressors
The first time I tried using anti-vibration mats to reduce the noise of a household appliance was when I was trying to figure out ways to quiet my washer. So, when I started thinking about how I could quiet a noisy air compressor, anti-vibration mats were the first things I thought of.
However, you should keep in mind that some air compressors already come with what are essentially anti-vibration feet. Smaller ones have rubber feet like these Sorbothane pads I recommended in my article on anti-vibration products for washing machines. So you’ll likely find that your compressor either already has that kind of protection or doesn’t need it at all.
On the other hand, some models just have metal feet, which can definitely worsen the vibration transfer. In that case, as in most others, I recommend getting rectangular anti-vibration pads and cutting them into the shape you need or prefer. The Casa Pura recycled rubber mat is a great example of what I’m talking about here — and another product I reviewed for my previous article on this topic.
Now, I do have several other recommendations for you today that specifically pertain to air compressors. However, instead of reviewing each of them individually, I’ve decided to combine the product guide and the reviews. So here’s what you need to know about them before you go shopping.
Most anti-vibration pads are made of rubber for one simple reason: rubber is great at absorbing vibrations. In fact, due to the density and the weight of the material, it’s a good choice for most soundproofing projects.
Another thing that makes it perfect for insulating workshop machinery is the fact that it is also extremely heat-resistant. As you can imagine, that is important when you’re working with devices that may overheat from time to time.
Aside from rubber, many anti-vibration pads are also made of vinyl. If you’ve been following some of my other articles, you’ll know that I frequently recommend mass-loaded vinyl for all of your soundproofing needs. So, if you have a piece of it lying around, you could actually just use that to quiet your compressor as well.
But rubber and vinyl products come in all shapes and sizes. Some of them are solid, like these EVA anti-vibration pads, while others are softer like the XCEL closed-cell foam rubber dampers. Personally, I’ve found that foam rubber products work slightly better than the solid rubber ones. The more malleable foam seems to be better at absorbing the vibrations and staying in place than firm materials, which can sometimes cause even more noise by squeaking.
Size and Quantity
While you could purchase a large mat like the 24 by 40 inches Casa Pura one I’ve linked to above and cut it down to the size you need, there are precut options out there too. For example, the XCEL pads I’ve talked about come in a variety of sizes, thicknesses, and quantities. The mats come in 3, 6, 9, and 12-inch squares and can be an eighth or a quarter-inch thick, or 3/8 inches.
You’ll also find that smaller mats come in packs of 4, 6, 8, or more pieces. So if your compressor has legs, you can slip a mat under each of them or stack several of them on top of each other. But be careful — the construction should still be sturdy enough to hold the machine when you power it on.
Where to Buy
Believe it or not, anti-vibration pads are actually pretty easy to find. You can get rubber in most sizes and thicknesses in most hardware stores. However, if you want something a bit more specific, or even if you want the convenience of ordering online, you’ll have to go to Amazon.
There’s a specific kind of anti-vibration pad that would probably work best for your air compressor but may not be readily available at your local hardware store.
These pads from Diversitech and LGB Products are pretty much exactly the same, even down to the price. They’re designed to reduce the vibrations of various appliances, air conditioners, and air compressors.
Both of these products come in packs of four 4-inch squares, and they’re 0.87 inches thick. Apparently, the blue EVA core is more effective at vibration absorption than the solid rubber that surrounds it.
Still, the top and bottom layers serve a purpose. Namely, they’re both ribbed, so they won’t slide across the floor. Additionally, the texture allows multiple tiles to interlock when you stack them on top of each other. The tiles are also oil-resistant, so you can use them on oil compressors without worrying about leaks.
But, these kinds of products may not be available at most hardware stores. That’s why I think Amazon is your best bet when it comes to finding these types of tiles, at least.
Ways to Use Anti-Vibration Pads to Quiet Down Your Air Compressor
Now that we know the basics, let’s talk about how we could use these to quiet our air compressors. These are some of the tried-and-true methods I found when I was researching tips on how to quiet noisy generators, so they should apply here as well. The first method is as simple as they come.
Put Them Under the Machine
The first thing we ought to do is try the obvious route: putting the pads under the compressor feet. As I have already mentioned, some compressors already have those hard rubber feet. Others at least have rubber padding, like the one you see on this Campbell Hausfeld compressor. Still, if you find that’s just not enough to eliminate all the noise, you can either set the whole thing down on a large anti-vibration mat or put the anti-vibration tiles I told you about under each foot.
On the other hand, if you have a huge 60-gallon compressor, you’ll have to screw its feet into the ground. However, if you want to create some space between the floor and the machine, I recommend using the oil-resistant pads.
You can even stack two of those tiles on top of each other. But, you’ll have to pre-drill a hole in them before putting them under each compressor foot and drilling the unit into the ground. You can also use rubber grommets between the metal pieces that move against each other when the compressor is on.
But really, if you have one of those huge air compressors, you’ll need more than a bit of floor padding if you want to keep it quiet.
Combine with a Blanket
There are several ways you could use a blanket to help you soundproof your air compressor. If you’re dealing with a smaller model, you can use any old blanket to provide the padding you need.
You can even use a blanket instead of a rubber mat. However, you’d need to be sure that the compressor in question doesn’t have a tendency to overheat. If your compressor heats up easily, you can still use a blanket — just put a rubber pad over it.
Furthermore, you don’t have to limit yourself to regular blankets. Soundproof blankets can also be very useful for these kinds of situations. You can drape one over your compressor or wrap it around if you have a large unit. In fact, you can even use them to create a room divider or a partition. Simply keep the compressor on the other side of the acoustic barrier.
There are many ways to make good use of blankets during soundproofing projects, as I’ve already explained. However, I’d advise against keeping them in your workshop if you frequently work with anything that emits fumes.
Build a Soundproof Box
Lastly, if your compressor is really loud, you can also build a soundproof box. If the instructions I gave in the article I’ve linked to are too complicated, you could simplify the process a bit. For example, instead of fiberglass insulation, you can line the inside of the box with MLV, rubber, and regular blankets. However, the article above is supposed to help you make a box for your generator. So either way, you’ll have to make some other adjustments for your compressor.
Hopefully, this article will serve as a guide if you ever find yourself having to quiet your air compressor. Even though most small devices already have rubber feet, you can still use a thick rubber mat or foam tiles. Still, in my opinion, these black and blue pads are the ultimate winners here.
Aside from using the anti-vibration pads under the compressor feet, you can also cover the compressor with blankets. Additionally, you can make a partition or build a soundproof box.
But of course, those aren’t the only acceptable solutions to the problem of noisy compressors. In fact, I’m sure you can come up with better ones — so go get creative.