Shop Air Compresso
The NorthStar 80-gallon air compressor performs like a champ, and it’s built with industrial components that should last for years to come.
User Review( vote)
On the job site, you can get away with smaller, portable compressors like a 4-gallon hot dog style or even a 6-gallon pancake. In a shop, however, CFM is important. This is particularly true if you plan on running tools like the Proto mini impact wrench or Rupes Skorpio III sanders. That’s where an 80-gallon air compressor like the NorthStar Electric comes in handy. We installed our Northstar Electric air compressor in the Pro Tool Reviews shop for use with all manner of air sanders and wrenches.
NorthStar Electric 80 Gallon Air Compressor Features
The NorthStar 80-gallon air compressor (Model 459242) carries a 100% continuous duty rating. The idea is that the compressor can run constantly as it will be able to fill the tank as needed to deliver the rated 24.4 CFM output at 90 PSI. A lower duty cycle would mean that there would be periods of time where you’d need to “wait” for the compressor to recycle before being able to operate at full pressure and output. Many Pros won’t require 100% duty cycle for long, but if you need to dump more than 80 gallons of air you can do it.
That’s not to say that the compressor can run indefinitely without burning up, but it has the air and recover capacity to provide continuous output without dropping. Other features we liked included the belt-drive pump and motor. This compressor has a very high build quality—very similar to models from Ingersoll Rand and Chicago Pneumatic.
Heavy Duty Motor
The stout two-stage cast iron pump is driven by a Baldor Reliance V-type 7.5 HP motor (Baldor Electric Company is now ABB). It’s a solidly-built motor with all-copper windings and double-sealed ball bearings. Condensate drains draw off moisture and extend service life. The belt is protected by a nice steel guard, and the pressure gauge and other fixtures look well-built. That includes the integrated sight glass for monitoring your oil level.
This 230V motor requires a dedicated 40-amp circuit. We ran a new line from our 125A shop service panel to a box and then ran 3/4-inch flex conduit whip to the air compressor.
While the NorthStar electric 80-gallon air compressor boasts “Low Vibration Technology (LVT)”, I tend to play it even safer. We ordered four styrene butadiene rubber pads on which the compressor sits. This helps decouple the vibration further from the concrete shop floor. When the compressor turns on it measures about 88dB(A) from 36-inches away. That’s not too shabby, and sound output decreased to 85 dB(A) at 6 feet. From across the shop, it’s more than tolerable.
Built Like an 80 gallon Air Compressor Tank
As expected, the welds on the ASME-Certified vertical tank are top-notch and covered with a thick powder-coat. While we opted for rubber feet, the base-ring on the bottom of the tank lets you bolt down the feet without deforming the tank on an uneven surface. For drainage, there’s an easy-access remote tank drain that is plumbed out to the front.
If you care about certifications, the pressure relief valves also carry the ASME stamp of approval, and the ball valves are CSA and FM approved as well as UL listed. Finally, all NorthStar air compressors are designed, engineered, and tested in Faribault, MN. They don’t do everything there, but they certainly aren’t “phoning these in” from another country either. The NorthStar Electric air compressor carries a 4-year warranty for residential use and a 2-year warranty for commercial. Northern Tool + Equipment stocks parts and handles all warranty issues.
NorthStar Electric Air Compressor Features & Specs Summary
Motor: Baldor 7.5 HP single-phase 230V with V-style cylinder design
- Required circuit: 40-amp
- FC35 grade cast iron pump
- Floating-type Swedish steel valves
- Low Vibration Technology (LVT)
- One-piece cast iron crankcase w/dual-side bearings
- Output: 24.4 CFM @ 90 PSI
- Max PSI: 175 (145–175 working pressure)
- Oversized cast-iron flywheel
- Step-type piston rings
- Sight glass for quick viewing of oil level
- Replaceable crank journals and wrist pin journal/needle bearings
- Two-piece connecting rods can be rebuilt
- Steel belt guard
- Pressure gauge
- Remote tank drain
- 1/2 in. NPT outlet
- 80-gallon ASME-certified vertical tank
- Pump life: 20,000 hours; 100% duty cycle
- Warranty: 4-year consumer/2-year commercial
- Dimensions: 31 x 25 x 68 in.
Installing the NorthStar 80-Gallon Air Compressor
As with any shop compressor we had to make some decisions. Opting for a vertical 80-gallon model was one of them. After that, it was a matter of deciding how to plumb out the shop and what materials to utilize. We decided to try something new and break out our Milwaukee PEX crimper. We placed an air filter regulator combo right after the compressor so that we could drop the line pressure as needed without having to rely on the main tank pressure regulator.
Next, we ran 3/4-inch (blue) PEX as our main trunk line around the top of the shop. Finally, we dropped four 1/2-inch PEX lines down the walls and ran a dedicated line to a ReelCraft air hose reel. While we could have used a manifold, that would have involved more PEX and a much more lengthy installation process.
Since the lines could support up to 160 PSI, we figured loading them up to 100-110 PSI would allow us to easily draw a continuous 90 PSI without taxing the system. Plus, we tend to use only one or two tools at a time here in the shop. Experimentation will determine how well this works out. PEX isn’t truly designed for air, however, it carries enough strength to support our needs. Also, if a line were to burst, PEX tends to tear. Compare that to PVC which more or less explodes into fragments.
When we had all our lines run, we finished them off with ball valves to drain out any potential condensation that might accumulate in the lines. A more sophisticated solution would involve adding driers at each drop.
Performance and Conclusion
While this compressor is not one that will get continuous daily use, we still need the durability and performance of a quality commercial compressor. When we’re testing tools, we tend to work them hard in a more compact period. Many times, it may be shootouts or roundups, which mean we may have 10-15 of the same tool for testing. With this many tools in for testing, we need a compressor that will not only supply the pressure, but that will also handle the continuous sustained pressure.
Some of the testing that we’ve done so far has involved running air impact wrenches and dual-action (DA) sanders. While the impact wrenches require a decent amount of volume to run, they typically don’t get steady-continuous use. Sanders, on the other hand, will be used for 30-minutes at a time, or more. These sanders sometimes require more than 10 SCFM, so they’re a great test for compressors. Our NorthStar 80-Gallon air compressor has no problem keeping up with either of these tools. We also tested all the pneumatic nailers in the Pro Tool Reviews’ Best Framing Nailer Shootout.
In addition to performance and power, the NorthStar 80-gallon air compressor is built to maintain. Compressors, like an air conditioner or car engine, require some love and affection to keep them running properly. NorthStar builds their air compressors with quality industrial and commercial parts and components. We can prepare for oil changes as the sight-glass shows oil pollution, or as the hours require. Two-piece connecting rods allow for the rods to be rebuilt, or piston and rings to be replaced. Even the crank journals can be replaced, as well as the wrist pin and needle bearings.
At an output of 24.4 cfm at 90 psi, this Northstar 80-gallon air compressor sets atop the list. For a 230V single-phase compressor, you won’t find many, if any, compressors that will supply more air than this. Also, if you happen to purchase this compressor, make sure that your air lines will support the volume. It’s one thing to run one tool at a time, but running multiple tools will be more influenced by the supply-air infrastructure. Don’t choke-down your new compressor.
Thus far, we’re thoroughly happy with our NorthStar 80-Gallon air compressor. It does what a compressor should do: turn on when it needs to turn on, provide the needed pneumatic capacity, and not cause us any headache. So far, so good! The Compressor really is one of those tools where you get what you pay for. Furthermore, when you do shell out the dough for this purchase, you don’t want to think about for a long time. Some of us (not me) take this a little too far and forget about the maintenance on the compressor. Don’t do this, make sure you schedule maintenance check on regular intervals. Change the oil regularly and keep an eye on the belts.
While this Northstar 80-Gallon compressor will set you back about $2K, this is a purchase that shouldn’t repeat for years to come. We definitely recommend the Northstar compressor, and we’re confident that ours will take care of our needs for quite some time.
Click the link for more information on the Northstar 80-Gallon Air Compressor.
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