When it comes to inflation, there are a lot of ways to skin a cat.
It's a simple concept, and the answer to your inflation needs is simple as well.
It all comes down to the task at hand. So what are you inflating: sports balls, inflatables, bike tires, car tires, air mattresses and/or rafts?
As a general rule of thumb: a compressor is always going to be faster than an inflator.
If your inflation needs exclusively consist of filling sports balls, in all honesty, you should probably just buy a hand pump. Hand pumps are too slow for large items, but they can fill footballs and basketballs relatively quickly.
Inflatable toys, beach balls and things such as water-wings can be filled the old fashioned way: with your lungs. However, this can take a long time. An inflator with an adapter can get these items full of air in a fraction of the time you could do it manually.
And if you're in a real rush, an air compressor will inflate a beach ball in no time.
You have three options for inflating bike tires, and your decision basically comes down to how much time do you want to spend.
A hand pump will take the longest. A 12-volt inflator will fill up bicycle tires faster, while a 120-volt inflator will do it even faster. But a compressor will get you back pedaling in seconds, not minutes.
This category is the reason most folks shop for an inflation solution. Hand pumps are out. A 12-volt inflator is better suited for topping off tires. If you're filling a car tire with a 12-volt inflator, it could take as much as 20 minutes. 120-volt inflators will be faster, but can still take a while.
Inflators are great for tires in emergency situations because they are rechargeable or can run off a car battery. However, if you'll be inflating tires on a regular basis, do yourself a favor and go with a small, electric air compressor.
Air Mattresses & Rafts
Tubing is more fun than a barrel of monkeys so long as you don't try inflating the tube by mouth or hand. Even using a 12-volt or 120-volt inflator is going to take a long
The two best options are a high-volume inflator meant for items like these, or an air compressor with an adapter. Usually items such as tubes or air mattresses have large openings so you'll need to make sure you have the proper adapter for the job.
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