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Tech Tip: Replace Canned Air with a Portable Air Compressor

Husky Portable Compressors

  • October 5, 2010
  • By Carla Schroder
Keeping the insides of our computers clean is a good practice, but canned air is expensive and wasteful. One alternative is portable air compressor.

<em>Husky Scout</em>
Husky Scout

My home computers live in a dirty environment; out here in the country we have real dirt and lots of it. So I take them outside a couple of times a year and blow out all the accumulated dirt and bugs. Sometimes it's enough to plant potatoes.

I quit using canned air because it's feeble and it's expensive, both to me and to the environment. How many millions of those one-use cans are cluttering landfills? I tried using a Eureka Mighty Mite vacuum cleaner. That worked OK after I cobbled up an extra-narrow nozzle out of 3/8" clear tubing.

But that didn't work as well as I wanted, so I went shopping for a compressor. (Any excuse for a trip to Home Depot or Lowe's is a good excuse.) Originally I was thinking of getting a portable rechargeable canister, but then I found these two little Husky electric compressors: the Husky Trim-Plus 3 gallon air compressor ($129) and the Husky 1.5 gallon Air Scout Compressor ($99). Canned air goes for around $6 per can here, so the payback time is short.

<em>Husky Trim-Plus</em>
Husky Trim-Plus

The Scout is lightweight and has good onboard accessory storage. The Trim-Plus is more powerful and comes with a brad nailer, so I bought it. Both have adjustable outflow pressure. I spent another six bucks on a pistol-grip blow gun. This gets into every nook and cranny in my computers; I take them outside and return the dirt to whence it came. They haven't been this clean since they were new.

<em>Pistol-grip blow gun</em>
Pistol-grip blow gun

These are light-duty inflators; they won't run heavy-duty tools or paint sprayers. But they will quickly inflate almost anything. I use my little Husky to inflate big tractor tires and charge well pressure tanks, and many other random chores.

There are a number of comparable, inexpensive portable air compressors to choose from. If you are not familiar with using a compressor please take the time to read through the safety warnings and instructions. The Huskies are rugged and simple to use, but you can hurt yourself, and remember that thread tape is your best friend.

Update: Some helpful reader suggestions.

Be careful of water or oil coming out of your compressor. I've never had a problem with oil, but sometimes there is a bit of condensation in the air tank, so remember to pop the moisture release valve occasionally.

A compressor can be too powerful, so test it carefully first.

Shop vacs blow as well as suck. If you can find or make a suitable nozzle they're a good alternative.

Dyson makes powerful hand-held vacuums, like the new DC31. These are spendy at around $250, but they're easy to tote and do a good job.

With any of these, take the usual electro-static discharge precautions.

Carla Schroder is the author of the Linux Cookbook and the Linux Networking Cookbook (O'Reilly Media), the upcoming "Book of Audacity" (NoStarch Press), a lifelong book lover, and the managing editor of LinuxPlanet and Linux Today.

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