What is SCFM in Air Compressors – SCFM vs. CFM

Air compressors are practical applications of Charles’ Law. This process turns power (electric power that pumps air) into potential energy in the form of pressurized air, and finally, kinetic energy to expel the gas or air. Many industries require air compressors to carry out various processes in their plants.


Standard Cubic Feet per Minute (SCFM) is the rate of flow of a gas or air through a compressor at standard temperature and pressure conditions. The standard temperature for calculating SCFM flow rate ranges from 60°F to 68°F, at a pressure of 14.7psi and relative humidity of 36%. Since SCFM measures volumetric airflow at standard conditions, it will always be higher than the CFM value for an air compressor.


SCFM and CFM are both essential values that indicate the airflow rate in a compressor. SCFM measures this value based on ‘ideal’ temperature and pressure conditions, while CFM measures the ‘actual’ air flow rate. CFM is the recognized value for measuring the airflow rate in the United States.

CFM (Cubic feet per minute) is a measure of the volume of air or gas that flows through a compressor in one minute. Sometimes, the CFM rating of an air compressor a manufacturer provides may have a margin of error. Therefore, the best way to find out the most accurate CFM value of your air compressor is to test it in your facility.

how to measure SCFM

You can find an air compressor’s CFM value using the following simple steps:

  • Find the volume of the air compressor tank in gallons. Most manufacturers specify this on the product.
  • Divide the value by 7.48. This value will be your tank volume.
  • Release air from the compressor.
  • Refill the air compressor with air, recording the amount of time it takes to refill the tank while watching the tank gauge. Record the PSI (pounds per square inch) at the moment the compressor kicks in and when it kicks out. You may call the first PSI measurement PSI 1 and PSI 2.
  • Subtract PSI 1 from PSI 2 and divide the difference by 14.7. This value gives you the pressure in the compressor tank during refill (expressed in atmospheric pressure).
  • Divide the tank volume you obtained earlier and multiply it with the pressure of the compressor tank during refill.
  • Convert this value to minutes by dividing it by the number of seconds it took the compressor to pump that amount of air.
  • Multiply the value by 60 to get the CFM of your air compressor.

Knowledge of SCFM is quite useful when working with air compressors. Once you understand how to convert units into SCFM, you will be able to easily convert SCFM to psi and vice versa.

What Are the Other Important Air Compressor Ratings to Consider?

After identifying the SCFM or CFM values, there are some other essential ratings to consider when choosing an air compressor such as:


what is SCFM in air compressors?

PSI (Pounds Per Square Inch) indicates the amount of pressure forced through a compressor per square inch of area. Since pressure is inversely proportional to area, it increases as area decreases and vice versa. Applications such as cutting, painting, sealing, sanding, and pounding will require a high PSI. Factory tools having PSI ratings from 40-90 may be enough to carry out most of these processes.

Duty Cycle

Air compressors perform rigorous amounts of work, so for efficient usage, they operate on an on/off cycle, also called a duty cycle. During its off-cycle, the compressor is not necessarily turned off but isn’t actively pressurizing any volume of air. Duty cycles are often specified as percentages, meaning that if a compressor has a duty cycle of 60/40, the compressor works for 60% of the time and is idled for the remaining 40%.

Horsepower (HP)

Horsepower is a measure of the motor efficiency of an air compressor at a given CFM and PSI. It describes the working capacity of the machine and is one of the most recognizable properties to look out for before completing a purchase. Depending on your application and for the optimum results, you can choose an air compressor rated sufficiently higher than your current CFM.


Gallons refer to the storage capacity of an air compressor’s tank. Usually, the larger the size of gallon size of the compressor, the longer the air compressor can perform. This consideration is particularly important for projects that require a continuous stream of airflow.

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Many industrial operators require compressed air in their operations, so having a standby air compressor is essential for optimal productivity. NiGen is a supplier of high-performance on-site nitrogen generation systems and industrial air compressor rentals. We offer industrial air compressors of varying sizes and ratings on a rental basis.

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