Airless paint sprayers are a type of paint sprayer that don’t use a compressor or turbine to pump paint out of the system. Instead, they use high pressure pneumatics, gas, or electricity to pump paint evenly onto the surface of your project.
Benefits of using an airless paint sprayer
Airless paint sprayers have three key advantages over paint sprayers with air compressors:
Portability: The most obvious advantage of an airless paint sprayer is that they’re more portable than traditional sprayers. Airless paint sprayers are ideal for job sites and projects with a large surface area to cover or difficult to spray places.
Paint finish: Airless paint sprayers provide a smoother finish than other options.
Pressure: Airless paint sprayers have a consistent stream of high pressure paint forced through the nozzle, while traditional sprayers must build up pressure with an attached compressor. However, airless paint sprayers need to be handled with care because the PSI can reach dangerous levels.
The biggest disadvantage of airless paint sprayers is the costs — airless paint sprayers are typically going to cost between $200 to $2000, depending on the model and features you select (we’ll cover the best airless paint sprayers based on different categories below).
Types of airless paint sprayers
Airless paint sprayers typically fall into three different categories based on their power source:
Pneumatic paint sprayers
Electric paint sprayers
Gas paint sprayers
There are advantages and disadvantages to all three types, which will be covered below.
Pneumatic airless paint sprayers
Pneumatic airless paint sprayers are the best option for contractors and industrial facility managers, because of the versatility of nozzle sizes they can use. Different types of coatings require different nozzle sizes in order to be applied.
Adaptable: Compatible with other nozzle-based equipment for contractors
Safety: Safe in hazardous environments (e.g. explosive or chemical)
Versatility: Capable of using a variety of nozzle types and spray guns
Loud: The noisiest option
Environment-specific: Not appropriate for cold environments (can freeze)
Electric airless paint sprayers
Electric airless paint sprayers are a good option for smaller, residential contractors that might not need the power of a gas or pneumatic airless sprayer.
Quiet: The quietest of all power types
Energy efficient: Reduces the cost of using the paint sprayer
Multi-environmental: Can be used in cold environments
Pressure: Less PSI than the other options
Battery limiting: Needs to be plugged in or charged
Nozzles: Only smaller nozzles can be used
Gas airless paint sprayers
Gas airless paint sprayers are another great option for industrial contractors, but they’re limited by explosive environments and require permits on certain job sites.
Portability: Gas airless paint sprayers are the most portable / built-in power source
Pressure: The most PSI compared to the other power sources
Power: Able to handle the toughest projects
Environmentally-limited: Not allowed in chemical or explosive environments due to the power source
Permits: Requires a permit on certain job sites
Other types of airless paint sprayers
Airless paint sprayers can also be categorized based on other characteristics.
Handheld airless paint sprayers
Handheld spray guns can be used for smaller DIY residential projects. These are usually battery powered and are powered by a small motor. The nozzles are generally smaller and can only handle low viscosity paints like lacquer or stain.
We do not recommend handheld airless sprayers for larger projects.
Cart airless spray guns
These types of sprayers are larger and have a motor with a tank attached to a cart with wheels.
These sprayers are more appropriate for larger projects where portability is a factor, but aren’t as heavy duty as stand airless sprayers.
Stand airless paint sprayers
Stationary airless paint sprayers are also an option. The tank and motor will be attached to a mounted stand that can fit on the back of a truck to be moved around.
These are the largest and highest pressure (most powerful) types of sprayers, but they’re obviously limited by their lack of portability.
How to use an airless paint sprayer
Once you’ve selected an airless paint sprayer, you’ll want to consider several factors before you use the sprayer.
What paint should you use in an airless paint sprayer?
With paint sprayers in general, you want to use a low viscosity paint to avoid clogging or jamming the sprayer. Latex paints and stains are good options for residential paint projects.
However, industrial painters may need to use higher viscosity paints in an airless sprayer.
Most paint sprayers, e.g. HVLP sprayers, require low viscosity paint in order to apply a smooth, even coat. However, airless higher viscous materials (thick coatings that can handle high pressure from the sprayer) are an option for airless paint sprayers.
Coatings like epoxies can be used in airless paint sprayers, which is why they’re the preferred sprayer for industrial applications. When you need to meet VOC guidelines and use a 100% solids epoxy, airless sprayers are your best option.
What environments are compatible with sprayers?
As we mentioned above, different types of airless paint sprayers are appropriate for different environments. An industrial contractor, you may need multiple sprayers, while a homeowner fixing up their property might only need one suitable for their environment.
Electric airless paint sprayers are the most adaptable to environmental conditions and can be used in cold, explosive, and chemical environments.
Pneumatic airless paint sprayers can struggle in cold environments (freezing up and not properly discharging the paint.
Gas airless paint sprayers cannot be used in explosive or chemical environments where an open flame or chemical reaction could lead to disaster.