Anyone that has spent time shopping around their local hardware store for air compressors will know that there is plainly a significant difference between commercial air compressors and others. Home air compressors may have the same psi level and the like, but they cost a lot less. Why is that and what is the difference?
In the most basic sense, obviously, commercial air compressors are meant for commercial use or for use by businesses or professionals as opposed to individuals and hobbyists. More importantly commercial air compressors tend to be stronger, tougher, longer-lasting, and are designed to be used heavily. At the same time, most home use compressors are not meant to be used too heavily and generally could not deal with the pressures stemming from commercial use.
On the high end, commercial air compressors include the giants used in most factories, natural gas pipelines and other heavy industrial uses. More often than not, these are massive, stationary units generating far more power than could ever be used by a small operator. These behemoth air compressors tend to be custom built for their purpose and maintained by very specialized technicians trained to deal with these particular machines. Some of these giants run literally thousands of pneumatic devices within a particular factory and most operate in pairs, in order to keep continuous air pressure going all of the time.
In the middle range are large air compressors that can generate enormous power, but are mass produced and installed as needed. Most of these units are considerably less expensive than the customized ones, but still well outside the price range of most individuals. Similar to the enormous units, they also draw a lot of power and can be relied upon to power a wide range of pneumatic devices simultaneously. These might be found in smaller factories, airplane hangars, or very large motor pools.
On the lower range are the models designed to operate a reasonable number of machines and that maintain consistent pressure for multiple tools on a smaller scale. This is the type of air compressor frequently used by garages or small work shops. These are also the most common commercial air compressors to be found for sale used on the open market. These types of compressors usually cost at least a few thousand dollars, but are within the price range of many small businesses.
Finally there are the commercial use portable compressors. These frequently operate on gasoline or diesel (though there are other power sources possible, like electric or propane) and are usually designed for hard and constant use. Good examples of applications might include in logging camps or on diving boats. Many of these compressors can be quite expensive, but are expected to last much longer than non-commercial compressors do.
Ultimately, that is the primary difference between commercial and non-commercial air compressors: commercial compressors are expected to last longer and perform better. As a consequence, it is fairly safe to assume a commercial air compressor is a better built, more rugged, and more dependable air compressor than non-commercial ones. This is the primary reason that the commercial air compressors end up cost considerably more than the alternatives. The expectations are simply much higher.