There are advantages and disadvantages for each type of breaking tool with a large variety of tools in each category. We wanted to do an overview of the main differences between these types of systems as well as highlight a few recommended products in each category.
Pneumatic Breakers are very common among commercial demolition. Common Pneumatic breaker sizes are 35 lb, 60 lb and 90 lb. We recommend Chicago Pneumatic for the air breakers themselves.
PROS: These air tools are lightweight and relatively inexpensive for the tools themselves. Tools can last a long time and are fairly easy to repair.
CONS: Pneumatic Breakers require a fairly large air compressor power source. They are loud to operate, inoperable at low temperatures and complete system can be pricy. Air tools also require a fair amount of up keep due to need to be oiled and fear of moisture buildup in the lines.
Power Source: The recommended compressor would be a Chicago Pneumatic screw compressor or Ingersoll Rand Gas Compressor if you are going to be working away from an electric power source. Breakers require much larger compressors than that portable one you use to power your nail gun. You will need a large tank and serious power. The screw compressors are recommended because they provide more continuous air flow, last longer, run quieter and are more compact.
Hydraulic Breakers work similar to the pneumatic systems where there is a power source completely separate from the operating tool. Our recommendation for a Portable Hydraulic System would defiantly be the Atlas Copco Power Pack (picture shown above) with the associated tools.
PROS: Hydraulic tools provide the most power and torque as the fluid can not compress like air, the tools will not freeze at low temperatures, hydraulic tools can work underwater, life span of the tool is very long, low maintenance as the parts are continuously lubricated and the tools are quieter than other options.
CONS: The main problem with the hydraulic system is the initial costs are more than other options and if the line ever breaks you have a big mess.
Power Source: The Atlas Copco Power Pack is fairly compact with wheels and handle for easy maneuverability. It can easily be lifted into a truck bed and is far more portable than an air compressor with comparable output. The Atlas Copco sytem is powered by a Honda 13 hp gas engine and works with a wide range of tools which can all work simultaneously off one unit.
Electric Breakers are probably the easiest out of the box breakers to use. Simply plug into an electrical outlet and the tool is ready to use. These are the most common for rental to take out the back patio or other one time jobs. Our Recommendations would be for the Bosch Breakers, specifically the Bosch Brute 11304 or new lighter Bosch 11335K (shown above).
PROS: Easy to use, no expensive external power source required, can use in cold temperatures, quieter to operate than other options, less expensive for complete system.
CONS: Not as powerful as pneumatic or hydraulic tools, lower power/weight, need to be near source of electrical power, shorter life of tool, more costly repairs and should not be operated around water.
Power Source: The most versatile as it can work with any electric power source with a plug. For mobile use they work with any heavy duty jobsite generator such as the Milwaukee Generators powered by Honda Engines, available in 4300, 5000, 6000 & 7000 watts.
Gas Breakers (self contained) are the only completely independent breakers that don’t have a cord or hose which could easily be cut or broken. Chicago Pneumatic makes the Red Hawk Gas Powered Breaker, our recommendation for gas breaker.
PROS: Completely self contained, quick easy set up, no hoses or electric cords to be damaged and more versatile single unit.
CONS: Noisier, poisonous exhaust fumes, heavy unit, continuous maintenance, costly repairs, lowest power/weight ratio.
Power Source: Self contained gas engine makes this ideal for small jobs and remote locations.
Overall our recommendation for any serious demolition jobs done by hand is for the Power Pack from Atlas Copco. In addition to the several options of breakers this unit works with available core drills, large saws and many other tools. Hydraulic power is the most powerful, can be used underwater or in the cold and the Power Pack unit is portable enough for almost all jobs.