Dust Collection Systems
on August 6 2013
Stationary and bench-top power tools quickly produce a large amount of sawdust and wood chunks that can cover your shop, impair visibility and cause damage to blades and machinery. Dust particles also enter the air you breathe, and consistently inhaling dust can lead to a number of adverse health effects. If you work with stationary and bench-top tools, you should seriously consider getting a dust collection system.
Before you learn about the available dust collectors and your layout and piping options, use the following questions to start thinking about the specific needs of your workshop:
• Do you use any tools that produce large shavings or chips of wood?
• Will more than one user be accessing the tools at the same time?
• How many tools will you need to connect to your dust collection system?
• Is your workshop compact or spread out over a wide area?
• Do you use your tools often or frequently switch between them?
Type, Layout, Piping and Air Filtration
Dust collection systems capture sawdust, as well as shavings, chips and other debris, right at their point of origin, before dust even has a chance to enter the air. Most shop dust collection systems are fairly large, freestanding units that use a special fan called an impeller to pull in dust and push clean air back out through a filter. Depending on the number of tools you have and their placement in your shop, you may have to construct a piping system that connects all your items to the main collection unit. You should also consider the benefits of a standalone air filtration system as a complement to a bag collection system. Single-Stage vs. Dual-Stage Systems:
Single-stage collectors pull dust, shavings, chips and other debris through the impeller and deposit them in a collection area. Because larger shavings and chips are hitting the impeller on a single-stage unit, there may be more wear on the impeller. Steel impellers are durable and provide lasting performance, but there is some risk of fire if a nail or screw were to strike the metal and cause a spark. On dual-stage units, only dust goes through the impeller because heavier chips and debris are removed during an initial separation stage. Dual-stage units are more powerful and efficient. They also tend to have a larger footprint and carry a higher initial cost.
• Dual-stage units use cyclonic action to separate fine dust from coarse dust and heavier debris
• Dual-stage units offer better power and performance and often require a larger initial investment
• Some single-stage units allow you to upgrade your system by purchasing a separator to add later Power and Airflow:
Use the number of tools you'll be running simultaneously to give you an idea of the horsepower (hp) you'll need. The dust/chunk production of each tool should be considered as well. Usually 1 to 2 hp is fine for a home user running one tool at a time. Two users would require about 5 hp, three users 7-1/2 hp and four users 10 hp. If your workshop is spread out over a large area, consider using multiple units with lower horsepower to keep the piping as short as possible.
• Systems above 2 hp usually have higher voltage and amperage requirements
• In general, larger diameter impellers move more air, increasing airflow
• Manufacturer airflow ratings (cfm) are typically not under load, so airflow is lower during use Layout:
It's best to avoid long runs of piping and bends that decrease efficiency and can result in clogs. If you have a big shop, consider creating workstations with clusters of tools and smaller piping networks. You can then hook up a dust collection system at each workstation, or you can use a rolling system that moves between workstations. If you switch tools frequently or have multiple users, moving a unit between tools or workstations may not be practical. Smaller shops can use a single system and connect all tools to a piping network for greater convenience. Occasional woodworkers or those who don't switch tools frequently may choose to hook up a rolling or portable unit to a single tool at a time, saving the expense, time and energy required to build and maintain a piping network.
• If you're connecting more than one tool, put the tool(s) you use most frequently closest to the collection
• A right angle in the piping has the power and airflow requirements of several feet of straight pipe, so
avoid bends in piping when possible
• Small portable systems and larger rolling systems enable easy movement between tools, eliminating
the need for a piping structure Piping:
PVC piping is not recommended for dust collection because it builds static charges that can create sparks, resulting in fire or even explosions. Grounded metal piping discharges static electricity to prevent sparks. If you're hooking up more than one tool to a single collector, you can install blast gates inside the pipes to control the suction to each tool. Again, look for metal blast gates. If you choose to go with PVC pipes or blast gates, you'll have to ground them with copper wire.
• 4" or 6" diameter piping is adequate for most small shops
• Flexible dust hoses are used to connect each tool to the piping
• Dusthoses are available in antistatic and clear variations Air Filtration Systems:
A standalone air filtration system captures fine dust that escapes your bag collection system in addition to other airborne impurities. An air filtration system is not an alternative to a system that connects directly to your tool. If you don't capture the dust until it's in the air, you're already breathing it in, so you should collect as much dust at the source as possible. An air filter also won't prevent your shop from becoming littered with shavings and chips. For handheld or small bench-top tools, use an air filtration system to catch dust that slips though your small collection bag or wet/dry vac.
• Systems can usually be hung from the ceiling, making strategic placement easy and saving space
• Most models capture a high percentage of 1- to 5-micron particles, which are more dangerous than larger
• Many air filtration systems can clean the air in a 20" x 20" room more than 12 times an hour
|Air Filtration Systems
||• Removes airborne particles as small as 1 to 5
• Compact, usually hangs from the ceiling, so
you won't lose any bench or floor space
• Captures fine particles that may escape from a
single-stage or dual-stage system
|• Should not be used as an alternative
to point-of-origin collection systems
|Dual-Stage Collection Systems
||• Cyclonic action separates heavier chips and
debris, removing them before they reach the
• Improved efficiency and performance
• Available with higher hp and airflow for
|• Higher initial cost
• Takes up more floor space
• Voltage and amperage requirements
may exceed the electrical capabilities
of some small shops
|Single-Stage Collection Systems
||• Compact, space-saving design
• Available with rollers for movement from tool to
tool or station to station
• Lower initial cost
• Separators can be purchased later for
|• All of the debris is directed through the
impeller, increasing impeller wear
• A nail or screw hitting the steel impeller
could spark and result in a fire or
A totally enclosed fan-cooled (TEFC) motor delivers long-lasting performance with reduced motor wear.
1- Micron Bags:
If your unit comes with 5-micron or 30-micron bags, consider upgrading to a bag that will capture dangerous 1-micron particles. You can also get a compact air filtration system that captures 1- to 5-micron particles.
Look for a bag system that makes frequent emptying of the contents a fast and simple task. Also, make sure the attachment system creates a tight seal, leaving no room for dust to escape.