261 – Air Quality Upgrades

Written on 03/31/2016
Marc Spagnuolo

Venting the cyclone outside and a new exhaust fan will help keep the shop air free of dust!

I’ll be the first to admit that I have a slight problem: I’m a little paranoid about dust. I want as little of the stuff in the shop air as possible so I continually seek out means to achieve that end. While I do wear a respirator while I work, I frequently have to talk on camera shortly after making cuts that put dust directly into the air. Recently I decided to address two concerns with two separate upgrades.

Cyclone Exhaust

First, I got rid of my cyclone’s double filter stack and instead opted to vent the fine dust through the wall and outside. The Wynn filter stack I had worked well but it does require frequent maintenance. You have to blow the dust out of the pleats periodically and then empty out the fine stuff that falls into the bottom cleanout. I’m never totally confident that the filter is clean enough and it’s not clear to me at what point the filters need to be replaced. By venting the fine dust directly outside, there’s nothing to clean and I can be 100% sure the fine dust isn’t landing in the shop. A simple 8″ dryer vent is installed in the wall and a piece of flex hose is used to make the connection to the cyclone exhaust port. Special thanks to the folks at ClearVue Cyclones for helping me with the fitting I needed to make the connection!

Exhaust Fan

exhuast-fanNext up is an exhaust fan. As good as my dust collection system is, it doesn’t catch everything. And it’s not necessarily the dust collector’s fault. Many woodworking tools are designed with dust collection as an afterthought. So if I’m in a situation where I need to talk on camera and the shop air is laden with dust, a high capacity exhaust fan would allow me to clear the air quickly and get back to work. So I installed a 30″ 5500CFM Maxxair Exhaust Fan. Within minutes, the entire volume of shop air is forced out and replaced with fresh air. I installed the fan in the back of the shop which allows me to open the front door to create something of a wind tunnel. Works like a charm!

The Test

dylosTo test out the fan system, I kicked up a bunch of dust into the air and used a Dylos DC1100 Air Quality Meter to monitor the air quality. After turning on the fan, it took about 10 minutes for the shop to return to normal. Given how much dust I kicked up (enough to be visible to the naked eye) I was pretty impressed.

Things To Be Concerned About

1 – Air loss. If you condition your shop space in the Winter and Summer, punching holes in the wall will certainly create a source of air loss, and not just while in use. There isn’t much I can do about the cyclone exhaust but the exhaust fan can be easily covered. My plan is to simply build a hinged insulated box that will cover the fan when not in use. And I’ll need to be very strategic about when I use the fan during the Summer months.

2 – Safety. Many shops are located in basements and garages that share space with furnaces and water heaters. Venting outside and running exhaust fans creates a pressurized situation that could very well draw dangerous gasses into your shop space. My standalone shop doesn’t have any of those things within it so all I need to do is open my front door to create the needed return air. DO NOT install either of these upgrades without doing your research first!

3 – Neighbors. Both of these upgrades are noisy and depending on how close your neighbors are and how noise-tolerant they are, there could be a major issue. I’m fortunate in that there’s quite a bit of space between the houses in my neighborhood as well as the fact that being located near an air force base makes the neighborhood very noise-tolerant. Furthermore, I rarely run loud tooling after 8pm.

So if you want cleaner shop air and you have the means/desire, consider venting your dust collection outside and installing an exhaust fan!