While many shops view dust collection strictly as a waste disposal issue, it isn't. Dust and debris can negatively affect a shop's output, if not properly contained and disposed. CabinetMaker talked with several dust collection manufacturers to find out what you need to know about dust collection.

1. Boost production.

When not properly contained, sawdust can shorten the life of machines, adversely affect employees' health and waste energy. "A good dust collection system can help equipment run more efficiently, save energy, lower insurance costs and provide a cleaner and safer working environment," says Mike Archer, regional sales manager, Dantherm Filtration Inc.

However, don't forget how much dust even a portable sander can generate, comments Joe Ghering, product manager for woodworking, Delta Porter Cable.

To keep machinery humming, even a small collector filtering out wood dusts is better than nothing, recommends Kristen El-Hindi, marketing management, Oneida.

2. Evaluate your needs.

Before purchasing a dust collection system it's important to size the collector for its intended task in both volume (CFM) and suction power known as static pressure (SP). "Buy as much CFM/SP that you can afford whether it's a cyclone system or a traditional two- or four-bag dust collector," says William Whitaker, sales manager, Penn State Industries. "The highest CFM, and the highest static pressure on the collector is a must."

The performance of small portable collectors can be confusing, and don't be misled by high horsepower, comments Richard Olsaver, vice president, Aget Manufacturing Co.

"A 5-HP collector with a 5 inch inlet is not going to give you performance in the 1,500 to 2,000 CFM range that an industrial type system will," he says.

3. Choose the right system.

Single-stage systems are portable and can be moved from tool to tool. However, all debris goes directly into the fan and is blown into cloth or plastic collection bags. "A single-stage system may be great for hooking up a couple machines, but it's not great for hooking up to multiple machines at the same time," says John McConegly, president, JDS. "Because everything is going through the fan, shavings, sawdust and chips from a couple machines will overload the fan and reduce performance."

If multiple machines will be hooked up, a cyclone or two-stage system should be considered. With this type of system, the fan is on top of the cyclone. "The inlet is down from the top of the cone, so everything flies into the cone's sloped walls and causes debris to swirl downward into a pan, which safeguards the fan," says McConegly. "If you're collecting from four machines it doesn't slow down. It's important to recognize if you can use a powerful single stage or if you need a cyclone."

4. Save money safely.

Because many small shops are on a tight budget, some opt to purchase a system on the Web. "A small shop owner buys a system he thinks is the right size, but he won't get any engineering support," says Curt Corum, sales manager, Air Handling Systems. "You can save money on the unit by purchasing it on the Web, but shop owners are left in the dark on how to properly design the central system for the collector."

Professional consultation is best, but if mail order is your only option, Corum recommends becoming familiar with the National Fire Prevention association's guide 664: Standard for the Prevention of Fires and Explosions in Wood Processing and Woodworking Facilities. "The codes tell what kind of dust collector a small or large shop should use, the piping and other valuable safety information," says Corum. The guide can be ordered online at www.nfpa.org/aboutthecodes/AboutTheCodes.asp?DocNum=664.

5. Design your ductwork for maximum efficiency.

Poorly designed ductwork can decrease a dust collector's performance. When selecting ductwork take into consideration the life expectancy of your shop's layout. "Some styles of ducting can only be configured once," says Steve McDaniel, vice president, K&B Duct. For optimal results, use 26-gauge snap-lock pipe or 24-ga. premium pipe. "Premium pipe offers easy disassembly, and reconstruction because of small and large end connector fittings," says Whitaker. "When designing ductwork keep it as simple as possible. Many off-shoots from the main run diagonally, which will result in maintaining higher CFM, and lower static pressure loss."

6. Placement affects performance.

Where you place a dust collection system can affect its performance. "If the unit is too close to rafters or a wall and the bag rubs up against something it will decrease suction," says Derek Williams, president, American Fabric Filter Co. "The bag shouldn't be touching anything." A system can be placed in a corner, but it should be at least 6 inches to a 1 foot away from all walls and ceilings. If the bag is touching anything, it will eventually wear a hole where it's rubbing and decrease surface area to filter with, says Williams.

Consider your machinery arrangement relative to the collector location. A simple, short duct system with a minimum of elbows and hose will make a system more efficient, comments Olsaver. Resistance to flow is greater per foot in the smaller diameter duct sizes and less in the larger diameters. "Locate machines needing smaller ducts closer to the collector, and those needing larger ducts at the end," says Olsaver. "Your main duct gets larger faster and minimizes resistance."

7. Be safe when you dispose dust.

If you plan on selling your dust waste to a farm, not all waste material may be suitable, such as plastic or synthetic materials, comments Randy Boshco, vice president, Dustek. He recommends looking into separate dust collectors.

A small canister or single drum may not be workable if you have a machine, such as a large planer, which can fill a drum in minutes. Handling and transferring collected dust indoors can create secondary health and housekeeping issues, comments Olsaver. He says, "Consider an outdoor location, and if you will recirculate the air from the outside after filter locate a cyclone outside and after filter inside."

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