If you’ve ever been near power tools or woodworking machinery, you should know how much sawdust they produce. One of the most effective tools to get rid of wood debris and sawdust is a dust extractor. Dust extractors use high volume air traveling at low velocity. These tools are designed to pick up huge amounts of waste that is constantly produced by woodworking power tools.
What is HEPA?
HEPA stands for high-efficiency particulate air. HEPA filters fit into machines like air purifiers and dust extractors to get rid of microscopic air pollutants – tobacco smoke, pet dander, and even sawdust – that can be hazardous to your health and woodworking equipment. In order for a filter to meet HEPA standards, it should be able to filter or capture at least 99.7% of particles 0.3 μm or smaller.
What to look for in a HEPA dust extractor
Before purchasing a HEPA dust extractor for your workshop, you should first pay attention to several features and capabilities of what a certain dust extractor model can do.
The air volume sucked up by a dust extractor is measured by using cubic-feet-per-minute (CFM). Most basic portable dust extractors should produce at least 130 CFM which is enough for most light- and medium-duty power tools. However, large woodworking machines may require something much stronger (wood thicknessers requires at least 500 CFM). In the end, it depends on what you have in the workshop, and in most cases, 140 CFM should be enough for most of what you have in your workshop.
Another indicator of dust extractor performance is the static water lift test. Essentially, manufacturers test their dust extractor models by placing the suction hose into a tray or bucket of water and see how far in the water is sucked through the tube (measured in inches). This test determines how well the dust extractor can pick up larger-sized debris.
The best home-use dust extractors should have a water lift of between 90 and 100 inches, though it depends entirely on what power tools you possess and how much lift it requires to pick up the leftover sawdust and debris.
Static electricity is produced as dry particles rub the inside of the hose. As the static charge builds up, it can discharge a spark which can potentially lead to an explosion. Although these are extremely rare, it’s something that we should avoid at all costs. You can either ground the dust extractor or purchase a model that comes with an anti-static hose.
Lengths of hose and cord
Obviously, we want a tool that can connect to all of our power tools and woodworking machines. Dust extractors can be portable and come with wheels for pulling the unit to the tool you want to use, but we generally like to leave it in one place while we take the suction hose to the unit. This is possible if the length of the hose and the cord allow for easy movement. You can always unplug the unit and bring it closer to your power tool, but that’s a whole lot of manual labor we want to avoid.
Which HEPA dust extractor to get
Now that we have the basics down, it’s time to see which HEPA dust collector will serve us well in our workshops. The following portion will show our 5 picks for the best HEPA dust extractors you can buy right now. Keep in mind that although we feel that these are the best-performing dust extractors, they might not fit each and every one of your power tools’ specifications.
This HEPA dust extractor by DEWALT features a 15.0 amp motor that delivers up to 150 CFM and 50 inches of water lift. The DWV010 comes with a 15-foot anti-static hose with a universal connector that fits into virtually every dust collector port. The length of the power cord is only 8 feet so you may need to wheel the unit to various workstations. In addition, the DWV010 feature an 8-gallon tank and comes with a set of fleece bags to grab hold of microscopic, airborne pollutants.
In terms of noise levels, we prefer units that are quiet (below 70 decibels), and the DEWALT fails in this regard. Though it works like a charm in the workshop, it produces about 76 decibels of noise while keeping your station clean.
The FEIN Turbo II with an 8.4-gallon tank comes with a 15.0 amp motor produces delivers around 150 CFM and an amazing 98.4 inches of static water lift. This means that the Turbo II has no trouble sucking up airborne particles as well as large-sized debris leftover from softwoods. It comes with a long 18-foot power cord and the 13-foot hose.
Unfortunately, the hose is not anti-static so you’ll need to ground the unit properly to avoid static electricity buildup. The Turbo II also has an auto-start feature that, when turned on, automatically starts when connected to your power tools. This model produces roughly 66 decibels of noise when running, which is relatively quiet for a portable dust extractor.
The Bosch VAC090AH features a 9.5 amp motor which delivers around 150 CFM and 97 inches of water lift. It has a 15-foot cord and 9.85-foot non-anti-static hose (requires proper grounding). It has a flexible nozzle that attaches to most all types of dust collectors.
The VAC090AH also has an auto-cleaning feature that cleans the HEPA filter every 15 seconds to ensure longevity and optimal suction ability. It also comes with a Power Broker dial which users can turn to match the suction power to whatever requirements their power tools need. This dust extractor is the loudest one out of all the items on our list (76 decibels). It’s not deafening, but it’s definitely bothersome.
This 8.8 amp dust extractor by Festool produces only 137 CFM and 96 inches of water lift. Compared to the other units, it performs slightly worse at keeping air flowing to the tank and bag, though it works exceedingly well at picking up small chunks of wood.
The 584084 comes with a super-long 26.4-foot power cord and 11.5-foot anti-static hose. It also comes with an automatic tool start feature and dial to determine its suction power. Due to the Level Stop technology installed in this unit, when internal sensors detect that the tank is full, the unit will automatically shut off.
It produces about 71 decibels of noise when running at full power. Plus, the power cord can be a little too stiff so have to be extremely careful when moving the unit from place to place.
Our pick for the best HEPA dust extractor you can purchase today is also a Festool-made product. The 583492, similar to the previous model, it produces around 137 CFM but has a reduced water lift level of only 80 inches.
However, for most workshops, this is all you’ll ever need (unless you wood planers and continuously run softwoods through it). The power cord is about 32.7 feet long and the flexible anti-static hose is 11.5 feet long. Just like the previous model, the cord is a little stiff, but it’s not that big of an issue since you hardly ever need to move the unit around.
While running at maximum capacity, it produces only 62 decibels of noise, which is generally much quieter than most of the power tools in the average DIY-er’s workshop.
Dust extractors are extremely handy tools that eliminate large amounts of dust in little time. The two most important factors to pay attention to are CFM and static water lift since these determine how well the unit can keep airborne particles inside of the hose and bag, as well as the maximum size of wood debris that the hose can pick up.
There are a number of other specs to take into account – e.g. portability, static electricity, auto-cleaning, auto-shut off, etc. – to make your dust extractor much safer and reliable in the workshop. In general, you’ll want a dust extractor that can deliver at least 130 CFM and at least 90 inches of water lift.
As you can see from our pick of the top 5 HEPA dust extractors, the specs are all over the place – the DEWALT has only 50 inches of water lift, the Festool 583492 has more than 90 – but it’s important to keep everything in perspective.
In our list, we focused on what most DIY-ers would need for their workshops. For professional workshops, they might require at least 500 CFM to keep their floors and benches free of debris.
We feel that the Festool 583492 is the best HEPA dust extractor of the five here based on the fact that it delivers adequate suction power super quietly. The problem of the stiff cord is overcome by the length of the cord and hose, meaning that you can leave the unit in one place while connecting the hose between power tools without wheeling the 583492 around.
For amateur woodworkers with a limited number of power tools, the Festool – or any of these dust extractors – may be overkill, so remember to take into account your power tool arsenal before buying a dust extractor.
Some people might scoff at the thought of implementing HEPA-grade filters in a woodworker’s dust extractor, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry, especially when you put your health on the line for your hobby or job.