Nathan Ford, Application Specialist at Fein, offers his 10 top tips on choosing your next dust extractor.
When you work in the trade, choosing a dust extractor is not as simple as it may sound – there’s a lot to consider. Not only that but changes in site health and safety policies could mean that tradespeople need a new extractor sooner rather than later.
Fortunately for all involved, the construction industry’s understanding of the danger of dust has greatly improved in the last few years. Once considered little more than a nuisance on-site, dust is now understood for what it is; a real risk to your lungs. In fact, certain types of dust can cause long-term, life-changing illnesses if breathed in regularly.
It has led to a series of publications on the subject by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and a rise in the number of building sites now increasing the minimum level of extraction required to work on the premises.
For many tradespeople this will mean having to purchase new equipment or run the risk of missing out on work. However, before tradespeople rush out to their nearest dealer, they should take the time to familiarise themselves with which potential features of a dust extractor will be most useful to them.
One of the most important features I have found is an auto-clean system. In the past, an issue with extractors has been how quickly fine dust can clog filters once it passes through the bag.
Automatic filter cleaning systems, such as Fein’s Auto-Clean, regularly reverse the airflow so that any fine dust sitting in the filter is blown down into the extractor’s container. This means more time can be focused on the job in hand and not be impeded with constant filter changes and keeps harmful dust particles in the machine, where they belong.
Automatic features like this are a growing trend and very useful. High-end extractor models will often have an auto-start outlet that turns the extractor on when the power tool plugged in to it is turned on. This can be a great timesaver and ensures you have suction exactly when you need it.
Likewise, it’s worth looking out for extractors that provide a ‘Run On’ after the tool is turned off. This will ensure that any of the final waste is pulled away from the tool, out of the hose and into the tank.
Another handy feature is to be able to select different hose diameter settings. Having the ability to adjust suction power gives you the freedom to tailor your approach in order to better deal with the task in hand.
For instance, when attached to an electric planer or router, selecting a wider hose diameter setting will help the extractor cope with the larger chippings as opposed to a smaller setting for a sanding application. To further this customisation it’s always handy to choose a model that has both dry and wet capabilities, so you can be assured you’ll never be caught short.
Accessories are also an important consideration, not merely how many come with the machine but how they can be stored should be considered – on-board accessory storage can be a real benefit. Similarly, try and find a model that can be stacked with toolboxes easily so you can simply wheel in everything you need to get the job done.
With the ability to be used as a portable toolbox, it’s essential that an extractor has a large working radius, something that can only be achieved with a long power cable and hose. Some of the best models have power cables that run up to 7.5 metres and hoses up to 4 metres.
Equally, look at how these can be stored on-board. In addition, never overlook the importance of an extractor’s guide wheels, especially if you’re interested in an ultra portable device. With high-quality guide wheels, which can be turned 360 degrees and locked on a steep terrain, FEIN’s extractors rival any machine in terms of movement.
As mentioned before, filter class is becoming increasingly important. Extractors are available in three different dust classes: L (Low), M (Medium) and H (High) depending on the risks associated with dusts involved. Some wood dusts (such as beech and ash) and mineral dusts containing quartz fall under the M class.
Since recognising substances can be difficult (and because of the tightening legislation) many building sites are imposing an M-class minimum. One other final feature to consider is waste capacity.
The bigger the waste capacity the less portable the machine will be, however smaller machines will require more frequent emptying and possibly more frequent filter bag replacement, so users must choose what best suits their needs.
For more information about Fein’s range of dust extractors click here.