If you're reading this, chances are you're a pretty big fan of breathing. I certainly am. If that's the case, and you're also a woodworker, pet owner, or allergy sufferer, you know the importance of taking care of your lungs as much as possible. Airborne contaminants and particulate matter can irritate your nose, throat, lungs, and skin, and lead to increased rates of respiratory illness. In this article, we'll discuss the benefits of using an air filtration system, as well as the differences between the various system types, best practices for controlling dust and other irritants, and how best to make an informed purchase of a machine that can help keep your - and your loved ones' - air healthy and easy to breathe. And no matter what, WEN has an air filtration system for you.
Air filtration systems are great for helping to control airborne dust and other particulate matter. In woodworking, they are just one component of an effective dust management system, which should include, at a bare minimum:
These tools - especially point-source dust collection - are essential in keeping the worst volumes of sawdust out of the air and out of your lungs. However, no system is perfect, and that is where an air filtration system comes in. They're good at picking up very fine (< 5 micron) dust and other particulate matter suspended in the air, before it settles onto everything in your shop or garage. They will not pick up dust that's already settled. For more information, check out our helpful article on dust collection 101.
Air filtration systems, much like dust collectors, are primarily described by their flow rates, which is a measure of how much air they can move in a certain amount of time. Usually, this is a number given in cubic feet per minute (CFM). The higher the CFM number, the more air it moves per minute. This means that a higher-CFM system will circulate a given amount of air through itself more times per minute than a lower-CFM system. For larger work areas, a higher-CFM system is best. We'll get into selection methods later.
Another highly important rating when selecting a system is its filtration rating, often given in microns. A micron is one millionth of a meter, or about 0.00004 inches. A human hair is about 50 microns wide, and most wood dust is usually between 10 - 30 microns in size, depending on how it was produced.
Look for a filtration system that filters down to at least 1 micron. The smaller the number, the better the filtration, since the system will catch smaller particles. A 2-micron particle, for example, will likely pass through a 5-micron filter, but will be caught by a 1-micron filter. WEN air filtration systems use a 5-micron primary filter for large particulate matter and a 1-micron secondary filter to catch finer irritants.
Some air filtration systems (or, more precisely, their filters) may be described using a MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) number. This number is assigned to a filter based on its performance in a standardized particle filtration test created by ASHRAE (the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Conditioning Engineers). You may have seen a MERV number before when replacing the filters in your furnace. It's a good way to get a roughly apples-to-apples comparison when comparing filters.
HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters can "theoretically remove at least 99.97% of dust, pollen, mold, bacteria, and any airborne particles with a size of 0.3 microns" from the air, according to the EPA. They're extremely good at filtering out small particles, but may require appliances using them to work harder, since it is harder to pull air through their filter media.
WEN air filtration systems use one of two remote control methods: infrared (IR) or radio-frequency (RF). Each method has its advantages and disadvantages.
IR systems work a lot like your TV remote - you have to point the remote at the system when turning it on or off, or it won't receive the signal. With an RF system, you can simply press the remote's button without pointing it at the system. This makes RF great for mass-controlling multiple units with one remote. IR units, on the other hand, can be individually controlled, which makes them a great option if you need to turn multiple machines on or off in very specific configurations. IR is also usually less expensive than RF.
If you're looking to filter out particulate matter, like wood dust or pet dander, look for a standard mechanical filter. These filters come pre-installed on all WEN air filtration systems, and are great for general-purpose use. If you're trying to remove allergens, smoke, or smells from the air, you may want to purchase an activated-carbon air filter. These filters contain a layer of activated carbon on the filter media to help reduce or eliminate volatile organic compounds (VOCs), allergens, and odors.
Now that you have the background knowledge you need, it's time to put it all together. Start by measuring your room in feet and inches. Convert inches to feet by dividing by 12 (for example, 10 feet 9 inches is 10.75 feet). Then multiply the measurements according to the formula below.
Room volume = length x width x height
Keep this number in mind. You'll want to circulate this volume about 7 times per hour at a minimum, as a good rule of thumb. Multiply this number by 7, then divide by 60. This will give you the minimum flow rate (in cubic feet per minute, or CFM) that you need.
Minimum CFM needed = (volume x 7) / 60
If you want better filtration, multiply the room volume by 8, 9, or however many times per hour you want the air in the room circulated. 7 is a good minimum.
As an example, let's use a standard one-car garage with a 10-foot ceiling. The room volume will be 12 x 20 x 10, or 2,400 cubic feet. (2,400 x 7) / 60 works out to 280 CFM. The WEN 3410 air filtration system may be a good fit for a room this size, since it runs at speeds of 300, 350, and 400 CFM.
Once you have the system size and filter type figured out, decide where and how you'll place or mount the system. Air filtration systems work best when they're suspended from the ceiling by chains (as they can circulate the air in the room most effectively), but they can also be mounted directly to the ceiling or a wall, or they can sit on a bench.
Keep in mind the advantages and disadvantages of IR and RF, and decide which one works best for your needs.
Thanks for reading! We hope this has been a helpful starting point in your journey to choosing an air filtration system. If you have any questions about which WEN air filtration system is right for you, or need more information, please give us a call at 1-847-429-9263 (M – F, 8 – 5 CST), or drop us a message here to talk to our friendly and knowledgeable technical support team.