It took us over 150 hours of comprehensive testing and research, with help of seasoned experts and owners of different-sized shops, to find the best dust collector for most people, and our choice was SHOP FOX W1685,with its impressive results and good price. With a steel impeller that moves 1,280 cubic feet of air per minute, heavy duty motor and the 2,5 micron bags that keep every particle of dust where it should be, SHOP FOX W1685 easily takes out its competition as the dust collector with best price and outstanding performance.
The Best Dust Collector: SHOP FOX W1685
Jen’s Top Pick: SHOP FOX W1685
In our tests, this dust collector outdid some dust collectors with double its price without breaking a sweat, and we were amazed with its suction power. It’s a solid and heavy machine, but the setup is fairly easy, and we got it up and running in no time. The motor’s 1,5 horse power enables you to save on electrical power, but is strong enough to provide great performance and air movement at 1,280 CFM makes sure that every bit of dust gets sucked in. Another big plus of SHOP FOX W1685 is that it comes with 2.5 micron filter bags that ensure that no dust comes through, and can last you a long, long time, before you need to clean them out or replace them. It’s also perfect if you need to set up multiple machines, because it has three inlets- one 6′ inlet and two 4′ inlet, covering all your needs for even more service.
Step up pick: Powermatic PM1300TX-CK Dust Collector
Powermatic PM1300TX-CK Dust Collector
Known as the ‘gold standard’ in category of dust collectors, Powermatic PM1300TX-CK dust collector is a great pick if you don’t mind spending a couple hundred dollars more. This dust collector offers more features for the additional costs, like exclusive TurboCone technology, which combined with 2 micron canister filter provide amazing results with collecting dust. To make things even easier, Powermatic PM1300TX-CK Dust Collector comes with an infrared remote controller, enabling you to remotely set a digital timer, up to 99 minutes, to ensure maximum safety. It’s 1.75 horse power motor offers same CFM results as our top pick, which meant great suction performance, although with more power usage.
Budget pick: PSI DC660P
PSI DC660P, is no heavy duty dust collector, but it does the job fairly decent, so with low power consumption, it’s a great pick if you’re on a tight budget, or have a small workshop. If you want a dust collector to be dedicated to just one machine through its 4′ inlet or to use it with one machine at the time, this economic and small’sized machine can work out great for you, with its 1 HP motor and air movement rate at 660 CFM.
Why should I buy a dust collector?
Exposure to wood dust isn’t just a messy nuisance, it is extremely harmful and it can cause many health problems, such as allergic reactions, a myriad of problems with your respiratory system and skin, and even cancer. Researchers at National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health have found that prolonged exposure to wood dust puts people at risk for various forms of cancer and chronic pulmonary problems and skin conditions, so the use of dust collectors is essential if you wish to protect your health and health of your employees, without risking unnecessary damage to your lungs and skin.
Dust collectors should be a staple tool in your workshop, whose role is to not only help you prevent health damage, but to ensure your workshop is in compliance with regulations, because due to health risks connected to wood dust exposure, it is considered as a substance hazardous to health and even as a potential fire risks, so you would risk fines and penalties in case you don’t have a dust collecting solution that makes your workplace a safe and properly regulated environment. Quality dust collectors enable you to maintain air quality required by U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and are what separates serious workshops from amateur ones.
In addition to being a health hazard, wood dust can also endanger your safety, as it is known to cause dire, since it can create combustible dust explosion. A study conducted by U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board shows how easily the presence of wood dust in a workshop can cause a catastrophe in matter of minutes.
Another important reason for buying a dust collector is the fact that it will affect the longevity of your other machines. Dust collectors will filter out the dust, preventing it to get to every nook and cranny of you other, very valuable machines that are essential for your work. In addition to potential machine damage, you also risk producing a defective product- dust can damage your paint finish, creating indentations and ruining your efforts in the final step.
What type of dust collector should I look for?
There is more than one option to collect dust from your workshop, but not all of them are equally efficient and cost-effective. Most workshops use either shop vacuums or single stage bag collectors, and rarely, in case of big businesses, two stage collectors.
Shop vacuums are basically higher velocity vacuums, which are used just like you would use the one in your house. They do have more power than the regular vacuum, but they are not a good dust collection solution for workshops. You can use them to manually collect dust and smaller chips around your machines, but not only it won’t be efficient enough, it’s unnecessary additional work you have to do after you finish working on the machines. Another problem is their small dust storage, so you would probably need to clean out the storage after every cleaning.
The best choice for most workshops is single stage bag collector. They can be stationed at one place in the workshop, or you can move them around if it’s more convenient for you. They operate by themselves, without need to manually steer them, collecting wood debris and dust, from chips to the finest dust particles. Filter bags are often large enough to not need frequent cleaning out, and as the most efficient and cost-effective way to collect dust, single stage bag collectors are also the most popular choice for solving dust problems.
Since we were looking for best dust collector for most people, we tested single stage bag collectors, to make sure that we find the best dust collector from the most commonly used type of dust collecting system.
What size of dust collector will I need?
This is one of the most important steps when choosing your dust collector, and it’s often very confusing if you haven’t had previous experience with dust collectors.
Depending on the size of your operation and the number of machines you’re using, different models could tend to all your dust collecting needs. When choosing a dust collector, note its CFM value, or more precisely, how much cubic feet of air can it move per minute. In relation to the size of your workshop and the number of machines, choose a corresponding CFM value, with having in mind that somewhere around 1,280 cubic feet per minute is the ideal value for most people, according to our research and testing.
You should also look at its electric power needs, to make sure it can work on your circuit and not drain too much power when used. For example, more horse power in a motor, combined with higher voltage will for sure affect your electrical bill, and sometimes you’ll need a dedicated circuit for dust collector with these characteristics. If you run a small operation, fuss with additional circuits and drastically increased electric costs might not be what you’re looking for.
How we tested
When we picked dust collectors to test their performance, we asked over 30 shop workers and owners who were in business of woodworking and who are faced with dust problems daily, to tell us what are the most important things everyone should look for in a dust collector. Their expertise and, in some cases, lifelong experience helped us create a list of ideal characteristics for dust collector, that could provide a great performance and make it the best choice for most people.
Here is what we came up with:
* Strong performance:
In order to make sure that the dust collector will be efficient and suck in all the dust from the air, we needed to test how much cubic feet of air per minute can they move, or more precisely, how much of dust-ridden air can a dust collector process in the period of 60 seconds. Accounting for a variety of different machines needed to process wood, and combining it with the size of the shop, the average number our extensive research found to be providing satisfying results was around 1,300 CFM. That number can vary, though, depending on your needs- we found that small workshops can manage to contain the dust with smaller CFM value, while very large operations needed more CFM power.
* Power consumption/performance ratio
We searched for a dust collector that has the best power consumption to performance ratio, which means we had to find a dust collector that can offer strongest performance with the smallest electric energy consumption. For example, a 2 horsepower motor that offers less than 1,300 CFM would be unnecessary waste of electric energy, since it would need 1492 KW of electricity per hour to generate that suction power. So, our goal was to find a dust collector that offers higher CFM value, and doesn’t make a gigantic electric bill.
* Dust containment
Even though you can always decide on replacing filter bags that come with a dust collector, it’s far better if you can avoid additional fuss and costs. A lot of people don’t take much notice on the filter quality but rather focus on performance value, but a good dust collector that has 30 micron filter bag will let a lot of collected dust back through, and it’s often the type of filter bag that comes with the dust collector. Ideally, you should choose dust collector whose filter bags have 5 or less micron bags, to ensure the dust will be contained properly. The lower the micron value, the smaller particles it can contain in the filter bag.
It’s common knowledge that dust collectors are noisy machines, but, in fact, our research showed that not all dust collectors produce the same amount of noise. Even though you should always wear earmuffs when working, to prevent any hearing damage, it’s important that your workshop doesn’t make too much noise, if not for you- than for your neighbors. Out testing showed that, ideally, the best dust collector shouldn’t top 90 decibels when working.
Our pick: SHOP FOX W1685
Jen’s Top Pick: SHOP FOX W1685
Weighing only 108 pounds, the SHOP FOX W1685 is small and convenient to place anywhere in the workshop, but it surely doesn’t reduce its performance power. At 1,280 CFM suction power, this little dust collector tops its bulkier competition. The size and weight of SHOP FOX W1685 may make it seem like it’s due to poor materials, but it’s just the opposite- it’s made of quality, sturdy materials, with a powder-coated paint finish, which reduces wear and resists scratches and other damage. Its versatility comes as a big plus- you can use SHOP FOX W1685 as central dust collector, assign it to a particular machine, or, thanks to convenient wheels on its bottom, move it whenever and wherever you need it.
With a 1,5 HP 110V motor, SHOP FOX W1685 manages to achieve impressive suction at rate of 1,280 cubic feet of air per minute, which offers much better consumption to performance ratio than we’ve seen with other contenders. Credit for that high suction performance goes to heavy duty 12′ impeller, which is made from pure steel, ensuring durability and great results. Steel impeller is another advantage of SHOP FOX W1685, because majority of other dust collectors who opt for other, less reliable materials for their impellers, which result in poor quality and are more likely to break down.
Without a reliable filter solution, dust collector, no matter its strength and performance, will basically just circulate dust, because low quality filters will just let the dust through again, holding in only bigger pieces of debris. SHOP FOX W1685 had stellar results in this phase of testing too, with its 2.5 micron filter bag that was able to contain even the finest dust particulates letting nothing out. Bag volume of 5.4 cubic feet ensures that you don’t have to empty it too often, and even when you do, it’s pretty easy and simple to do.
Armed with earmuffs, we measured the noise this dust collector creates, and it was more than a decent result with 86 decibels, well within the ideal limit. However, it doesn’t mean it’s quiet- all dust collector make noise, but, in comparison to other dust collectors we tested, SHOP FOX W1685 turned out to be one of the more quiet ones within this performance range.
SHOP FOX W1685 even has some additional useful features to boot its first-class performance, like 6-inch inlet with a removable Y-fitting with two 4-inch openings which allows you to set up more than one machine on it, and a safety switch, that prevents unauthorized use and makes shutting down easier and more straightforward- no need to search for the button to turn the dust collector off, just slap the switch down and you’re ready to go.
Finally, should the need arise, you’re covered with 2 year warranty, but the chances are, you won’t even need to use it.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
Even though SHOP FOX W1685 had decent energy rating and wasn’t a big electric energy drainer like some other dust collectors we tested, it still draws a lot of power when started, which warrant a little extra care when turning on this dust collector. In order to avoid having to use it on a different circuit, we tried turning on the dust collector first, and after a couple minutes, we started other machines, one by one. With 16 amp draw on startup, it’s best to either provide a separate circuit for SHOP FOX W1685 or to follow our method, which proved to be the safest one. Although we thought it could be a setback, the overall energy consumption test put SHOP FOX W1685 at the top of our score board, so turning it on a couple minutes before the other machines didn’t affect our overall impression, and seemed like a pretty minor flaw concerning the number of its other advantages.
The assembly of this dust collector was really easy and we put it together under an hour, but, nuts and screws that came with it weren’t the best choice, so to say. Some were too long for their designated position and all were of a somewhat poorer quality, which came as a surprise, since SHOP FOX W1685 was very well built, and all the other parts were from first-class materials. Thankfully, it was simple to solve this problem by replacing it better quality screws and nuts, and it wasn’t much of a cost. It was a definite oversight by the manufacturer, but considering that every other part of this dust collector had significantly more quality than other, sometimes even lot pricier, models of dust collectors, replacing screws and nuts was a small inconvenience.
The step-up pick: Powermatic PM1300TX-CK Dust Collector
Powermatic PM1300TX-CK Dust Collector
More powerful, but also a lot more expensive, Powermatic PM1300TX-CK Dust Collector is another dust collector we were impressed by during our testing, but, with its bigger price, we considered it as a suitable pick for people who had a bigger budget or had much larger workshops than the average. With its innovative TurboCone technology, Powermatic PM1300TX-CK was able to perfect their filtering capacity, which provides the most precise filtering solution. This technology prevents potential clogging by sorting out the chips, and the 2 micron filter bag additionally helps by keeping in the tiniest particles of dust inside the bag, keeping the air in your workshop clean and dust-free to the maximum.
However, if you have a small or average-sized workshop with standard machines, our top pick will do more than enough for you, but if you have a large workshop and want premium results for larger space and a bigger number of machines, then this dust collector will be the best option for you. When it comes to its performance, with a 1.75 HP 115V motor and 12′ impeller that can move 1,300 cubic feet of air per minute, Powermatic PM1300TX-CK provides the same suction power as our top pick, but with a stronger, more power-hungry motor. The TurboCone technology is what makes it slightly more adept at handling larger workshops, because it’s advanced filtering technique and a large bag attached to the canister can reduce the time periods between changing of filter bags. Another useful feature of Powermatic PM1300TX-CK is its infrared remote. By enabling remote control with infrared sensors, this dust collector takes it up a notch, and ensures complete control at all times, reducing risk and providing flexibility. Remote controlled digital timer can save time and ensure safety at all times, allowing you to set it up more than an hour and half in advance. It has a sturdy, solid build, and at 154 pounds, it was a bit hard to move it around, even though it has wheels that make it mobile.
In our sound testing, Powermatic PM1300TX-CK proved as a relatively quiet machine, with its results in the range from 75-90 decibels, depending on the situation. Same as our top pick, it has tri inlets, one 6′ and two 4′ inlets, which provides setup of multiple machines at the time.
Out of the premium dust collectors we tested, Powermatic PM1300TX-CK provides most for the best price, and holds an additional advantage with a 5 year warranty.
Budget pick: PSI DC660P
If you have a limited budget, and don’t have that big of a workshop, you could consider
PSI DC660P, in case our top pick isn’t stocked.
PSI DC660P is a reasonably powerful portable dust collector, who can do a decent job on smaller workshops, but lacked in performance in workshops with more machines. With its 1HP 110V motor and 660 CFM value, it isn’t as impressive as our top pick, but it’s economical and a great choice for small or amateur workshops. Our energy ratings tests proved as the category of testing where PSI DC660P had the best results with the most economic power consumption, but, considering that its suction power is significantly less, the ratio of performance to consumption wasn’t any better than most contenders. However, if you do have more modest needs, then PSI DC660P economic power consumption will be a big plus. For most people, even though the price might attract them, this dust collector just won’t be strong enough to provide them with a powerful performance.
Its 1 micron bag ensures that every dust particle is safely contained, and one 4′ inlet can cover one machine at a time, which is only logical when you consider its modest power. It came as a surprise that this small dust collector didn’t have better scores in our sound tests, with noise making at the same level as our more powerful contenders.
Finally, if you don’t have advanced needs or your budget is tight, PSI DC660P with its 2 year warranty will keep you covered.
If you don’t have a problem with bigger electrical energy consumption, with its 220V and 2HP motor, the Oasis Machinery DC2000 provides 1,500 cubic feet of air moved per minute. Even though its CFM rate might seem like enough to justify higher electricity consumption, this dust collector comes with a 30 micron bag, which isn’t able to contain finer dust, and enables it to come back through, rendering dust collection almost useless.
With its Vortex Cone technology, this is more close to our step up pick, but it lacks certain features that are expected with the higher price- like remote control or at least a timer. Power by a 1.5HP 115V motor, this dust collector has a value of 1,100 CFM, which is not at all impressive when you consider the price and performance of our top pick, which offers more for a lot less money.
Intended to be used in small shops, Grizzly G8027 has the same price as our budget pick, but it offers less- with a small 1HP 110V motor, it can’t move more than 500 cubic feet of air per minute, and its 30 micron bag is practically useless, since it doesn’t hold fine dust particles, which allows for recirculation of dust. Even if the price tag makes this dust collector tempting, you must count on additional costs for a better filter bag, and have in mind that for a slightly lower price, this dust collector offers by far the lowest performance.
Very quiet at 76 db with a powerful 1600 CFM suction rate, Laguna Tools MDC0560 is really a beast. With its 2HP 220V motor, it is going to be a big spender, and the price might want you to decide on another, more budget-friendly but still powerful, dust collector, as one of our picks.
If you need a massive, heavy duty dust collector suited for very large operations, you might be looking for Grizzly G0441, weighing 400 pounds and 53 inches tall. This dust collector uses a cyclone to filter out the dust, and with a 3HP 220V motor and 1654 CFM suction rate, it really is an impressive machine. The problem is, you can easily manage same volume operations with a dust collector that costs less and consumes less energy, like our top and step-up pick.
With performance results close to our budget pick, but with a higher price tag, Jet DC-650BK dust collector is reasonably powerful, with a 1HP 120V motor and 650CFM rate. 1 micron filter bag proved as an advantage, since it could handle even the finest dust. However, this dust collector isn’t a good choice for most people, because it can’t handle more than one machine, and it’s not very useful for average workshops, but rather for small or beginner workshops, due to its low suction power.
Almost double in price when compared to our top pick, its aluminum impeller doesn’t hold much promise when it comes to its durability and strength. It’s also a big spender with a 2HP 240V power, and although it 1700 CFM capacity sounds tempting, but without a solid warranty offered, and questionable quality of the materials used to make this dust collector, we were vary. It is also the loudest dust collector we tested, with the result of 90db which dramatically lowers its score.
With its more expensive model, Shop Fox W1823 adds radio frequency remote controls, which is a useful feature, and relies on cyclone technology, but airflow rate of 806 CFM failed to impress. 1.5 HP 110V motor isn’t as power hungry as other cyclone models, but only economical electric consumption isn’t enough to make this dust collector our pick.
Wrapping it up
Considering that wood dust is a concerning health hazard and a safety risk, investing in a dust collector should be considered essential if you own a workshop, no matter its size. Numerous studies have proven that by inhaling wood dust you risk pulmonary and skin damage, and linked wood dust inhalation with various forms of cancer.
For most people, the best dust collector would be the SHOP FOX W1685 which provides great results for a reasonable price. For most average workshops, this dust collector will offer premium performance and take care of even the tiniest particles of dust in your environment, all the while keeping your electric bill in check, without creating massive cost to run it. In case you are not sure if your larger operation could be covered with our top pick, and you’re willing to spend more money, Powermatic PM1300TX-CK, with its TurboCone technology is a reliable option. It also offers remote controlled digital timer feature, to maximize the safety and comfort of use. For those who are just starting their workshop, or have a small shop, like hobbyists, PSI DC660P can be the dust collector adequate for their needs. It’s also budget friendly, so it’s great solution if you don’t have a lot of money to invest in a dust collector at the moment, or don’t have the need for a more powerful machine.
Jen Miller is a former electrical engineer and product specialist with more than 20 years of product design and testing experience. She has designed more than 200 products for Fortune 500 companies, in fields ranging from home appliances to sports gear and outdoor equipment. She founded Jen Reviews to share her knowledge and critical eye for what makes consumers tick, and adopts a strict no-BS approach to help the reader filter through the maze of products and marketing hype out there. She writes regularly and has been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, The Muse, The Huffington Post, Tiny Buddha and MindBodyGreen.