No matter how well-designed your dust collection system, the filters in shop vacs get caked with dust and the bags or canisters on dust collectors fill up. When this happens, your dust collection machines have to work harder, even as suction decreases. Then you have to stop working to clean or change filters and empty bulky bags. The good news is that there's a simple way to minimize these disruptions while maximizing your dust collector's efficiency and even extending its life:
Shop vacuums and portable dust collectors typically are single-stage dust collectors. This means that they draw debris and dust directly into an onboard container. In a shop vac, large chips fall to the bottom while other dust particles collect on the filter as the fan draws air through. On a single-stage dust collector, everything passes across the fan's impeller and into the filter/collection bag. In both cases, as dust builds up, suction drops. And on the dust collector, there's the added danger that larger chips or debris could damage the impeller, reducing the dust collector's effectiveness.
In two-stage dust collection systems, a separate container is added between the tool(s) creating the chips and dust and the dust collector. When the air passes into this separator, heavier chips and debris fall to the bottom and only smaller, lighter dust particles continue on. That means filters don't clog and bags don't fill up nearly as quickly as they usually would, so there's little loss of suction. And no large pieces pass across the impeller, reducing the chance that your dust collector will suffer significant damage. Moreover, the separate containers often hold more and are a lot easier to empty.
Rockler carries products that make it easy to convert both your shop vacuum and your dust collector from single-stage to more efficient two-stage collection.
The Dust Right® Dust Separator comes with a hose that connects to any shop vacuum with a 2-1/4" inside diameter outlet. The fittings on the Dust Separator are configured to create a cyclonic air flow that is especially efficient at separating out the lion's share of particles before they reach the shop vac and clog up the filter. And its translucent container holds 10 gallons of dust – notably more than most shop vacs. For dust collectors with larger-diameter hose, the Dust Right® 4" Dust Separator Components install into the lid of a barrel (not included) to provide the same cyclonic action and prevent large pieces of debris from reaching and potentially damaging the collector's impeller.
So if you want to spend more time woodworking and less time maintaining your shop vac or dust collector, consider upgrading to two-stage dust collection with Dust Right® separators.