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I'm in my shop for a full day on average once a week.

Many many people seem to have shops without air filtration systems and don't complain, though I have poor ventilation in my shop in general. Even so, only MDF tends to mess up the air quality noticeably.

Can I expect an improved weekend shop experience from installing an air filtration system?

At what point does such a system make sense as far as time spent in the shop?

What specific benefits can I expect?

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  • Air quality is one of those things you don't get a second chance on correcting. You can't undo breathing MDF dust.
    – Reactgular
    Feb 25, 2016 at 14:54
  • 2
    The Jet AFS-500 I installed made a huge difference for me. I was lucky enough to have a brother-in-law who gave me one he was no longer using; I'm not sure I would have pulled the trigger if it'd been my own money. But having experienced it, I'd do it in a heartbeat. I can't recommend some kind of air filtration enough. Feb 25, 2016 at 15:06
  • 1
    +1 to something like the Jet mentioned above. Improved my life, and that was with wood, not mdf. Try and find one with a clean-able pre-filter. Feb 25, 2016 at 15:13
  • If you find one that takes a furnice filter as its pre-filter, you can switch it to a cleanable.
    – keshlam
    Feb 25, 2016 at 20:57

4 Answers 4

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What specific benefits can I expect?

Your health. I have a large dust collector which I run most of the time I'm using large power tools. While it does a pretty good job of keeping things 'clean' an has a 1 micron canister filter to keep from throwing the small stuff back into the air, it still doesn't catch everything.

And it is those small under 5 micron particles that are very dangerous to your health in long term exposure. I have two different masks one for turning and one for sanding to help reduce my exposure, but I still need to get an air filter to mount on the ceiling. The longer you are in your shop for extended periods the more important it becomes to have cleaned air.

So while it might not be imperative to have one today, I would plan on one in the near future, especially if you are using your shop to teach others and have them spending time in there.

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  • I still occasionally use a mask for sanding despite an air filter and good dust collection. I also rely on the filter to help dusting up the shop shelves, nook and crannies: run the air filter and all the fans you got at full blast, go around the shop with an air blower (and a mask) to make all the dust airborne, seal the shop and run away! A couple hours later most of the dust is going to be either on the floor (broom/vac) or on the filter (change it if needed). Rinse and repeat until shop is clean.
    – ptyx
    Feb 1 at 17:08
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Peace of mind really.

I've got one, way over spec'd for my shop size and it does a really good job of picking up the dust (based on the crap I have to clean out of it). But generally the dust wasn't too noticeable before hand anyway until it had had some time to build up.

MDF etc I make an effort to cut outside and you should always be wearing a mask anyway.

For me, the filter was more for family and the rest of the house - stops the dust from migrating through the house and messing up everybody elses lungs.

So from a practical stand point, the shop seems no cleaner (still get piles of shavings etc on the floor) and it hasn't changed my work flow (i still wear a mask, and cut MDF outside if possible), but a large chunk of the fine particulate is (presumably) no longer floating around.

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The main difference I see in my workshop with my dust collection and ventilation systems running is that I don't get dust over everything. I also notice it helps keep my protective eyewear clean for a longer time.

Dust control is pretty important for me since I also do welding/grinding in my workshop and the fine wood dust is quite flammable.

Though I usually wear a respirator too when I do any kind of activities that create lots of dust or smoke. I always use a respirator when I work with MDF, particleboard, or treated wood. Those chemicals in the wood is bad for you.

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While I agree with most of what's been said, I think it really depends on what you're using. Right now, about 95% of my work is done with hand tools, so any dust that I make is usually in neat little piles. Shavings, however, go everywhere - but that's not a problem for a dust collection system. If you're using power tools, then a dust collection system makes more sense. ... or maybe you want to do more things by hand? ;)

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