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Understand the importance of filters in solder fume extractors to ensure the safety and efficiency of your soldering operations.

Understand the importance of filters in solder fume extractors to ensure the safety and efficiency of your soldering operations.

Understand the importance of filters in solder fume extractors to ensure the safety and efficiency of your soldering operations.

When considering purchasing a solder fume extractor, whether you're dealing with post-soldering headaches or looking to comply with OSHA regulations, there are several factors to evaluate.

There is a wide variety of solder fume extractors available on the market, ranging in price from tens of dollars to hundreds of dollars. Before you get swayed by the price tag, it is important to understand why there is such a wide price difference.

We selected four popular solder fume extractors that cost $100 or less and compared them to our solder fume extractor. The comparison results are detailed in the section below.

As can be seen from the chart, most of the current solder fume extractors use sponge pads that only contain activated carbon.

The biggest difference between Fumeclear and other fume extractors is the filter type and filter placement.

Filter Type

Fumeclear fume extractors contain filters that use HEPA, fiberglass, pp, etc., with HEPA having an efficiency rating of up to 99.97% for particles 0.3 microns and larger, while the other four use basic carbon or charcoal foam filter pads.

There is a big difference between HEPA and carbon filter media.

A very basic comparison is that HEPA is designed to better filter particles (i.e. smoke, fumes), while activated carbon is designed to better filter odors (i.e. VOCs, odorous chemicals).

While solder composition can vary, it typically contains 60-63% tin and 37-40% lead. Flux is also commonly used in soldering. When these materials are heated, they volatilize and emit fumes and other suspended particles.

These fumes contain particles that are only 0.5 to 1 micron in size. These particles pose the most serious health risks because they are inhalable and can easily embed into the lungs of the operator.

Over time, the inhalation of respirable particles can lead to serious health effects, including decreased respiratory function, asthma, lung cancer, and cardiovascular problems.

Simply put, a range hood that uses only basic carbon foam filter pads will not effectively remove these tiny particles. That’s why a range hood equipped with high-quality HEPA filter media is worth the investment.

Filter Placement

Another major difference between the Fumeclear fume extractor and the other four units is the location of the filter relative to the fan assembly..

Why is this important? First let's consider how air moves through a fan assembly. As shown in the diagram below, the fan motor pulls air toward the center of the assembly and exhausts it in a multi-directional outward flow.

This is an important consideration because filter performance and life are greatly affected by the direction and force of air.

Units with filters placed in front of the fan create a tunneling effect, causing only the middle portion of the filter to be used. This quickly clogs the filter, causing the fan motor to overheat, and minimally filtered air to be exhausted back into the room.

Airflow when filters are placed in front of the fan
The air leaving the fan housing is evenly dispersed across the entire surface area of ​​the filter. This allows for better particle capture and highly clean air to be exhausted from the unit.


What's next?

When purchasing a solder fume extractor, don't make your decision based solely on price.

It’s important to remember the reason you’re researching extractors – to remove harmful fumes that you shouldn’t be breathing!

Filters, filters, filters – Only use smoke evacuators that contain or have high-quality HEPA filter media. Be sure to verify the filter's efficiency rating, as not all HEPA filters are the same. Likewise, if a filter only contains HEPA, it is not sufficient and will not be completely effective in removing harmful fumes.

Airflow – The ratio of filter efficiency to air volume is very important. A unit with a powerful fan and low-quality filters will simply push contaminated air around. Conversely, a unit with a weak fan and high-quality filters will drastically reduce air pressure, resulting in inefficient smoke capture.

Functionality – Consider size, weight, and operator usage. Where are you welding? How large is your work area? Are multiple operators welding in one area? Will the fume extractor need to be moved frequently? By answering these questions, the most appropriate fume extractor configuration can be determined.

Maintenance – Consider the filter replacement costs associated with your smoke evacuator. To maintain proper filtration efficiency and healthy operating condition, substandard filter media will need to be replaced more frequently than high quality particulate filter media.

Noise Levels of Solder Fume Extractors – Noise levels can vary significantly among different solder fume extractors. Consider the noise output in relation to your work environment, especially if noise-sensitive tasks are performed alongside soldering operations.

Selecting the right solder fume extractor is crucial for maintaining a safe and efficient soldering environment. Understanding the importance of filters, their types, and their maintenance can help you make an informed decision that ensures the health and productivity of your workspace. Investing in high-quality filters and staying updated with technological advancements will provide long-term benefits and compliance with safety standards.

FAQs

  • What is the most effective type of filter for solder fume extractors?

HEPA filters are highly effective for particulate matter, while carbon filters are best for gaseous pollutants. Combining both offers comprehensive protection.

  • How often should I replace the filters in my solder fume extractor?

The replacement frequency depends on the filter type and usage. Generally, pre-filters are replaced every few months, HEPA filters every 6-12 months, and carbon filters every 3-6 months.

  • Are portable solder fume extractors as effective as fixed ones?

Portable extractors can be very effective if they use high-quality filters. They offer flexibility and are ideal for dynamic work environments.

  • Do solder fume extractors require professional installation?

While some extractors may require professional installation, many portable and benchtop models are easy to set up without professional help.

  • Can solder fume extractors eliminate all fumes and odors?

High-quality extractors with HEPA and carbon filters can remove most fumes and odors, but some residual odors may persist depending on the specific soldering materials used.


  • Are there any regulations regarding the use of solder fume extractors?

Yes, OSHA and other regulatory bodies have guidelines for air quality and worker safety that may require the use of fume extractors in soldering operations.

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