Dust Collector questions, looking to buy my first collector

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Forum topic by Kenny posted 02-09-2012 09:18 PM 7112 views 1 time favorited 55 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Kenny 's profile


260 posts in 2446 days

02-09-2012 09:18 PM

Hello all,

I have a decent size basement shop and I am looking to pick up a dust collector. I am on a major budget and simply do not have a lot of money to spend.

The unit I am looking at, more out of lack of funding and there being nothing else comparable in size and cfm for anywhere near the same price, is the Harbor Freight #97869 2hp dust collector. It is rated at 1550cfm (a bit over-rated in all likelihood) and runs on standard 120v current, which is another big plus as I only have 120v in my shop at this time. Though I do have 2 dedicated circuits and 3 others that are “shared” with other parts of the house that don’t see much current draw. I can also acquire this unit for about $150 plus shipping with a coupon, or simply pick it up and save the shipping fee. That’s a lot less than any comparable collector by far!

One reason why I am not deterred by the fact it is made by HF, is the great customer service I have received from them and their optional 2 year replacement warranty. And in my experience, they don’t hassle you at all should you have an issue at any point.

Link to the unit below:

I have read many favorable reviews on them, and the guy From Eagle Lake Woodworking (he does YouTube videos, etc.) uses this same collector.

First, does anyone have any really negative comments on this collector, other than that fact that Harbor Freight makes and sells it?

Second, how long of a run of pvc will I be able to use before I notice a significant drop in suction?

I ask as my router table is about 14’ from where the collector will be. The rest of the tools are all within a 10’ circle, so those won’t be long at all.

Third, can I reduce the hose down to a large “shop-vac” size hose and use things like my floor attachment, or should I buy a dedicated 4” “floor sweep” attachment?

and last, how long should I limit the flex hose at the end of a run to retain as much performance as possible?

If anyone has any other tips or comments to make, feel free. I’m open to suggestions, as this is my first real collector.

However, please refrain from telling me I need to spend $350 on some big name collector, as I simply do not have the money, nor can I really afford to “save up”, as I have other machines and tools I would like (and need) to buy in the near future. So this is basically “it”, unless I can find something for the same price or just a small amount more.


-- Kenny

55 replies so far

View crank49's profile


4030 posts in 2969 days

#1 posted 02-09-2012 09:49 PM

Optimimum connected load that can be open and flowing at one time is one 4” duct and one 2 1/2”. The 2 1/2” is hard to find so a 2” or a 3” will work . I run a 4” to my table saw and a 2” to my band saw for instance. Or, I’ll switch the 4” to the jointer and the 2” to the disk sander. I use a shop vac for the planer. My planer tends to plug up a small line unless it’s got high vacuum pressure like you get with a true vacuum. I don’t have any issues with the HF collector at all.

Some folks on here will warn you that you have to remove the 5 micron rated bag and replace it with a cartridge that can collect sub-micron particles. I chose a different tact. I leave the collector to collect sawdust and chips, and an air filter to catch the .3 micron fine stuff. Reason is simple; the collector sounds like a screaming banchee so I only run it when I’m running a power tool making dust. The air filter makes almost no sound so it runs all the time. To each his (or her) own.

View Loren's profile


10390 posts in 3646 days

#2 posted 02-09-2012 10:18 PM

As long as you run one machine at a time, that collector will
work better than you probably imagine. I have a 1.5HP
cyclone and I tried to run the duct with minimal bends
but there are still plenty. The thing still sucks like crazy even
at the end of a 25 ft run of duct with three 90 degree elbows
and one 45… as long as the other blast gates are shut.

View knotscott's profile


8013 posts in 3374 days

#3 posted 02-09-2012 10:22 PM

The biggest issue I’ve read about is that the switch is prone to failure, but easily replaced/fixed. The CFM is heavily overstated, with most measuresments I’ve read about being half the stated CFM or less, but owner comments seem to indicate that it’s enough to do the job, especially if you replace the bags with something like the Wynne cartridge filter that has more airflow than the stock bags. It does have a smaller impeller (10-3/4”) than comparably rated units, but it’s about half the cost of other 2hp DC’s with 12 and 13” impellers, and appears to more than half as good!

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

4930 posts in 3958 days

#4 posted 02-09-2012 10:29 PM

I’ve got one. Replaced the bags with those from Highland.. There are those who rebuild with pleated and exotic stuff filters. Mine with double good bags is all I need because of my shop config. I would buy it again.
Just my thoughts.
I did have a switch prob, got a replacement, but I repaired the original with little effort. Now I have a spare switch.
This tool just keeps gettin’ good recs. I’m not opposed at all. It isn’t a “monster shop” DC, but so what….


View Kenny 's profile


260 posts in 2446 days

#5 posted 02-09-2012 10:30 PM

Thanks for the tips, much appreciated!
I don’t ever run two tools at the same time, ever. I get hurt plenty often just using one! So in all likelihood I’ll only have one blast gate open at a time. and just as a side note, I plan to make my own blast gates from a plan shown in Fine Woodworking (I think that’s where I got it?)

I understand about the fine dust too. I run 2 “box-fan air-filters” with 1 micron filters and have a third air-filter in the works using a 580cfm centrifugal blower in a plywood enclosure. Between the three, I think I have fines covered pretty well.

I may at some point in the future purchase one of those custom over-sized filter bags, but that’s a ways off and not even a remote concern right now. I need to just get a dust collector at this point, customizing will come later.

As one other question, how well do the trash can separators work with a collector? I have a “Thien Cyclone” built on a 5-gallon bucket for my small shop-vac, and it works well. But I wonder how well it would work on a larger scale with the lower static lift of a true collector rather than a shop-vac?

If I was to use one, it would be a self-made unit again using a steel trash can and plywood lid, as I don’t have the funds for a purchased unit. As well, I have not heard much good about the majority of purchased units anyway, with the exception of the “Dust Deputy”.

Thanks again!

-- Kenny

View brtech's profile


1029 posts in 2921 days

#6 posted 02-09-2012 10:33 PM

No negatives if you upgrade the filter. An HF Gem for sure.

You can run 25 or 30’ of 4” PVC okay with that unit. Just use 45s and a straight pipe or a wide sweep elbow, and use Wyes and not Ts. Some LJs have even longer runs, but I gotta wonder if they are getting the fines. One idea is to hard pipe to your router table, and use a 10’ flex hose to everything else, using the Wye on the inlet of the HF DC (add blast gates of course).

It works to adapt down to 2.5”. Just remember that a shop vac and a dust collector are completely different beasts. I have a 2.5” inlet on my lunch box planer, and my HF DC does a great job with an adapter – much better than my shop vac.

If you are going to 25’+ of hard pipe, you really want to minimize flex. Like zero would be good! A foot or two isn’t going to make a great deal of difference if it’s not a tight bend. But 25’ of PVC + 10’ of cheap flex isn’t gonna work too well.

Upgrade the filter – get a Wynn 35A. Really worth while. Increases CFM, substantially better filtering. If you don’t do that, wear a respirator.

I am personally of the opinion that an air cleaner is not a substitute for a good filter on the DC, because if the fines are in the air where the air cleaner is getting them, they are also getting in your lungs. You need to get the fines out of the tool and into filtration before they can get into your lungs. No tool collector is perfect, and some dust will always escape. An air cleaner is for that dust. YMMV.

Also look at the Thien baffle, either built into a trash can separator before the HF DC or built into the DC ring. It’s a great mod that improves separation, leading to less dust in your filter and more efficient DC.

View Kenny 's profile


260 posts in 2446 days

#7 posted 02-09-2012 10:36 PM

Wow, there is a big difference in impeller size! But, like I said, I’m poor and it’s what I can afford. And I’m sure it’s better than my little shop vac or either of my “5-gallon bucket” shop vacs!

On a side note, those little 5-gallon bucket shop-vacs (got mine at Lowes) are a pretty good deal for the money! I have 2 that are dedicated to smaller machines (Ridged OSS and Delta 8-1/2” miter saw), and they do pretty good. Really good when you consider the $20 price tag.

-- Kenny

View Kenny 's profile


260 posts in 2446 days

#8 posted 02-09-2012 10:41 PM

I should also note that this is going under the stairwell into the basement, which is enclosed with a door. I plan to add filtered vents to the door and on the sides, which should take care of any fines that the filter misses. Four 20”x20” furnace filters should prove adequate for ventilation, if not, I’ll add a box fan or two for better air evacuation.

I’m really just hoping to muffle the noise a touch.

-- Kenny

View fussy's profile


980 posts in 3049 days

#9 posted 02-10-2012 06:23 AM


The HF is a bargain. I have had one for two years and have had no complaints except for switch failure. I just wired in a 20 amp light switch for $1.25 and was back up. Brtech is correct about the Wynn 35A. I did that and lost the bags. It is allways better to catch dust at the source and the Wynn REALLY improves performance ! Haven’t regretted it yet. About the Thein separator, do th in-the-ring mod instead of the separator in the can route. Smaller footprint and less of a hit cfm-wise. It’s a simple mod (even I could do it) and really keeps stuff out of the filter. I don’t use my dc to clean up/ I use my shop vac, but emptying it and cleaning the filter got old so I built a Thein separator for it, stacked the vac on top on a roll-around cart, and the whole thing takes less floor space than the vac alone (I took the wheels off the vac-useless anyway). I use a HEPA filter (not hepa TYPE) on the vac and do all my cleaning with it keeping odd bits of hard stuff out of the dc impeller. A side benefit of the Thein on the shop vac is I have cleaned the vac filter only three times in 2 years and use a 35 gallon barrel to catch the dust. Do what you want as to piping, but as everything is pretty much within a 10’ radius, it seems silly to me to add the cost, complexity, and static pressure loss that plumbing adds. I go tool to tool and have no problems.


-- Steve in KY. 44 years so far with my lovely bride. Think I'll keep her.

View Kenny 's profile


260 posts in 2446 days

#10 posted 02-10-2012 10:09 AM

Thanks everyone, I really appreciate all the help immensely!

If someone could please point me in the direction of some pictures or instruction on how to do an “in the ring” Thien Baffle, I would be very appreciative!

I did look on the Thien forum a bit, but didn’t find what I wanted. I going to go back and look some more, and also join the forum as well. Looks to be another place with some great info!

After looking around a bit and researching possible mods to the HF collector, I see a number of things that should be quite simple and provide for a real improvement in performance! One major improvement being the 12” impeller from the Grizzly collector. Though that may come later.

But some low-buck mods that look like they should help some are relocating the motor so it blows directly into the ring, thus eliminating the flex hose from blower to the ring and the previously mentioned “in the ring” baffle.

And since I also happen to be pretty good with a sewing machine (yeah, yeah, laugh all you want) and I have an old heavy duty singer, I might look into finding some material they use to make the filter bags and “extending” mine a bit, or simply making a larger bag, if the material is affordable.

-- Kenny

View crank49's profile


4030 posts in 2969 days

#11 posted 02-10-2012 04:15 PM

Thein baffle works fine and has Two big advantages.

1. Large chunks and screws and such will drop in the can before they go through the fan and damage the impellor.

2. The can is much easier to empty than the bag on the collector.

The “in the ring” Thein looses both of these advantages, so I don’t see why.

View joshtank's profile


224 posts in 2971 days

#12 posted 02-10-2012 04:20 PM

far as the noise goes, my collector is in a little ‘shop addition’ under the soffit of my garage.

this is from a year and it’s funny how much it’s changed, but you get the idea.

-- Josh - Jacksonville, FL -

View ldl's profile


1135 posts in 2363 days

#13 posted 02-10-2012 04:47 PM

Add a remote switch and that will alleviate the switch problem and make turning on and off simpler too.

-- Dewayne in Bainbridge, Ga. - - No one can make you mad. Only you decide when you get mad - -

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

10479 posts in 3427 days

#14 posted 02-10-2012 05:04 PM

Dewayne beat me to that suggestion. I might add that there’s no reason to buy an expensive remote. The ones HD and lowes, as well as ACE, sell for outdoor lighting work just as well.
I got mine for around $10.00. An amp probe on my HF DC shows that it pulls a little more than 14 amp on start. The remote I bought was rated at 15 amp and has performed well for about 4 years.
As to noise, mine’s pretty quiet. I only run it in conjunction with a tool and they are all far louder than the DC.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View hairy's profile


2703 posts in 3530 days

#15 posted 02-10-2012 05:24 PM

Once again, I’ll be the opposing view. After you have bought this and did all the upgrades, you’re in the same price range as a better unit that has all those features as standard.

I get it about saving money, I just don’t like wasting money.

-- My reality check bounced...

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