Should I Buy a Shop Vac or Dust Collector?

Should I Buy a Shop Vac or Dust Collector?

I have two questions: Which would be better and more useful in a shop a good shop vac or dust collector? And secondly, what is the maximum time/hour a vac or dust collector can continuously run without overheating and burning out the motor? – Amy Nielsen

Tim Inman: A good shop vac would be my first choice by far. Most shop vac motors are rated for “continuous use.” That does not mean you can turn them on and let them whine away endlessly without getting hot and burning out, though. I’m reading between the lines that you are thinking about using a shop vac as the vacuum source for a dust collection system. ‘d say go for it. Wireless “clickers” to control the vacuum would be a good investment. You might also use wired switch gates in your system. Either way, if you build a dust collection system, and the vac doesn’t work out, you haven’t lost anything except the vac; the system is still there. You can always add a better collector later. First, I’d get a good vac and go from there.

As long as there is good airflow through the vac motor fan, it should run for a long time without danger of failure. I have an old video made by a couple of guys who experimented with vacuum bag veneering very early on, in the 1970s. They actually used a shop vac for their vacuum source. It ran continuously for 24 to 48 hours in their process. I don’t think this is a recommended use, but it worked. Use common sense, know the limitations, and be safe.

Chris Marshall: I think the answer to your question really depends on what you’re expecting a shop vac or dust collector to do for you. I use a shop vacuum for around-the-shop machine cleanups and as a collector for fine dust coming off of my random-orbit, disc and spindle sanders. But, I wouldn’t want to use that same shop vac for collecting all of the heavy shavings that come out of my 15-in. planer, 8-in. jointer or off the lathe. It would fill up really fast and, on green lathe shavings, probably clog up. On the flip side, a dedicated dust collector is engineered to handle a huge volume of material through a 4-in. or larger hose, with a bag(s) or canister(s) that gives you some run-time before it needs to be emptied. A dust collector will have an induction motor, which is designed to run all day long — and without the same shrill noise of a vacuum. Honestly, if budget will allow for it, my vote would be to get both a vacuum and a dust collector. If you don’t have a big shop (yet) or need a full dust collection system with ductwork, a 650cfm dust collector with a length of 4-in. hose can be had for less than $300 and makes a great collector for your larger stationary tools. You can probably find a good used one on eBay or a reconditioned model from a manufacturer for considerably less. I don’t think you’ll regret the investment one bit. Use the shop vac for your smaller shop machines, car cleanups and other around-the-house vacuuming chores.

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