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Shop Vacs: Standard vs HEPA

Updated on August 24, 2012


I've been searching for a good shop vac to purchase. The prices are not bad. I've come across dry shop vacs to wet and dry shop vacs. Ones with a standard filter to ones with the better HEPA filter. The one I selected was the Rigid WD1450. It's been rated "Best" to buy for many years from some of the product review sites. Plus the price is favorable to my wallet. I realize it uses a standard filter. It does have a 3-layer fine dust filter that will catch fine dust particles such as dry wall.

I thought I would talk about the differences between the standard filter vs HEPA.

One look inside a used shop vac, makes you realize how important the filter matters. Does a standard filter do a good job of picking up potentially harmful dust? I guess this would depend on the size of the dust particles you are trying to clean up.

Standard Filters

The standard filters are inexepensive but effective most of the time. They will catch about 99.93% of particles, down to 3 microns, which is pretty fine dust. These filters perform adequately for most construction tasks that don't create extremely fine particles.

Sawdust from miter saws or tablesaws produce larger dust particles, compared to grinding or sanding, and for the most part, the standard filter will catch these particles. However for sanding, a HEPA filter offers the better protection.

Now, standard filters will not clog up as often as HEPA filters, and you know why, its because the HEPA catches more dust than the standard.

Standard filters are easier to maintain, unlike the HEPA filters. The HEPA can be rinsed off with the water hose, and dried and re-installed.

HEPA Filters.

The HEPA filters will catch or trap the smallest construction site particles. A HEPA filter catches about 99.97% of dust as small as 0.3 microns. That's 10 times smaller than the dust captured by a standard filter. HEPA is a better performing filter. However, they are more expensive than the standard filter. You can probably expect to pay at least 28 bucks or so for one.

But, for the price, and your health, the extra protection of a HEPA is so important whenever you are producing fine or potentially dangerous dust when sanding plaster or drywall, wood, or paint that could contain lead.

HEPA filters can also trap or catch mold spores and bacteria better than the standard filters.

Just installing a HEPA filter in a vacuum doesn't mean the vac meets HEPA standards. Even when fitted with a HEPA filter, the non HEPA vac can leak dangerous dust back into the air.


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