Measuring Woodshop Air With a Dylos DC1100 Pro Air Quality Meter

It’s been about 4 months since I had nose surgery to fix some sinus and airflow issues. Life after surgery has been so much better. Being able to breathe easily through my nose is something I haven’t experienced in a long time. While going through the process of getting my nose issue straightened out (literally) I also learned that I am allergic to a lot of airborne pollutants. One line on the list that stood out to me was the line that said “white oak.“ Finding out that I’m allergic to white oak really made sense as to why I got a really long sinus infection and eventually bronchitis right around the same time I completed an oak project last year.

So all of that changed my perspective a bit. I’ve basically got a new nose on the inside and want to keep it that way. Since the surgery I have made a few changes in the shop. I upgraded my dust collector to a unit with twice the rated CFM, upgraded my dust collection piping and connections to each tool to make the entire dust collection system more efficient, I only vacuum the shop when cleaning instead of using a broom for the majority of it, and I run my air cleaner cart as much as possible now.

In this article and video I’d like to share some measurements of the air quality in my shop in different situations. To do so I purchased a Dylos DC1100 Pro air quality monitor. I found out about this monitor by reading an article on woodgears.ca. Be sure to check out that article when you’re done here. The more appropriate way to see the true difference in air quality would have been for me to measure before the upgrades and after the upgrades. But I didn’t get the air quality monitor until after the upgrades were complete. Poor planning on my part but I honestly didn’t think I was ever going to buy the meter at all. The meter has two measurements; small particles between .5 and 2.5 micron and large particles of 2.5 micron and greater. Obviously, lower is better.

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To determine a starting point for how good or bad the shop air is I measured my daily environment. The meter continuously fluctuates up or down by a few points but it’s easy to tell where the data range is. After about 10 minutes of the meter running outside on my front porch I got an approximate reading of 638 for the small particles and 105 for the large particles. From what I’ve seen online in other examples this is relatively low for outdoor air. When people in my neighborhood are burning leaves or have a bonfire going I’ve seen this meter over 10,000.

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With the outside control established I went inside and got a little bit of a surprise. I put the meter on my kitchen countertop for about 10 minutes and got a reading of about 875 for the small particles and 32 for the large particles.

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Now to measure the shop environment. Keep in mind that I already run my dust collector when running the power tools and I also use an air cleaner in the shop while I’m in there so it shouldn’t be a crazy high number to begin with. To get a good baseline measurement for the shop air I took my measurement when I first went into the shop for the day and before stirring up any more dust or moving anything around. The reading was about 435 on the small particle and 57 on the large particle.

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My shop is a 2 car garage in Mississippi. The outside climate is very humid year-round and brutally uncomfortable when you combine the humidity with 95-100 degree temperatures in the summer time. Because I make my living by making content in my garage I installed a mini-split AC and heat pump unit for better climate control. I also rarely open the garage door. That means I have a better chance of trapping a horrible amount of fine sawdust in the air. My main two ways to combat the fine sawdust in the air are to use my dust collector to collect as much of it as possible right at the source and use my air cleaner cart to filter the remaining stuff in the air. As we will see, they both do their job very well.

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For the first test I made three rip cuts on my table saw with no blade guard or dust collection and the air cleaner cart turned off. With the Dylos meter sitting on the right extension wing of the saw I got some pretty ridiculous numbers. The highest reading I saw was 24,112 for the small particle and 13,194 for the large particle!!! That’s insane. If you don’t have dust collection in your shop PLEASE have a draft of fresh air coming in and dirty air going out.

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Before doing the second round of test cuts I used the air cleaner cart to get the numbers down to around the same levels as before I made the first test cuts. The next test was to make those same cuts with the dust collector running and the over arm blade guard installed. For some reason I made six cuts this time instead of three. I set up my cell phone to record the meter while making the cuts and the result was around 323 for the small particle and 78 for the large particle.

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Next I repeated the same process but this time I left the air cleaner cart running the entire time. The results were a little lower at 305 for the small particle and 65 for the large particle.

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The other two major dust offenders in the shop are the bandsaw and the miter saw. I started with the bandsaw. I made seven cuts through 3/4” thick material about 20” or so in length. For dust collection I have two flex hoses secured to the top and bottom of the table with nothing more than a couple bungee cords. This works really well and allows for quick and easy removal if needed. After those cuts the meter was reading about 203 for the small particles and 63 for the large particles. The dust collector and air cleaner cart were both running during these tests.

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Same setup with the miter saw. A bunch of cuts with the dust collector and air cleaner cart running. The meter read about 336 for the small particle and 31 for the large particle count.

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After making the tests I turned the dust collector off and left the air cleaner running for an hour while I went inside. One hour later I returned to the shop where the meter was reading extremely low. I know as soon as I open the door to the house some air will enter and the meter will go up so I ran over to the meter really quick and it was reading 10 for small particle and 0 for the large particle. By the time I shot the outro to the video the meter was reading about 15 for the small particle and 1 for the large particle. That is crazy low!

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So how does everything compare? The following graphs pretty much confirm the general information and research out there in regards to air quality. Often times the air in your own home is worse than the air outside. I guess that’s where the saying “step outside and get some fresh air” came from. Running the dust collector while making sawdust lowered the particle count compared to the control numbers of the shop air. And running the air cleaner cart while the tools weren’t running made the greatest improvement to the quality of air in the shop.

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What I didn’t include in the graph above is the numbers for using the table saw without dust collection attached. Including those numbers completely dwarfs the rest of the data.

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16 Comments

  1. John

    Wouldn’t it be more efficient and better mixing to put the blower output at the top instead of the bottom of your cart air filter? I’d tend to think the output would blow away more than what’s getting sucked in in your current configuration or at least not as efficient.

    Reply
    1. Jay Bates

      I don’t think it would be any more efficient. In order to blow air it has to suck it through the filters. Each filter has noticeably the same amount of dirt. And judging by placing the meter on the opposite side of the room and getting readings below 20 on the small particle count I’d say its as efficient as it needs to be. The majority of the cart’s weight is in the blower motor so putting it near the top would make it more top-heavy as well. I’m not sure how much that would effect mobility though.

      Reply
      1. John

        Sorry I meant blowing away more dirty air and cleaning already purified air. Not that there would be a reduction in air heh. Just thinking of the circulating air path clockwise from cart to the left and output at 45 degrees. However, I can understand your choice as far as weight etc. Your readings seem to reflect as you say it’s efficient enough and works great!

        Reply
  2. Jon Loew

    Why do you have your air cleaner on a cart instead of mounting it to the ceiling? I’m looking a Jet air cleaner and most of the reviews say they hung theirs. Just curious as to why if you have the room above your head. My garage is 10′ so I have the room. Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Jay Bates

      Multiple reasons. I didn’t want a large shadow for video. This lets me use it as a fan to cool of as well. I can bring it closer to the lathe to capture sanding dust better. And making a cart was easier than hanging a cabinet from the ceiling.

      Reply
  3. Jon Rozek

    Thanks very much, Jay, for doing these experiments. I’ve known about that monitor for a long time, but have not come across any field tests as thorough as yours. You continue to be a great resource for everything relating to woodworking. Thanks, man.

    Reply
  4. Michael

    if you’re using a chopsaw away from base, try putting half into a large cardboard box. It catches a hell of a lot of the crap, not all by all means. It’d be easy to cut a hole for a vacuum too.

    Reply
  5. Del Kelso

    Jay,

    like all of your content, this article is very helpful. i have a shop made air filter (powered by an old furnace blower) and use 3 filters stacked. my filters are on top, so i can also use as downdraft when sanding.

    my question is what type of filters you are using…MERV number? i am using very cheap filters, (MERV =4) but have wondered if better filters would make a difference. your results are very good, so i’m thinking if you are using cheap filters also, then they are good enough. also thinking that higher MERV would clog up faster…more frequent replacement…more $’s. when i look at the store bought air filters and the cost of their proprietary filters i’m really glad i went home made. wonder how they compare to shop made?

    thanks in advance for any guidance you might care to offer (i know you must get a lot of e-mail).

    Reply
  6. Steve Rosenberg

    Thank you for an informative article. I was very surprised to see that there were way more fine particles in your house than outdoors. Do you think this is typical of indoor air? And if it is, that begs the question of what causes it.

    Reply
  7. Robby Wright

    Good video, Jay. I would like to see you do a follow-up video of you working with hand tools (planes, chisels, saws, scrapers, etc. and what dust they kick up. The going beliefs are that hand tools don’t create dust, but I would like to see what actually happens. It would be interesting to include hand sanding and sanding with a random orbital sander, with and without dust collection, too.

    Reply
  8. Max Blanton

    Get video and info. As a woodworker and retired respiratory therapist I know the importance of watching what we breathe. I wish more of our friends in the woodworking community took this seriously. I hate wearing masks as much as the next guy (or gal) but I do love to be able to breathe. Keep up the good work and for bringing more attention to this very important topic.

    Reply
  9. Joe

    No matter what kind of air filtration system you have, any woodworker will always be breathing dust even after removing a respirator. I take all the precautions that you mentioned. I do one extra thing that you didn’t mention. After I’m done in the shop for the day I exercise. Usually something aerobic outside. What this does is increase my respiration which helps the cells in the lining of my lungs carry particulate out.

    Reply
  10. mike

    Hey jay great video just wondering what the power consumption of the clearview and air purifier in dollar terms is cheers

    Reply

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