Central Vac Vs Dust Collector Vs Shop Vac [Which is Better?]

Central Vac Vs Dust Collector Vs Shop Vac

Dust, dirt and debris removal in our homes and shops is one of the most important actions we need to take to keep the air clean, fresh, healthy and breathable. Dust in the air can cause severe allergies, affect your lungs, and lead to respiratory diseases like asthma and other conditions.

There are different appliances and machines available to help remove dust in debris in a room or workshop, including central vac, dust collector and shop vac. Your choice of a dust remover will depend on your specific need, the space to be cleaned and your budget.

But, what exactly are the similarities and differences between a central vac, a dust collector and a shop vac? Can they be used interchangeably? Which of them is best when dealing with specific situations?

We brought you the similarities and peculiarities of a central vac with a dust collector and a shop vac. Read on for all the cues, tips and reviews we have put together in this post.

Central Vac Vs Dust Collector

Central vac is the simple term for a central vacuum system used mostly in whole building applications with the unit installed in remote locations like garages, basements, and utility rooms.

It can also sometimes be used in entire buildings like a house, built into their structure with a tubing system that connects vents to a receptacle usually kept in a garage or basement.

The central vacuum system removes dust and debris by sucking them in via a power brush and hose inside the house. These particles then pass through the tube inserted into the walls and out into the receptacle.

On the other hand, a dust collector is more suited for factories, warehouses, plants and other commercial or industrial settings.

A dust collector usually consists of a receptacle or dust bag, a filter, a blower and a filter-cleaning system, working together to collect dust and impurities from the room’s air.

Hydrocarbon and gaseous waste are also significantly removed from the air. Some dust collectors are single-unit machines, while others are a combination of compartments components.

The major similarity between the central vac and a dust collector is the fact that they’re both designed to pull in air and pass it to a receptacle that traps dust and debris.

But there are also a number of differences as listed below:

1. Application

Application - Central Vac Vs Dust Collector

Primarily, central vacuum systems are used for whole building applications a run tubes over several meters. The hose and power brush are moved around the house while the tube takes the collected dust and debris to the receptacle which could be in the garage.

On the other hand, a dust collector is used mostly in single spaces, such as a workshop or factory. A dust collector is entirely stationary, and no part of the unit needs to be moved for it to remove dust and debris.

2. Pressure and Volume

Pressure and Volume - Central Vac Vs Dust Collector

A dust collector tends to pack a lot more pressure and volume, making it possible to remove debris and larger, heavier particles.

This is why they’re very effective at removing wood chippings, metal dust and other forms of heavy dust materials. On the other hand, central vac systems are built to remove mostly fine dust particles.

3. Precision

Precision -  Dust Collector Vs Central Vac

Central Vac units are built primarily for precise cleaning, while dust collectors are used for air management and gas removal and control in facilities.

4. Waste Type

Waste Type -  Dust Collector Vs Central Vac

From observation, we’ve seen that central vac systems have small pipes (hose). So, even with high velocity, they can only manage fine particles because of their small volume capacity.

Meanwhile, a dust collector can be built for wood and designed to effectively remove them without causing a fire hazard.

Can a Central Vac be used as a Dust Collector?

No, it shouldn’t. The only time we would advise you consider using a central vac as a dust collector is if it’s a home where air pollution is largely safe and not hazardous.

If what you need dust removal for is a wood workshop or metal shop or any other facility with toxic dust and debris, it is not wise to use a vacuum system.

Wood waste can be flammable and dangerous. Also, the central vac pipe and capacity may not be suited for the rigors of such large dust and shavings that you find in a shop.

Also, some components like the fan blades may get damaged by large chunks of wood if not protected by an upstream filter unit.

Some people suggest that central vacs can be remodeled or reworked to act as dust collectors in shops and factories. This may involve adding a cyclone component and reworking the blower to be effective at removing larger particles and chunks.

Shop Vac Vs Dust Collector

Not able to decide on whether to use a shop vac or dust collector? Unlike a central vacuum system, a shop vac is a more dedicated vacuum unit that is installed in a shop for a specific purpose.

It is a source dust collector and can be something as simple as a heavy-duty vacuum cleaner with the dust collection unit and the hose and power brush attached.

There are also larger units for very large shops which have a reworked and customized receptacle outside; although this is rare. Most shop vacs are single units.

There are quite a number of differences between a shop vac and a dust collector and we’ll see some of them;

1. Collection Capacity

Collection Capacity - Shop Vac vs Dust Collector

This has to do with how much dust and debris the unit is able to collect. A shop vacuumer will require that you empty it very often compared to a dust collector. This is because shop vacs typically have a small collection bag.

Dust collectors have collection bags that are as large as 50-55 gallons and larger facilities even convert garbage dumpsters and drums to collection boxes. On the other hand, a typical shop vac has a collection capacity of between 10 and 20 gallons.

2. CFM

CFM - Shop Vac vs Dust Collector

This is another very important factor to consider. CFM means cubic feet per minute and measures the area o the unit’s airflow covers per minute.

Overall, a dust collector pulls dust from the air at a much greater rate (CFM) than a shop vac. Not to worry though, you’d still be able to pull in the majority of the dust using a shop vac.

3. Coverage

Coverage - Dust Collector Vs Shop Vac

Beyond CFM which considers the rate of airflow, there’s also the issue of coverage when considering shop vac Vs Dust collector.

For obvious reasons, a dust collector can cover larger spaces, such as factories and large workshops. However, shop vacs are only designed to cover regular shops.

4. Mobility

Shop vacs have to be moved around with the hose in hand when dust removal is carried out. On the other hand, dust collectors are stationary.

Can A Shop Vac Be Used as A Dust Collector?

Only in your shop. Your shop vac can only collect dust in a shop it is designed to clean. However, it cannot be used in place of a dust collector. A shop vacuum cleaner does not have the capacity to remove heavy dust like wood chippings and shavings that dust collectors are built for.

Furthermore, shop vacs cannot cover large spaces and do not have the capacity for large quantities of dust and debris.

You’d simply be overworking your shop vac, putting its part at risk, and risking a fire outbreak if you deploy shop vacs in places where dust collectors are required.

Shop vacs are recommended for simple shops between 90 and 300 Square feet. Anything more than that would be putting a lot of pressure on the unit.

Can A Dust Collector Be Used as A Vacuum?

It certainly can. If you already own a dust collector which is currently not in use and you need vacuum cleaning in a shop or a building, you can convert your unit to a vacuum cleaner.

You just need to install it properly, ensure dust won’t be a problem for your neighbors when you send it outside to the receptacle, and ensure it is properly sealed and housed to give a pleasant appearance.

You should know that this can result in higher energy costs because you’d be running a unit that gives way more than you need.

A dust collector is able to remove fine and large dust particles, shavings, and even certain gases from the indoor air. This includes wood chippings as well.

If you’re going to use this unit in a home or a shop, the unit will be doing way less than it is designed to do. It’s not energy efficient, but it is possible.

Final Words:

Before you pick any dust remover for your building, shop or factory, it’s important your carefully review what specific functions and situations each of them are designed for.

This post provides that much-needed clarity. For emphasis, a dust collector is best for is not the same as a shop vac or central vac.

A shop vac is a single indoor unit designed to be used in shops, a central vac is usually deployed in whole buildings- like a house- and has its receptacle placed in a remote location such as a garage. Lastly, a dust collector is best used in workshops, factories and industrial settings.

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