Fume Extraction Unit for soldering applications - Review

Table of contents

RoadTest: Fume Extraction Unit for soldering applications

Author: fpobdoc

Creation date:

Evaluation Type: Workshop Tools

Did you receive all parts the manufacturer stated would be included in the package?: True

What other parts do you consider comparable to this product?:

What were the biggest problems encountered?: No problems, very satisfied

Detailed Review:

Weller Zero Smog EL


First off, I have to share that I was impressed with this smoke evacuator.  I'll walk through my evaluation but the bottom line is that this product is efficient, quiet, and simple - all features that are important to me.


The smoke evacuator was shipped to in a single box.  It had been opened before I received it but assume that this was done for quality assurance purposes at Element 14.  Everything was nicely packaged and arranged.


The box contains the main unit, a flexible hose, the power cord, and a couple of pieces used to clamp the hose to the work area.  Everything naturally fit together without the need for instructions.


There are two ports on the top with a cap on one.  This would allow a second hose to be attached the to unit, allowing for an additional work station.  This second hose was not supplied, nor did they provide the optional remote control.


After assembling everything (which only took about five minutes), I set up a couple of tests of the unit.  The first step was to power it up and evaluate the noise level.  It was reasonably quiet, allowing me to listen to music or talk on the phone without much difficulty.  When I move the unit under my desk to its permanent postiion, I imagine that the device will be basely audible.  Weller reports the noise level to be <55dB at 1 meter.  For this evaluation, the unit performed better than expected (especially in comparison to my wood shop dust collector).


Before conducting any further tests, I took the top cover off of the unit.  This revealed a large set of filters that are a single assembly.  The box is made of medium density fiberboard (MDF).  There are two loose filters in the initial stage.  These are M5 class filters under the European EN779:2012 filter standard.  M5 filters should remove 40-60% of the 0.4 micron particles with limited pressure drop.  Basically, these filters will improve the life of the HEPA filter by removing about half of the target particles without loading down the pump too much.


Below the primary filters, a manufactured filter is sealed to the inside of the MDF.  I didn't go to the effort of determining if this adhesive was hot glue, epoxy, or some other material.  My guess is that this stage provides HEPA filtration as well as presumably a layer of activated charcoal.


The filter is labeled as HEPA H13.  This level of filtration removes >99.95% of the most penetrating particle size (MPPS).  Although this is different than the US Department of Energy test that requires 0.3 micron particle measurement, it is probably fairly consistent.


When the filter assembly is removed from the unit (it simply rests on the base), we find the vacuum pump.  I didn't disassemble this as I don't expect anything particularly interesting.  It appears that it would be quite simple to access the pump if repairs were necessary.



The next test was a comparison of the air quality entering and exhausting from the unit.  I purchased a cheap Chinese air quality meter.  I set it to test for 1, 2.5, and 10 micron particles.  Although 2.5 micron particles seem to be a frequent test standard, smoke can contain particles that are much smaller, sometimes getting down to 0.01 micron.  Metallurgic smoke can range from 0.3 microns to over 10 microns.  As such, I chose to focus principally on the 1 micron measurement (PM1).  I verified that smoke from my soldering iron was reliably detected by the sensor.  The soldering iron is a Hakko FX888D and the solder is commonly-available eutectic 63/37 tin-lead.



I simply measured the PM1 concentration of ambient air at my bench and then measured the exhausted air concentration.  I found no difference between the intake and exhaust.  This is probably more a function of having a fairly clean shop rather than a statement about the unit.


Next, I melted solder on the iron next to the vacuum intake.  The soldering iron was within 3 inches of the intake and the sensor was just above the iron.  I had expected this to be an easy win for the unit.  It was.


I then set up the intake further away and incrementally increased the distance to measure effectiveness.  I had assumed that the intake would need to be close, perhaps six inches, from my work area.  As I increased the distance, it occurred to me that I was essentially measuring the event horizon of the unit.  Despite my efforts, no singularity formed...


This demonstration showed that the visible smoke stream went straight to the vacuum intake and that the PM1.0 was still very low just 6 inches away from the visible plume.  This reassured me that the visible smoke had a reasonable correlation to the fine particles that I was measuring.


I'm not in any way suggesting that this was a scientific test nor that me test instruments are precise.  Having said that, I am very happy with the performance of this unit and am committed to using it whenever I'm soldering.  Although I realize that leaded solder is a health hazard, I will feel somewhat more protected while using this Weller smoke evacuator.


My plan is to either purchase the remote control or build one myself.  I haven't yet taken the unit apart sufficiently to understand how the remote works.  For me, this will be a critical part of the unit as I plan to mount it out of the way.  Since it will be inconvenient to access the power switch, the remote will be important.  My tentative plan is to put a current-detector on my soldering iron power cord and tie this into the remote for the smoke evacuator.  As a result, the smoke evacuator will turn on automatically whenever I power up my soldering iron.  With the vacuum intake mounted at my workstation, I should have the benefit of the smoke evacuator without having to think about it.