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Installing an Automated Dust Collection System

Dust Collection is Really Important

If you have a workshop, especially a woodworking shop then you know how dusty and dirty they can get, and it takes almost no time at all to go from spotless to a dusty mess.  Breathing this dust is also a health hazard. OSHA has listed dust from workshops to be a hazard situation that must be controlled for human safety reasons.  Of course, wearing a dust mask, in addition to wearing eye protection is something you should always do when working in your shop.  In addition to wearing a dust mask and safety glasses/goggles, we should strive to limit the amount of dust that makes it into our shop’s air and onto our work spaces and floors in the first place.

This is where a dust collection system comes into play!  Dust collection comes in many forms.  It could be just a shop vac that you plug into the back of the tool you are working on.  Most all tools have a dust port on the back or side that allows you to connect to a vacuum or dust collection system in various sizes from 2 inches to 4 inches.

Dust Collection Systems vs. a Dust Collector

the-geek-pub-shop-tour-grizzly-dust-collector-340x340For the first year I owned my dust collector (a 2HP 220v Grizzly GZ0548ZP) I simply had a 10 foot section of flex hose plugged into it and moved the hose from tool to tool.  Before that I used a cheap Lowe’s shop vac and dragged it around the shop from tool to tool.  The dust collector is a major improvement over the shop vac.  It has a much higher suction strength and the hose went from 2 inches to 4 inches in diameter.  This allows the dust collector to move more material, more efficiently. Not long after,  I installed a Jet Air Filtration unit in the ceiling.

However, over time I caught myself simply not turning on the dust collector, because it was too much trouble.  The hose would be connected to my Saw Stop table saw, and it was far too much trouble to disconnect it and reconnect to my Grizzly bandsaw for a single cut.  This of course defeats the very purpose of having a dust collector.  The next problem that I faced numerous times was the dreaded “forgot about it” problem.  This is where I actually did move the hose to another tool and forgot about it.  I would then proceed to run the dust collector for 20 minutes as a made cut after cut on the table saw only to realize when I was finished that the dust collector wasn’t even connected to the right tool!  A complete waste of electricity (and time I would then spend sweeping the floor and vacuum up the mess I just made behind the saw and in its cabinet).

Installing a Dust Collection System

Installing a Dust Collection SystemA dust collection system takes your dust collector to the next level.  With a system (which can be manual or automated) you have permanent or semi-permanent duct-work running from all of your tools to a central dust collector.  At each tool, a blast gate controls airflow and suction for that tool.  This allows you to move from tool to tool without moving hoses or dragging equipment around your shop.  It also increases safety because you are far more likely to actually use it, and more importantly there are no hoses laying on the floor to trip over.  You can take this to the ultimate level by automating the on/off controls of the dust collector and the opening/closing of the blast gates so that operating a tool automatically engages the system.

Originally I had intended to roll my own automated blast gates by using an Arduino and some servo motors to open and close the blast gates, very similar to what Bob Clagett did over at I Like to Make Stuff.  That’s when Rockler Woodworking and Hardware contacted me about an out of the box system that they sell in their stores from iVac.  The system includes automated blast gates, handheld remote controls, dust collector switches, and automatic tool remotes. They also sell a wide array of dust collection attachments and accessories to make installing your system a breeze.  Rather than running hoses all over my shop, I opted to install semi-permanent 4″ PVC Schedule 20 Pipe around the perimeter of my shop.

Installing the Automated Dust Collection System Step by Step

Rockler was kind enough to send me all of the equipment, parts and pieces that I needed to automate my system and convert the 4″ PVC pipe to 4″ dust collection fittings, along with the necessary grounding kits.  I’ll provide links at the end of this article to all of these items at the Rockler website in case you’d like to install the same system.  So let’s walk through the install process!

Step 1: Install the iVac Switch

To install the switch for the dust collector you should probably mount it on the wall.  Then you simple plug it into a 220v outlet, and then plug the dust collector into the iVac Switch.  You can test it by flipping the switch to manual on or manual off.

Step 2: Install and Mount the PVC

To install the PVC pipe to the wall I used some 4″ hose clamps.  I drilled a hole in the backside of the clamps with a 3/16″ drill bit.  Since the fittings overlap the pipe and leave a gap, I compensated for that by adding three flat washers between the wall and the clamp to slightly space it away from the wall.  I used reciprocating saw to cut the PVC pipe.

Step 3: Continue to install the PVC Pipe

I used silicone caulking to seal the pipes instead of PVC cement.  This will allow me to take the system apart in the future should I need to make changes.

Step 3: Install the Blast Gates

Install the blast gates at the ends of each section, near where you plan to connect each tool.  Be sure to connect them to the grounding system.

Step 4: Ground Everything

It is extremely important that you ground the entire system.  You can get a grounding kit from Rockler.

Step 5: Install a Floor Sweep

A floor sweep is awesome and allows you to sweep the floor directly into your dust collection system.  Dust pans are a thing of the past!

Step 6: Install the iVac Tool module at each tool

Every tool that you want to automatically control the blast gate(s) and dust collector(s) will need to have an iVac Tool module connected to it.  This tool module senses the magnetic induction in the power cord of the tool it is connected to.

Step 7: Connect all of the Tools

The last step is to connect all of your tools to the completed dust collection system.  This can be done permanently or with quick disconnect hoses for tools you might want to move around the shop.

The Completed Dust Collection System

The completed dust collection system is a dream.  I actually use it now!  No more hassles.  It just works!

Installing a Dust Collection System 0027

Links to the System and PartsiVac System

iVac System

Dust Collection Fittings

Update 10/28/15: I received a lot of follow up questions on various social media outlets about the logistics of where I connected the system to physical ground points.  I wrote a follow up article to cover that topic in more detail:  Grounding Dust Collection

Video Transcript

All right!  Well a few notes before we get started.  We’re going to be install a PVC grounded dust collection system here in The Geek Pub shop and originally I was going to use these aluminum blast gates and I was going to use an Arduino and some servo motors and automate them similar to what Bob Clagget did over at I Like to Make Stuff.  And that’s when Rockler called me and said “Hey, we already sell a complete automated dust collection system that include blast gates, it has switches, they offer remote controls, and all kinds of little components that you can get for it.” And so that’s what were going to be installing today in The Geek Pub.  And we’ll go through all of the individual pieces as we go through it, but the first we’re going to do is install the switch on the dust collector.  So lets get started!

So all you have to do to install it is simply plug it into the outlet and then plug the dust collector into the iSwitch.  And then you can test it by flipping the switch.

So you could stop here and you would have already made a massive upgrade to your shop.  Just being able to carry around this remote control anywhere in the shop and turn the dust collector on and off remotely is a massive upgrade for most people.  But we’re not going to stop here!  So lets keep going!

In order to hang the PVC pipe on the wall I am going to use these hose clamps and I’ve drilled a small in the back of the clamp that will accept this screw and behind the clamp I’m going to use these washers, and that is because the PVC fittings have an overlap and I need to compensate for that on the pipe.  And then I’ll just screw this to the wall.

I’m using silicon caulk to put these together rather than PVC cement and the reason why is that gives me the ability in the future to take it apart.  You just have to use a little bit of heat from a heat gun and you can knock it back apart with a 2×4.  These adapters from Rockler allow you to adapt the PVC pipe over to standard dust collection fittings.

To install the blast gates I’m going to use both adhesive and I am going to put a screw in from the side because I am not going to use pipe clamps.

So it is very important that you ground PVC dust collection and that is because it is very prone to building up static electricity and that could result in a dust fire.  And because of that Rockler makes this really cool grounding kit and it’s basically a braided wire that you wrap around the outside of the PVC.  And I’m going to drill holes every few feet and insert the screws.  That way I will make contact with both the air on the outside and on the inside.

So one of the things I wanted in the shop was a floor sweep and this just allows you to sweep the floor directly into the dust collector without having to get out a broom and a dustpan and do it the old fashioned way.  And this isn’t something that will get used constantly so I’m just going to connect it with a manual blast gate so that I can open and close it as needed.  And then from there I will just use a piece of flexible hose to connect the floor sweep.  I’m going to use a hose clamp to connect this because after I use it a few times I may change my mind on how I want it laid out.  So that last thing we want to do is ground the blast gate to the grounding system.  So we’ll do that by removing a screw and then putting it back in with a ground wire in place.

OK.  So before we move on I wanted to take just a minute to talk about this system and how it works.  And the system is wireless and it is programmable.  There are little DIP switches on each component and that allows you to program them.  It lets you set the tool number and the frequency in case you want to have two shops next door to each other or something like that.  Or if you had multiple dust collectors, you could set different tools and different blast gates to operate on different dust collectors as well as you can set different tools to open different blast gates and that’s all programable through these little DIP switches.  The system itself is wireless so you don’t have to run any wires for it, although you do have to plug it into power to operate the gate itself which can be controlled manually with a little switch here.

So every tool needs to have one of these little iVac Tool modules installed and these basically connect over the outside of the power cord and they sense the magnetic induction in the wire which operates the tool.  Now again these have DIP switches so you can program them to a specific tool.  This one would be connected for example to the table saw and that would operate the table saws blast gate along with turning on the vacuum.  Now you can also at any time operate the vacuum with a remote control and you can have multiple of these if you would like.  And they can be programmed also to operate a blast gate, or just turn the dust collector on and off.  So lets go ahead and finish up!

OK.  So to program the remote for the table saw I simply need to change it to ON ON and that will set it to my system address and then for the tool address it is ON, ON, and OFF.  And that’s it.  It’s programmed for this tool.  And then installing the tool is as simple as clamping the remote around the tool that you want to control the dust collector.

Rockler also sent me this really cool quick disconnect system for tools that you might move around the shop.  I love this thing!

OK.  So now when I turn on the tool it opens the blast gate and then turns on the dust collector.  And I have the system programmed so that when I turn the tool off it immediately closes the blast gate, but it runs the dust collector for another 5 seconds and then turns it off.  And I have to tell you.  Having an automated dust collection in the shop is a dream.  I can’t tell you how many times I would go over to a tool and make a couple of cuts and never turn the dust collection system on because it was too much of a pain to go over and drag the hose across the room, connect it to that tool and then go back and turn the dust collector on and then turn the tool on.  And then to go back to the tool I was using previously I had to repeat all of that agin.  So the greatest thing about having an automated dust collection system?  I’m actually going to use it.  All of the time!

Well hey guys!  I hope you enjoyed seeing how a system like this works in my shop and maybe will work in your shop!  And I’d like to send a special shout out to Rockler for sending me the components for this video!  Thanks guys!  Well you can help me out if you’ll hit that like button and then subscribe to my channel on YouTube.  Well hey thanks for watchin

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7 Responses

  1. My grandfather has this same system in his shop. It works really well. I’ve been to Rockler a thousand times though and I have never seen this system in their stores. I wasn’t really looking for it though either so who knows?

  2. Does anyone out there know where to buy 4” schedule 20 pvc pipe and fittings in the Chicago land area ??

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