Industrial Wood Dust Collection

Wood dust is a health, safety, and process hazard if not properly addressed.
Learn how to deal with it safely with industrial wood dust collection systems.

Wood dust is produced by everything from small hand-held tools to CNC machines by a variety of industrial processes.

Wood dust is a health and safety hazard if not properly addressed in the workplace. Exposure to excessive amounts of wood dust can cause eye, nose and throat irritation, in addition to pulmonary function impairment.

For these reasons, The United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set a standard at 5 mg/m3 for respirable dust and 15 mg/m3 for total dust. The US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has a lower recommended exposure limit of 1 mg/m3.

In addition, wood dust is a fire and explosion hazard if not properly handled. Dust can settle almost anywhere - on and around machines, but also on ducting, rafters, and other areas. Once it settles in these places, anything can shake the settled dust loose - cleaning by compressed air, an earthquake, or any other shock. Once suspended in the air, this dust becomes fuel primed for a fire or explosion.

OSHA Wood Dust Resources

More information about the hazards wood dust poses to human health can be found at OSHA's Wood Dust Hazard Recognition page.

The OSHA introduction to Combustible Dust in the Timber Products Industry is available here (.ppt, 2 MB)

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is a global organization that delivers information, knowledge, and standards. Two of these are particularly important for woodworking dust collection:

In particular, NFPA 652 introduces the Dust Hazard Analysis (DHA) process. The DHA will identify conditions that may contribute to a fire, deflagration, or explosion: fuel, the presence of an oxidant, ignition, dispersion, and containment. A DHA is now required for new installations and upgrades to existing installations, and should be completed by October 2018.

How to handle wood dust safely

Handling wood dust safely can be thought of as a three-step process: capture it, move it, deal with it.

Capture it!

The first step towards handling wood dust safely is to capture it at the source.

This is accomplished by the means of designing a good hood at each source of dust. Each machine has specific requirements in terms of the amount of suction, typically given as a combination of drop diameter and air velocity that must be maintained. Maintaining these air velocities while the machine is producing dust is absolutely critical.

Note that not all woodworking machine manufacturers thoroughly test their hood designs, and as a result, not all dust is collected even at the recommended air velocity in some machines. In these instances, it may be necessary to redesign and adjust the machine hoods.

How do you know if you should do this? It's easy: if the machine-manufacturer's specifications are being met at the hood and dust is still not captured reliably, changes are necessary.

Did you know?

Automatic Ecogate blast gates measure and report the air velocity, pressure, and air volume at all drops in real-time.

Move it!

Once dust is captured at the source, it must be reliably transported to the dust collector. The air velocities required to reliably transport the contaminant vary depending on the contaminant type.

The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists provides recommended design velocities for different types of contaminants:

Table showing minimum transport velocities for wood dust and other materials

Minimum Transport Velocities for wood dust and other materials.
(source: Industrial Ventilation by The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists)

Depending on the specifics of the materials and processes used in each facility, the minimum transport velocity can be from 2000 feet per minute up to 4000 feet per minute.

One key element of maintaining transport velocities in the ducting is the design of the ducting system. In general, a good design should have the following characteristics:

  • As simple as possible and as short as possible, in order to minimize pressure losses
  • Suitable hoods for all machines
  • Minimize the number of elbows
  • Elbows no greater than 45 degrees
  • Flexible ducts should be avoided or used as minimally as possible
Want better dust collection? Clean industrial woodworking facility with excellent dust collection and Ecogate controls

Our experts will work with you to design and implement a dust collection system tailored to your needs that will serve you well for decades. Get in touch

Deal with it!

Finally, you need the right fan, motor, and dust collector. Factors that influence which fan, motor, and dust collector is right for your application include:

  • Total air volume requirements
  • Type of dust
  • Production processes used
  • Machine utilization
  • Future plans

The fan should always be installed without system error - meaning the first elbow at the fan inlet should be at least 3 times the diameter away from the fan inlet (and ideally 5 times away). This significantly improves the fan efficiency. A stack should be used on the fan outlet.

A direct-driven fan motor should be used; this provides better energy-efficiency.

Optionally, wood dust can later recycled into new material (such as MDF board) or used to generate energy as a bio-fuel.

58% Energy Use Reduction
250 HP industrial dust collector installed outside of a woodworking factory

Brentwood Corp. increased the capacity of their wood dust collection system while saving 58% on electricity costs. Read the case study

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, each situation is unique, and should be prepared for each individual project together with a domain expert.

A good dust collection system will provide a reliably clean and safe working environment that is conducive to high productivity.

Well-maintained industrial dust collection systems should have a lifecycle of 20 years. It is critical to consider this when deciding what dust collection solution to deploy - money spent today on a superior solution can be recouped many times over the system's lifecycle.

Read on into the next section to find out how Ecogate controls make wood dust collection systems work better and more reliably while using 50%-75% more electricity.

Automation Helps Ecogate Automatic Blast Gate for dust collection opening and closing

Get better dust collection with Ecogate. Automatic blast gates and intelligent controls direct airflow exactly where it is needed - which results in dust collection systems that work better while using 50%-75% less electricity.

Get Better Dust Collection
with Ecogate

Get Better Dust Collection
with Ecogate

Intelligent Dust Collection Control

Ecogate's patented control system makes industrial wood dust collection systems run better while reducing energy use by 50%-75%.

We do this by monitoring and understanding what your machines are doing at all times, and adjusting the ventilation system so that it perfectly matches your needs in realtime.

A sensor is attached to each workstation. When a workstation is in use, its sensor reports this to the greenBOX control unit. The greenBOX automatically opens blast gates to active workstations, and closes blast gates to inactive ones. The reduced air volume requirements let the Power Master Variable Frequency Drive slow down the system fan, which decreases the fan's power consumption.

Don't worry - the greenBOX is smart enough to always maintain appropriate transport velocities through your entire duct system.

The Fan Law Ecogate Automatic Blast Gate for dust collection opening and closing

Fan power increases with the cube of the air volume moved by the fan (learn more).

That means that reducing the real-time air volume by 30% reduces the system's electricity use by about 66%. This is typical for Ecogate-controlled systems.

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Ecogate controls are agnostic as to what dust collector and fan is used. That means that if you already have an existing central dust collection system, you will be able to retrofit Ecogate controls to it and start enjoying automatic, energy-efficient dust collection immediately.

If you need a new industrial dust collection system, our experts will be happy to design it with you. Our unique design approach takes into account machine needs and utilization, and results in noticeably improved performance over traditional designs.


graph showing dust collection system initial investment, maintenance, electricity expenses, and total lifecycle cost

Over the lifecycle of an industrial dust collection system, electricity is the largest component of the system cost. By reducing this expense by 68% on average, Ecogate pays for itself many times over during its lifetime. The chart above is based on real data from a large US-based wood cabinet manufacturer.


Upgrade your dust collection with Ecogate

  • Reduce the electricity use of your central dust collection system by 50%-75%
  • Improve suction at machines
  • Get a cash incentive for your industrial dust collection upgrade
  • Get dust collection and machine use analytics data
  • Never worry about starting and stopping your dust collector and fan again
  • Monitor system status and performance remotely
  • Rest easy knowing that transport velocities are being maintained automatically
  • Increase the capacity of your existing dust collection system
  • Reduce noise inside your facility
  • Dramatically reduce the carbon footprint of your facility
  • Know the air velocity, pressure, and air volume at all drops in real-time

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