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Fume Extraction Unit for soldering applications - Review

Scoring

Product Performed to Expectations: 9
Specifications were sufficient to design with: 10
Demo Software was of good quality: 10
Product was easy to use: 8
Support materials were available: 10
The price to performance ratio was good: 9
TotalScore: 56 / 60
  • RoadTest: Fume Extraction Unit for soldering applications
  • Buy Now
  • Evaluation Type: Workshop Tools
  • Was everything in the box required?: Yes
  • Comparable Products/Other parts you considered: N/A
  • What were the biggest problems encountered?: No problems were encountered. Well... one. I ran out of things to solder. :)

  • Detailed Review:

    Weller Zero Smog EL Review Image

     

    To me, the top reasons for a fume extractor are not health reasons. After all, I have been breathing solder fumes for years and I are just fine brain functions!

     

    That said, I know other Weller Zero Smog EL reviewers are covering the subject of breathing fumes. Plus, plenty of material exists on the subject. I do not have anything additional to add.

     

    Instead, I hate the smell. My perception is as simple as that. The fumes thrust into my nose is unpleasant. After a heavy soldering session my lab, which is also my office, smells of burnt rosin. So while I should be concerned with the health risks, I just do not like it.

     

    In the past, I have tried using a small fan to blow the smoke away from my face. This method works well to keep it out of my nose, at least, directly. The rosin smell still stinks up my office.

     

    While at a makerspace, I taught soldering classes. We had “smoke eater” fans which included a carbon filter element. These worked slightly better than the fan and did an okay job of reducing the smell. However, their range was limited and I found them to be a bit cumbersome.

     

    Lastly, I sought a real extractor solution. To me the perfect extractor will do three things:

    1. Keep smoke out of my face
    2. Keep the smell out of my lab
    3. Do it quietly

     

    Weller Zero Smog EL laying next to Raspberry Pi

     

    Overview

    The Weller Zero Smog EL accomplishes #1 and #2, in spades. The third requirement depends on your workstation. In my configuration, I just lazily laid the extraction hose near the PCB. In terms of the Z plane, I had a reasonable alignment between my work and the suction hose. On the lower strength settings, the extractor struggled to pull the smoke away.

     

    Before you dismiss the unit, let’s focus on a few details. First, my configuration is not optimal. It is best to put the suction hose directly above your work. Second, I specifically stated “the lowest setting.” I liked the low setting because it wasn’t much louder than my programmable power supply.

     

    When running at full power, if the hose was within 12 inches of my solder station, it sucked out everything. Granted, it ran loud but it was fantastically effective.

    Adafruit 40 Pin TFT Breakout with Weller Zero Smog EL

    (Click to load, it is an animated GIF.)

     

    The flexibility is great. In my case, permanently mounting the hose is difficult. I solder in different places. In a proper soldering station where you could mount the hose, you could run at the lower settings and still get fantastic suction.

     

    Controls

    Operating the controls is pretty simple. Hit the switch and it turns on. There are four levels of suction and it appears to remember the last setting. The downside to the unit is the control location.

     

    The power switch is on the bottom corner. While the fan controls are on the opposite face. That makes it difficult to put the unit in a place where both are accessible. It is annoying to climb under my desk each time I need to use it. If only there was a remote switch! Well...

     

    Remote

    Weller offers a remote for the unit. (FT91000033) Given the price tag of the kit and the remote, I’m not sure why the remote switch is not included. It runs about $20. I suppose the intention is to be paired with a soldering iron from the WL or WX series. These irons, as I understand, can automatically turn on the extractor.

     

    Just a note. The unit is designed for a two bench setup. Mine only had a hose for a single setup, so I couldn’t test both. Based on the suction of the unit in a single setup, I would not have any concerns adding a second station.

     

    The filter

    Unfortunately, it isn’t practical for me to say anything on the life of the filters. I just did not run it long enough yet. First, let's look at what filters there are in the unit.

     

    Annotated diagram showing Weller Zero Smog EL Filters

     

    There are two filters to consider. The pre-filter and the combined filter.

    NamePart NumberPurpose
    Cost
    Pre-FilterM5 (T0058762703)Removes dust and particulates$121.00
    CombinedH13 (T0058762701)Submicron with activated carbon (odor)

     

    The submicron and carbon filter appears to only be available with a pre-filter in a set. So that's the $121.00 from Newark. (Prices at time of post.) I'm including the Pre-Filter only link because that runs around $55 for a pack of 10. (Newark may not stock them, but I think you can order directly from Weller.)  A note on the part numbers. H5 and H13 are not Weller part numbers. They refer to the type of HEPA rating the filter elements have, which is why I provided the T005xxxxxx stock number.

     

    The manual suggests replacing the H13 filter at least once per year. On the pre-filter, it is a bit more vague. It just says "more often." And then it says to replace the H13 filter after 10 changes of the pre-filter. So, you're looking at about $176 in filters per year, assuming regular usage. That is not an insignificant cost. However, having built my own filter system before, I see where the cost is at, given the size of the carbon filter. So while not insignificant, it is reasonable.

     

    Who should buy the Weller Zero Smog EL Fume Extraction Kit?

    Regardless of how often you solder, you should have something to mitigate the fumes and smoke you breathe. Even if you have one of those fan-based "smoke eaters" that is still better than nothing. This unit will be a welcome addition to any workbench. For the price though, you need to ask yourself some questions. How often will you be soldering? And is not breathing potentially dangerous smoke important?

     

    For frequency, I would break it down like this:

    FrequencySituation
    MonthlyLuxury Option
    WeeklyStrongly Consider
    DailyClick BUY NOW, now!

     

    Would I have bought a Weller Zero Smog EL?

    I feel really stupid not to have bought this unit years ago. I solder something every week. I hate the smell of the burnt rosin. Over the last 6 weeks, I have had situations where I decided not to use the extractor. And I regretted each time. The smoke went into my face and I was just irritated. Once you use the Weller Zero Smog EL, you cannot solder without it.

     


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