Dust collector, Harbor Freight 2 HP, model 97869

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Review by ferstler posted 10-28-2013 05:01 PM 23874 views 2 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Dust collector, Harbor Freight 2 HP, model 97869 Dust collector, Harbor Freight 2 HP, model 97869 No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

I am going to post this comment, or something similar to it, elsewhere on this site to get the best chance of feedback.

I am a 70-year-old retired worker but am now also a working artist who does wall-hanging collages made from enameled or stained wood pieces. I have items in a half-dozen galleries and outlets in this town and another town close by, and the income from the projects helps to supplement my retirement income. It also helps to keep my wife from harping about me needing to get a part-time job.

Anyway, I purchased my model 97869 HF dust collector last week and have only run it for a short time. I do woodworking (the collages, plus other projects) out in my back yard, which is a “natural” yard with plenty of trees, lots of leaf mulch, and NO grass. Plenty of shade, too, which is good, because my workshop is small (200 square feet) and I do a lot of work out on a 10×17 foot adjacent deck. Most of my bigger tools (jobsite saw, band saw, jointer, thickness planer, sliding miter saw, bench-top shaper, 6×48 bench-top sander, etc.) are on stands that have wheels. (My big drill press stays indoors.) I just move the items out onto the deck and cut, sand, and plane as required, with the dust collector working without bags or filters (maximizing efficiency) and blowing the dust and chips out onto a tarp that I temporarily lay down on the ground to catch the stuff. To aim the dust as required I picked up some large plumbing sections (90 degree and 45 degree) that are attached to the top (and removable for storage) and vent in any direction I choose. The pieces are black, so they fit in with the style of the blower.

After a work session I merely pick up the tarp (an old shower curtain, actually) and fling the dust to a part of the yard away from the work area. The yard is large enough for the buildup to never be a problem.

I had no mounting problems with the metal base that came with the unit, because I did not use it. I made a new, much-smaller bass out of plywood and 2×4 pieces and mounted the unit on it and the wheels underneath. Solid and portable (and painted black for style), allowing me to roll the unit into my shop and stash it under one of my work benches.

This dust collector seems to work quite well. It is considerably more powerful than the 7-amp GMC unit that I was using before, and since I will hook up three tools at a time to the collector when doing my work the extra suction is worthwhile. (I do not use the thing with my sander, since it efficiently vents the small amount of dust into the open air and I let gravity handle the output from my jointer, with a newspaper catching the chips as they slide down the chute.)

Some points about this dust collector that may be of interest and help to our readers.

1. The 20-amp motor is rated at “peak” amps, which is almost a useless specification. No mention of the steady draw, but it is probably in the 12 to 15 amp range. I am basing this on the air pressure I feel with my hands in comparison to the 7-amp GMC, as well as on number two, below.

2. Relating to number one, above, the 6-foot power cord is a 16 AWG type, which is obviously NOT thick enough to comfortably handle even 15 amps, let alone 20. This is probably due to the often sloppy way Chinese manufacturers will build an item that is strong in one respect and weak in important other respects, even with upscale tools, let alone budget HF versions. I replaced my cord with a 12-foot 14 AWG type, easy to do with this machine.

3. The impeller appears to be a roughly 9-inch job, made of steel, and is vibration free. This appears to be the same diameter as the one in my much smaller GMC unit (which was not vibration free when new; I had to install small weights to fix that problem), although the individual blade pieces are a bit wider. (Pictures of both units side by side, as well as the HF alone with its amiable exit ports, are attached.) I cannot guarantee the exact size measurements of either impeller, since I did not remove the outer covers and do an exact check. Instead, I did my measuring by inserting a ruler into the housings through the outlets and up against the center shaft of the impeller and noted the distance to the outer edge. With both units it was 4 inches, which tells me (assuming about an inch thickness for the center shaft section) that the overall diameters were roughly 9 inches. (One review I read of this unit said it had a 10-inch impeller, but perhaps there were variations during the construction runs.) Interestingly, the housing is big enough to handle a 10, 11, or even a 12 incher, and one wonders why the smaller size was chosen. However, it may be related to it being wired only for 120 volts. A bigger impeller would put the motor under greater load, increasing the current draw, I think, mandating a 240-volt feed. The smaller impeller keeps the unit out of electrical trouble with the input.

4. The motor itself seems very solidly built, with the shell made of cast iron instead of the usual steel. It may be an old design, but as long as the bearings are good it should hold up.

5. The on-off switch appears to be a 10-amp rated type, which makes it too small for the current draw, even if the 20-amp rating is radically bogus. This switch looks identical to the one on my 7-amp GMC. and even with that low rating the GMC switch pitted enough over time to give me trouble. I took the switch apart and cleaned off the burned marks and it works OK now, but it will eventually do the same thing all over. Fortunately, switches like this are easy to take apart and clean up (and cheap to buy), but it is likely that the one on the HF unit, with its obviously much larger motor, will pit up and cause problems much sooner than the one on the GMC did. Consequently, I will order a 20-amp switch (probably from Grizzly) to replace it.

I run two power lines to my shop from the house. One is an 8 AWG line for the power tools (and the AC or heater units when I work indoors at smaller tasks). The other is a 12 AWG line for the lights and dust collector (and dehumidifier for use during damp days when I am not in the shop and it is neither hot nor cold). There are outlets for both circuits both in the shop and out on the deck. The first line had been protected by a 25-amp breaker and the second by a 20-amp breaker. However, I have upgraded the second to a 25-amp type (admittedly pushing the 12 AWG wire feed to the safety limit) and bumped the first to 30 amps (which the 8 AWG wire should have no problems with). The idea is to make sure that the HF unit does not trip the breaker if the load, in combination with the shop lights is just a tad too much for the old breaker during start ups.

Time will tell if this unit does the job. I ran the old GMC continuously and it never let me down, except for that switch. The HF unit will be run similarly as I do my work out on my work deck. It had better do the job, because my mods have already violated the warranty.

One final note. A question, actually. Does anybody here know of a source to purchase a larger impeller?

Howard Ferstler

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342 posts in 4321 days

6 comments so far

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2876 posts in 2935 days

#1 posted 10-30-2013 11:54 AM

Howard, very unusual set up, thought about getting a 4” hose clamp and putting a trash bag on your exhaust.

Have the same DC, but with Wynn Canister & plastic bags. I have used 32 gallon trash bags when got tired of trying to stretch clear plastic bags on. Takes lot of fussing to get my clear plastic bags on.

Switch on my DC went bad, could not find one here in town at big box stores. Ordered on from HF, shipping cost more than the switch. Owner’s manual had me buffaloed, on needing a 20-amp switch. Should have known better you cannot re-wire that 2 HP motor for 220V.

-- Bill

View ferstler's profile


342 posts in 4321 days

#2 posted 10-31-2013 03:19 PM


I ordered a 20-amp slap switch from Grizzly and the shipping cost was also huge. I ordered some other stuff, too, but even so the total shipment size was not enough to justify a ten-buck shipping charge. I occasionally order electronic items from Parts Express, and even when the order is quite large, like, say an audio power amplifier, the shipping rarely goes above six bucks. (I guess shipping costs with small orders help Grizzly make workable profits.) Well, what is done is done. The new switch should fit into the existing cutout, but the outside flange is larger. Still should fit OK, though, and I may replace the flimsy existing mounting plate with a thicker one made of plywood.

I ran mine for two hours yesterday and felt the 14 AWG wire several times to see if it heated up. Did not even get warm. I also felt the motor housing and it barely got warm. There is a fan on the outer end of the motor, corvered with a protective shield, that blows a LOT of air back over the outside of the motor housing. Nice feature, there.

I did pull the side panel off and discovered that the fan is actually 10, not 9, inches in diameter. Still, the housing itself could easily handle a 12 incher. As I noted, the drag might increase the amperage load and the company decided to not take chances. One person on another site measured the thing and said it was something like 14 to 16 continuous amps. That seems about right.

One internet site had a video of a review and the reviewer noted that on his unit the impeller not only had a screw on the end shaft holding the impeller in place, but also had a side-located set screw. In his case, the set screw was not there – just the threaded hole for it. I checked mine and there was no set screw or hole for one at all, so this tells me that the outfit has used at last two different steel impellers, and I also read another review that said that a still earlier version of the unit (with a different stock number) had a plastic or maybe aluminum impeller.

One final mod I did on the unit was to cut away the protective grid on the input hole. Yes, this grid does block the input from oversized wood chunks hitting the impeller, but I use zero-clearance throat plates with my tools, so big chunks like that just do not get into the air stream. Cutting away the grid certainly will increase the air flow a bit.

Provided the bearings hold up, I expect this unit to last a long time at the rate I use it.


View Craftsman70's profile


244 posts in 2925 days

#3 posted 10-31-2013 05:03 PM

Thanks for posting this. I’ve wanted one of those for a long time, but put it off because I don’t have room for it. I never thought of stripping it down the way you did and just using it to send the air outside. Thanks for the idea.

View ferstler's profile


342 posts in 4321 days

#4 posted 11-01-2013 12:44 AM

Here is a shot of my unit in operation out on my back work deck. I am shooting the dust at 90 degrees, and am not using the additional 45-degree tube, because when I tried it out it blew away all the leaves adjacent to the deck where the thing was aimed. Better to either use the 90 or the 45, but not both.

Note that I am not using it with my Ridgid jointer at the far right at all. I just let the dust fall down the chute with that thing, onto a sheet of newspaper. The pile is then taken to another part of the yard and “flung” into the wind. The tarp on the ground catches a bit of dust, but most just shoots well past it, out into the area, and I simply swing the 90-degree tube to different angles to spread out the stuff.


View GJK's profile


29 posts in 2187 days

#5 posted 08-20-2014 11:07 PM

Since I have modified a 22’ x 22’ English-style conservatory over past six months to serve not only as my gym, as it has since 1997 but also my workshop. See the full video sagawith music on the Vimeo site if interested in the conversion, including heroic saga of fighting off tens of thousands of carpenter ants and rebuilding after they ravaged the wood in not only fascia boards but structural timbers!! []_*

It is imperative to my health that while exercising I not _*suck in lot of fine wood dust that cannot be reasonably swept up or even sucked up in small shop vac.
SO I researched the dust collection market and settled on a Harbor Freight 97969 imported from China, knowing I’d spend a fair amount of time and money on modifications and accessories before I had my problem solved to my satisfaction.

Wheels suck as did stand to which wheels were attached with little pull-piece which allegedly would enable LJ to move the whole thin g about the shop. Forget about it! The stand is 22” x 33” and I ordered from HF their 24” x 36” platform truck (Haul-Master – item#68894, photo below) with GOOD wheels to secure the whole dust collector (minus the crap wheels) on top of it to create true stability and mobility.

I expect that will take a chunk of time with drilling through both the black sheet metal platform of the Chinese Dust Collector import as well as the much higher quality HF platform, as shown, and then securing them well. I plan to secure the two platforms AND a square framework of dimensional lumber (probably 2×4s) with a strong bolt/nut/washer assembly, which may be too costly as shown below and need to be down-graded:

• 3/4-10×4” Hex Bolt, ASTM A307 Hot Dipped Galvanized Steel ($1.33)
• 3/4-10 Heavy Hex Nut, Grade A, Hot Dipped Galvanized Steel (
• 3/4” Split Lock Washer, Hot Dipped Galvanized Steel (@ $0.23)

The power cord and switch, as others have mentioned, are also good candidates for upgrades. I expect to run this week-end a 12/3 line with a 20A breaker and reserve it as a dedicated line for this big Dust Collector and possibly other large equipment.

I also have a replacement power cord (14 AWG 15 A) and have ordered a replacement power switch.

Finally, but by far the most expensive modification, since my lungs are at risk, is my move from 5 microns to 0.5 microns – so the promises suggest – s I bought and installed the Wynn Environmental to go from 35 s.f. to 274 sf. with an alleged 99.990% efficiency at 0.5 microns.

-- Gary, Washington, DC

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25 posts in 2044 days

#6 posted 01-04-2015 02:30 AM

I know many people have had issues assembling this unit, the instructions are from China and are horrible.
I took some notes and photo to help out others – check out my notes;


-- Ian,

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