Great bang for the buck, but DON'T leave it stock!

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Review by dbhost posted 08-26-2009 09:11 PM 33607 views 14 times favorited 55 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Great bang for the buck, but DON'T leave it stock! No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

I felt it necessary to write a review of THIS specific dust collector. Many home hobby woodworkers use Harbor Freight 2HP Dust Collector to refer to the current model #97869 and the older model #45378 interchangeably.

While they use a large number of the same components, and are most likely build on the same line, these are without a doubt NOT the same tool.

Building on the success of the #45378, Harbor Freight had some improvements to put under the hood, and market as the #97869, many of them worthwhile, some not. For simplicity sake from here out I will refer to the #45378 as the “old” model, while the #97869 will be referred to as the “new” model.

While the old model featured a 14 amp motor that was often ridiculed for its claim at 2 HP, the new model features a 20 amp 110V motor, and I can attest to the fact that this DC DOES need a dedicated 110V 20a circuit to feed it.

The exterior sheet metal pieces appear 100% identical.

While I have not measured one myself, the old model is reported to have a 9” impeller making their 1600 CFM claim preposterous at best. The new model impeller measures out to 10-1/2”, not huge, but certainly a LOT bigger than the old model).

Motor and impeller aside, the other major difference is only half useful. The lower bag gets replaced with a clear heavy plastic bag (useful) and the upper bag gets replaced with a 5 micron felt bag (better than 30 microns, but still not good).

Set up as they are from the factory, these DCs have a good amount of restriction from the bag. I have done what MANY HF DC owners have done, and added a Thien baffle, and Wynn 35A cartridge filter for sub micron filtration and efficient separation to keep the filter from getting prematurely plugging up.

While this DC is no Delta 50-760, it doesn’t cost like one either.

The current issue of Wood Magazine has a coupon for this DC for $139.99, add another $140.00 to get the Wynn filter and for $280.00 you have a good working DC on the cheap…

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5777 posts in 4003 days

55 comments so far

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420 posts in 4414 days

#1 posted 08-27-2009 02:01 AM

is that the one with norm on it? I only see a 20% coupon for HF and not specifically for this DC.

-- If you can't build it, code it. If you can't code it, build it. But always ALWAYS take a picture.

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118065 posts in 4349 days

#2 posted 08-27-2009 04:31 AM

I have three of the old ones and they work great


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5777 posts in 4003 days

#3 posted 08-27-2009 05:11 AM

No Norm, a tall skinny computer desk on the cover… It’s on the shelf at Krogers right now. (Saw it tonight…)

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420 posts in 4414 days

#4 posted 08-27-2009 03:16 PM

Cool, it should be coming in the mail soon then…thanks!

-- If you can't build it, code it. If you can't code it, build it. But always ALWAYS take a picture.

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97 posts in 4108 days

#5 posted 08-27-2009 04:41 PM

Excellent info – I didn’t know the design had changed so much. Do you know if the new impeller will fit on the old machine?

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Ryan Brown

72 posts in 3962 days

#6 posted 09-01-2009 03:33 AM

It is in the October 2009 issue of WOOD, page 79, I think…

I just picked up my DC today for the amazing low price of $139.99! Now for the mods…

-- If you can't fix it with a hammer, you have an electrical problem. Roanoke, VA

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30 posts in 3962 days

#7 posted 09-11-2009 04:18 AM

Bought one last week myself. Thanks for the upgrade tips.

-- Jeff, Fargo, ND

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4 posts in 3877 days

#8 posted 11-24-2009 11:21 PM

just got one today for $156 out the door….that is all i have to spend for now….starting to really put together my toys on my side of the garage. what is best wa to connect to my sliding miter? the ejection port is not 4” and there is lots of dust that gets thrown elsewhere. is it worth connecting to my hybrid cabinet saw or just vacuuming out the cabinet occasionally? what about wiring so this thing comes on when i turn on the tool i have connected at the time?

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4 posts in 3877 days

#9 posted 11-24-2009 11:32 PM

also….i read lots of technical things like static drop and how it is bad to use flex hose or anything less than 4”. like on my miter saw, the dust port is smaller than 4” so do i kill performance if i hook it up? also people talk about having stations set up with fixed pvc tubing for use with multiple tools (1 at a time). how do you seal off the dust ports you arent using at the time? and finally, just how bad is 5 micron? i am just a weekend warrior that is curious if going from nothing to this is sufficient or if buying th DC is just a down payment on dust collection.

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5777 posts in 4003 days

#10 posted 11-25-2009 12:02 AM

Wow that is a LOT of questions…

Yes, the dust collector is just part of an overall system.

You will note in my review I mentioned do NOT leave this stock.

While there is some debate as to what the danger threshold is, the general consensus is that the fine dust over 1 micron, typically 2 micron to 10 micron I believe, is what is regarded to be the dangerous stuff. 5 micron filtration on a dust collector simply picks the dust up, and throws the finest, most dangerous dust up even further into the air, becoming effectively, a dust pump…

Two factors MUST be kept up in dust collection.

#1. Air Flow. #2. Filtration.

The reason for a filter canister instead of a bag is more surface area for filtration level provided, thus providing more air flow. Which is why I recommend canister filters over bags… But either way you go, you will need to try to keep the filter media, either canister or bag, as clean as possible, as long as possible in order to provide maximum air flow. This is done with a separator of some kind. I use a Thien separator built around a 55 gallon drum.

The most well regarded independent research into workshop dust collection has been done by Bill Pentz. His research is exhaustive, and honestly, exhausting to read. I’m no MENSA member, but I’m not a short bus rider either… and his writing makes my head hurt. But it is useful information. Just take it slow, and in manageable bites, and ask questions when it doesn’t make sense…

While I have some disagreement with him in regards to duct sizing and air flow, based on tests I have seen done in controlled engineering laboratory environments, as well as real honest to goodness experience with air flow and ducting from an automotive perspective, I will agree that 6” duct is best. I do not agree that 4” duct is unworkable. I am however still looking into the data he cites, as well as the data I have. Reconciling the two data sources will help.

Blocking air flow from one leg of a dust collection network is done via a device known as a Blast Gate. They are sort of a valve for an air flow system.

Now specifically on to machines with undersized dust hoods / ports. For example my table saw, and band saw were fitted from the factory with a 2.5”, and 1-7/8” port respectively. They have since been upgraded through shop projects to 4” ports that do NOT neck down to the smaller port size…

The shroud on certain tools, SPECIFICALLY miter saws makes dust collection almost impossible on them using the factory ports. You will notice many miter saw stations have special hoods behind them to capture the dust and direct it to the hose. That is a good design, and something worth doing. My current miter saw setup however is to simply take the miter saw, and its stand outside and simply let the dust fly…

Handheld sanders and such do not get served well by the DC, and are handled by a shop vac with a HEPA filter, again, another Thien separator keeps the HEPA filter flowing…

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#11 posted 11-25-2009 01:43 AM

ok…thanks for the info….got this dc because of what i would need to do to get a shop vac to work. considering what i need to get this up to par, should i just go back to shop vac idea? either way i need a fein screen. my hybrid cabinet saw seems to keep most debris in cabinet and my miter saw wont work well with either option. no joiner plans for a long time and my delta planer can be hooked up to shop vac i think. should a weekend warrior like me go with adc rather than the simpler shop vac? at least until i can afford a real dc with the proper functionality this one seems to lack.

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5777 posts in 4003 days

#12 posted 11-25-2009 10:29 PM

It’s not a lack of function of this specific dust collector. Dust collection is best thought of as a reverse HVAC system, where you have a blower of sorts, filters, ducts, controls, gates to control air flow, and vents.

The dust collector itself is merely the furnace blower. There is a LOT more to the system than that…

Using the HVAC analogy further, let’s say you have a 10” duct, but only a 4” vent. Obviously you have a compatibility issue, you would run a branch line off of that 10” duct down to the 4” right? Same with reducing DC to the smaller tools…

You are off to a good start with the HF DC for sure. But you will need to make sure that you have effective ports and dust hoods on your tools… And many tools simply have useless dust collection, like most miter saws. Your hybrid saw should have fairly decent dust collection below the blade, but lacking sufficient air flow in the cabinet, you will quickly fill up that cabinet with sawdust, even as a weekend warrior.

I went to the full on dust collector after using a Shop Vac based system because honestly, the shop vac system kept clogging up. Particularly with the Planer and Jointer. The long shavings from those would collide into a big ball and jam up the hose every single time I used them…

The HF DC has wheels on it, if you can, an inexpensive way of using it is to simply roll the DC to close by the machine in question, and run a shortish length of hose to it. A separator in the inlet ring is great for this, pre separator barrels and trash can types are far less convenient for this… I must warn you though, going straight into the DC, if you pick up a chunk of whatever, it can sound like a shotgun going off in your shop when say a small nut gets sucked into the impeller…

If you have the patience to build up a dust collection system piece by piece, I would suggest that you keep that DC, and just go slow and steady, do some looking around for designs and build a dust hood for the miter saw (something I need to do, but haven’t yet)... And I am not sure, but I think the Delta planers have options for 4” ports…

Like I said, I don’t agree with Bill on the duct size, mostly because I do not 100% trust the data source he cites. However if budget permits going over engineered with 6” isn’t a bad thing… Just out of my budget for now…

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60 posts in 4022 days

#13 posted 12-30-2009 06:24 PM

Does anyone happen to know the upper bag diameter for the new model? I was hoping to just slap a .5 from Highland onto it.

-- Come down off the cross, we can use the wood. -Tom Waits

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5777 posts in 4003 days

#14 posted 12-30-2009 06:40 PM

If I recall from measuring for an internal Thien Baffle, the ring is 19.5” diameter. I believe the 20” diameter model is the right fit. Now having said that, measure your machine and double check. I really don’t want to pull my Wynn to find out…

And yes I had considered the Highland bags as well. Good filtration, good price… The canister offered me more surface area, a reputation for improving the air flow, AND a lower overall height for the fully assembled DC.

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#15 posted 01-13-2010 04:04 AM

Any one know if this model can be made to run off of 220v?

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