[Maker’s Note] Vacuum Cleaner v.s. Dust Collector What’s the Difference?

by Yun-Han Lin

Recently, we bought a new dust collector for our studio, and the following are some basic differences between a dust collector and a vacuum cleaner!


When the studio was first built, we had Makita VC2510L, a vacuum cleaner with basic functions. It was quite handy for our small studio, as it was a wet and dry vacuum cleaner designed to clean up spillages and wet debris, with speed adjustment, and it captured high volumes of dust. It also worked well with Dewalt DW745, a table saw we used. However, after the studio was moved to a bigger place, the table saw was replaced with Sawstop 1.75HP, and the suction power of Makita VC2510L was not enough. Also, the suction tube had to be reduced from 4 inches in diameter for the circular saw machine to 1 inch for the vacuum cleaner. Almost half of the dust from our work got stirred up in the room or fall onto the ground.


One thing that is the most troublesome yet most people wonder about is the selection of the machine. Several manufacturers, including Rexon, Megaton, ASTTool, in Taiwan produce dust collectors that come in similar specifications, and there are not many online reviews from other users. I chose the one by Megaton, for it is also the distributor in Taiwan for Sawstop that I am currently using. I spent some time on deciding to go for 1HP or 2HP model, and the following are the conditions I took into account.

  • Voltage: Regardless of the brands, 1HP model comes in 110V and 2HP in 220V, and our studio happens to have a 220V specs socket.
  • Volume: A dust collector contains a large fan that rotates inside, which makes loud noises, which is a big deal. That being said, the two models are exaggeratedly loud (1HP at 70db and 2HP at 83db, which are deafening), so the volume did not make any difference.
  • Performance: The suction power of dust collectors is measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM). The 2HP model is 1,750 CFM, almost 2 times that of the 1HP model, which is 750 CFM. Sawstop, on the other hand, requires only 350 CFM to operate, so the two models are more than enough in terms of power. I ended up choosing the larger one for the following reasons:
    • Specs measured by the producer: the filter drum is not included when the producer measures the suction power, so the labeled performance may have been exaggerated.
    • Hose: the longer the suction hose, the smaller volume and lower speed of airflow, especially when the hose deteriorates the performance.
    • Expanded application: In future application, a dust collector may operate as a single unit equipment, and it is also possible that it can be connected to a hive system where multiple units can operate at the same time.

Differences on technical levels

A dust collector and a vacuum cleaner have totally different designs and operations.

  1. A vacuum cleaner is designed to operate with high wind pressure (suction power) but low airflow volume, which is why it comes in pipes with a smaller diameter. The advantage is that the size of the built-in fan is smaller. Strong suction power also guarantees the vacuum created at the head end to clean up dust from surfaces thoroughly.
  2. A dust collector, on the other hand, is designed to feature low wind pressure but high airflow volume, which leads to pipes with a larger diameter. With a larger fan comes with louder noises, and there is no guarantee that the surfaces worked on can be cleaned entirely.

Applications for different settings

After comparing the 2 types of machines, the next to be taken into account is the setting for applications. In woodworking, there are many tools that create tons of wood dusts during operation.

  • Hose/tube diameter: Many machines come with holes for dust collection. Dust collectors are more suitable for machines with holes larger than 2 inches in diameter. Examples are Sawstop circular saws and belt grinding machines. In comparison, vacuum cleaners are more suitable for machines with holes that have diameters at about 1 inch, such as disc sanding machines and hand circular saws.
  • Dust collection: A dust collector will be handier when sawdust comes out from a machine scattered, such as wood routers or drill presses. Should the sawdust come out in certain directions or is less likely to scatter, a vacuum cleaner would be better. Examples are electric scroll saws and pocket hole jigs.


After nearly a month of use, I think we need both of them. Although a dust collector can do almost 80% of what a vacuum cleaner does, a vacuum cleaner is better in its mobility, noise reduction, and cleaning performance.