A Creative Solution for High Performance and Low Cost!
Every serious electronics hobbyist needs a dedicated work space with the proper equipment to safely and successfully work on projects. At the heart of this work space will be a soldering station – a soldering iron and a specific area on the bench where soldering activities happen. When we solder we create smoke and fumes which can be potentially harmful to our health. The easiest way to mitigate solder smoke inhalation is to create airflow with a fan to remove the smoke from your immediate area. Simply blowing it away from you. With this method it would be ideal to keep your soldering activities to a minimum or to be in a larger room with an open door or window to the outside to bring in fresh air. If you are in a small space or do not have the ability to open a window, what do you do? There are some inexpensive solutions such as bench-top fume extractors that will allow you to filter air with a carbon filter. These are fine, but what if you want to take a more serious approach? You might be looking at a much more expensive solution. Some solder fume extracting systems can cost anywhere from $300 up into the thousands. If you want a more serious system but don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars then keep reading and I’ll explain how you can build your own for less than $150. You can build a powerful fume extractor system out of readily available parts from Amazon.com and your local hardware store. I have done the research and construction already. I can assure you that all the parts listed in this guide will work together to provide an effective fume extraction system for your work space. Overall this is a straight forward project and can be completed in a few hours. You will need some basic construction skills and experience with power tools.
If you would like to support my blog you can do so by clicking the images and purchasing these items from Amazon:
1 – AC Infinity Cloudline T4 Exhaust Fan /w PWM Controller
1 – 4″ Wall Vent Cap (/w 4″ sheet metal pipe)
2 – 4″ PVC Sewer Drain Street 90° Elbow
1 – Roll 3/8″ wide x 1/2″ thick foam weather seal
1 – Squeeze tube 100% clear silicone caulk
1 – Flexible downspout extension
(other materials such as wood for blocking, self tapping screws and wood screws will be needed in addition)
- 4.5″ hole saw
- Electric drill/screw gun
- Tape measure
- Utility knife
Pick a good permanent place to install your fume extractor. This should be close enough that the exhaust tube can reach to your soldering area but can be stored out of the way when needed. You should place it close enough so that you have some flexibility with positioning the fume extractor tube over your work. Using the flexible downspout to mock up positioning before you select a permanent spot is suggested. Mine is installed so the extractor tube comes down in the corner of my work bench. I like this because I can position it over my work area where I need it to be. When it isn’t being used it will collapse and store neatly away in the corner.
- Cut a 4.5″ hole through your wall where the exhaust will be located.
- Install your wall vent cap with 4″ duct penetrating through to the inside of the work shop.
- Attach one of the 4″ street 90° elbows to the outlet side of the exhaust fan; use the 3/8″ foam weather seal around the outlet of the exhaust fan and 3 self tapping screws to secure it. (Slipping the fitting onto the outlet of the exhaust fan with the foam around it can be a little tricky – try inserting the foam into one side of the fitting hub and push down around the foam to compress it. Slowly rotate the fitting back and fourth while stuffing the foam in around the fitting hub with your fingers.)
- Determine the thickness of blocking you will need to use to mount the base of the exhaust fan to the wall while maintaining about 1/2″ gap from the end of 4″ street 90° elbow to the wall.
- At this point you can trim the 4″ duct back so that your 4″ street 90° elbow fitting can slide over the duct and the base of the exhaust fan is in contact with the blocking – creating a secure connection to the wall and the duct. When you are ready to permanently install the fitting to the duct, put a small bead of silicone around the inside of the fitting before installing over the duct. The 4″ duct should fit snugly inside of the 4″ street 90° fitting on the street end. Secure the fitting-to-duct connection with 3 self tapping screws.
- If you use the AC Infinity Cloudline T4 as I did – you can trim the duct to about 1-3/4″ to 2″ from the interior wall and cut your blocking to be 2″ thick by 4″ wide by 6″ long.
- With the wall vent cap, exhaust fan and 4″ street 90° elbow all connected securely; install the second 4″ street 90° elbow oriented downward with the inlet facing parallel to the wall surface. Use 3/8″ foam to fill the gap and secure with 3 self tapping screws again.
- Cut the small end off of the adjustable downspout extension. There is a dotted line indicator on the downspout for cutting.
- Insert the cut end of the adjustable downspout into the street end of the 4″ street 90° elbow. It should fit snug. Secure with 3 self tapping screws.
- Once all of the duct connections have been made, fill any seams or gaps with a silicone bead and smooth it over. Make sure you push the silicone down into connection to make a good air-tight seal. Let the silicone cure and you are done!
The downspout acts as an adjustable fume extractor hose. It will adjust and stay in a fixed position over your work area and can be store away neatly when you are done. The PWM controller supplied with the exhaust fan can adjust the speed for use as general fresh air exchange on the low setting or as a powerful fume extractor on the high setting. The AC Infinity Cloudline T4 is a great product design and looks nice. I hope this gives you a good place to start and some helpful ideas on building your own fume extraction system. Please feel free to comment or leave questions. If you have any suggestions please share.
Fig. A – 3/8″ Foam seal around each end of the exhaust fan to fill the gap inside the elbow fitting hubs.Fig. B – Press foam adhesive to the fan.Fig. C – Trim the foam.Fig. D – Finished installing foam.Fig. E – Work the hub of the fitting over the foam. Compress the foam on one end with the fitting hub, working the rest around into the hub with your fingers. Fig. F – Install 3 self tapping screws and fill the gap with a generous bead of silicone.
Fig. G – Smooth over the silicone bead with your finger. Use a rag to keep clean.
Fig. H – Exhaust fan secured to the wall with both fittings installed.
Fig. I – Cut along the dashed line on the adjustable downspout and remove the smaller end. (The larger end will be used for the fume hood.)
Fig. J – Insert the cut end of the downspout into the street end of the fitting.
Fig. K – The downspout should fit snug. Finish it by securing it with 3 self tapping screws and seal it with silicone.