Air Filter For The Small Workshop - Review and Testing The Thor Filtration TF470 (AKA MicroClene MC420)

In this video I review and test the Thor Filtration TF470 Air Filter, also/previously known as the MicroClene MC420.
I finally found an air filter designed for the small workshop.  
You can buy this machine at the following places:
Poolewood TF470: current price: £189.59 or £213.59 with remote
Yandles MC420: current price: £175.99 (not sure if remote is included)
The Toolpost TF470: current price: £176.40 (not sure if remote is included)
Charnwood MC420: current price: £235 (not sure if remote is included)
In this video I’m going to review on the Thor TF470 air filtration unit.  I’ve had mine or a few months now and I’ve been generally happy with it, but I want to find out more about how it’s performing, so I’ll be doing some testing later in this video to figure that out.
The best thing about it in my opinion is the compact size.  Most of the units that are available to buy in my opinion are designed to clean spaces much bigger than my workshop, which isn’t necessarily a problem because it’s better to have more air movement than you need rather than not enough, but the biggest problem for me was the size of those units – I simply didn’t have enough ceiling height and there was just no good place to put one.  My workshop internally by the way is about 4m x 2.6m and 2.2m in height, and the ceiling height for me was the main issue because having something that big hanging from my ceiling would have been a problem no matter where I put it.  So I was really happy to find a unit designed for a small workshop -  it’s advertised as being designed for the “garage sized workshop” and it’s great that someone is catering for that – especially because there’s a lot of that here in the UK.
Here's a quick size comparison (see video) for one of the most common units available to buy, like the ones available from Record Power, Jet and Rutlands, and you’ll see that all of those are a similar size, similar weight, and designed for similar size workshop in cubic square metres. The Thor however, is much smaller, much lighter in weight, and is designed for 40 cubic metres.  My workshop is only 26 cubic metres so based on those figures, it’s ideal for my needs.
Now on to what I don’t like about it, and there are two things.
Firstly, it’s louder than I expected.  It says on the Poolewood website that it’s “very quiet”. I disagree – I wouldn’t say it is very quiet.  I wouldn’t say it was loud either though.  If I’ve got my radio on at a reasonably low level, which I often do while I’m working, then I can’t really hear it anymore while the filter is switched on.  I live in a very built up area, and I would say that it’s definitely not loud enough to be a nuisance to neighbours, but it’s not “very quiet”.
Secondly, and this applies only to the wifi version of the unit which is the one that I have.  To turn the unit on or off, there are two options, the first is to use an app on the phone, and on the iPhone it’s a bit cumbersome, because I first need to unlock my phone, then open the app, then press the button to turn it on or off.  Doesn’t sound like a big deal but it does get annoying, especially because when I’m in the workshop I often have dirty hands covered in glue, dust and whatever else, so I don’t really want to be reaching for my phone regularly.  What would make it much easier is if there was a widget for the app that could be on the lock screen which would speed things up, but there isn’t one on the iPhone.  I’m not sure if the Android version is different. To make matters even worse, sometimes I load the app and it’s signed me out and it wants me to sign in again – very annoying. I’ve actually given up using the app, so now I just use the second method of turning it on and off which is via a switch on the top.  But that’s also not very well designed in my opinion as because the unit is mounted to the ceiling and the button is tiny, it’s very difficult to find by feel – I was standing there fumbling for it for ages on more than one occasion, so what I’ve done is put a blob of hot glue just beneath the switch, so that it’s easier to feel with my hand.  I’d therefore recommend buying the unit that comes with the remote control instead, and I wish that I’d have ordered that one too.
Something else that’s interesting to mention is the method of testing the filter performance that is detailed in the instructions – which is to put a piece of a4 paper on the bottom of the unit, turn the unit off and time how long it holds.  And it recommends changing the filters when the time reduces by 50%.  When I first got the unit it held for ten seconds, so based on that I should replace the filters when it only holds for five seconds. I’ve been using it for a few weeks now so let’s see how it does now….
I really like that method of testing the performance of the filters, I think it’s an easy tangible way to check.
The filters for the unit are available to buy and are priced at £12 which isn’t too bad, although what I’ll probably do is remove the filters, take them outside with my respirator on and blow them with my air blower and re-use them, because I’m a bit of a cheapskate.  These filters filter out 95% of dust at 2 microns or larger, 80% of dust down to 1 micron and 65% of dust down to 0.4 micron.  It has an airflow rate of 400 cubic metres per hour. That’s all a bit technical for me, but hopefully those numbers are useful to someone!
The unit comes supplied with chains to hang it from the ceiling, I took out some of the links in the chain so that I could get it placed higher up.  The recommendation is to put this unit in the centre of the workshop, but I couldn’t really do that because it would get in the way, so mine is along one of the long walls of my workshop.  Not ideal but hopefully that doesn’t affect the performance too much.
One more thing before I do some testing, and that’s to talk about where you can buy it.  The TF470 is available to buy from only one place as far as I can see and that’s a company called Poolewood – and I’ll provide links in the description box. The price for this model currently is around £190 without the remote control or £214 with the remote control.  Thor filtration also make some other models in various sizes and shapes that are available from the same website.
Another website called Charnwood also stocks what appears to be an identical machine as the TF470, but re-branded with Charnwood’s branding called the MC420 but that is currently priced a bit higher at £235 and that doesn’t seem to come with a remote either, so I’m not sure why that one is priced so high. 
When I first got the unit I tried this out and it held the piece of paper for 20 seconds.  Let's see how it does now...
That held for 16 seconds so the filters aren't as efficient as they were when new but I wouldn't expect them to be.
To test how effective the air filtration unit is I've come up with a simple experiment, it's not going to be super scientific or anything, so please just take it for what it is.
First I'm going to put on my respirator
And then I'm going to create some dust and for that I'm going to use the disc sander on my benchtop sander.  Normally I use dust collection system hooked up to this machine, but as I'm trying to create airbourne dust for the experiment I'm not going to turn that on.  
And I'm going to be sanding this piece of beech as vigorously as possible for 1 minute. I chose beech because it's a hard wood and I've read that hard woods are create small microns of dust which are the most harmful to your lungs.  
To the left of the benchtop sander you'll see that I have a camera set up pointing at a stopwatch app on my phone which is on the left, and my air quality monitor which is on the right. 
And I'm only going to measure the smallest particles of dust for this experiment as they're the ones to worry about the most, and that's the top line on the display which is for particles greater than 0.3 microns, and you'll see here that the number of particles in the air prior to the experiment ranges between 500 and 600 and that's pretty typical of what I normally get in my workshop during spells of inactivity - i.e. when I'm not using my tools or moving around too much!  And by the way I was speaking to Peter Millard from the 10 Minute Workshop channel about these devices recently and he suggested plugging it in in the home saying that I might be surprised, so I did, and I was surprised to find that the readings in my home were actually about 25% higher than in my workshop, which was quite shocking.
To the left of the camera set up is the air filtration unit itself, ceiling mounted.
And for the first experiment I'm going to leave the air filtration switched off.
So I started the stopwatch and sanded the piece of beech as vigorously as I could against the disc sander for 1 minute.
After 1 minute, the reading was 48573 but you'll see that it actually continued to increase for the following three minutes peaking at 65464, and then it gradually started to drop over the course of the next 30 minutes when the reading was 4722.  Apologies for the reflections on the screen which make the readings a bit difficult to read.  It took about another 30 minutesm after that for the level to go back down to the roughly 600 reading that we had prior to starting the experiment - so that means that the airbourne dust took about an hour to settle back down to a normal level, which I found quite interesting - I didn't expect it to take that long, I kind of expected it to take around half an hour at the very most, based on a few previous experiments I've done with dust monitoring in the workshop.
Now that the dust in the air was back to normal I turned on my air filtration unit and repeated the experiment again, sanding vigorously for 1 minute. 
And once again the level kept rising after the 1 minute duration peaking at 35043 after 1 minute 30 seconds, much much lower than the 65464 number which was the peak without the air filtration unit, and also the peak dropped much more rapidly with the air filtration unit turned on, and continued to reduce over the course of the next 30 minutes again.
Here's a graph showing both experiments, and the results speak for themselves really - and I am really surprised at how much of a difference the air filtration unit makes - this simple experiment really convinced me that these things are absolutely effective at significantly reducing airbourne dust particles, and are totally worthwhile.
I also repeated those two experiments and while the readings were obviously different, it was quite clear to me that the results and the trends were pretty consistent showing that the air filtration unit works really well and in conclusion, throughout both experiments, the airbourne dust particles were generally between 50 and 75% lower with the air filtration unit switched on than they were with it off.
So in summary, would I recommend getting an air filtration unit?  If you can find space for one in your workshop, you can justify the expense, and you're concerned about breathing in airbourne dust then yes definitely - they really do make a big difference, but use it in addition to some sort dust collection or shop vac hooked up to the tool you're using because collecting dust at source is always going to be the best way of reducing airbourne dust.
Would I recommend the machines by Thor filtration?  Yes I would, although I don't have any experience with the other alternative units that are available to buy so I can't say whether they work any better or any worse.   But if you, like me have limited space then the machines available from Thor are a great solution.  All I would say is that I'd suggest going for the model with the remote control as opposed to the wifi version if you're going to be using yours in a similar way to how I use mine.
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