A few months ago, I wrote a short article about a recent job I was working, and the RRP (Renovating, Repairing, Painting) rule regarding the lack of standards for HEPA vacuums. This is a follow-up to that article.
I went into, and completed, that particular job following the RRP standard as best as I understood it, with the best tools and practices at my disposal. The job went well, the customers are satisfied, and no one had any overexposure to lead particulates. My only source of concern was my vacuum system. It was not officially stamped as ‘certified’. Well, now my concerns have been answered. Festool’s new line of CT vacuums has been certified as FULL UNIT HEPA Dust Extractors.
What does this mean for me? Well, two things. For one, I now know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I use a system that does, indeed, comply with the EPA standard. It also means that I now have a vacuum (excuse me, “Dust Extractor”) that does everything.
My feeling on vacuums is this: I don’t want to carry around a shop vac for rough cleanup, another vacuum for hooking to my tools, or cleaning inside an occupied home, and then another one that I can use for lead-safe work. What a pain! These Festool vacs combine all three in one.
The tipping point for me on the first two reasons was the ‘longlife filter bag’. I was using the single-use bags and kept thinking, “This is great, but I feel like I’m throwing away money every time I fill one up.” I kind of had to bite the bullet to go with the longlife, but I’m so glad I did. Sometimes, I fill it multiple times a day. Now I don’t have to think about using my dust extractor for rough cleanup during framing; I can just empty the bag! The same goes for when I hook up to my track saw or sander. The same bag will handle both jobs.
Why do I mention all this when we are talking about RRP? Because you cannot use a longlife bag when doing lead renovation work (unless you want to throw it away, and I would certainly discourage that). I keep a box of sealable/disposable bags for when I know it serves the right purpose. We like multi-taskers around here.
What else does this mean? Well, let’s look at cost. Not only do I not have to lug around three different pieces of machinery, I also don’t have to pay for three different pieces of machinery. I can get a decent shop vac for about $100, but if I don’t need a separate shop vac, that’s money in my pocket. Also, do a search for EPA certified vacuums. I didn’t find one model that cost less than the CT Mini, and the closest models didn’t have some key features, like automatic tool start, anti-static hose, and convenient hose/cord storage. Add all these things up, and this CT system begins to look like the most economic choice, as well.
Even if your brand of vac claims to contain a HEPA certified filter, it may not be designed or tested to ensure against what is referred to as “bypass leakage,” meaning that it still may not meet the letter of the RRP regulation.
Good news for me, and you: Festool has just announced that, effective immediately, every one of their CT Dust Extractors is shipped from the factory with full unit HEPA certification. This certification guarantees that the seal between the filter and the vac is perfect, meaning there’s zero possibility for incoming air to get around the filter. What’s more, if you purchased one of these vacs before the changeover, they’ll even send you a brand new filter, plus a certificate, and a HEPA sticker for the outside of the vac.
When it comes to working in older homes these days, dust is no joke. Buying good equipment that’s designed to capture dust at the source is a small investment when you stop to think about it. Not only will you find it easier to meet the new EPA RRP requirements [with these new vacs], you’ll leave behind more satisfied clients, who will appreciate the absence of dust after you leave. Plus, you’ll save on the time and labor you would otherwise waste cleaning up after the fact. It’s a no-brainer, if you ask me.
There you have it.
The older CT 22 and 33 lines do not meet Full Unit HEPA certification, but all of the vacs in the new CT line (the Mini, Midi, CT-26, CT-36, and CT-48) are full unit certified. So, if you are like me and are a ‘Frugal Festoolie’, you will be able to find the right model to match your workload and your budget.
“Wait, so you’re telling me that I can get a RRP compliant unit for $385?!?”
To put it bluntly . . . Yup. :)
Read more about Festool’s HEPA certification by clicking here.