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An Affordable HEPA Vacuum?

An Affordable HEPA Vacuum

Is there such a thing as an affordable HEPA vacuum? Working with lead paint in the historic restoration business for over a decade having a HEPA vacuum I can trust has been a battle to either find or afford. Paying over $600 for a vacuum is insane to me, but it’s what I have done for years now.

Sure I’ve tried all kinds of vacuums to find a cheaper HEPA unit that meets the EPA’s RRP standards, but the cheap ones have always been just that. Cheap. Crap. Useless.

So for years I have used Festool Dust Extractors because they are such an excellent tool that seems to be hard to kill. They collect dust better than anything else on the market and many of mine from the first years of my business are still working just fine. I just hate how much money these things cost! Recently that all changed.

Festool recently released a new version of their amazingly powerful dust extractors called the Festool CT15 which is about 40% less than the almost identical Festool Midi model.

Spending $359 vs $615 for the same dust collector minus a few features that in my mind were nice but not worth the extra $256 was a huge win for us and I had to share my find with you in case you hadn’t heard about it.

An Affordable HEPA Vacuum

If you are working on an old house then you are probably contending with lead paint and the only way to do that safely is by using a HEPA vacuum. Why HEPA and what is it exactly? HEPA stands for High Efficiency Particulate Air. In order for a filter to qualify as a HEPA it needs to be able to trap 99.97% of particles that are 0.3 microns or larger.

Why 0.3 microns? That micron size (0.3) is referred to by scientists as the MPPS, or the most penetrating particle size. Scientists have found that particles of that size evade air filters more than larger or even some smaller particles. 

In regards to renovating old houses this level of filtration keeps you safe from lead dust particles which can cause lead poisoning.

This extraordinary filtration ability makes these filters and the sealed vacuum units that include them to be significantly more expensive than regular shop vacuums, at least they did.

Comparing the Festool MIDI & CT-15

Looking at the two tools you may think they are the same thing, but there are some differences between them that may or may not matter to you. Let’s take a look at the specs of both dust collectors below.

Festool CT-15

The CT-15 includes many of the features you’d expect for a top notch HEPA vacuum. It comes with a regular 3.5 meter hose (not anti-static) with elastic storage strap for the hose. It has a feature that allows you to plug tools into the vacuum which will turn the vacuum on automatically when the tool is switched on just like the MIDI I. This is an incredible feature if you ask me.

It is a certified HEPA unit that uses the same bags as the MIDI I and has a easily accessible filter and bag that you can change as needed.

  • Weight 24.69 lbs (11.2 kg)
  • Power cable 16.4 ft (5 m)
  • Dimensions (L x W x H)18-1/2″ x 12-19/32″ x 17-1/8 ” (470 x 320 x 435 mm)
  • Container/filter bag capacity 3.96 Gallons
  • Max. volume flow 130 CFM (3 700 l/min)
  • Max. vacuum 96″ static water lift (24 000 Pa)

All in all this is an incredible HEPA vacuum for the price of $359. It gets the job done and keeps the dust contained without some of the frills and features in the MIDI I that we’ll talk about below.

Festool MIDI I

Very similar to the CT-15 you can see the stats below for the MIDI I. You get the same suction power and bag size pretty much, but you do get a cord with an additional 9’ which is not insignificant (certainly not worth an extra $256).

  • Weight 24.91 lbs (11.3 kg)
  • Power cable 25 ft (7.5 m)
  • Dimensions (L x W x H)18-1/2″ (470 mm) x 12-19/32″ (320 mm) x 19.5″ (495 mm)
  • Container/filter bag capacity 4.0 gal (15 dm³)
  • Max. volume flow 130 CFM (3 700 l/min)
  • Max. vacuum 96″ static water lift (24 000 Pa)

You also get these bonus features with the MIDI I that aren’t included with the CT-15.

  • Anti-static hose (tougher and certainly more resilient than the CT-15 hose)
  • SYS-Dock with T-LOC function (so you can attach Festool Systainers to the top of the vacuum)
  • Bluetooth functionality to use wirelessly with connected tools
  • Brake to hold vacuum base in place
  • Cord wrap on the rear of the tool

Which HEPA Vac Should You Choose?

You’ll have to decide for yourself if those added benefits are worth the extra money, and for some folks they may be. For me I’ve loved both of these vacuums, but what I was most pleased with was that the same ultra-powerful suction power of 130 CFM was available in either model.

Working around lead paint it’s all about protection for my team and my clients from dangerous lead dust and either dust extractor works great for this purpose. I suppose if I used a lot of additional Festool Systainers it would be great to have them all organized on top of my vacuum.

I’ve heard that some MIDI I come with a M-class filter which is a higher level of filtration of 99.9% effective HEPA compared to the standard 99.7% effective regular HEPA, but from my understanding you can simply upgrade the filter since they are interchangeable and the same size on both models.

In the end, it’s not a hard choice for me, but simply knowing that there is an affordable HEPA vacuum on the market by a major brand that you can trust gives me a lot of comfort. For once it seems that Festool may be out to save us all some money!

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1 thought on “An Affordable HEPA Vacuum?

  1. This is so helpful info, Thank you so much for sharing your experience!
    I live in an old house and never knew about the lead risk, I thought having wall paper meant it was safe, little I knew, some old wallpapers contained asbestos and can be spread as well!🤦🏻‍♀️

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