Dust Extractor Vacuum Shootout – Makita, Fein, DeWalt, Hilti
In the last decade, dust extraction has definitely gone from “handy and convenient” to “absolutely essential.” This is particularly due to issues raised by the new EPA Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) program as well as existing guidelines and/or rules put forth by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Occupations Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). Manufacturers are following suit with innovations that take these new requirements into account and new dust extractor vacuums that are coming to market with great features.
In short, dust extractors and HEPA-ready vacuums are now a very big deal. More than just “shop vacs”, these dust extractor vacuums capture and remove job site dust at such levels as to make the vacuums of yesterday look like a dustpan and brush in comparison.
While there are literally dozens upon dozens of wet/dry vacuums on the market, dust extractors comprise only a handful of manufacturers who are taking the plunge into this demanding, high-performance segment. The reasons are obvious (to us, at least): dust extraction, while big business, has to be done right. The filters, technology and accessories involved in pulling it off limit the number of participants who can produce these quality tools and products. To get a sampling of what was available, we collected four models to review: the DeWalt DWV012, Makita VC4710, Hilti VC40-U and Fein Turbo II (9-20-25).
Comprehensively reviewing all of the manufacturers putting out these dust extractor vacuums would involve a lot more space than we’re prepared to go into in the span of this article. As such, these four popular dust extractors will hopefully serve to cover a nice representative selection of products from across the industry and help in determining what makes a great dust extractor. A lot of the tools will have some crossover between the trades, but I attempted to use and evaluate them within several job site applications, including tuckpointing a fireplace, cross-cutting HardiePlank and spruce and mitering crown and base molding. In this way I was also able to collect data from a wide range of performance issues that are common in the residential and commercial construction markets. Not every tool is designed for every trade, so I’ll point out my thoughts along the way as to why one model might be more or less suited towards a particular use and why.
All of the dust extractors we tested are part of a family of products. It’s possible that if you desire more or less vacuum capacity or higher power there may be a tool from the same manufacturer that will suit your needs. Tested models ranged in size from 9 to 12 gallons (the size of the container). Secondly, all four of the tools on-hand included power cords that were at least 15 feet in length—the same length as the shortest hose in the test! With these dust extraction systems you reach a lot further, with more mobility and flexibility, than ever before.
Most dust extraction systems also come with the ability to plug a power tool into the actuator outlet and turn on the vacuum system automatically when you power up the tool. While some woodworkers may call this a poor man’s dust collection system, the fact is—it’s portable and very sensible for anyone needing to collect dust quickly on a variety of job sites.
There are also a host of accessories available for each of these products—from bags, liners and filters to specialized hoses and adapters. Some vacuums like the Hilti, Fein and Makita even have special kits that allow you to attach a crevice tool or a full brush set with modular handle.
Tool by Tool
DeWalt DWV012 10 Gallon HEPA Dust Extractor
The DeWalt was the second largest dust extractor in the group, with a stated 10 gallon tank capacity. It was the most rotund of the pack, but like an NFL lineman it handled that extra weight with uncanny grace. The DeWalt was the easiest vacuum of the bunch to cart around. Its large rear wheels and convenient telescoping handle that retracts all the way down made this my favorite portable machine for tossing in the truck and taking to the job site. The self-cleaning filter system works by alternating a reverse puff of air through one of the filters every 30 seconds (It also initially blows out both filters when you start it up.). The cleaning lasts just a half second, but it’s enough to clear the filter of anything significant that would hamper the flow of air prior to the canister being completely full. I made enough HardiePlank cuts to fill up the canister pretty good. Even though both filters were literally surrounded with fiver-cement dust, the self-cleaning system allowed the DWV012 to keep going until the work was completed. This was impressive since the dual canister system has both canisters essentially sticking straight down into the collector during use.
I again pulled out the DeWalt when tuckpointing a fireplace that hadn’t been touched since around 1920. My normal grinder kit was out of commission, so I stopped by the local Lowe’s Home Improvement store and picked up a Bosch 1775E Tuckpoint Grinder. This is a 5-inch 8.5-amp model that comes with a specially-designed guard that meets and exceeds UL, OSHA and NIOSH standards for dust control. Since the DeWalt came ready to go with a DWV9320 HEPA filter installed I was able to get to work in no time. The DWV012 had plenty of suction and worked well to pull all of the available mortar dust through the HEPA filters, into the canister and out of the room. That’s worth pointing out again because there are several systems on the market that can meet the EPA Renovations, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule—almost none of them ship already compliant like the DeWalt. Most require the purchase of an additional HEPA filter.
The DeWalt DWV012 includes a power tool actuator outlet that lets you plug in a single tool that will serve to activate the vacuum system when the tool is powered up. The DeWalt vacuum will then run for an additional 15 seconds after the connected tool is powered down in order to fully clear all debris from the hose. In addition to triggering off the outlet, you can configure the DeWalt from the front to be always on. After the vacuum cycles up and does its initial cleaning cycle you can also adjust the suction with the front control should you want to dial back the vacuum for a more delicate application.
I had a real affinity for how easily the DeWalt handled the job site. The houses I was working on were unfinished, and the DeWalt seemed to be able to navigate its way both inside and outside the home without any trouble. It also did an excellent job at keeping up suction no matter how fast I ran a saw or grinder. The self-cleaning mode kicked in as expected at its predefined intervals, and it didn’t present a hiccup for the collection of dust. The small amount of suction lost for the half-second it switches off the single filter doesn’t seem to affect the workflow in any tangible way.
- Pros: Portability, Power tool actuation, Telescoping handle, Auto filter cleaning, Meets EPA RRP rule standards
- Cons: Heaviest of the dust extractors tested
- Verdict: This is the tool you want for job site portability and out-of-the-box EPA RRP rule compatibility.
Fein Turbo II 9-20-25 9.2 Gallon Wet/Dry Dust Extractor
The Fein Turbo II was the quietest vacuum of the bunch—and it also tied for the loudest. This is because the Turbo II includes 5 speed/power settings which are controlled by soft buttons on the face of the dust collector. Oddly enough, the system measured quietest at its medium setting and loudest at its lowest setting (due, in part, to low frequencies). Fein doesn’t have an automatic cleaning system for the filter, so you’ll need to pay attention to your available suction and do a bit more manual cleaning. They also only include a 6 micron textile filter bag that takes up a considerable and perplexing amount of room within the vacuum. You can purchase regular or HEPA (0.3 micron) filters for between $35 and $89, and the Fein Turbo II is compatible with some third party filters as well—something that could save you money over the long term.
With the automatic power setting, I was able to use the dust extractor with some pretty heavy duty high-current tools, including miter and table saws. The vacuum comes on immediately, as you’d expect, and it runs an additional 5 seconds after the tool is turned off, allowing some time to clear the hose. This is the shortest post-run time of all the vacuums tested, but it’s sufficient for most near-field use. When I connected the Fein to a miter saw, for example, the sawdust cleared the entire 17 foot long hose with plenty of room to spare before the vacuum shut down. The Turbo II will pass power through to a connected tool in any switch position, so you don’t have to run the vacuum in order to activate a connected tool.
There is considerable play where the hose makes its positive connection to the vacuum body. When you fire up the Turbo II it pulls in nice and tight, but there is some air leakage due to the non-rubberized plastic-on-plastic fitting. On the positive side, the connection is a secure one, unlike the friction fitting method employed by Hilti and Makita. You can yank as hard as you like and the hose will not pop off, even when the suction is turned off. I was able to easily direct the Turbo II dust extractor on any hard surface thanks to its six casters. With some of the four-wheeled models, direction is largely set by the temperament (and last known position) of the vacuum. While there is no included hose storage, the integrated cord wrap worked very nicely to contain all 16 feet of power cable. This was my favorite “indoor” vac due to its maneuverability and the fact that it was almost never louder than any tool connected to it. The Fein was also really convenient to use for wet applications as it has a handy clean-out valve at the base. This was the only vacuum tested that came with this feature, and it makes it super easy to let out collected water without having to lift and dump the entire tank.
The Fein has a nice simplicity that works well in the shop or even on the job site when doing carpentry work like cutting crown or base molding. The Turbo II was just the perfect combination of features and flexibility for my use.
The Fein’s variable suction let me dial it down low for when cleaning up around areas where I wanted to remove dust and debris, but not larger items that were interspersed among the dirt I was removing. The DeWalt and Makita were also adept at controlling suction in this manner, but I really appreciated the diminutive size-to-capacity ratio of the Turbo II.
- Pros: Easiest to steer indoors, Smallest size-to-capacity ratio, Power tool actuation
- Cons: No hose storage, No automatic filter cleaning
- Verdict: The indoor woodworking vac that can also handle bigger jobs when needed.
Hilti VC40-U 9.5 Gallon Vacuum Cleaner
The Hilti VC40-U has one of the more “physical” filter cleaning systems of the models tested. Hilti calls its technology “AirBoost”, and it briefly reverses the airflow every 15 seconds. As it does this, you hear a pretty substantial triple air bump that pulsates the motor section of the vacuum. The first time I cranked it up it sounded like someone was trying to bang on the wall to get my attention! There is no doubt that the filter is being sufficiently cleared—something I verified visually as well. The filter is interesting in that it closely resembles the type you find in most cars or trucks, and it sits in the top portion of the motor assembly. It has separate access and can be changed without having to open up the main debris compartment. This is good for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that the Hilti can collect an obscene amount of dust and debris without requiring a premature empty. You can fill the unit up to a considerable volume before needing to take a trip to the dumpster. My helpers should last so long before breaks!
While some of the other vacuums allow dirt to build up right around the filter, I actually prefer it when the air filter isn’t sticking directly into the sawdust, debris or atomized concrete I’m collecting. When used with the HEPA main filter, the Hilti VC40-U meets the EPA lead related Renovations, Repair and Painting (RRP) rule for HEPA vacuums.
The Hilti idles at just around 71 db SPL, which is actually very quiet…until the filter cleaning mechanism bumps the noise up to 76 dB. Still, this vacuum is well-insulated, and it doesn’t provide a substantial amount of noise pollution—besides that intrusive triple thump. Upon shutting down the unit it pumps the filter rapidly to shake off any trailing debris. I thought that was odd until I opened up the lid and realized that I didn’t have to worry about shaking off the filter before emptying the container. This is now one of my favorite features in self-cleaning filter systems. The post-shut down cleaning also ensures that you get full suction the next time you start up the dust extractor. The DeWalt DWV012 has a similar feature, but it performs its initial cleaning on start-up, not shut-down.
Portability of the Hilti VC40-U is good, with large rear wheels and oversized front casters. The handle doesn’t telescope or fold, however, and it’s a bit of a pain to remove. Throwing it on a truck bed is easy, but minimizing its vertical footprint can be a pain.
The 16′ hose is plenty long, and the 22′ power cord was, believe it or not, only the second longest in the group. You can definitely park the vacuum and have a significant amount of room to move about with a connected tool. While the European version of the VC40-U has a 2400 watt power outlet for tool actuation, the US model does not. This is likely a UL issue, since we’re a bit more conservative here in the states regarding total power consumption on circuits. While this feature might come to the States eventually, for now the VC40-U must be turned on and off manually using the large front dial.
I used the VC40-U on my tuckpointing job, and it pulled out every last puff of airborne mortar as it was sent into the grinder shroud. After a whole lot of mortar-cleaning I was exhausted—but the Hilti seemed to be just fine. What was remarkable was the effectiveness of the dust control. Not only was the suction good enough to pull from the tool effectively, the filtering ensured that none of the airborne particles escaped the canister via the output vent.
- Pros: Top-mounted filter, Lots of accessory options
- Cons: Expensive HEPA filters, No power tool actuation
- Verdict: This is a serious concrete vac with the accessories to make clean-up a breeze.
Makita VC4710 12 Gallon Wet/Dry Vacuum
It’s only fitting that the tallest vac of the bunch also has the longest power cord (24 feet). Though the VC4710 is a full 29-1/2 inches tall, it only weighs 27 pounds—making it the lightest dust extractor tested. Its 16′ long cord gave me plenty of maneuverability when I was chopping HardiePlank to length and running some sawdust tests. The VC4710 is also very quiet, measuring only 69 db SPL from three feet away. Makita attributes this to the use of sound-absorbing materials in the motor housing. I’d say it’s working very well.
Like the DeWalt, Makita’s VC4710 diverts air to each filter individually during cleaning cycles. That means that every 15 seconds, one of the filters is back-flushed with a bit of air to clean it out. The filters are pretty standard-looking, but when they mount, they flex in such a way as to appear convex. In reality, they are simply pliable and held in shape by the plastic guards which surround them.
With the integrated tool-activated outlet, the Makita is the perfect tool for connecting to a job site saw to control concrete or drywall dust or other fine particles. When you stop the tool. The dust collector will keep going for an additional 10 seconds to ensure that all of the dust in the system is completely collected and filtered.
Though the VC4710 has large rear wheels and decent-sized front casters, I found it extremely difficult to move over rough terrain. At one point I was making a whole lot of cuts outside a home, and it was nearly impossible to pull or push the VC4710 due to the fact that there is simply no elevated handle. If you aren’t on concrete you’re going to end up lifting and carrying it, which could quickly defeat the benefits of having such a lightweight system. Included with the Makita Dust Extractor is a main nano filter set that captures 99.95% of particles 2 microns and larger. With an optional main HEPA filter installed, the Makita VC4710 meets the EPA (RRP) rule requirements for HEPA vacuums.
The Makita definitely handled concrete and mortar dust extremely well, but I was partial to its size-to-weight ratio and the fact that it sat a bit higher. In my opinion this just made it easier to access for making adjustments and connections. When it came time to dump the canister, I had so much in the bucket I felt like I had filled up twice as much as the other vacs.
- Pros: Lots of filter surface area, Power tool actuation, Quiet
- Cons: No elevated handle, Expensive HEPA filters
- Verdict: The deceptively compact workhorse that will jack-of-all-trades its way into your shop or work truck.
It’s difficult to pin down any of these dust extractors as being pinpoint perfect for only one application. Clearly the Hilti, Makita and DeWalt have the accessories to handle nasty jobs like concrete drilling. The compact Fein has what it takes to dominate a single tool in a workshop setting, but it’s also good enough to go on the job and handle the rough stuff. All of the tools are, with the proper filter, perfectly suitable for usage that is in compliance with the EPA’s Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (RRP Rule). Of course, with the DeWalt DWV012 you’re compliant the second you open the box.
While having the right dust extractor vacuum doesn’t solve all your RRP rule problems, it’s certainly a step in the right direction. Given the increasing awareness and enforcement of dust control in the work place, these new dust extractors are setting the stage for vacuum systems that are more capable and better suited for the type of work being done by professional builders and contractors all around the country.