A fog machine (also called a smoke machine) is a device which emits a dense vapor that appears similar to fog or smoke. This artificial fog or smoke is known as theatrical smoke and fog within the entertainment industry. Most fog machines create the fog by either vaporizing a water and glycol-based or glycerine-based fluid or a mineral-oil-based fog via atomization. For glycol-based fogs, the fluid (fog juice) is injected into a heated block, and evaporates quickly. The resulting pressure forces the vapor out of the exit. Upon coming into contact with cool outside air the vapor forms a fog. Some fog machines use dry ice to produce a fog of carbon dioxide.
Fog machines are used to create spooky effects in plays such as Dracula, A Christmas Carol, and Macbeth. Fog machines are also frequently used in Halloween displays such as haunted houses or forests. Because of greater availability and reductions in prices between 2003 and 2005 , fog machines have become widely used for domestic halloween decorations.
Fog machines are also useful for industrial purposes, such as visualising the flow of air, such as over a surface in a wind tunnel or testing filters in air conditioning. Fire fighters also use fog machines in their training.
Because of the reflective and refractive qualities of the smoke created by fog machines, they are often used in nightclubs to enhance the effects of lighting and laser arrangements (see also light beam).
Haze machines, (also called haze generators or hazers), are taking over the job of fog generators for highlighting lighting or laser effects. Haze machines are often seen with bands and bigger venues when a lighting effect may need to be visible in the air. Haze machines use the same fluids to create fogs and were included on studies of health effects from exposure to theatrical smoke and fog.
How important is the wattage of a fog machine?
The wattage of the heating element can be a good indicator of how well a fog machine will perform. Most consumer fog machines generally range from 400 to 1300 watts. With a higher wattage rating, the fog machine can not only produce more fog, but equally as important it will not have to go into a re-heat cycle as often because the heat exchanger has more power available.
What is a timer remote and do I need one?
All foggers come with some type of activation device, usually in the form of a simple "single button" remote control connected to the fog machine via a cable. When you want the fog machine to generate fog, you hold down the button on the remote control. When you let up on the button it will stop making fog or it will stop automatically when the fog machine needs to re-cycle. The problem with this type of remote is that it requires a user to operate it every time you want more fog.
But there is a solution. Most smoke machine manufacturers have a special remote control available as an optional accessory. The Remote Timer Controller has a build in timer/volume control (like the one pictured) which eliminates the need for you to spend precious time manually operating a fog machine.
These remotes allow you to set the intervals at which the fog machine will come on, how long that interval will last and the volume of fog to produce. As an example, the Timer Remote for the Visual Effects brand of fog machines allows you to set the duration anywhere between 1 and 10 seconds, and the interval between 10 seconds and 5 minutes. So, you could set the timer to activate the fog machine every three minutes, with a burst duration of 10 seconds.
When operated in an enclosed area, such as an indoor Halloween party or haunted garage, you don't need the fog machine to generate fog as often as you would using it outdoors where the fog will disperse and dissipate quicker and you have more area to cover. Needless to say, we consider Timer Remote Controls an absolute must for your fog machines unless you want you be glued to a remote control all Halloween night!
How fog machines work:
Water based fog machines are the most commonly available types for both consumer use and commercial applications, and while there are many manufacturers of fog machines, and while there can be great differences in the design and quality of the components used by fog machine manufacturers, there operation is quite simple and almost always the same.
The fog fluid in the fluid tank is forced through a heat exchanger by a high pressure pump. The heat exchanger maintains a high temperature at which the fluid vaporizes in a process commonly known as "flashing". As the fluid is "flashed" it rapidly expands, and that expansion forces the vapor through the nozzle of the machine. When the vapor mixes with cooler air outside the fog machine, it instantly forms an opaque aerosol we see as fog.That's basically how most fog machines work. Below are more specific details of how the main components of a fog machine work.
The Pump - In a fog machine, the pump plays the critical role of delivering fog fluid from the fluid tank to the heat exchanger. The most commonly used pump is a piston pump, and is carefully matched to the design of the heat exchanger. If a pump delivers fluid too quickly, the heater will turn off relatively quickly since too much fluid is moving through the metal block. This results in the machine shutting down to re-heat in a shorter time. The piston pump is the source for most of the noise generated by a fog machine.
The Heat Exchanger - Heat exchangers vary widely in design, materials, wattage and quality. A well engineered fog machine have take into account all these factors for optimum fog output and safety. Essentially, the heat exchanger is a block of metal, usually aluminum, with a heating element built into it to heat the metal block. The temperature of the block is regulated by a thermostat. A channel inside the metal block allows the fluid to travel through it to the nozzle. The wattage used to heat the exchanger is the specification most manufacturers use to describe how powerful their fog machines are.
The Nozzle - As the fog fluid is pumped through the heat exchanger, it is super-heated and then immediately forced through the exit nozzle at the front of the fog machine. These nozzles are usually made from solid brass and have an extremely small nozzle hole where the vaporized fog fluid is expelled under high pressure. The nozzle and it's protective shroud will become very hot during operation of the fog machine. Do not touch it or place it near anything that could catch on fire.
Remote Controls - Most fog machines come with a basic on/off switch remote control. Operation is very basic, you hold down the button for fog, you release the button to stop the fog. The problem with this type of controller is that it shackles you to the remote control. The best option is a Timer Remote Control designed to give "hands free" operation of the fog machine. This remotes allows you to control both the interval at which the fog machine comes on, and the amount of time it stays on during the interval eliminating the need for you to spend precious Halloween time manually operating a remote.
Fog Machine Fluid - Water based fog fluids are typically made from glycol and water. It is important to understand that fog machines and there fluids are designed as systems. Specific fluid formulas require a specific temperature range for optimum aerosolization during the "flashing" process. Fog machine manufacturers design their machines to be compatible with their fluids. If a machine is calibrated at too low a temperature for a given fluid, the result can be "wet" fog that can leave a residue. If the temperature is too high, the fluid can "burn" or decompose the fluid, thus changing its chemical composition. This "burning" can create harmful byproducts. Well designed fog machines have removable fluid tanks for the convenience of the user.
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