your smoke machines make coloured smoke / can I use coloured smoke
No - it is not possible. Use lighting with coloured filters to colour
the smoke or use our coloured
smoke pellets or for more smoke in more colours then use our
electrically ignited theatrical pyrotechnic
coloured smoke cartridges. There is no way
to create coloured smoke from a coloured fog fluid in a smoke machine.
In depth answer...
smoke machines / hazers trigger fire alarms?
If the smoke or haze level is dense enough, both smoke machines
AND HAZERS can trigger ionisation / optical, vesda (air sampling)
or video smoke detectors/detection systems, depending on their sensitivity
level. However, heat or "rate of temperature increase"
detectors will NOT be activated. A high-end hazer
(eg Phantom, MVS,
DF50) when used at a low density
level is slightly less likely to set off smoke detection systems
than a smoke machine.
If you are uncertain of what type of smoke detector
your venue has, consult with the head of maintenance or, as a last
resort, notify the fire department and do a test run. You can also manually block smoke detectors by fitting a latex rubber glove over the detector, effectively preventing smoke laden air reaching the particle sensors.
If you need to test smoke detectors, blasting the
smoke from one of our machines towards the detector will set it
I use any brand of smoke fluid in my smoke machine?
Our job would certainly be easier if the answer was 'yes', but alas
the answer is NO and here's why:
Smoke generators are designed around a specific mixture
of chemicals, with specific boiling ranges. Using a smoke fluid
that, for example, is based on propylene glycol and water, which
has a relatively low boiling range, through a generator set for
glycerine / water (with a much higher boiling range) potentially
can crack the chemical, forming unpleasant and potentially toxic
compounds (acroleins, aldehydes etc). Even changing the amount of
water in a mixture can have an effect.
All the major UK manufacturers agree about the potential
dangers of mixing and matching smoke chemicals, and stress that
so called 'generic smoke fluids' simply could not be relied upon
to produce a consistent and safe smoke in every generator. The use
of generic fluids or the wrong fluid in the machine regrettably
keeps our service and spare parts department busy.
Safe smoke that is non-toxic to breathe in is your
The use of generic smoke chemical in place of the
manufacturer's recommended fluid leaves you wide open to all sorts
of legal recourse relating to health & safety, reliability of
your machine and servicing costs. It simply isn't worth the risk.
smoke machines make you cough?
No they should not - and if you have experienced coughing it may
be due to the operator using a cheap 'generic' smoke fluid to save
money - something we strongly advise against (see question above).
If you have a respiratory condition or are asthmatic, we don't recommend
you go into dense smoke. Occasionally people will experience a psychosomatic
reaction to seeing smoke and cough for the sake of it (even though
the smoke isn't actually causing this reaction in a physical sense).
Contrary to popular belief, a modern oil-based thermally generated
smoke/haze systems such as the Phantom
is least likely to affect those with a medical condition related
to their respiratory system as it does not produce a hyrgroscopic
particle (ie doesn't make throats and eyes dry out). Contact
us for more information.
How important are the quoted smoke output volume rates?
The smoke output rate, usually quoted in cubic feet or cubic metres
per minute, are figures quoted by manufacturers of smoke machines
to try and illustrate how much smoke their units can produce. However,
the main issue is that no density level is ever stated
along with that volume figure, which makes these output rates a
bit useless and very often over-exaggerated. Even a small smoke
machine can produce 20,000 cfm, but the smoke in a 20,000cfm volume
would be very thin. The figure doesn't say how thin the smoke is,
so techincally is true! Without specifying a visibilty level, any
smoke output figure is speculative and not necessarily accurate
nor constant with other manufacturers' figures.
I use a smoke machine in the UK or Ireland since the public smoking
The provisions of the Health Act 2006 inasmuch as smoking is concerned
makes the possession of lit tobacco in a smoke-free place an offence.
Therefore, the issue of smoke machines does not feature unless the
smoke comes from lit tobacco - which - from any of our products
- is not the case!
smoke machines toxic?
Not when you use the officially recommended fluid - we wouldn't
be selling them if they were! In depth answer...
I add scent / fragrance additives to smoke fluid so that it has
We don't sell aroma additives for fog fluid because a technical
report carried out by Brunel University on behalf of the Fire Brigade
Union in the UK recommended that any additives added to smoke chemical
to either add scent or colour the chemical should be removed, as
a large number of these additives were found to be related to known
you sell second hand units?
Occassionally we do. These are usually ex-hire machines or units
that have been discontinued or used for demonstrations. Please visit
our clearance page
to see the current list of items we have available. This list is
updated in real-time, so if it's not on the list, we don't have
More specific questions
On this page we aim to answer as many of your smoke
machine / fog generator questions as possible. There are a lot
of questions, and we add to them often. We've tried to order them
logically, but you may wish to do a "Find..." (Shortcut:
Ctrl + F) word search with your internet browser to find just what
you're looking for. If you have a question that you feel should
be on this page, please let us know.
difference between a smoke machine and a fog machine?
The terms 'smoke machine' and 'fog machine'
both refer to the same type of unit.
'Fog machine' is the term used more in the United States, and 'smoke
machine' is the term mainly used in the United Kingdom and Europe.
Technically, the correct terminology is 'fog machine', as
the dictionary definition of fog is 'liquid particles suspended
in the air' (smoke/fog machines always vapourise liquid), whereas
smoke is 'solid particles suspended in the air'. Tradition along
with product descriptions over the decades has created this moniker
A smoke machine is an eletro-mechanical unit which
produces clouds of smoke on demand. Smoke machines are used in theatres,
nightclubs, film and television studios, theme parks and other entertainment
applications to produce a smoke or fog effect which creates the
illusion of fog, steam, smoke from a fire, and many other effects.
They are also used to create 'safe smoke' in fire training scenarios,
for leak testing of buildings and containers, testing efficiency
of extraction systems and air flow in wind tunnels. Their size can
range from that of a small water bottle to arena-filling proportions.
A smoke machine, in its simplest terms, is a heating
element which gets very hot, through which special fluid is pumped
and is vapourised, thereby creating smoke vapour which exits the
machine through the nozzle. Electronic circuitry ensures that the
heating block in the smoke machine is kept between certain temperatures
- too hot and the machine turns into a flame thrower - too cold
and it shoots out hot liquid.
The most common type of smoke machine are those which
use a water-based fluid, which is made up mainly of pharmaceutical
grade glycol and water. There may also be other harmless chemicals
in the fluid. Other types of smoke machine include dry ice machines
which create a low lying heavy fog that uses dry ice (solid carbon
dioxide), liquid nitrogen (which also creates a low lying fog),
oil based smoke machines (similar in principle to water based machines,
but uses an oil rather than a water base - the smoke can withstand
much higher temperatures and is much more dense) and hazers (water
based haze generators, mainly used to accentuate lighting than for
conventional 'smoke' effects).
Smoke machines range in price, but as the Romans used
to say, "Talia expensa sic empta" - you get what you pay
for! We supply machines by the most reputable and consistent companies
who have a proven track record for reliability and excellent service
should the need arise.
It is not in our interest to supply smoke
machines that are unreliable - so we simply don't!
Smoke machines that are capable of operating continuously
at high output cost more but always have the power available for
larger and more varied applications and will never require a re-heat
Pea Soup only repair the machines we sell.
We can also supply spare parts only for the machines we sell, e.g.
Le Maitre. Please contact us for details. Sorry, we do not
offer a repair service for the domestic/home party smoke machines
that we do not sell (ie SoundLab, ProSound, QTFX, KAM, Skytec, Argos,
Yes, for GB mainland delivery welcome online
orders. We accept Visa, Mastercard, Maestro, Visa Delta, Visa Electron,
American Express, Discover, Diners Club, JCB and Eurocard. Click
here to for ordering instructions.
We also sell Le Maitre machines and fluids
shipped direct from Las Vegas. For these within-US orders only,
we accept PayPal.
Can I place
my order without a credit / debit card?
Yes. Once you have selected the machine, fluid and/or
accessories you'd like, email or call us and we'll send you a quotation
by email or fax for you to send a bank transfer or cheque payment.
Full step-by-step instructions are on the how
to order page. We also accept (and prefer) payment via BACS
bank balance transfer. Contact us for the details. Public Sector: We accept Purchase Orders.
Large Companies: First 3 orders must be paid pro-forma.
Please email or FAX your purchase order to 020
7100 7527. The minimum net order value for purchase orders
paid on account is £100.00 ex. VAT.
If you need help in choosing a machine your your specific
application, please contact us for friendly
advice. They vary widely in features and price and some are more
appropriate to certain applications than others.
I get a professional machine instead of a cheaper version?
Professional machines are built to last for years
of heavy operation either in fixed installations or in mobile applications.
Most have no 'dead band', which means that they're always ready
to make smoke on cue. They'll also be able to create lots more smoke
a lot more quickly than cheap machines. Cheaper machines tend to
automatically disable the pump while they're heating back up to
temperature (the infamous 'dead band'!), and if you're using the
machine in a time sensitive operation (in the theatre for example
where you have set cues for smoke to appear), this re-heating dead
band could be happening when you need to operate the machine on
cue. The dead band may last for up to 1 minute - sometimes longer.
Many professional machines have the ability to create continuous
thick, dry, white fog output, and can create huge amounts of fog
We sell so many of our smoke machines to customers
who have previously bought cheap 'party' machines for £40.00
from other retailers which have failed after only a few weeks. In
the long run, it's false economy to use these 'toy' machines for
use in professional applications. You'll notice a huge difference
when you buy a machine "fit for purpose".
Not if used sensibly. The only danger involved is
if the cases are opened (thus the risk of an electric shock - as
with every electical applicance) or if the casing of certain units
are touched (they can get very hot and may burn you). The smoke
which comes out of the smoke nozzle can also be very hot and often
there are notices on the machine itself warning of this. Under no
circumstances should you touch the nozzle that the smoke comes out
of - this will always be very hot when the unit is switched on (and
for quite a long time after it is switched off until it cools down).
Manufacturers often warn that you shouldn't install the machine
where the public can touch it or touch the hot smoke being generated.
The recommended distance ranges from 50cm - 3 metres. If you need
the smoke to appear in a public area, one way to get round this
safety recommendation is to use ducting to allow you to keep the
machine well away. Smoke machines should always be used in a well
ventilated area. In case the unit's temperature control malfunctions,
it is also wise not to install a machine above people's heads.
You must be very careful when using dry ice smoke machines in confined
spaces, as the carbon dioxide produced displaces oxygen in the air
and can cause suffocation. Actors shouldn't really lie down in the
smoke. There are alternatives to dry ice for low lying smoke, such
as chiller units for normal smoke machines and special all-in-one
low smoke generators. Think of the poor musicians in the orchestra
pit! The moisture in the cloud of dry ice fog sometimes de-tunes
their instruments. Check with the machine's manual for details.
You must use the fluid recommended by the manufacturer of the machine.
Using other fluid could not only damage the machine (and void the
warranty) but also create toxins in the smoke or make the machine
produce a wet fog which will leave residue on surfaces. Even a slight
change in the mixture of smoke fluid can cause this. Safe, non-toxic
smoke is your responsibility!
The smoke that is produced from either the water or
oil based smoke machines that we sell is non-toxic and safe when
you use the correct fluid. For more information, please read the
health & safety documents for each type of smoke fluid we supply,
which can be found on each smoke fluid product information page.
For certain people with asthma or breathing problems, dense water
based smoke can cause eye, nose and throat irritation. It's not
advisable to make or use home-made fluid mixture. Always use professionally
made fluid. Non-toxic smoke is your responsibility. This link may
be useful to you: ESTA
- fog and smoke working group
- examining the effects of fog and smoke on health. There are other
links to smoke & health related web sites on the Links
advice is there for smoke machine use?
For water/oil based machines:
The nozzle and sometimes parts of the casing of the smoke machine
(except handle) get very hot. Don't touch the hot areas. The areas
that get hot usually have a warning note on them. The smoke that
comes out of the nozzle is fairly hot and it is always advisable
not to go any closer than 50cm in front of it. It shouldn't be installed
where the public can get closer than 50 cm from the smoke from the
nozzle. Smoke machines shouldn't be installed directly over the
public's head. Sometimes they can spit hot fluid out of their nozzle
which can burn. Smoke machines are very high power electrical units,
often using more than 1kW of electricity, so
be careful not to use them in wet places such as outside in the
For dry ice machines:
Dry ice is sub zero and can cause frostbite if handled with bare
hands. Always use special gloves to handle dry ice. Dry ice shouldn't
be kept in airtight containers.
Don't let people lie down in dry ice fog. They could suffocate.
Dry ice machines boil water. This is not only very hot but very
heavy too, so it's advisable not to struggle lifting these heavy
ALSO: Please be careful when refilling smoke machines
- mop up any spills, as people can slip on any fluid left on the
floor (it is more slippery than water).
We supply different smoke fluids that will disperse
at different rates. Some, such as Le
Maitre's Extra Quick Dispersing fluid and Antari's
Super fast dissipating fluid can disperse as quickly as steam
- disappearing seconds shortly after exiting the smoke machine nozzle,
making it great for effects where a large build up of fog is not
wanted. Other fluids make smoke that hangs in the air for hours.
Our Phantom Hazer's output will hang for 3 - 4 hours and can remain persistent
even in very hot environments. It all depends on the application and
the smoke machine you are using, but if the smoke machine is in
a theatre or other location where ventilation is an issue, a fairly
quick dispersing fluid should be used so that the location doesn't
get fogged up too quickly. A nightclub would normally use a long
lasting fluid so the smoke picks out light beams and so that they
don't have to keep activating the smoke machine which tends to bring
attention to itself (or ideally use a hazer).
do smoke machines take to heat up for operation?
Some conventional machines take a minute or two, some
five or ten, and some longer. Usually the heat-up time is mentioned
on our product information page. Many cheaper 'domestic' party smoke
machines will have a 'dead-band' which is when the smoke machine
needs to re-heat and stops itself from being operated while this
happens. This can be a problem when in a situation where smoke needs
to appear on cue such as on television or at a theatre, but is ususally
fine for parties or home use when this isn't so much of an issue.
After a while, smoke machines can get clogged up with
ash and carbon - a by-product of heating smoke fluid. Smoke fluid
can be quite a viscous liquid, so it's almost unavoidable that the
machine gets clogged over time. To avoid it happening, follow the
instructions you get with your smoke machine with regards to cleaning
it. Some suggest a litre of distilled water for every 5 litres of
fluid that the machine uses, others suggest water and white vinegar
after 40 hours of continuous operation. It is arguable that passing
an acid through the heater block will do it any good, nor the pump,
fluid pipes and ultimately any vinegar that will be remaining in
any of these components when you start using smoke fluid in the
machine again. If storing a smoke machine for a long time, passing
deionised water through it before storing can help. This isn't necessary
if the unit is being used every day, eg in a visitor attraction.
They may also instruct you to take parts of the nozzle to bits and
brush them clean, as they can also become coated in carbon. This
is when a maintainable heating block is useful, as found in our
machines (Rocket and Dragon). Our
PS31 and PS33 smoke generators that self-purge themselves after each smoke issue, meaning the
heating block never gets clogged, and we also have an optional air-line
purge feature in our Dragon unit that can be made to special order.
Dry ice is solid carbon dioxide gas. It's called dry
ice because when it 'melts' it changes in state from a solid directly
to a gas without ever becoming a liquid. This process is called
sublimation. When dry ice is
put into boiling water it sublimates and creates these clouds of
thick heavy fog which clings to the ground (because it is cold and
more dense than air). The fog is odourless and colourless as it
is literally clouds of water droplets (and it can therefore leave
the stage slightly wet). The Peasouper
is a dry ice machine that self-contains this effect
for convenient use.
difference between dry ice, liquid nitrogen, oil and water based
Dry ice and liquid nitrogen smoke machines both create
a heavy low lying fog effect. The materials they use to create this
are often difficult and expensive to get hold of for most people,
hard to store, and the effect can now be easily created on demand
by new electronic water based versions.
Disney theme parks use LN2 foggers as it gives a superb and reliable
effect and leaves no residue or chemical mess. It also disperses
quickly and causes no irritation to even sensitive asthmatics (the
majority of the air we breathe is nitrogen). They also use water-misting
foggers which just use normal water under pressure (low running
costs for heavy use).
Oil based smoke machines produce smoke than can withstand much higher
temperatures than water based fog. Ideal for fire safety training
which may also include real flames (water based smoke would simply
evaporate and disappear into the flames if used in conjunction with
them). Oil based machines that we supply are less toxic - the hang
time of the smoke is so long that you have much less smoke chemical
in the air than with water based systems. Feedback from customers
suggest they are less irritating to breathe in for persons suffering
with existing breathing conditions. They are also ideal for fire
training scenarios, as the smoke doesn't layer or disappear at high
temperatures like that of a water based smoke.
Water based machines are now the 'standard' smoke machine in entertainment
applications. There are many different types of water based fluid
which hang in the air for a long time or disperse quickly like steam.
It's the easiest way to make controllable smoke at a reasonable
price which is one of the reasons why it's the most popular.
Fog chillers cool the conventional 'hot' smoke from
a conventional smoke machine to sub-zero temperatures so that it
sinks to the ground with a similar effect to that of dry ice or
liquid nitrogen. They can save money in the long-term, as dry ice
and liquid nitrogen is expensive to deliver and doesn't last very
long, even if correctly stored. Special molecular or quick dispersing
fluid is often used with fog chillers for two reasons - it makes
the fog last the same length of time that dry ice fog would before
disappearing, and if longer lasting fluid was used when the smoke
warms up again it will rise and fill the room with normal fog that
hangs in the air.
Le Maitre make two chiller units. They convert fog from the normal
smoke machine into heavy fog by chilling the fog to sub-zero temperatures
using a liquid CO2 cylinder. It's so much more easy and convienient
than dry ice and more easily stored for longer lengths of time.
Other chiller units are simply large refridgeration systems. They're
very expensive and use a lot of power.
Be aware that some 'fog chillers' require you to put dry ice or
conventional water ice into them to chill the fog (which doesn't
make them as convienient as chillers that don't use ice, but the
dry ice will last longer).
A proper hazer is a machine that creates a very fine
haze which is used to enhance lighting beams. Hazers don't create
clouds of thick smoke like smoke machines for special effects. They're
favoured by television studios as the haze is almost invisible (for
the cameras to see through it) yet it picks out light beams like
smoke does. There is a glut of cheap hazers which are actually no
more than a small smoke machine with a fan. We don't sell those
because we don't think they provide a very good haze effect. See
our hazers available.
What is the
difference between a smoke machine and a hazer?
Smoke machines create thick white smoke, whereas hazers
create a thinner haze effect which can be seen when beams of light
strike it. Hazers are often used when the blast of smoke from a
smoke machine would be too intrusive or noisy. The visibility of
smoke created by smoke machines means they're used for special effects,
fire training, and all of the other applications mentioned on this
site. Hazers can be left to operate continuously and inconspicuously.
Most cheap hazers are just glycol smoke machines with a fan - proper
glycerine hazers (MVS,
crackers (DF50) and thermal
oil hazers (Phantom Hazer) are
what are decribed as 'professional hazers'.
Check out our list of all smoke
fluid we sell for prices. It can differ considerably
for the more specialist mixes such as those which create a fog that
disperses quickly or that is specially designed for use in the fog
chiller units mentioned in an earlier question. Different fluid
types made by different manufacturers cost different amounts, which
is why generic smoke fluids have been made and are sold worldwide.
On the container it will say "suitable for use in most smoke
machines". This is potentially dangerous. Only the recommended
fluid should be used in your machine - see next question.
Do I have
to use the fluid that the manufacturer makes for my machine?
This is a very good question. When you buy a smoke
machine, the instruction manual you receive with it will tell you
that you must use fluid that has been made by the same manufacturer
for that machine. Using other types of fluid will invalidate the
warranty and could damage the machine. Other fluids may work in
the machine, but by no means all. They may create a sub-standard
smoke that is unpleasant to breathe and contain toxins that can
damage your health, or leave a residue on surfaces. They could also
damage your machine. If you do use another manufacturer's fluid
in your machine and need to get it repaired under warranty, the
first thing the service engineer will do is use a special indicator
to see if you've used the correct fluid or not. You will either
then be charged for the repair, or it will be sent back to you unrepaired.
If you want to see your smoke machine last a long time, we recommend
you use the manufacturer's fluid. It is optimised for use in your
The main reason smoke generator manufacturers state
that the chemical used should be their own is that generators are
designed around a specific mixture of chemicals, with specific boiling
ranges. Using a smoke fluid that for example is based on propylene
glycol/water, which has a relatively low boiling range, through
a generator set for glycerine / water (with a much higher boiling
range) potentially can crack the chemical, forming unpleasant and
potentially toxic compounds (acroleins, aldehydes etc). Even changing
the % of water in a mixture can have an effect.
A number of years ago all the major UK smoke machine
manufacturers prepared and signed a joint letter stressing the dangers,
or more accurately potential dangers of mixing and matching smoke
chemicals, stressing that so called generic smoke chemicals simply
could not be relied upon to produce a consistent and safe smoke
in every generator.
The use of generic smoke chemical in place of the
manfacturer's recommended fluid leaves you wide open to all sorts
of legal recourse relating to health & safety, reliability of
your machine and servicing costs.
Safe smoke that is non-toxic to breathe in is your
Manufacturers use very pure pharmaceutical grade ingredients
which have an impurity factor of one per billion or similar (very
pure) plus the cost of transportation of bulky heavy fluid containers.
Hazer fluid generally costs more than 'normal' smoke machine fluid,
as it tends to be more concentrated, containing more active ingredient
and less water than more traditional glycol based fog fluid.
Because the ice is cold (sub-zero) but never gets
wet when it melts because it sublimates (see earlier question) turning
directly from a solid to a gas without ever becoming a liquid, unlike
No. Fluid that creates coloured fog has been tried,
has never satisfactorily worked without seriously damaging the smoke
machine and is not available anywhere. The best way to make coloured
smoke is to use normal smoke fluid (white smoke) and to colour wash
the smoke with coloured lighting. The white fog particles defract
the light and make it look like coloured smoke.
You may see certain smoke fluids are coloured themselves
(usually green, red, blue, pink) but the smoke released is white.
This is simply a colour indicator to let you know what type of fluid
it is in the bottle so you don't confuse them (say, quick dispersing
or long lasting).
The alternative is to use theatrical coloured
smoke pyrotechnics that actually make proper, real
coloured smoke - but they have the potential to stain fabrics and
materials the smoke comes into contact with and you should avoid
breathing the smoke in.
Intelligent lights are light fixtures whose beams
move and change colour and pattern. They can either use a mirror
which moves the projected beam of light (scans or scanners), or
move the whole lantern body (moving head). They often use DMX control
via a computerised control system. Often used at concerts, discotheques,
outdoor events, on TV and in the theatre.
machines suitable for use in areas of high humidity?
systems are available in stainless steel metalwork shells to special
order at extra cost. This option is recommended for heavy duty /
high usage applications such as fire training, or where the equipment
is likely to be used in areas of high humidity.