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THE WISE OWL

The Wise Owl at Pea Soup Smoke Machines - the planet's biggest smoke machine site.
We sell smoke machines for applications as diverse as
fire safety training, air flow testing, theatrical productions, theme parks and security.

Visit our homepage
or see our smoke machine information pages


The Wise OwlThe Wise Owl advice service - helping others via a common core of questions. The Wise Owl offers impartial, independent advice on smoke machine related issues.

Featured answers:

From: Gary Berman, Atlanta
Question: We currentlly use a small Antari fog machine in a night club that has a small dance floor area with a few lighting effects....People always complain about the smoke...etc...and we are thinking about using a hazer instead of a fog machine....will the lighting effects still look good with haze, as compared to fog...Which do you prefer to use for nightclub lighting effects ? Fog or haze machines ? ...Thanks...Gary B.

A hazer does indeed appear to be the solution to your problem. In nightclubs around the world, hazers are replacing smoke machines for the very reasons you mention. Hazers don't create thick smoke, but continuously generate a fine mist which doesn't make the nightclub look too smokey or irritate people, but will pick-out and accentuate light beams (I'm assuming this is the same reason you use a smoke machine for).

And people won't complain at all - they won't even know it's there if you install it somewhere inconspicuous. Hazers don't create a blast of thick white smoke which also means they don't get noticed as much as smoke machines do. We sell Le Maitre's award winning Neutron XS hazer.

Hope this answers your question, and the best of luck with your installation!


From: Max
Question: I'm working on a project that requires a dense stream of smoke. Do you know what the hang time is for nitrogen based smoke and if there are any limitations to using nitrogen outdoors. Thanks

Wise Owl's Reply:

Wind is the smoke machine's enemy - it simply blows it all away. You'll need a really high powered professional machine to cope with smoke generation on a windy day (such as the ViCount Compact, for example). But it does all depend on the situation.

Average hang time? You can buy smoke fluids with differing dispersion rates depending on your application. However - the hang time is irrelevant if it's windy, because the smoke will have blown away before it even gets chance to 'hang' let alone disperse. Quick dispersing smoke will dissipate more quickly in the outdoors than inside. Liquid nitrogen smoke is low-lying and disperses fairly quickly.

For your smoke 'stream' (I'm assuming you mean a smoke effect that resembles a river, rather than just a stream as in a 'continuous flow' of smoke from the machine for fogging an area) you can use liquid nitrogen, dry ice, or a smoke machine with chiller unit. Liquid nitrogen is difficult to handle in large quantities and requires some understanding of the safety side of dealing with sub-zero chemicals. Dry ice is similar, but a little more easy to handle, as it is supplied in solid blocks or pellets. For both of these chemicals, heat is a consideration - the summer heat outside will melt dry ice quickly, and to keep the smoke lying low, the best environment for low lying for is a cold one. Before using dry ice or low lying fog machines, television studios often open their doors to drop the internal temperature as low as possible so that the smoke will stay on the ground.

A water based smoke machine (the most common of smoke machines) that is capable of continuous output would be my prefered solution. When used in conjunction with a refrigerated fog chiller unit, the smoke lies low on the ground. The beauty of this is that the effect is very controlled - you can control the output, it is always on cue, will not run out like LN2 or dry ice and you can also use different dispersing fluids to make the smoke last a very long time indeed (impossible with LN2 and dry ice) or disperse quickly like the smoke of dry ice. The only problem would be getting a power supply to these units outside.

I hope this email answers your question and helps you make a decision about your project.


From: Paul Gibbins
Question:
Wise Owl. I have an old Martin Fogger Junior 700 but unfortunately I've managed to lose the button that sets it off. Do you know where I could obtain another button? Many thanks, Paul

Wise Owl's Reply:

This response from Bob Twells...
I too have the same problem, and found the answer from a Martin representative.

The Junior 700 is now discontinued, so spares cannot be purchased anymore. However you can build one yourself, and you simply need a switch that connects pins 2 and 4 of the DIN plug. Hope that helps.

Bob Twells

Wise Owl's note: be careful if repairing smoke machine remotes - some of them contain mains voltage.


From: Andy Ford
Question: I have just purchased a Maxtone TSF 6600 smoke machine and I have lost the remote controller already.
Can you help me get another one, by anyway possible.

Wise Owl's Reply:

Try looking down the back of the sofa. That's where I find things I've lost - money, remote controls, children, etc.


From: Catherine Tatham
Question: Looking for miniature smoke machines. Any ideas wise owl? Thank you.

Wise Owl's Reply:

If you want it really small, pyrotechnic smoke could be an option.

However, on the subject of electric, water-based fluid foggers, we sell the mobile smoke machine, which is 23cm long and battery operated (12V DC). The Smoke Stream Junior is the smallest mains powered machine available for its price. But it really depends what you're going to use it for, and where.


From: Alistair
Question: I run a busy television Studio in west London and often have requests for smoke effects, however, your average smoke machine always sets off the smoke detectors (obvious I know!) which is a major inconvenience as various regulations and insurance policies require that if they are not on - regular fire checks are carried out - this costs a lot of money. Do you know of any machines that will add enough substance to the atmosphere to create a decent effect without bombarding the smoke detectors with Brownian motion setting off the alarms? I eagerly await your wisdom Mr Owl.

Wise Owl's Reply:

My initial suggestion is to change your smoke detectors for heat detectors, but you knew that already.

(Sidenote: If you use smoke to pick light beams out, a hazer shouldn't set the alarms off.)

All smoke machine smoke will set off smoke alarms. However, my suggestion is to use quick dispersing smoke fluid in your machine, giving the thick smoke effect you want, but in theory, dissipating before it reaches the smoke sensor, presumably in the ceiling.


From: Anon
Question: Are smoke machines safe?

Wise Owl's Reply:

Yes. But you mustn't eat them.


From: Mike, Pop Ten Productions
Question: I use a low cost smoke machine for my profesional stage show. I travel all over the world using it almost every night. The problem that I am having is that my machine leaks in my case when transported around. I've been through 3 machines already (of the same brand). Which type of machine would you recommend that DOES NOT LEAK? even when turned upside down. Thanks you, Mike.

Wise Owl's Reply:

Most smoke machines are designed for fixed installations. If you are using this type of machine on tour and it's being transported around, you must remove all fluid from the tank before packing away. Fluid tanks often have air holes in them to allow the air in so that a vacuum doesn't build up inside the container. If their internal fluid tank is full of fluid, all fluid smoke machines will leak when turned upside down.
An alternative you may wish to try is an aerosol based machine, although these are fewer in number. Le Maitre's Microfog, Mini Mist Turbo or the Colt 3 or 4 would be ideal.
I'm presuming a "This way up" label on the flight case/container hasn't worked!


From: Erica Ortega
Question: Though in the FAQs it is stated the liquid smoke is in itself basically harmless, how about the liquid itself when it is in contact with skin? Specifically, does the Martin Liquid Smoke pose any risk if it comes in contact with the skin?

Wise Owl's Reply:

Martin fluid is non-toxic, which suggests that it is safe to touch. Personally, I've had it on my skin, sorry - feathers, and it's just a bit sticky, nothing more. It should be washed off the skin immediately though, as it can in some cases cause irritation.


From: Johnston Foster
Question: I would like to know if any smoke machines exist that have attachments, such as a tube or a hose, that allow specific smoke placement. I am building a stage set that requires two steady streams of smoke out of two seperate pipes set to release on random intervals. Is it possible to direct the smoke through a tube(s) several feet away from the machine and still keep a steady and dense smoke by using only one machine? Thank you, Johnston.

Wise Owl's Reply:

A solution would be to build a smoke distribution box - essentially a wooden box with two holes that is filled with smoke from one machine. Positioned at the two holes are two centrifugal (often referred to as 'squirrel cage') fans that suck the smoke from the box and propel it down the ducting that is attached to their output nozzles. This way, there's two outputs from one machine, and by controlling the fans operation, they can be independently controllable to each piece of ducting. The smoke machine's output should not be pointing at either hole to give one a biased output volume.


From: Edd in the US.
Question (or in this case, demand): I want a cordless remote.

Wise Owl's Reply:

I'm pleased for you.


From: Ellie
Question: Hello. We're thinking of having a fogging machine at the opening of one of our exhibitions. We are not going to use the ones which use glycerine or trihydric alcohols. We were thinking of using CO2 or Nitrogen. Do you know if these set off smoke alarms/detectors? Thanks. Ellie, Conservator, National Archives of Australia

Wise Owl's Reply:

Sadly, all smoke will set off smoke alarms, even smoke from CO2 and nitrogen foggers. However, CO2 and nitrogen fog is heavier than air, and so creates a low-lying fog effect which (in theory) will be swimming around below your knees. Most smoke detectors are on the ceiling, working on the principle that heat (and therefore smoke from fires) rise upwards. If the CO2 or nitrogen smoke has been fanned or wafted up into the air, it will probably dissipate by the time it reaches the ceiling.

It does depend on the effect you're creating. If you're wanting a foggy atmosphere to pick out lighting, you'll not easily achieve that effect with CO2 or nitrogen foggers. If you want a heavy fog blanketing the floor, it's
going to look great.

As I always say, it's always best to check if it will set off the alarms before you've got lots of people in the building, just in case it actually does.

We sell Le Maitre's Pea Souper, a dry ice smoke machine; the Dry Icer and Low Smoke Generator (Update 8/05 - both now discontinued). Update: we now have a number of different heavy foggers


From Sebastien:
I'm interested in your products...but my question to you is:
1) can your products be adjusted to Japanese specs?
2) do you deliver to Japan?
3) I need a large output of smoke for my parties...what do you recommend???? (about 3000euro)

Wise Owl's Reply:
We can supply many of our machines for use with 110v / 220v power supplies. Yes, we can deliver to Japan.

For a high output smoke machine which creates a very fine fog that leaves no residue and is perfectly safe and non-toxic, I would recommend our PS31 / PS33. The smoke produced by these machines has a hang-time of approx. 3 - 4 hours, in comparison with normal entertainment smoke machines whose smoke disperses after about 30 - 40 minutes. This means you'll use a lot less smoke fluid for each event and save money (approx. 90% saving on fluid use compared to conventional fog machines). It also cleans itself after every operation, so it is exceptionally reliable and maintainance free.


From Jamie:
I am looking for non mains smoke machine for a laser gun game to be used outdoors. Any suggestions?

Wise Owl's Reply:
The only machine we have for non-mains use is the gas powered exterior machine

However, it is a hand-on system and requires an operator to be with it at all times as if the coil is left heating up when the fluid aerosol has emptied, the remaining oil in the coil turns to carbon and blocks the element.

Follow up:
If I were to use a 1000watt Honda generator, what else would you recomend? (Outdoors-simple to use.)

Wise Owl's Reply:
None of our mains powered machines are really designed for outdoor use, so you'd have to keep them away from damp etc.

All the good models with a sizeable output are over 1.1kW.


From Gary:
Do you have any companies in the USA?

Wise Owl's Reply:
No, but we are an international company who deal with customers all over the world - shipping most of our products overseas isn't a problem. Please contact us for details or shipping quotes.


From Frank:
What is the delivery time of a Continious Output Smoke Machine (order code PS-007), including a DMX-interface and/or Variflow remote control, and 4 x 5 litres of Standard Smoke Fluid to Belgium. We have to test a parking ventilating system (smoke exhaust in case of a fire) for an undergroud parking (with a volume of +- 4.200 m³ for the largest level). Is this type of smoke machine sufficient to do the job, and is the Standard smoke fluid the best type of smoke for this kind of test (test have to be performed for the Fire Brigade)?

Wise Owl's Reply:
I wouldn't recommend the PS-007 for this application as water based smoke evaporates too quickly to give an accurate
representation of fire or air flow. In a fast moving air stream, the smoke evaporates very quickly. All water based smoke is like this.

I recommend our Oil Based Smoke Generator - PS33HI which produces smoke that is extremely persistent. You can also give the smoke thermal buoyancy by heating it up so that it is particularly representative of real fire smoke. It is non-toxic and perfectly safe.

I will obtain a shipping quote for the machine you require ASAP. We have these machines in stock so would be able to send them out to you same/next day.

Shipping of the machine complete with empty CO2 cylinder (ready to fill), regulator, 5 litres of smoke oil and remote control would be £120 to Belgium.

If we were to send the CO2 cylinder filled, it is classed as a hazardous item by freight companies and incurrs a high delivery charge. It is more economical for the cylinder to be filled with CO2 in the destination country.


David writes:
We need a NATO approved smoke machine for doing fire safety training onboard ships. Which machine is the most appropriate?

Wise Owl's Reply:
The Hand Portable Smoke Generator PS23 / PS25 is NATO approved and is currently in use on-board Navy vessels around the world. It produces large volumes of dense white smoke and after an initial heat-up period, can produce smoke whilst disconnected from the mains giving you total freedom.


Steven writes:
How does the black and white papal smoke work in the Vatican?

Wise Owl's Reply:
Find out about Papal Smoke here


Ed writes:
My 15 year old son is special effects mad. He already owns several pyrotechnic set ups, some of which he has built himself. He uses these for various local am-dram groups. He has been dropping subtle ints that he would like a fog machine for his 16th birthday next month. I've looked at the mini fogger as its 'le maitre' and the only make I've heard of! I'm only his mother...I'm not expected to understand anything technical. What machine would you recommend I should get for him that will not cost the earth but satisfy his rather strange desire to fill stages with smoke to go with his explosions? Could you also suggest the type of 'fuel' to use in it?

Wise Owl's Reply:
It depends how much you're happy to pay - ultimately, you get what you pay for with smoke machines.

The main thing he'll want is a machine that has no dead-band i.e. it will always be ready to make smoke when he presses the button (in theatrical applications this is a must - it's no good if you miss a cue whilst it's re-heating!). Cheaper machines will not allow you to generate smoke while they re-heat, which can sometimes be several minutes.

Our PS007 is a great machine and will offer him the widest range of fluids for quick dispersing fog effects, long lasting, etc.

Looking back, the cheap machines I've bought in the past are now all in the bin after failing - and machines that cost more are still working today, over 12 years on!

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