There's little doubt that EPA RRP inspectors will see Festool's Full Unit HEPA Certification as the standard by which all other manufacturers are measured. After all, this certification fully meets all of the requirements of the EPA RRP regulations when other manufacturers' vacuums only meet a portion of the requirements.
Here's what Bill Robinson, an EPA RRP instructor, had to say about it:
Since coming to New Orleans 3 years ago, the bulk of my interest and efforts have been working in historic homes. Although much of that work has been window repair, window weatherstripping and sometimes window replacement the trend is moving us towards the “whole house” approach, since each improvement has some impact on how the house works as a whole.
With so many historic homes here, the recent EPA RRP rule and lead safe work practices absolutely must be included in our whole house approach to homes and facilities that might contain lead dust, specifically those built before 1978. With this in mind, you can bet there are plenty of instances where the EPA RRP applies. Aside from stone or metal, there's hardly a surface we encounter that doesn't need to be tested, whether interior or exterior walls, painted molding or doors and windows and more. You name it, and if it was installed or painted more than a generation ago chances are, the rule applies.
Since most historic restoration involves working with painted or stained wood there are limitless instances where dust or other particles have the potential to escape into the air. As we all know, there are now specific guidelines for how we should deal with this, preferably before it becomes airborne. Though there are many ways to capture and contain the dust once it is in the air, I've found that the best approach is to capture it at the source.
Particularly useful in this respect is a sander that's designed for efficient dust removal paired with a HEPA-rated vacuum that's built to withstand the daily grind of the jobsite. First, let me say that not all sanders are created equal. Just because the sanding pad has holes in it does not automatically mean that it's going to capture the dust effectively. And if you're not using an efficient sander, you're probably coating your worksite with as much dust as you're sucking up with your vacuum.
My sander of choice is the Festool 5" Rotex sander. If you are into model numbers it is the RO 125. The dust extraction on this unit is exceptional, and the size is perfectly suited for working on windows where the widest material is no more than three inches.
Next, you need a vacuum that's up to the challenge. At a basic level, you need a unit that's durable and portable, so it can stand up to the demands and conditions of onsite work. And of course, the vac should be tool-activated, so when you pull the trigger on your sander, the vac automatically engages so every bit of dust is collected, from start to finish. A good vac will also run for a few seconds once the tool's trigger is released, so that all the dust in the hose is cleared out.
Next, for full EPA RRP compliance, it needs to be designed to filter everything that passes through it, with no allowance for small particles to work their way between the filter and the unit, only to become airborne by way of the vac's exhaust port. In this respect, a filter is only as good as its seal with the vac. Even if your brand of vac claims to contain a HEPA certified filter, it may not be designed or tested to ensure against what is referred to as "bypass leakage," meaning that it still may not meet the letter of the EPA RRP regulation.
Good news for me, and you, Festool has just announced that, effective immediately, every one of their CT Dust Extractors is shipped from the factory with full unit HEPA certification. This certification guarantees that the seal between the filter and the vac is perfect, meaning there's zero possibility for incoming air to get around the filter. What's more, if you purchased one of these vacs before the changeover, they'll even send you a brand new filter, plus certificate and HEPA sticker for the outside of the vac.
I've been using the Festool CT 26 for over a year, and I can tell you that as a contractor, consultant and EPA RRP instructor I'm very excited to know that I can use my CT dust extractor to comply with the EPA regulations regarding containment, collection and cleaning of lead dust particles. And not only does it meet these very strict regulations, but it's built sturdy and sized for easy transport to and from the jobsite.
When it comes to working in older homes these days, dust is no joke. Buying good equipment that's designed to capture dust at the source is a small investment when you stop to think about it. Not only will you find it easier to meet the new EPA RRP requirements, but you'll leave behind more satisfied clients, who will appreciate the absence of dust all over their living space. Plus, you'll save on the time and labor you would otherwise waste cleaning up after the fact. It is a no-brainer if you ask me.
Bill Robinson lives happily and usefully in New Orleans, saving the city one window at a time.
While his work takes him to all parts of the country, his passion remains strong: to help rebuild the Crescent City.
At one time a diver on oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico and all over the world, and later a general contractor in the Central Coast of California, Bill relocated to New Orleans in 2008, three years after the federal levees failed, with the intention of bringing best practices to the work of getting New Orleanians back home.
In the process of saving New Orleans windows, Bill earned his certification to teach the EPA RRP class. And he brings that understanding of the RRP Rule to his window restoration sessions.
* Please note the photo above is used for illustrative purposes only and is not intended to demonstrate RRP best practices.