building a dry ice fog machine

johnnayb

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May 23, 2006
Hello--does anyone have experience/ suggestions for building a dry ice fog machine? We need enough fog to cover a medium sized stage rapidly and maintaining the cover for about 5 to 10 minutes? Based on the fact that we perfere low lying fog, want the fog to dissapate quickly, and have a low ventilation system, I perfere the dry ice option.

Thanks,

Johnnayb
 
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cutlunch

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If you look at commercial dry ice machines they are fairly simple to make. You maybe able to get someone to make you one.

They are basically made from a steel drum. With a lid,probably hinged so it just siots on top. This is in case some idiot blocks the outlet. An outlet pipe is welded to the side. Make sure this outlet is never blocked.They have a water heater element inserted in them to heat the water. The dry ice is put into a metal basket that can be raised and lowered into the water. When you need a quanity of fog the basket goes into the water.

Here is link I found where someone has built there own fogger. It might also give you some ideas.

http://home.paonline.com/joespuppets/1-fog.htm

edit: Just found this link that shows a number of ways to combine foggers with dry ice to give low lying fog.

http://wolfstone.halloweenhost.com/HalloweenTech/fogchl_FogChiller69.html#DeathLordFogOnTheRocks2000

A google search finds many links to this topic.

Just remeber safety first especialy if you go for an electric setup with the water around. Also the stage can get wet from the condensation caused by the dry ice fog.
 
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BillESC

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I was half owner of F & B MFG. back in the 70's during the Disco craze. Our only product was dry ice fog machines and we built and sold several thousand.

You'll want to start with a 55 gallon oil drum with a epoxy phenolic lining. You'll need to install two 1500w domestic hot water heater elements near the bottom of the drum and they should be fused or circuit breakered as well as switched. In the lid of the drum you can install two or three 4" PVC output couplings and a 465 cfm squirral cage fan and a one 1" diameter flange. The flange will hold the metal rod that holds the drop basket.

This machine which we trade marked as the "Fog-it" fog machine will produce in excess of 40,000 cubic feet of fog in the first two minutes (with a 150 lbs. drop of chopped dry ice.)

Feel free to call me if you'd like more detail and a few hints...
 

Chris15

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As with anything, remember the safety aspects cannot be neglected. You are mixing electricity and water, so you would want to ensure that you feed this from a RCD / GFCI. You don't want it to become like this person.

Remember also the risks associated with dry ice and the need for ventilation etc.
 

Peter

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Also, remember never to seal the dry ice in a container with no ventallation. As the dry ice turns into a gas it expands and any expanding gas can turn explosive if contained. (My AP Chemistry teacher demonstrated this rather violently with dry ice and I dont want you to in advertently do that experiment he did because it could easly cause great harm)
 

DarSax

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I got this through one of the links that cutlunch posted, but

http://ghostsofhalloween.com/projects/fog_chiller/

Seems like a pretty good idea, especially since its a fairly simple way to build an effective one. Not to mention you can easily use regular ice with it, and as long as you take special care to seal up your holes, you shouldn't have any problem at all with leakage/electricity.
 

CHScrew

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north of Pittsburgh, PA
I have the plas for a Dry Ice Fogger attached. The plans are fairly simple.

There is only one major problem people run into. When you heat the water that you're putting the dry ice into, don't turn off the heating element when you put the ice in. If you shut off the heat the ice will cool the water very rappidly and your fog effect will only last a few seconds. Make sure you keep the water heated the whole time.

Oh yeah, it doesn'y show it very clearly in the pic. Actually it doesn'y show it at all. But the bottom of the drum is filled with water up to a little under the whole for the fog hose. This is the water in witch you submerge your dry ice into.


TIP! - I've found that these machines work a lot better if the dry ice is broken up into small pieces, rather than one large chunk in the basket.
 

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KrazyKatt

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I have the plas for a Dry Ice Fogger attached. The plans are fairly simple.

There is only one major problem people run into. When you heat the water that you're putting the dry ice into, don't turn off the heating element when you put the ice in. If you shut off the heat the ice will cool the water very rappidly and your fog effect will only last a few seconds. Make sure you keep the water heated the whole time.

Oh yeah, it doesn'y show it very clearly in the pic. Actually it doesn'y show it at all. But the bottom of the drum is filled with water up to a little under the whole for the fog hose. This is the water in witch you submerge your dry ice into.


TIP! - I've found that these machines work a lot better if the dry ice is broken up into small pieces, rather than one large chunk in the basket.

This sounds like it would be perfect for what I am looking to build. But the cost of dry ice is a factor. How much dry ice would be needed to produce for for a 10min scene? Would I need someone feeding dry ice into the barrel as the scene goes?
 

Van

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This sounds like it would be perfect for what I am looking to build. But the cost of dry ice is a factor. How much dry ice would be needed to produce for for a 10min scene? Would I need someone feeding dry ice into the barrel as the scene goes?
I SO wish someone would come up with a formula that would tell you exactly how much dry ice you need for a given fog effect for a given amount of time. There are, however, so darn many variables. How deep, how big a space, what's your HVAC flow like, how far from the area of effect will the dry ice machine be located. My advice to folks who've asked me this question in the past has always been, buy twenty pounds and experiment.
A trickle of fog over a ten minute scene might not take more than a pound or two. A knee deep pea-soup over the whole stage for the Witches scene of The Scottish Play will take a WHOLE lot more.
Speaking of which: The longer/more fog you need the higher volume of water/hotter water you need. Sometimes a couple of smaller, 25-30 gallon, foggers are needed rather than one big one.
I like using a small recirculating pump and a showerhead(s) in my Fog Machines to really keep the hot water washing down the ice rather than the immerse the ice completely in the water, style; Those tend to create a situation where a thin shell of water ice will from around the chunks of dry ice thus the fog will only come out in fits and spurt through little pinholes.

Ok, sorry you asked what Time it was and I told you how to build a pocket watch.... If you need any other plans or if you have question on how to build one I'd be happy to advise. I'm sure there's got to be a place you can rent a machine, in Phoenix, just to experiment with.
 
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JD

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Probably 200+ pounds. Water temp drop would be the biggest problem, so you would be looking at 3 or 4 machines for a 50 x 30 stage. Dry ice also doesn't keep long, so you want to over-buy, especially if it is going to sit for a day or so. Storage is important. Several layers of newspaper, surrounded by foam peanuts and in a cardboard box. The whole thing should then be put in a large plastic trash bag to reduce airflow.
Remember, you can get a very nasty burn off of the ice, so always wear protection when chopping it up to go in the machines.
 
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RonHebbard

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Probably 200+ pounds. Water temp drop would be the biggest problem, so you would be looking at 3 or 4 machines for a 50 x 30 stage. Dry ice also doesn't keep long, so you want to over-buy, especially if it is going to sit for a day or so. Storage is important. Several layers of newspaper, surrounded by foam peanuts and in a cardboard box. The whole thing should then be put in a large plastic trash bag to reduce airflow.
Remember, you can get a very nasty burn off of the ice, so always wear protection when chopping it up to go in the machines.
And goggles to protect your eyes from flying chips.
In our area, our best price and availability was from an industrial welding gas supplier who'd sell it in 50 pound blocks as well a taking a newspaper wrapped solid block, slicing it into 1" by 1' x 1' slices and adding an additional outer wrapping of newspaper prior to dropping it into a cardboard box and handing it to you. As has already been mentioned, DO NOT ship or store dry ice in tightly sealed containers as it sublimates directly from a solid to a gas with a greatly increased volume and becomes, essentially, a highly pressurized bomb waiting to occupy a much larger volume of space.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard.
 
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m16ty

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Feb 23, 2020
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TN
I know this is an old thread, but I thought I’d share my experience with a DYI dry ice fog machine.
We are in the middle of a production of Frozen Jr., and was asked to produce fog. We built 2-55 gallon barrel machines, from info we gathered here and elsewhere on the web. Our first barrel was a 55 gallon metal with 2-4” outlets, fan, and 240v water heater element. When we tried that, it wasn’t enough, so we built another 55 gallon plastic barrel, with 2-6” outlets, and a 120v water heater element (no fan). With these two machines, we can cover a 30’ x 100’ stage for the 3 minute song, with 25 lbs of dry ice.

We also found out that the fan is really not needed, or helps as all, and if there is too much airflow it just causes the fog to dissipate. The fog will come out fine on its own, as long as you have a reasonable seal on the barrel and the outlet of the pipes are lower than the water level. We really can’t tell a difference in the 4” hoses vs 6” hoses.

Our first one was the metal barrel. Everywhere I read said you must use a metal barrel. We had a plastic barrel lying around so we just used it for the second one. I’ll have to say, plastic is the way to go. Much easier to work with and won’t rust. The metal one, after just a couple of practice runs, is already rusting quite a bit. I don’t suspect it will hold up very well long term. The plastic also seems to hold the heat in better.

As far as warmup times, it takes the 240v element about 1 hr to get the water to 140 deg (seems like a decent temperature), and the 120v about 1.5 hr to get to the same temp. We have both barrels filled to the first rung, I’d say around 15 gallons.
 

Van

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I typically fill the barrels at least 3/4's of the way. I've always used 2 120v 1500w heater elements so it can be powered 1, 220v outlet or 2, 120's.
I always found that a low powered squirrel cage mounted to the top of the barrel works best. It you have one with a variable speed even better.
Invest in a water heater jacket or wrap the barrel in fiberglass insulation and then wrap with shrink, really cuts down on heat up times.

It's great to hear you experiences!
 

Jay Ashworth

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As with anything, remember the safety aspects cannot be neglected. You are mixing electricity and water, so you would want to ensure that you feed this from a RCD / GFCI. You don't want it to become like this person.

Remember also the risks associated with dry ice and the need for ventilation etc.
I think there's a way we're supposed to flag broken URLs, @dvsDave, but I forget what it is...
 

dvsDave

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garyvp

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We used a plastic garbage can, dryer tube, and a hair dryer for our small stage. Hot water from the sink. Worked well. However, the real problem was the cost and weekend storage of the dry ice.
 

m16ty

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TN
Really? You split 25lbs of dry ice between 2 machines and it effectively covered your stage?
Yes, we can cover the stage, with it rolling off the edge, for a 3 minute song with 25 lbs.

We have now been through tech week and one performance. Since my first post, we found a local industry that uses dry ice in their manufacturing process, and they have agreed to donate dry ice, which greatly helps our budget. The dry ice we are getting now is pellet form.

Since using pellets, we have found that it works twice as well as block form, even if you crush the block before use. The pellets just seem like they produce a more consistent fog, and last a lot longer. Now we put roughly 12-13 lbs in each machine, can cover the stage for 3 minutes, and still have roughly 1/3 of the dry ice still in the basket when we pull it.

I will say that one thing that helps us cover the stage is it is in the beginning of act 2, and we start the fog with the main curtain closed, and then the main opens once the stage is covered. The fog stays pretty well with the actors just walking in it, but when they start dancing around, it blows the fog a pretty good bit. It is still billowing out of both machines pretty good though, and it holds well for a solid 3 minutes, with ice left over to go longer.
 

m16ty

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We used a plastic garbage can, dryer tube, and a hair dryer for our small stage. Hot water from the sink. Worked well. However, the real problem was the cost and weekend storage of the dry ice.
Yes, dry ice fog can be fairly expensive. Luckily, we found a local industry to donate it, and they are open on weekends. It gets really expensive if you have to try to keep enough to last all weekend. I think most Publix stores carry dry ice, and are open weekends. Publix is where we were getting our dry ice before we found the donated source.