Troubleshooting a Smoke Eater

You spent a lot of money on equipment to remove smoke from your bar/lounge, or home, or even shop. When this machinery isn’t working it is very frustrating. Many times the answer to your problem is fairly easy to fix. In this article we will offer some advice on  troubleshooting a smoke eater. This advice should apply to any brand of smoke eater. We will be more specific about issues that could present themselves with a smoke eater by LakeAir. 

Top Causes for Smoke Eater Malfunctions

  • Dirty Filters
  • Power Supply
  • Constant Snapping / arcing
  • Blowers / Fans
  • Improper placement
  • Lack of Volume / Units

Dirty Filters

You would be surprised how many times we have found that the purchased smoke eater has NEVER be cleaned. I have even had people tell me, I didn’t think I needed to clean anything. Smoke is a very dirty substance. It doesn’t take that much smoke to clog a filter. Often times a customers think that regardless of the volume of smoke, the filter should last a year or more. This just isn’t true. Some manufactures claim their filters last a long time. One air purifier reseller claims their HEPA filters last 5 years. They go further to claim that their carbon filters last 3-5 years. That’s not even possible if they weren’t filtering any air. Claims like this just aren’t true. If  I left a 200 pound drum of activated carbon open for 2 years it would be worthless.


Pre Filters are designed to extend the life of the main filter. They filter out larger particles. LakeAir pre filters are washable. For your smoke eater to function the air must pass through the pre filter easily. Be sure that your pre filter is not plugged up with debris or dirt. Replace or wash them (if washable) as needed.

LakeAir Pre Filters

HEPA and Media Filters

LakeAir HEPA Filters

For a filter to remove smoke from the air stream, it must be rated MERV 13 or higher. Many times a media filter will serve as an initial filter. The idea is to remove larger particles before the air passes into the primary filter. Whether you have media or HEPA filter, replacing it regularly is essential to  the effectiveness of your smoke eater. A saturated media filter can no longer remove smoke from the air. It will impede air flow causing the smoke eater to no longer function properly. Eventually a plugged filter will cause the units blower to over heat and fail. 

HEPA filters are dense and just because it may look dirty doesn’t mean its no longer effective. Test your air flow with and without the filter to judge the difference. A sheet of paper on the intake should be held firmly. Be sure the filter is not damaged. If smoke can seep past or through the filter your unit will not remove  the smoke from thge air stream 

Air Flow Meters

An air flow meter or anemometer is an inexpensive tool that can help you determine if you are getting sufficient air flow through your smoke eater. These devices can hook up to your phone or stand alone. Using your units specifications check to see how close the actual air flow compares to those spec’s. Low air flow can be caused by both plugged filters and a weak blower. Understand that your anemometer readings wont be exact, figure 10-20% degree of variance from laboratory test conditions. However, this great little tool will aid you in troubleshooting a smoke eater.

Electrostatic Smoke Eater Filters

Customer returned this unit because it wouldn't filter the air

The effectiveness of your electrostatic filter can be very dependent on how clean it is. The cleaner your filter is the more smoke it will remove from the air. Cleaning an electrostatic filter cell can be a messy job. The cigarette tar clings like a greasy stain. Soak your filter cell in very hot water with an aluminum safe degreaser like LA-99 Agitate the water being careful not to damage collecting plates or ion wires.

Some of our customers have had great success washing there electrostatic filter cells in a dishwasher. If you have a smoke eater that uses electrostatic cleaning be sure you wash your filters regularly. There are companies that specialize in cleaning these filter cells. On such company in Northern Illinois and SE Wisconsin is Bea Clean Specialties. Search google for companies like this in your area. Many of them will offer cell repair along with a cleaning service.

Look for Missing wires or Bent collection Plates

If your electrostatic smoke eater isn’t working properly be sure to inspect the filter cell for missing wires. A missing wire in your filter cell is like having a huge whole in a media filter. They are easy to replace and not very expensive. You can order ion wire kits to replace missing wires

You should also inspect filter cells for bent and damaged collector plates. These bent plates cause the filter cell to short circuit and not function at all. The plates are high grade aluminum and should be able to be straightened  relatively easily.

Damaged plates on a filter cell

Troubleshooting a Smoke Eater ~ Power Supply

One of the harder issues to diagnose in troubleshooting a smoke eater is a power supply. Electrostatic systems use between 4000 and 20,000 volts DC depending on application and manufacturer. If you are working on a LakeAir product the voltage under load will be 4-6KV/DC. If the power supply the voltage should be near 8 to 10KV/DC. The equipment to measure this voltage is quite expensive, You cannot use a standard volt meter. The high voltage will more than likely ruin a volt meter bought from a big box store. We will test your power supply free of charge, you will need to pay shipping however. The accompanying video here shows more details about power supply voltage. The bottom line is if your power supply is bad your electrostatic filters are worthless.

Snapping / Arcing from Electrostatic units

Does your smoke eater sound like a bug zapper? This is a common issue for troubleshooting a smoke eater. In most cases the constant zapping is due to a dirty filter cell. The electrostatic cell could also be damaged where an ion wire is broken or a collection plate maybe bent. and finally the cell may have developed a deposit or a burr. All of these issue are easy to fix. 

Remove the filter cell and inspect it for damaged collector plates, missing, loose or broken ion wires. Wash the filter cell allowing it to dry prior to re insertion. If this has not fixed the zapping issues watch this accompanying video which will show you how to easily diagnose and repair your arcing electrostatic filter cell.

Blowers and Fan Motors

Some LakeAir Motors and Blowers

At LakeAir we source the best motors and blowers we can. We strive for American made products. We do however bring in a few models from France and Germany. Regardless of where they come from blowers and motors are mechanicals devices and they do wear out. 

The motor pictured in the photo to the right just came in for repair. The Maxum Electrostatic shown was built in 1992. After 30 years the motor still turned, but pretty slow. The power supply and filter cell are working perfectly. but without a good motor the unit wont clean the air in Carol’s home.

Take the time to see if your motor or blowers are functioning to spec’. These parts are not difficult to replace. We carry the motors for any LakeAir product you might have, just give us a call.


Where should you put your smoke eater(s)? This is an inexact science. The rule of thumb is as close to the source of smoke as possible. Rules seem to be made to be broken. There are dynamics at play in every room that can’t be handled by rules. Sometimes its a no-brainer, other times careful study of the room is required. There are a couple things to remember that will help  make sense of positioning dilemmas.

  • Your smoke eater has to be able draw in air to purify it. Don’t obstruct the intake.
  • Keep the air moving through the room. A simple fan is an inexpensive way to help clean the air.
  • Be aware of obstructions in the rooms. 1/2  walls and other room abnormalities change how air moves
  • Existing air handling equipment can help and hinder your smoke eater, take into mind HVAC returns and exhausts
  • Experiment with smoke eater placement, your first guess isn’t always right 

There isn’t any better place to figure out placement than in the room itself. If you want to send us a detailed drawing of the room we will be happy to try and help you devise the best unit placement. There are several other possible considerations to make, but the customer service staff will do our best to help you find the best unit placement plan to help troubleshooting a smoke eater. 

Lack of Volume / Units

This troubleshooting topic is listed last, not because it is least likely, but because it’s the reason you don’t want to hear. By far the biggest reason your smoke eater isn’t cleaning the smoke out of the room is because you don’t have enough smoke eater.  Let’s look at this from a commercial view. For a home smoke eater, you can lower the numbers by 30%.

  • Weed Smoking requires 13 air changes per hour
  • Cigarette Smoking requires 15 air changes per hour
  • Vaping requires 18 air changes per hour
  • Cigars smoke require 20 air changes per hour
  • Hookah smoke requires 25 air changes per hour

These numbers have been determined by owners of smoking establishments. In the 50+ years LakeAir has been in business owners of smoking establishments have shared with us their personal experiences. Is there wiggle room here? Of course. However if you want clean(ish) air in your smoking room, this is what it takes. Your definition of clean air is likely to be different from the next guy or gal.

Clean air is expensive! It’s also fairly loud. If you can’t stand running your smoke eaters because they are too loud, you need more units to run at lower speeds. It’s not logical to blame your equipment for not being able to perform miracles. If a room needs 10 tons of cooling  to keep it cool,  a 5 ton HVAC unit will never do the job. It’s not because the 5 ton unit is no good, its just to small. If a room needs 4000 CFM of smoke extraction, 2000 cubic feet per minute is not going to cut it.

We have a great tool on the website its a smoke eater project calculator. Try this tool and see how much smoke eater power your smoking room needs. I don’t care if you buy more equipment or not, just stop blaming your equipment for being undersized. If you want to explore ways to to add more smoke eater performance give customer service a call at 800-558-9436.

LakeAir Smoke Eater Trouble Shooting Parts and Accessories

One of the real advantages of buy LakeAir is the readily available Parts and supplies. If you need help find the right parts to finish troubleshooting a smoke eater, give our customer service team a call at 800-558-9436

  • Fits Maxum / MAX-700 / 2×2 units
  • 12 x 16 x 4.5
  • $230.00

  • Fits LAFC / LAFC-RC2
  • 16 x 20 x 4.5
  • $315.00

LA2000 Electrostatic Filter Cell

  • Fits LA2000 / LA2 / LA1400
  • 16 x 20 x 4.5
  • $320.00

Ion Wire Kit ~ Wires, S-Hooks and Springs

Ion Wires to repair Cells
  • Wires Fit all LakeAir Products
  • Includes (5) Wires, Hooks & Springs
  • Premium White Tungsten Wire
  • $27.00

  • 10 milliamp transformer
  • Fits all LakeAir Power Supplies
  • $62.00

  • Voltage Multiplier 

  • Fits all LakeAir Power Supplies
  •  $84.00

  • Ceramic Insulator Kit

  • Fits all LakeAir Electrostatic Cells
  •  $12.00

  • Cell Cleaning Solution

  • Concentrated Mix 10 :1
  •  $31.00

Wrapping it Up

We are not able to give specific advice on smoke eaters that were not made by LakeAir. The advice given in this article should apply to all manufacturers. If you are having an issue with one of our products I invite you to email, chat with or call me. You can reach me at 262-632-1229, website chat or at [email protected]