Introduction: Water Only Fog Machine (No Dry Ice, No Fog Juice)

Water Only Fog Machine

Everybody loves fog, Theatrical Fog that is - Especially at Halloween, and there are many ways to make it:

1. Dry Ice was my first introduction to fog - Dry Ice dropped into hot water provided LOTS of dense low-lying fog. It was great, but you had to go get the dry ice and be very careful handling it. When I lived in San Jose, California there was a company called Able Carbonic near the airport that had a Dry Ice Drive Through around Halloween - it was great!. You could pull your car right into their warehouse and purchase however much dry ice you wanted without leaving your car.I've built a couple of contraptions to make using dry ice fog easier.

A safety note - Dry Ice is Carbon Dioxide and in addition to being extremely cold (-109.3°F or -78.5°C), causing instant cold 'burns' on contact (use insulated gloves), it can present a suffocation hazard because the carbon dioxide gas evaporating off of it will displace the normal air around you and deprive you of oxygen. I once had a small room filled with dry ice fog and it became apparent by the coughing and faster breathing that there was too much carbon dioxide in the room - Exit NOW if you find yourself in such circumstances!

2. Heated 'Fog Machines' that heat glycol-based or glycerin-based 'Fog Juice' to spray out a plume of white smoke/fog. I like to think of these as smoke machines more than fog machines. These are used at concerts to make the beams of light/lasers show up, and traditional low lying fog too . My commercial photographer friend introduced me to this type of 'fog' machine. He had a professional Rosco unit that was really built like a tank and pumped out tons of smoke. I eventually purchased a Rosco unit and have since purchased consumer 'fog machines' of various sizes at big box retailers on clearance after Halloween so that now I have 3 (or more, not really sure how many I have ;-).

'Fog Machine' fog tends to disperse all around you as if in a London Fog, so if you want it to hang near the ground you have to chill it. There are tons of Insturctables how to build one of these fog chillers.

3. Here is the new fog method - Ultrasonic Atomization. This is where a piezoelectric disk is electrically pulsed to vibrate at ultrasonic frequencies with a shallow layer of water over it. The surface of the water breaks up into fine droplets; fog. Ultrasonic humidifiers use this method to produce the visible mist being blown out of them. Many years ago I saw the fog potential of ultrasonic humidifiers and 'plumbed' the output of one of them via a hose into a jack-o-lantern to have fog creeping out of its mouth.

Fast forward to today. You can get high capacity pond foggers that will produce large amounts of fog (using >2 liters of water an hour). These high output atomizers are not cheap (~$200) but dump out tons of fog, low lying fog, without any carbon dioxide gas. No consumables but water and electricity!

Step 1: Materials

You will need:

5 gallon bucket and lid

4 inch diameter dryer duct (larger diameter is OK)

Computer cooling fan and matching voltage plug-in AC adapter

Machine screws and nuts to fasten fan in place

Empty 2-liter soda bottle

One 12 Gauge steel wire (a T-bar ceiling hanger wire works)

12-Jet Ultrasonic Water Vaporizer (Mister) and associated power supply

Remote Controlled AC switch (optional)

Heat-shrink tubing or electrical tape

Solder (optional)

Water

Frozen Ice packs or Water Ice (as opposed to dry ice)

.

Tools:

Drill Motor and Drill Bits

Utility Knife or Sabre Saw

Wire strippers

Soldering iron (optional)

Heat gun (optional)

Step 2: Cut Some Holes in the Lid

Take the bucket lid and mark out locations for the fan (main opening plus mounting holes), dryer duct and also a hole for the power connector of the atomizer to pass through the bucket lid.

Cut out the openings using a utility knife or sabre saw. Cut the duct opening about a 1/4" smaller in diameter than marked so the spiral duct will fit snugly in the hole.

Step 3: Prep the Fan

Cut off the end of the cord of the Plug-in AC adapter and strip the wires bare. Connect the stripped AC power supply lead wires to the fan leads. Match the polarity (+) to (+), (-) to (-). if they don't have matching colors you may have to use a voltmeter to determine polarity or just go with trial and error.

You can solder or just twist the wires and use heat shrink tubing over the connection or just electrical tape.

Step 4: Mount the Fan and Duct to the Lid

Use machine screws, nuts and washers to fasten the fan to the top of the bucket lid with the airflow into the bucket. Since the duct is the spiral type it can just be twisted 'into' the opening to fasten it in place.

Step 5: Set the Atomizer Head in the Bucket

Place the atomizer into the bucket, threading the power cable up though the hole in the bucket lid cut for the connector. After the cable is through the lid pack the connector opening with some foam to seal it off. Alternately you could cover the opening with duct tape.

Add water to the bucket until the level is per the operating instructions or until the 'low water' sensor is just covered.

Step 6: Auto Fill

To keep the fog machine operating continuously the water needs to be replenished. An inverted 2-liter soda bottle will do the trick. It acts like the 5 gallon jug on top of a water cooler (bubbler).

Bend a wire support frame out of 12 gauge wire and hold the bottle in place with a zip tie. Bend a upside down U'-shaped hook in the top of the wire. Select the length of wire above the top of the bottle so that the mouth of the bottle is at the water level you want to maintain.

Cut a slot in the top of the bucket lid so that the 'u' bent hook can fit through. Position the hook so that moving it to one side will catch on the lid and suspend the bottle. Fill the bottle with water and hang it in position.

Step 7: Energize!!!!!

Power up the atomizer. You can watch it work and fill the bucket partly with fog. The fog will not overflow the bucket, it just settles into the bottom of the bucket. Any fog moving up toward the lip of the bucket just evaporates before it goes over it. Air movement is needed to get the fog expanding and billowing. Power up the computer fan. You should now have fog pouring out of the duct!

If you want you can plug the atomizer power supply and fan power supply into a remote controlled switch. That way you have fog on demand!

The atomizer is using about 300W of power to atomize the water into fog and a large portion of that will go into the water as heat. So in order to keep the submerged atomizer from overheating you will have either run it for very short periods of time or add frozen ice packs or even just frozen water ice to keep the water temperature (and the atomizer) cool.

Now you have a virtually unlimited supply of fog - so put it to good use, like one of my favorites; a bubbling cauldron - but that's an Instructable for another day!

Enjoy!

Comments

author
scottbaker828 (author)2017-04-15

Just ordered this, will test it whenever it arrives from China, but only $8 so a smaller upfront investment!

https://www.amazon.ca/Etree-Ultrasonic-Maker-Fogger-Fountain/dp/B0067XS2IG/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1492310147&sr=8-6&keywords=ultrasonic+mist

author

Thanks for the comment and glad you are interested in exploring the use of ultrasonics for fog. However, a unit like the one you sent the link to will not produce enough atomized moisture to produce fog that you can blow into a space. If you are lucky you should be able to fill a container with a small amount of fog. Which might be OK if you want to create a mini cauldron filled with fog.

Good luck - let me know the outcome.

author
nemxwasp made it! (author)2016-11-21

I have a remote control for power. I used a 50lb pet food container and 3 inch male and female plumbing couplers. I attached the vinyl hose with epoxy to the female coupler so I can easily attach and detach the hose and screwed the male portion into the food container (looks like crap and the container cracked but I was able to seal it). I happened to have a computer fan speed control left over that I knew I would eventually have use for to control fan speed. Still working on trying to make the smoke a bit more dense but I think my issue might be that my house is too warm.

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author
nemxwasp (author)nemxwasp2016-11-21

And working on making it hang around longer.

author
wannabemadsci (author)nemxwasp2016-11-22

Nice job!

I think you might have a defective atomizer or power supply. You might want to measure the voltage output of the big power supply. (And also check to make sure you're not running a 220V rated unit on 110V?) You also might want to measure the actual amount of moisture the unit puts out by keeping track of water consumption over a period of time and see if the output is close to the rated output.

author
nemxwasp (author)2016-11-02

I definitely want to make this just curious how your original is holding up or if it wore out (like my plasma globe did). Wanted to see if you think it's still worth the $200 before I spent it.

At my work we go big with Halloween decorating but I've never been able to use a fog machine (and don't want to hassle with dry ice) since mine is a heated that will rise and set off smoke detectors. I definitely want to have one of these in my effects collection for next year.

Great job this is awesome!

author
wannabemadsci (author)nemxwasp2016-11-11

Thanks!

The ultrasonic vaporizer/atomizer is not cheap so I understand your concern in spending the 'big bucks'. However, I really like my unit. There is nothing quite like tons of billowing fog on demand. And I like not having to go get dry ice or having to keep feeding dry ice into a unit - This is so much nicer. I do have to use water ice to keep it cool, but that is so much easier.

I've had my ultrasonic atomizer for about 5 years - Now I don't use each year and I don't run it for days on end, but it seems to have held up well. The piezo disks on the unit are replaceable and my understanding is that it is the disks that wear out or fail.

If you are going to build this fogger I would make two suggestions: 1) Use a larger container. I put it in a bucket to enter the 'bucket challenge'. I usually have mine in a larger container that I can wheel around with a sealed flip-up lid that works great. 2) Get the float ring for the atomizer. The float holds the atomizer at the correct water level while floating on the top of the water. This way you don't have to have a water auto fill device, the unit just floats on the water. This allows for a larger supply of water for longer run times and more water ice to keep it cool.

author
nemxwasp (author)wannabemadsci2016-11-11

Sweet! I was going to ask what improvements you would suggest. I already bought everything and was going to build this weekend. My fogger came with a float but obviously doesn't fit in the home depot bucket. Are you suggesting a cheap cooler? Or what exactly are you using? I read the same about the disks and it has great reviews on amazon so I just bought it. Totally awesome idea! II'm going to test it buy fogging my backyard lol.

Thanks again!

author
wannabemadsci (author)nemxwasp2016-11-11

I used a type of rolling storage container. I don't remember if it was general storage or for dry pet food or something similar. It has a nice gasket in the lid so all the fog goes out the hose. See the photos:

Good Luck on the build. Let me know how it goes and send photos!

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author
nemxwasp (author)wannabemadsci2016-11-13

I did your exact same setup using a 50lb pet food container except I fitted the hose into the container like you did with the bucket (the adapter I bought was too big but I plan on returning it for one that fits)
and I used gorilla duct tape to seal everything for this test run. Looks great after it runs for a bit. Any advice for thicker fog? Thanks a lot! This is super cool!

author
nemxwasp (author)nemxwasp2016-11-13

I forgot to say my fog does not look like yours does in the kitchen photo.

author
wannabemadsci (author)nemxwasp2016-11-14

Fog thickness has a lot to do with the amount of air mixed in and also ambient humidity. I had one set up that had a disk pivoting on one of the fan mounting screws that could be rotated to partially close off the fan opening to reduce the air flow and increase the fog density. You can also run the fan at a lower voltage than what it is rated (12V run at 6V; some will work, some will not at half voltage), which will reduce the air flow. If the air is very dry a greater portion of fog will evaporate... If you are inside, as ambient humidity increases, the amount of fog that 'hangs around' (pun intended) should increase. Good Luck - Please post some photos when you get a chance under an 'I Made It!'. Thanks!

author
nemxwasp (author)wannabemadsci2016-11-11

Perfect timing. I'm just on my way to the store.

author
Dr. dB (author)2016-03-23

GREAT idea!

And, you and other respondents below are quite right - many of the "traditional" stage-fog formulations are, at best, unpleasant to breath after awhile (...and, I often fog LARGE stages, both indoors and out, as part of my job in Entertainment Engineering.)

The mildest we've found, so far, is from an outfit called "HaseBase" - mostly water, very little in the way of "adulterants", and with hardly any "nose" to it - but even THAT can still be a little rough on sensitive humans, if the concentration gets high enough, over extended exposure times.

The only thing your approach could possibly do is deposit a little re-condensing water onto nearby stuff and, considering how many times each year we and our gear get torrentially-rained-upon, anyway, I don't see that as a disadvantage at all! (...except for possible slippery spots on a well-waxed dance floor).

Certainly in autumn, at least, (Yay, Hallowe'en!), the overall humidity should be low enough for that to be a problem only in very small spaces. (...speaking strictly for the Temperate Zone of the Northern Hemisphere, of course!)

One question, some suggestions:

Does the "spec plate" on that pond element's power supply say 20VDC? Can't quite make it out... If so, a 317 regulator transistor or a 24V fan, and you could split it off the same DC line, reducing your parts count by one wall-wart.

I would recommend soldering the "inside" connections, then brushing-on some "liquid electrical tape" - makes completely water-tight joints in short order.

Also, imagine if one could find a small, dead shop-vac, instead of a bucket? Wiring, holes and hose(s) already ready already... just have to swap-in the right fan and re-connectorize. Plus, lots of interesting outlet-nozzle-shape options!

At any rate, well done!

author
wannabemadsci (author)Dr. dB2016-03-23

Thanks for your comment. I like your shop vacuum idea!

The power supply for the atomizer outputs 36Vac so tapping off would require a little bit more circuitry than if it were a lower voltage DC.

author
Dr. dB (author)wannabemadsci2016-03-25

Whew! That IS a bit steep - even though it's still within the ratings of an LM317, that would certainly turn a 7800-series reg into an S.E.D. (smoke-emitting device)! Easier to just stick with the wall-wart, after all... (And I can't think of any (cheap!) 36V fans, offhand.)

OOH! Just expanded the shop-vac idea, though - a (cheap! used!) WORKING "wet-or-dry" one, with a small Variac or triac motor-speed controller to ramp-down its own, original blower's output...! Internal electrics should already be fairly waterproofed, etc...

Some even have "drain plugs" near the bottom - reversed as a water inlet? ...float-switch/valve? ...or am I getting TOO absurdly complicated, now?

author
wannabemadsci (author)Dr. dB2016-03-26

36 volts AC. So the direct to voltage regulator concept is out.

I think that you would not use the shop vac's motor since it would be pulling air in the hose instead of having fog come out of it. But I still think this is a great starting point for more development.

author
ScottL28 (author)wannabemadsci2016-07-10

some smaller shop vacs models have both an inlet port and outlet port effectively turning them into a blower depending on where you plug in the hose

author
ScottL28 (author)ScottL282016-07-10

but the rapid air flow would dissipate the fog too quickly and spread it out faster killing the effect

author
Dr. dB (author)wannabemadsci2016-03-28

Yeah, it would have to include a bridge rectifier + a handful of support components, circuit board, case (waterproofed, if built inside, near the fan), and, thus, MUCH easier your original way, with an off-the-shelf, Mains-powered wall-wart.

Most "upright-tank-style" shop-vacs (in the U.S., anyway), even the "teensy" ones, have identical fittings on both the inlet and the outlet, allowing the hose to be attached either way. However, unlike your design, which PUSHES (relatively) clean, outside air into the bucket to eject the fog, the original vac motor would end up SUCKING the moisture through the fan & motor constantly, which might not be the greatest thing for wiring, bushings, etc. (Certainly doesn't do wonders for the fans I sometimes "rescue" from being directly in our stage-haze-streams - even with the nicer, "HazeBase" brand stuff, a bit of "goo" still condenses all over the blades, motor, everything... ...almost always have to admonish the "new kids" at least once to put the fan BEHIND the hazer, or they get to clean it up themselves!)

author
Dr. dB (author)Dr. dB2016-03-28

...unless those motors can be reversed?

author
joen (author)2016-03-24

Nice instructable. What can you do about hard water. Hard water leaves mineral dust behind and settles on everything. Is there a remedy that does not include using RO or distilled water?

author
wannabemadsci (author)joen2016-03-24

You are correct you can get mineral dust left behind. The fog is composed of droplets of whatever water is in the bucket. If the water has a high mineral content then when the fog carries those minerals and when it evaporates the minerals will be left behind. Of course this is also true of dry ice fog, the fog is droplets of the water you put the dry ice into.

If there is high mineral content in the water supply about the only way to make sure that there is no mineral dust left behind is to use distilled water. Reverse osmosis or other filtered water may be better than the domestic supply but distilled is the only sure way to address it.

Thanks for the comment.

author
SzabolcsK (author)2016-03-20

I'd love to use this at our concerts, but I'm afraid that water might destroy the speakers :/

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wannabemadsci (author)SzabolcsK2016-03-21

Can you raise the speakers up above the fog level? Or build fog dams around the speakers? Nothing like getting away from fog juice fog!

Thanks for the comment.

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SzabolcsK (author)wannabemadsci2016-03-22

Dunno, I think I will stick with Co2 fog

author
jdelvalle1 (author)2016-03-21

About keeping the atomizer cool. Just use the water suppy! Raise the atomizer and leave a lot more water in the bucket as a heat sink.

author
wannabemadsci (author)jdelvalle12016-03-22

Great idea on keeping cool - increasing the water mass, but it's not enough.

I have used the atomizer in containers larger than a 5 gallon bucket and have had it installed in a float that keeps it automatically at the surface at the correct depth and lets you have lots of water under it. Unfortunately those 300 watts of power pouring into the device heats up the water and you have to take active measures to cool it down. I typically use frozen gel packs, cubed ice, and/or freeze blocks of ice in milk cartons (I peel the cardboard carton off when I put them in the water).

Well, I guess we can't have everything. In a perfect world the atomizer would cost $20 instead of $200 and not need any cooling - Oh well for 'unlimited' non-chemically based fog on demand I'll deal with it.

Thanks for the comment, I really wish it was that simple. :-)

author
westfw (author)2016-03-20

I notice that single element "fog devices" are less than 1/12th the price of the 12-element foggers (indeed - at about $10 each, less than 1/5th the price of the 5-element foggers!) Do you have any idea if twelve of the single-element foggers would be similar in production capability with the 12 element version?

author
wannabemadsci (author)westfw2016-03-20

It really depends on the specific fogger. I saw MainlandMart had a 10W fogger that put out 70ml/hr and cost $30. 12 of these would put out less than a liter per hour and cost $360. So it does not compare favorably with the >2 liter per hour $200 unit. (I have not verified the water vaporization rate but only use published data). With a cheap China source buying multiple single disk units might make sense if the cost was low enough. Thanks for the comment!

author
lesparza3 (author)2016-03-17

I love the whole design and concept. I use a single head atomizer during the summer when I work in the garage. Its normally pretty dry for us in summer, so my little fogger acts as a cooler! Love the amount of water vapor seen in the pictures with your 10 head / 12 head version! Only thing I would suggest is that you use a 12 volt computer fan instead of an AC (120v) version. It greatly reduces the risk of getting hurt when mixing electric power devices and water. Great work on the instructable.

author
lhj734017 (author)lesparza32016-03-18

thats gotta be a 12v computer fan. that phone charger he hooks it up steps the voltage down to around 5volts.

author
wannabemadsci (author)lesparza32016-03-18

Thanks for the comment! I had no idea a little single head unit could provide enough moisture to make a difference.

I agree with your comment on keeping 120V away from water. The fan is low voltage.

author
elkaddalek (author)2016-03-17

can you make an instructable for a fog machine "Genie Bottle"?

author
wannabemadsci (author)elkaddalek2016-03-18

You have me thinking .... small atomizer with fog collecting inside the bottle, then a fan switched on to blow the fog out of the top. Perhaps even an LED shining up out the bottle opening to light the fog. Thanks for the suggestion!

author
JWeismonger (author)2016-03-18

wow

author
Constructed (author)2016-03-17

I bought one of these a while ago, but I still can't think of a good project for them. Great instructable!

author
RossK3 (author)2016-03-17

This is an amazing project and would be very fun to do. I thought at first that everything would be cheap but the vaporizer is quite expensive.

Maybe I will make a pond in my front yard and then pull it out during Halloween :)

author
Just4Fun Media (author)2016-03-17

That looks incredible! For my local theatre we always had issues using chemical fog because it could trigger asthma attacks. This seems like a much less expensive to run and safer option!

Have a great day! :-)

author
KlownEguy369 (author)2016-03-12

I don't know if this is the one the maker used but found this one ( Super High Output 12 Head Pond Fogger by Fountain Emporium MM012 https://www.amazon.com/dp/B005M2ZY4S/ref=cm_sw_r_other_awd_yRg5wb8RBAYQH ) at or a little under 200 there was also a rectangular 10 jet atomizer for about 80. looking forward to try this

author

I originally included the amazon hyperlink in the intro section of the Instructable. You are correct that there are slightly smaller 10 disk units and there seems to be more online sellers (eBay, etc.) for the 10 disk ones. A 10 disk would probably work just fine, and be a little less expensive :-).

author
Looken4 (author)2016-03-12

Where did you obtain the Atomizer, thats a key component? Ive seen small ones which would not be suitable.

author
wannabemadsci (author)Looken42016-03-12

There are various sources for the large atomizer. The link in the instructable (amazon). There are also several other internet sellers: (MainlandMart, scroll way down) and of course eBay. Also google "Pond Fogger" under google shopping to get more hits.

Many of these sellers include a float which makes it easy to use in larger containers (that the float can fit into) since it floats that atomizer at the surface of the water to keep the correct water level over it automatically.

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