How to Use a Fog Machine: Ultimate Guide

How to Use a Fog Machine

A fog machine is undoubtedly one of the most fun, essential ingredients in a party setup, especially if the party is meant to be a bit mysterious.

The way it both conceals items while also offering a tantalizing glimpse of them creates enough curiosity to keep the party consistently interesting. A Halloween setup, for instance, will not seem complete without that smoky ambiance that keeps you guessing where the next peekaboo will spring from.

If you plan to get yourself a fog generator soon, you are in luck because we are here to teach you all about how to use a fog machine. You are in great hands, so don’t hesitate to check out our expert reviews of the best fog machines, complete with a buying guide, and find yourself something that really excites you.

Preparation Needed For Using a Fog Generator

It’s best to prepare properly before you switch on your machine for the first time, especially if you have an expensive commercial model. These devices can be hard to come by and the last thing you want is to burn out your machine before you even had a chance to sample the mist. Here’s a quick look at the best way to prepare before you turn on the machine.

Let us fast forward to the point where you have already acquired your fog machine of choice, and you are ready to host that amazing party. What should you do next?

Preparation

Read the User Manual

We like to be cautious, so the first action we’ll advise is to get acquainted with the manufacturer’s instructions. They are uniquely qualified to know the capacities of the fog machine because they spent the time designing it.

They will also recommend what items are compatible with the machine based on their design and tests conducted. Often they even specify which parts you should use along with the machine.

You can easily violate the terms of your warranty or purchase guarantee if you contradict some of the instructions contained in this guide. Some fog machine makers even specify that you only use their fog fluid brand. For instance, they will not bear liability if you used any other kind of liquid.

Gather the Relevant Items You Need

You can tell what you will need to generate fog successfully using your equipment from the user manual. Ensure you have everything that is required for your specific fog machine. Get the fog machine, the fog liquid (also referred to as fog juice), ice, the cleaner, timer, remote control, and any other accessory you may need to use. Having a checklist is a good idea to ensure nothing of value is inadvertently left out.

Test the Machine

Do this before unveiling it at any function to be familiar with the controls and the kind of output to expect. In the process, you will confirm whether everything is in good working condition.

This also offers you a chance to note the setup time; fog machines need a few minutes before producing fog, which varies slightly from one to another. It is important to have this information when setting up to give yourself adequate prep time.

It also helps if you can witness how much fog the machine produces beforehand to determine the optimum location to place it. A fog machine with a higher wattage rating will produce more fog naturally, but you also need to establish the maximum output distance and the speed with which the output is emitted.

If the fog machine has a timer or remote control and you intend to use them, set them up in advance to be familiar with exactly how they work and detect any anomalies.

You will now be set to go with a newfound confidence in yourself and your tools at your disposal.

How Different Fog Machines Work

Depending on your type of fog machine, your role as the fog machine’s custodian will vary slightly. You need to understand how they function to use them well. Fortunately, most tasks have been automated with modern technology, and we would like to think you will settle for nothing less than a sleek, modern fog machine.

That being said, you need to have at least an overview of the science behind it. There are two major categories of fog machines into which all of them fall. These categories are based on their fog-making processes.

Fluid Based or Heated Fog Machines

These types of fog machines have a heat exchanger tank with a heater element whose temperature is raised very high (up to 400˚F) before the fog fluid is channeled through. They use electric pumps or inert gases to propel the fluid through the exchanger.

Due to the high heat in the exchanger, the fog juice vaporizes, and then it is released via a hose into the air in the form of very tiny particles under high pressure. It is these particles that form the fog as condensation starts taking place.

Because they are much hotter than the atmospheric temperature outside the fog machine, they will rise, and the fog will maintain for some time.

When using such a fog machine, your role is to replenish fog fluid and ensure it does not run out while the fog machine is still on. The machine will overheat and get seriously damaged.

Some fog machines have fluid level indicators, which should help you monitor the level. Alternatively, go for fog machines with auto shut-off; they go off automatically when the fluid levels are critically low.

Fog Machine Auto Mode

Check out Fansteck’s Fog Machine with continuous fog capabilities powered by wireless remote control.

Steps For Using Average Heated Fog Machines

Fog machines can differ quite a lot in features and functionality and different features may affect the steps required for using these machines. Simple design heated fog machines that are designed for occasional use or for household use are pretty simple to operate. 

Here’s a quick look at the right steps for using most types of electric heated fog machines:

Step 1 – Fill The Fog Tank

The first thing you need to do is unscrew the lid of the fog tank and fill the tank halfway with fog fluid. Be careful not to spill so you won’t damage your machine or make it dirty. Screw the cap back on again.

 

Step 2 – Plug it in

Next, you’ll need to connect your machine to a power source. If you have a remote sensor then you should add it to the back of the machine. Some smoke machines won’t work without the remote sensor. 

Step 3 – Allow it to Warm Up

Most portable fog machines take a couple of minutes before they start producing the vapor. Give it about five minutes so the nozzle can warm up. The remote sensor light should turn on once the machine is ready for use.

Step 4 – Use Your Fogger

You can now start making creepy or mysterious fog in your home, studio, or in outdoor spaces. Take some time to test all the special effects or features your machine has. Some ground foggers come with LED lights that enable you to produce colored fogs, and some allow you to adjust the fog output.

Combine different features to create a variety of special effects and familiarize yourself with all the different settings and modes. A bit of experience goes a long way when it’s time to use your machine for an actual event or purpose. 

If your machine doesn’t have a fog machine timer mode then you should be careful not to run it for a long period of time without pause. Smaller fog machines can easily burn out if they run for too long so remember to turn it off from time to time so it can cool down.

Ice Based or Chilled Fog Machines

These fog machines consist of a large water barrel with a heating element and an ice container with a mechanism that allows the lowering of the ice into the water at high temperatures. The water is heated to its boiling point, and then the ice is lowered into it.

The type of ice used is what causes the reaction. They apply dry ice, which is carbon dioxide in its solid-state. At these temperatures, the dry ice sublimates, turning from solid directly to a gas without going through the liquid state. The combination of carbon dioxide gas and water vapor is what comes out as fog.

Since the sublimed carbon dioxide is still cold as it comes out of the fog machine, this fog moves downwards towards the floor. It is colder than the atmospheric temperature outside the machine. At the top of the container where the gases are coming from, there is usually a fan that blows the fog towards the direction you want it to flow.

Your role is to refill the dry ice tray and set the fan in the correct direction. The type of fog generated here is unique because it swirls as you walk through it. The particles are very light and don’t leave any residues that you will have to later take care of.

The challenge is getting enough dry ice to last through a long festival due to its costs and sustainability. This is why there have been attempts to replicate the low-level fog using fluid-based fog machines. We shall show you how to do this shortly.

ADJ’s Mister Kool II Fog Machine

ADJ’s Mister Kool II Fog Machine enables you to create some of the best low-lying fog effects.

Steps For Using a Cold Based Smoke Machine

As with heated fog machines, ice-based machines also come in different models. They can have different sizes and can include lots of additional features like temperature sensors, adjustable control handles, and some can even come with LED lights. Here is a quick look at a few simple steps for using standard or entry-level ice based fog machine types:

Step 1 – Add Water

First, you’ll need to add water to the machine’s reservoir. Check the manual to see how much water your machine requires. It’s best to use distilled water in your machine so you can prevent buildup or clog inside the machine. 

Step 2 – Connect it to a Power Source

Next, you’ll need to connect the ice machine to a power source. A red indicator light should turn on as soon as the machine receives power to show that it’s on.

Step 3 – Wait For The Machine to Warm Up

You need to wait for the machine, or rather the water, to warm up before you can continue. This can take a couple of minutes since water needs to reach a boiling point. When the green ready light turns on, you should be ready to use the machine. 

Step 4 – Add Your Cold-Base Ingredient

Your machine is now ready to start producing fog. Read the instructions to see how much liquid nitrogen, dry ice, liquid air, or solid carbon dioxide you should add to the machine. The product needs to be deposited into the main water chamber. 

In no time at all, fog will start pouring from the nozzle and low-floating fog will start to spread across the room. Experiment a bit with the temperature setting and control handle since these adjustments may help you produce fog with different consistency levels or density levels. 

It’s also a good idea to document your findings and to monitor just how long the solid carbon dioxide will last until you need to refill. This timing indicator will give you a good idea of how often to reload the machine for continuous fog.

How to Achieve a Quality Low Lying Fog Effect Using Fluid Based Fog Machines

How high or low the fog will go depends on the temperature of the fog versus the temperature of the surrounding area. If your fog is cooler, it will stay low, and if the surrounding area is cooler, the fog will rise.

You can cool the fog down by having it travel through the ice before it gets to the outside environment. Attach an ice container to the nozzle through which the fog escapes the fog machine such that it has to cool down before it interacts with the environment.

You can also turn on the heater in the house so that the environment is warmer than the fog coming from your fog machine. That way, the fog stays down until it dissipates.

Dry ice is the best for the job because it is cooler than regular ice, and it leaves no residues on your fog machine. It sublimes and transforms to gas. The disadvantage is you have to use it immediately after you buy it unless you have a freezer capable of going below -100˚F. The typical household kitchen rarely goes below -0˚F. You can combine dry ice with regular ice to get your fog machine going.

The type of machine you have can also impact the fog positioning. Heated fog machines like inert gas or electric pump machines tend to produce higher floating fog because of the fog fluids that are used and the machine type. Chilled fog machines like dry ice, liquid nitrogen, or liquid air machines, on the other hand, tend to produce thicker clouds of fog close to the ground.

Getting the Desired Fog Density

Fog density can be classified as high density, medium density, and haze. These classifications are for the purpose of differentiation and should not be taken as universal categories. You can learn to manipulate the density once you gain  a little more mastery of how to use a fog machine.

High-Density Fog

These are thick and have low transparency. They come in handy when you are outdoors, and the wind keeps blowing your fog away and diluting the effect. They will have a bigger impact than the lower densities. They are also popular for theatrical purposes where mystery is required.

There are specific high-density fog juices that are thick and will achieve this specific outcome. Alternatively, you can let your fog machine run continuously for a long time and increase the fog’s density. The latter is not sustainable unless you have a large capacity machine, the backup is on standby, or the event is short-lived.

Medium Density Fog

It has moderate qualities meaning it is thick enough to create a conspicuous fog effect yet more transparent than high-density fog. It is the most commonly used fog density of the three as it is the middle ground where both extremes exist. It magnifies light effects while allowing adequate visibility.

Your regular fog fluids should produce medium-density fog effortlessly. You maintain it by turning your fog machine on and off at regular intervals to allow some of the fog to dissipate in between.

Haze

This refers to the thinnest fog levels, and they are used when you don’t want to draw attention away from the main act. They allow everyone to see while still amplifying the lighting effects. The light reflects off them for a visual delight.

Certain fog machines that use gas to propel the fog fluid through the heat exchanger produce very thin fog are best suited for this. The fog comes out warmer than the existing environment and rises. You adjust the fog levels by adjusting the amount of gas pushing the fog fluid through the exchanger.

Safety Measures to Observe While Using Fog Machines

You should also take the right safety precautions when using a fog machine. These machines are easy to operate but they can be dangerous because of the chemicals they require and the fog they produce. 

Here’s a quick look at a few safety measures to keep an eye out for when you use the machine.

  • Exercise vigilance when using high-density fog indoors. The reduced visibility may result in accidents as people will be struggling to see. Reduce the density occasionally so that you can take stock of the environment to confirm everything is in order.
  • The same vigilance should be exercised when using low-lying fog machines. The release of carbon dioxide close to the ground tends to drive out oxygen in the vicinity. This is not ideal for performances that involve staying on the ground for long periods as there is a risk of asphyxiation. For the same reason, this environment might be a safety hazard for kids and pets as they breathe the air close to the ground. Keep checking the ventilation levels if it is indoors.
  • Be extra careful when handling dry ice, and always wear thick gloves. You risk a devastating ice burn should your skin come into direct contact with it.
  • Set up the fog machine away from anything that might be flammable as the process involves a lot of heat.
  • As much as the machine might be self-regulatory, check on it periodically. Accidents do happen, and you may just get back in time to avert a disaster.

How Fog Machines Relate with Smoke Detectors

There is always the chance that your smoke machine will trigger the smoke detectors as much as they don’t produce actual smoke. If you can secure an outdoor venue, it will save you a lot of trouble. However, this is not always possible, and you need to make prior arrangements when you have to use it at a venue with smoke detectors.

One way of avoiding the complication is by using the low-lying fog we just showed you how to make. It will hardly make it up to the smoke detectors as it dissipates close to ground level. The other way is turning the smoke detectors off, but this exposes you to the risks of an actual fire.

Spooky Witch with Lamp in Pink Smoke

Fog Machine Maintenance

Part of using the fog machine is knowing how to take care of it to guarantee many years of service and safe usage. Below are a few universal safe care tips that cut across most of them.

  • Avoid adding flammable liquids in the fog juice tanks like oil, spices, or gas as they can be ignited in the process. They also clog the heat exchangers and may cause irreparable damage to your fog machine. Restrict yourself to the prescribed fog fluids and cleaners. This will keep your fog machine safe and, at the same time, protect you from flaunting the terms of the warranty.
  • Keep them away from water as most fog machines are not waterproof. Most modern machines are also powered by electricity, and this is a potential hazard. Switch off the device to wipe off any liquid that may have been poured on it accidentally before powering it back on. Also, ensure to store it in a dry place as more damage can happen to the machine while in storage.
  • Avoid filling up the fluid tank completely. There should be breathing space as it heats up because it expands. When it’s too full, the nozzle’s pressure might become too much to bear, resulting in damages.
  • Check the heat exchanger regularly for any form of deposits and clean them off as soon as you see them. The intensity of activity that goes on in there will make them hard to remove if allowed to accumulate. Eventually, your fog emissions will be below par.
  • Develop a care routine that you will be applying every time after using the machine. Unplug it immediately after every use to allow it to cool down, clear out the fog fluid completely and add your fog machine cleaner. Run the machine again until all the cleaner is out. This ensures it will be ready for use the next time it will be called upon.
  • Put the machine away after every use. By leaving it out in the open, it’s exposed to all sorts of environmental elements like dust or water. If the machine is safely stored in a container or properly put away, it will stay out of harms way and it will stay in great condition until your next use.

Conclusion

It does not matter whether the fog machine will be used to make movies, at the theater, in a night club or to create the perfect photo background. These are the foundations of proper use and maintenance of that smoke breather.

Take comfort in knowing that the modern fog machine has done all the heavy lifting for you in terms of maintenance. You no longer have to figure out strange formulas with the potential for making homemade bombs under the guise of making fog juice.

We hope that this guide taught you how to use a fog machine effectively and safely. You can also check out some of the other guides or reviews we have on GetFogMachine to learn other great tips or to find a good quality machine that creates the special effects you need.

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