Fog and haze machines are usually seen as a first class ticket to setting off a smoke detector, or worse, a set of sprinklers! A reputation that’s understandably given this pair of atmospheric effects a bad name. So much so that DJs and venue hosts alike, are often anxious about using foggers or hazers altogether, in case they upset the air balance and trigger a fire alarm.
But with that being said, doing so is actually quite rare. And that’s because providing you’re clued up on your equipment, as well as the different types of fire detectors, avoiding this ‘alarming’ possibility, is actually pretty simple. Nothing you can’t learn in 5 minutes.
Plus, these detectors aren’t all a sensitive as you might think – 99% require a lot of fog to be set off! So really, getting all anxious over it just isn’t worth it. With that in mind then, what’s the difference between fog and haze machines? And how do you prevent them from setting off fire alarms? We unravel this conundrum…
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Fog machine VS haze machine
Before uncovering whether fog or haze machines can actually set off fire alarms, it’d first be wise to define the difference between a haze and fog machine. Otherwise, you may find yourself setting off a detector without realising it. Not good news! So read on for a summary of the differences, as well as some of the similarities between fog and haze machines…
Differences between fog and haze machines
How they create atmosphere
One of the most notable differences between fog and haze machines is how they go about creating an atmosphere. Typically a haze machine will be the more relaxed of the two, as unlike most fog machines, its doesn’t blast out clouds of atmosphere at full pelt. Turn on a haze machine and the atmosphere will seep out very gradually, opposed to being concentrated. Therefore, while a fog machine is a quick solution, the haze machine creates by far the most even haze. The type of subtle atmosphere you’d want at a formal event, whereas a fog machine creates jets of fog you’ll more likely expect at a music show.
Despite fog and haze machines both creating an atmosphere, the fuel they use is slightly different. Your typical fog machine will be powered by a water-based fluid that’s mixed with glycol. Whereas most haze machines will rely on an oil-based fluid, which is typically more expensive to buy. That being said though, haze machines are usually more economical on fuel, so the cost does even out. Equally, there are a select few hazers that run on water-based fluid, in which case they’re known as fazers.
Type of atmosphere
The main difference between fog and haze machines is the type of fog. With the water-based fluids, the actual atmosphere that’s created is quite heavy, so within a couple of seconds it’ll sink to the ground and evaporate. However, with the oil-based fluids used in haze machines, the particles in the atmosphere are far lighter, all of which means they hang in the air for a lot longer. If you’re after an atmosphere that compliments the beams of your strobes or lasers, then this is the option to go for.
Amount of residue
Although both fog and haze machines do leave little in the way of residue, because of the water content in the fuel, this is something you’ll typically get more of with a fog machine. Something you don’t tend to get with a haze machine, due to the particles being so light. In fact, in order to even get a residue from a haze machine you’d have to maintain a haze constantly for around a day!
Susceptibility to movement
Another key difference in the ‘fog VS haze machine’ debate is how susceptible it is to movement. So by that we mean how robust the atmosphere really is. For instance, with the water-based fog fluid used in fog machines, your atmosphere will likely get swept away with a few quick gusts of wind. Whereas, with haze that’s less the case. A cloud of haze is far more hardy and therefore if you ask us, ideal if you want a long lasting effect. Whereas fog is more a one-time impact that you shouldn’t expect to stay around too long outdoors.
Warm up time
A major perk of haze machines is that your average machine does not require any warm up time – they’re simply plug-in-and-play. Reason being is the way they actually create their haze. Unlike fog machines which cool liquid to turn it into particles, haze machines use a spray pump or Co2 to force fluid into fine particles, much like an aerosol.
Reaction to light
Any atmosphere generated via a water-based fluid is going to react a lot different to a haze generated from an oil-based fluid. Reason being that oil particles react far more to light than water-based fog, and therefore are ideal for complimenting the best DJ laser lights and strobes. Whereas with fog machines you don’t get this affect. The majority of the fog that’s actually produced is opaque and therefore water-based atmospheres more disguise your lighting than compliment it.
Will a fog machine set off a smoke detector?
While you can never really say if a haze or fog machine will set off a smoke detector (or worse, sprinklers), that’s not to say that you can’t predict if it’s likely. After all, factors like the type of venue, as well as fuel and even how heavily it’s applied can all influence the likelihood of triggering an alarm. Saying that though, one of the main ways you can gauge this is by the actual smoke detector itself. Therefore, here’s a quick rundown of the types of fire alarms that you can expect to find at venues around the UK…
Alarms that detect heat
With fire being a HOT thing in itself, there’s a good portion of alarm systems that detect heat. So if there’s a noticeable change in the air temperature, then this type of alarm will sound. However, this shouldn’t present too much of an issue with fog or haze, as (providing you use it sparingly) the overall temperature of the room shouldn’t change that much. If you come across a venue with one of these, we wouldn’t be too worried.
Alarms that detect a change in atmosphere
This is the type of alarm to be on the lookout for, as especially with fog machines. Reason being that if a large cloud of dense fog drifts within close proximity, then it’ll likely cause the alarm to sound. But it’s not all bad news with this type of alarm.
In fact, if you use haze it shouldn’t be too much of a problem. This being because the haze particles are far less dense. Plus, use it sparingly, which just also happens to be how you get the best effect, and there should be far less particles in the air too. So even though this is the most common type of fire alarm, choose your kit wisely and it shouldn’t present an issue.
Here’s how to use a fog machine without setting off a fire alarm
When DJing for a party, rave or even a wedding where the action’s indoors, the last thing you want is for your fog or haze machine to trigger the fire alarm, or worse, the sprinklers! However thankfully, there are fair few ways in which you can prevent this rather sorry predicament from happening. So to help you decrease the chances of this rather unfortunate scenario, here’s a few tips on how you can prevent a fire alarm from sounding…
A venue checkup – Probably the easiest way to prevent an alarm sounding is to do a pre-venue checkup. That way you can test out your equipment beforehand and negotiate with the venue hire to see if you can get some of the alarms turned off. In our experience, that’s something a lot of venues are completely fine with, although if they do object, you can also propose to them the next option…
Get yourself a fire marshal – In the case a venue is a bit funny about you disarming some alarms or even using fog/ haze full stop, you can always get around it by hiring a fire marshal. This is essentially someone who’s responsible for turning off the alarm if it should sound unexpectedly, or ushering people safely out of the building in the case of an actual fire. Good thing is, most venues won’t quibble if you were to switch alarms for a fire marshal – if anything they’d be over the moon. Reason being that doing so actually make them look a lot better in terms of insurance. Useful to know!
Ask yourself if atmosphere is even needed – While atmosphere in most cases does give a nightclub or concert that extra edge it needs to feel special, that’s not to say it’s always necessary. Take an event like a wedding for instance. While a great big cloud of ground fog would look ace creeping down the isle, it’s by no means a ‘must have’, especially if could cause the bridal party to be drenched in fluid from a fire springer. That’d be one soggy bride – yuk!
Change up your equipment – It’s worth noting that one piece of equipment doesn’t suit every space. Fog machines for instance come in various wattages, and can project their fog across a whole variety of distances. Some just a couple of metres, whereas other can touch on 8! All of which means that changing up your equipment may be solution to not triggering a fire alarm. Have a fog machine that can spew out high volumes of fog and chances are that in small spaces, the news won’t be so great.
Be gradual about it – When planning an event with atmosphere, ideally you don’t want to rush. Not only does that make life more stressful for you, but it also means that your atmosphere will likely be less constant. And that’s the key, especially with haze. We’d always recommend leaving your machine on for around an hour before the event begins. That way the atmosphere can gradually build up across your event space and therefore should be far less of a rapid shock to the smoke alarm.
Is a fog/ smoke/ haze machine safe indoors? Which is the best?
The short answer is yes – both haze and fog machines are safe for use indoors.
As for the fog itself, both oil and water-based fog fuels are non toxic. So inhaling fog from either of these machines is nothing to worry about. And as for conditions under-foot, these fuels only really condense if they’ve been used excessively without ventilation. So providing you keep windows open or setup the air con, there should be no real slip hazards to report.
And while both hazers and foggers do their job at creating an atmosphere, if it was a toss up between one or the other, we’d choose the hazer every day of the week. Not that there’s anything wrong with fog machines – they do create a good affect, especially at music concerts and clubs. However, a hazer just seems to 1up it in most areas.
For starters, because of its lighter particles, it makes for a far more subtle affect, which should make it kinder to fire alarms. What’s more, because of its metallic quality, it also allows DJs to make more of a feature of their strobes and lasers. Not only that but it lasts for longer too, making most hazers more economical when it comes to fog fuel.
Then factor in that unlike with a fog machine, oil-based hazers don’t have a warm up period and it’s pretty much a home run. In fact, the only real brownie points that fog machines have over hazers (in our opinion) is the price. Hazers typically set you back 2, sometime 3 times as much. However with that being said, factor in all the advantages above, and as an investment, hazers definitely pay you back.
All of which makes them a cost that we think is worth footing, as well as piece of kit that’s less likely to set of the smoke alarm. A ‘2 in 1’ if you ask us.
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