It seems that more and more escape rooms are integrating fog effects into their games. This is cool and all, when it works…
But when it doesn’t, it messes with the player experience and creates yet another thing for you to have to deal with in running your escape room business.
To prevent these unnecessary headaches, I caught up with Marketing Director, Scott Karan of Froggy’s Fog and he agreed to help me out with this FAQ.
I also got in touch with Scott Bibus, Creative Director at FrightProps to discuss fog machine triggering and automation.
So, before you spend big bucks on a fog machine, make sure you’re informed by reading this FAQ guide.
Have a question not covered here? Click here to leave a comment.
What are some key features/specs I should look for when shopping for a fog machine?
When it comes to a high quality fog machine, you should look for the highest wattage your power can run. Simply put, the higher the wattage the hotter the heater core will stay. This cuts down on reheat time and will create more output.
You will also want to look at the CFM or Cubic Feet Per Minute. If you only need to fill a 30,000 sq foot space, then you should buy a machine with that similar output.
What are some of the key differences between the various fog machine price points?
There are many different things to consider but the main points you should look at are:
- Output: How many CFM’s does it produce. Is it enough for your space? Do you need continuous output?
- Wattage: This will tell you how hot the heater core will get. Typically the higher the wattage the higher the output. This will also impact reheat time
- Control Type: We offer machines with a typical remote control to professional models that have 5 and 3 pin DMX (Digital Multiplex), variable output and wireless remote controls.
- How much power do you have? This is often the most overlooked spec. Not all rooms have the same power available. You will most likely need to run a high wattage fog machine on it’s own circuit to prevent tripping a breaker. Also some machines are 220v power instead of typical 110v since a lot of the machines are manufactured overseas where 220 power is the standard.
Typically machines will increase in price with the more functions and extras it has in addition to the wattage of the machine.
What do you get with an expensive fog machine that you don’t get with a cheap one?
More expensive fog machines will usually mean a few things:
- Better components
- Country of origin. It does cost more to produce a machine in Germany as opposed to say, China or Mexico. This does not mean a machine manufactured in China is subpar, but that will often be the difference between a few hundred or a few thousand. Most standard escape rooms do not need a $2,000 machine.
- Higher wattage and therefore more output.
Are there any red flags to look out for?
Although a lot of the “cheaper” machines may be more affordable, they are usually more affordable because of cheaper components.
For the most part, compare machines of similar wattages together, if one is made by a company you have never heard of or unbranded, it is most likely not a high quality machine. We specifically built our new line of Titan fog machines with improved components to match the general price range of competitors.
Some of these features are stainless steel tubing instead of copper. Instant Stop technology that removes the fluid from the tubing and places it back in the fluid tank and quick reheat times due to higher quality heater cores.
Does the size of the room matter when choosing a fog machine? If so, how do I determine which fog machine to go with for my sized room?
Yes it does!
Figure out the rough square footage of your space, how fast you need to fill it and what your budget is.
We have a machine for every need and budget from around $200- $700.
I heard fog machines have a tendency to break easily. What are some routine maintenance items I should stay on top of?
Cheap machines will break often, you will often spend more on several cheap machines than if you bought a higher quality one in the first place. However the proper maintenance will lengthen the life of any machine.
- Cleaning the components with a fog machine cleaner or distilled water every 40 hours of operation or so. To do this you simply empty your tank and put the cleaner or distilled water in. Run the machine like there is fog fluid in it. After a couple cycles you will see it is not producing fog. The machine is clean. Then you empty the water put fog fluid back in the lines and run it till fog comes back out. You should store the machine with fluid in the machine.
- Using higher quality fluids. Depending on the ingredients in the fluid it may clog your machine faster. Our fluids are all water-based and produced with pharmaceutical grade chemicals. This means our fluids can be used in other manufacturers machines even if they say not to.
- Store at room temperature. Water expands when frozen, this will potentially burst your tubing. Treat your fog machine like you would a television. You wouldn’t leave it outside all year or in the bottom of a trailer.
How often should fog machines be cleaned?
We typically say every 40 hours of operation or once every 2 weeks.
My fog machine is sputtering fluid. What’s going on here and how do I fix it?
Sputtering or spitting is caused when the heater core is not hot enough to evaporate the water in the fluid. This is usually because of lower wattage machines. This can be very dangerous and cause 1st degree burns if it hits bare skin at close range since the heater cores can get up to 700 degrees and up.
Our Titan machines are specifically engineered to prevent this by keeping the heater cores hotter and withdrawing the fluid back out of it with the Instant Stop Technology.
Do fog machines have a warranty?
Not all do. Our Titan machines have a 2-year warranty, but typically machines won’t due to the fact that most manufacturers will want you to buy a replacement rather than repair.
This is also the reason replacement parts are usually expensive.
Does Froggy’s Fog service fog machines, even ones you don’t sell?
We do for machines we have sold. You will need proof of purchase on any non-Froggy’s machines.
How do I get a fog machine to trigger automatically during an escape game?
We would recommend controlling your fog machine via DMX if that function is available on your machine.
FrightProps has several controllers capable of operating a DMX fog machine, from the simple and inexpensive PicoDMX to the more full-featured BooBox FlexMax. These controllers use the intuitive and free Director Software to program.
Of course, if you want to go “old school” you can “hack” the remote of your fog machine and run it off any relay-based controller (like a PicoBoo), but we don’t really recommend that as it will void your warranty.
Can fog machines set off sprinklers? If so, how can I avoid this from happening?
It’s possible, but most sprinklers are triggered by heat, not smoke.
The fog itself will not be hot, but consult your buildings superintendent or owner to get more info on the type of detectors you have.
Also, consult your local fire dept as well as see what they suggest.
Can fog machines trigger smoke alarms?
Yes, they can.
Depending on your type of system. A lot of fire detectors are particle detectors, they are triggered if a particle other that oxygen is in the room. This is no real way around this right now. You can try a faster dissipating formula, but even those have been known to trigger detectors.
Unfortunately, this is a possibility in every space with a smoke detector.
Are there any zoning limitations with fog machines?
In some states (like Oregon for example), you must be zoned as a special amusement in order to operate a fog machine.
Fog machines fit into the category of items that may distract or confuse guests, and therefore require business to be classified as special amusements.
However, each state has their own requirements so please check with your city’s safety inspector before installing a fog machine.
I heard haze is a better option if worried about setting off alarms. Any truth to that?
Yes and no.
This is pretty involved and goes more into what haze is and fog is and the purpose.
Haze is a finer particle and much more refractive. It is what they use at concerts to make lights and lasers visible. Haze creates just that, a haze, not a cloud of smoke. So sometimes depending on your system, haze won’t set it off, but the fog will.
Fog is designed to obscure. It creates a cloud. Because of this, it has a lot more particles that can trigger your detectors.
So there is no real answer other than working with your building owner or local fire dept to see which one will work for you.
Can you use haze fluid in a fog machine and visa versa?
A fog machine should NOT be used for haze and vice versa.
All of our machines are compatible with other manufacturers, but it voids the warranty because we can’t control what is in the other chemicals.
Most manufacturers will actually put a UV Marker in the fluid which is invisible to the human eye but can be seen in the tubing of a machine.
We don’t use a marker, this makes our fluids usable in other machines and also lets us know if you put another fluid in ours.
Can fog from fog machines trigger asthma?
Froggy’s Fog was actually created because of asthma.
Froggy’s Fluids are water-based, so unless you have an allergy to water, you should have no health issues.
Anyone that claims they are having an asthma attack due to the Froggy’s Fog fluid is not. Unfortunately, people will try to use this to create a lawsuit, but we have been backed by many doctors and have done through rigorous testing to prevent this.
We can only guarantee this for OUR fluids.
If a fluid is cheaper it is because they use cheaper chemicals or are not water-based. This includes many you can purchase at halloween stores and big box stores.
Any other health/safety concerns to be aware of?
As far as the fluid, use Froggy’s. We have gone through the testing to prove it is safe.
With machines, there are a couple things to keep in mind:
- The nozzle of the machine is EXTREMELY hot. We are talking 700 degrees. Make sure the nozzle is nowhere where someone can come in contact with it.
- Along the same lines, do not spray fog on someone from a short distance. Although we test our machines to not sputter or spit, there are reasons that any machine might, including being out of fluid.
My escape rooms has a lot of electronic component. Can fog machine fog damage electronics? How can I avoid this?
No, not Froggy’s fluids.
Our fluids have been used in haunted attractions, concerts, theme parks, film and television. Unless of course you pour the fluid directly on the electronics.
There is a reason for this. Our Titan machines have isolated electronic chambers to prevent accidental spillage while filling.
Can you tell me about fog juice? What’s it made out of and how compatible is it with the various types of fog machines?
I can only speak about our fluids for sure. But most fluids have the same ingredients, the difference is the source and purity of them.
All of our fluids are water-based and we only use the highest grade of water that has been high voltage purified. This is the same way NASA purifies it’s water, this eliminates anything present in the water other than Oxygen and Hydrogen.
As far as I know we are the only manufacturer that processes the water this way.
The rest is top secret but usually consists of Propylene and Glycol.
What are fog chillers?
A Fog Chiller is used to create low lying ground fog. Think of a creepy cemetery or haunted house. This effect is generally used as an ambient enhancement.
The way to achieve this is usually by chilling the fog fluid. A standard ground fogger uses ice that the fog passes through. When the Fog is chilled it gets heavy and stays low. This can also be done with incredibly expensive setups using CO2 or dry ice. This of course is also dangerous. The cheaper alternatives that use ice typically need to be constantly refilled and also generate a lot of wasted water.
We recently designed a cutting edge machine that can generate incredible nonstop low lying fog using water. The Poseidon Ultrasonic Low Fogger is incredibly cheap to operate and maintain. Other machines will boast the same technology, but ours is cheaper and has a higher output due to the plastic body and small amount of fog fluid it uses.
Fog Machine Product Comparison
Additional Fog Machine Resources
- Froggy’s Fog Catalog
- Froggy’s Fog Blog
- Fog Machine Cleaning Instructions
- FrightProps Catalog
- FrightProps Fog Machine Support Documentation
- DMX Explained
- Actors’ Equity Theatrical Smoke & Haze Regulations
- Actors’ Equity Time & Distance Guidelines
- Actors’ Equity Calibration Factors
- Actors’ Equity Health Effects Evaluation
EscapeFront.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, and we get a commission on purchases made through our links. For more information, visit our Affiliate Earnings Disclosure page.