Budget-Friendly Smoke Fog Machines with Premium Features

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A smoke machine can add the right aesthetic touch for a cinematic opening or a theatrical music video transition.

A smoke fog machine is an excellent option for everything from spicing up your product videos and photos to adding an eerie atmosphere to the graveyard scene in your horror film (or for Halloween).

I’ve fumbled through the foggy interwebs searching for the best deals for smoke machines, from affordable to high-end, so you don’t have to.

1. Chauvet Lighting DJ 700 Hurricane Fog Machine

  • Output: 1,500 cfm
  • Warm-up Time: 2.5 minutes
  • Tank Capacity: .6 liters
  • Weight: 4 lbs
  • Dimensions: 8.5 x 7.1 x 4.9

Chauvet Lighting is a popular top-of-the-line lighting equipment for film and stage productions.

It’s your typical basic fog machine, not as powerful or durable as more expensive models.

While it’s a light, easy-to-use machine, it only covers 1,500 cubic feet per minute. So it’s best for smaller projects, like a product video.

ProsCons
Dirt cheap
Includes wired remote control
Quick warm-up time (2.5-minutes)
Lightweight
Better build options out there in terms of quality
Noisy machine
Not very powerful (1500 CFM)
Poor recharge time
Indoor use only

2. Theefun 400W Fog Machine

  • Output: 2,000 cfm
  • Warm-up Time: 3-5 minutes
  • Tank Capacity: .3 liters
  • Weight: 4 lbs
  • Dimensions: 9.06 x 4.33 x 4.53

After only a few minutes of warming up, the unit can produce unscented fog at 2000 cubic feet per minute for up to 2-3 meters.

It’s a compact, aluminum body, so it’s very inconspicuous and efficient for small sets or tight locations.

ProsCons
Low price
Lightweight
Great durability 
Quick warm-up time 
Easy to transport
Not very powerful (2000 CFM)
Indoor use only
No timer
Not ideal for larger events and spaces
Requires distilled water for cleaning

3. Rockville R1200L

  • Output: 3,000 cubic feet per minute
  • Warm-up Time: 3.5 minutes
  • Tank Capacity: 0.3 liters
  • Weight: 3.3 lbs
  • Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.1 x 4.3

Rockville is known for its high-end professional car, marine, and home audio. While Rockville offers more affordable options, spending a little extra for the quality they can provide makes sense.

Unlike the previously listed machines, the Rockville R1200L can output 12,000 cubic feet per minute, covering more ground.

The Rockville R1200L includes the 16-foot wired/wireless remote combination and six three-watt, built-in LED lights, plus for stage productions requiring additional lighting.

ProsCons
Decent fog output
Fairly quiet machine
Light automatically changes color
Fog juice included
LEDs
Quick warm-up
Lots of control options
Works best with only water-based fluids manufactured by Rockville or popular brands.
Lights reduce fog output
Best for indoor use

4. Tengchang

  • Output: 18,000 cubic feet per minute
  • Warm-up Time: 4-5 minutes
  • Tank Capacity: 2 liters
  • Weight: 45 lbs
  • Dimensions: 29.92 x 16.14 x 14.76

The Tengchang is the best bang for your buck if you’re looking for a traditional fog machine.

It’s a low-lying smoke machine. What does that mean? It’s a newer alternative to dry ice machines, which can be challenging to maintain.

Dry ice is more expensive but the ideal method for machines used for wide coverage. This safer option gives you the capabilities of dry ice effects without the costly cooling agent.

Low-lying smoke is excellent for light enhancement and area effect for productions and events.

Unfortunately, this machine is still recommended for indoor use and does not come with additional lights like other models at this price.

ProsCons
Both wireless/wired remotes included
Quick warm-up time
Wide area coverage
Dry ice effect
Voltage is limited
No LEDS
Heavyweight

5. American DJ Mister Kool II

  • Output: 3,000 cfm
  • Warm-up Time: 5 minutes
  • Tank Capacity: 0.8 liters 
  • Weight: 19 lbs
  • Dimensions: 18 x 11.75 x 10.25

American DJ Products is a leader in entertainment lighting, LED video, and atmospheric effects equipment. If you’ve worked on any production size with lighting involved, you’ve seen this brand before.

It can be a little pricier than other options, but based on the name alone, you know you’re getting a top-of-the-line quality machine. The downside is this particular machine has a weaker output.

The mixture of ice and generic water-based fog juice eliminates the need for any CO2 tanks or dry ice with a drainage valve and hose for accident prevention and easy clean-up.

ProsCons
Timer remote included
Versatile low-lying fog effect
Uses regular ice vs dry ice
Easy cleanup via the drainage system
Very low input
Indoor use only
Fog output is weak compared to the Chauvet Cumulus model

6. American DJ Fog Fury

  • Output: 20,000 cubic feet per minute
  • Warm-up Time: 9 minutes
  • Tank Capacity: .9 liters
  • Weight: 16 lbs
  • Dimensions: 15.5 x 12 x 7.5

This model is a low maintenance, high-velocity vertical fog machine that can produce bursts of fog up to 25 feet in any direction with interchangeable mounting options.

A built-in color mixer with twelve three-watt RGBA LED bulbs adds color effects without any extra equipment.

The Thermo Sensing technology monitors the heat levels and prevents clogging and overheating.

ProsCons
Powerful fog stream
Decent output
Fast warm-up time
Thermo-sensing technology
Laptop control
Long warm-up time
Noisy machine
Not suitable for small venue

7. Chauvet Hurricane 1800 FLEX

  • Output: 25,000 cfm
  • Warm-up Time: 5 minutes
  • Tank Capacity: 3.8 liters
  • Weight: 19.6 lbs
  • Dimensions: 20.4 x 11.9 x 10.8 inches

If you’re tired of replacing your cheap fog machine every year, the Chauvet Hurricane 1800 FLEX is a significant upgrade.

The tank has a larger capacity, and with minimal fluid consumption, you’ll find yourself going a long way with a half-gallon of fog juice.

This model comes with a three-pin and five-pin DMX control, allowing it to operate with other lighting equipment, which is essential if working on stage and event productions.

ProsCons
Great flexible design
Residue-free
DMX control
Slightly more expensive than other models

8. Antari IP-1500 Indoor/Outdoor Fog Machine

Output: 20,000 cfm

Warm-up Time: 9 minutes

Tank Capacity: 1 liters

Dimensions: 18 x 8.74 x 9.84

Weight: 29.76 lbs

So many fog machines have excellent output and quality but are for indoor use only. Indoor use only imposes a problem if you want versatility in your location.

This newer waterproof model of the fog machine is for indoor or outdoor use even when it’s raining by detecting the surrounding temperature and adjusting its settings accordingly. 

In addition to outdoor use, the machine consumes less electricity than other devices in its size class. The only downside is this is probably one of the most expensive machines on the list.

ProsCons
Outdoor Use
Waterproof
Covers ground
13% less electricity than other similar class foggers
Price

9. Chauvet Lighting DJ Cumulus

  • Output: 10,000 cfm
  • Warm-up Time: 3 minutes
  • Tank Capacity: Fog Fluid Tank .9 gal (3.25 l) | Water Tank 2 gal (7.6 l)
  • Dimensions: 25 x 16 x 18
  • Weight: 58.8 lbs

Last is the Chauvet DJ brand, which shows the range of fog machines on the market. 

The Cumulus is a top-of-the-line fog machine entirely out of the range of the other models listed.

If you’ve been to a concert before, it was likely a machine of this caliber on stage producing the fog effects.

ProsCons
Great portability (wheels)
Heavy-duty road case
Continuous output; no delays
Expensive
Very heavy

Buyer’s Guide: What you should look for when in the market to purchase a new fog machine 

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Fog machines are great for adding some atmosphere to an otherwise boring room.

Fog machines are simple, plug-and-play devices that take little to no advanced experience.

Grab yourself a bottle of propylene glycol, triethylene glycol, and glycerin (aka “fog juice”), press the power button, let the machine warm up, and you’re ready.

Look for the right wattage and Cubic Feet of fog per Minute (CFM)

Whether filming on a small set or a large production, you must consider capacity, overall power, and the machines’ functionality.

The wattage of the fog machine determines how fast and how much area it can cover. Fx 400-watt machines produce around 1,500 Cubic Feet of fog per minute (abbreviated CFM) vs. a 1000-watt having 4,500 cubic feet of fog per minute.

Higher-wattage machines produce a thicker fog and last longer than lower-wattage fog machines.

A bigger reservoir means longer fog time.

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A small smoke machine can fill small rooms with smoke for a horror indie short or product videos and toy photography.

The capacity of the fog machine determines how much fog juice the reservoir can hold. A more extensive reservoir can hold more fluid, but it means a bulkier device.

It’s essential to always keep the reservoir full during operation because an empty reservoir can damage the machine.

Additional features to keep in mind when buying a fog machine

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Larger scenes — like in a music video — need bigger reservoirs and more power. Also, keep in mind if you want the smoke to fill the room or stay near the floor.

The functionality of the fog machine determines which modes are necessary for your production.

If your budget allows, go with a more expensive machine with a timer mode, so it requires less supervision and more flexibility.

If you want low fog that stays near the floor, you need a fog machine with a fog chiller and cool fog fluid.

Additional features to pay close attention to include the mounts, the warm-up time, LED lights, transportability, and, especially for filming that requires minimal sound onset, the machine’s noise level.

Heated vs. Chilled Machines

The more common heated fog machines use a hot liquid (propylene glycol, mineral oil, water, and glycerin) that vaporizes into a thick fog. If the fluid contains toxic ethylene glycol, it’s unsuitable for indoor machines.

Chilled machines combine dry ice, liquid air, nitrogen, and compressed CO2. Chilled creates a low-lying, thicker fog but is a more expensive but efficient option.

Conclusion

There are various fog machines, whether you’re looking for something small or heavy-duty machinery. 

The varied prices are about the three factors mentioned before:

  • Power and wattage
  • The capacity of the fluid reservoir
  • The functionality of additional features like LED lights and haze

Don’t let the number of options intimidate you, and purchase the most practical machine for your production.


Author

  • Myke Thompson

    Myke Thompson is a freelance writer, screenwriter, and humorist based out of Los Angeles. When he’s not working on his own projects, he supports other artists as a creative manager in music, art, film, and television.

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