How To Safely Hang An Air Filtration Unit In Your Shop – Without Help

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So you got yourself one of those hanging air filtration thingies for your shop (yay you!). That was a smart move. Now how in the world are you going to get that heavy beast up to the ceiling? Even with assistance, they can be a real bear to hang without injury. The larger, the more difficult. Because we’d prefer our awesome readers to breathe clean air AND not be laid up in a recovery room, we bring you this simple hooks and chains method of more safely hoisting a heavy air cleaner. Even if you’re stuck doing it by yourself.

The Back Story Of A Back Saver

From here to there
The objective is to get this from floor to ceiling, and mount it there. But there’s no way I can just lift it up and set it in place.

I was given this air filtration unit back when I inhabited a different shop. The problem is, it’s large (34” x 24” x 12”). And it’s heavy (62 lbs.). And even with friends’ help, lifting it high enough and for long enough to hang from the ceiling feels like an accident waiting to happen. If this thing begins to drop, there’s virtually no stopping it without personal injury or destroying it and/or things in the immediate area. There has to be a better way. One that doesn’t involve herniated discs or soiled underbritches.

After searching around the intertubes for an easy, cheap way to safely lift the unit by myself (and to my surprise, finding none) I came up with a practical solution that’s vastly safer than trying to manhandle the unit up a ladder, even with a helper. Finally ready to hang it in my current shop, again I was able to do the job by myself and without injury.

Hanging an air filtration unit
Don’t be a hero; it’s not worth straining your back over. Slow and steady wins this race.

Though I personally promote this as a safer technique than most I’ve seen, it’s not without danger. You still have to lift half of the weight over and over while working on a ladder. So take your time and pay attention to what you’re doing. Use a tall enough ladder that you always have something to lean on while lifting.

The Supply Chain

Hanging hardware
Some common hardware and a little time is all you need to get the air filter from the ground to the ceiling.

What you’ll need:
* 4 eye lag screws
* 8 S-hooks (you’ll need only 4 if your air filter unit has hooks on top, rather than eyes)
* 4 Chains long enough to reach from the ceiling to the filtration unit.
* A Sufficiently tall ladder

Find Some Joists From Which To Hoist

Check your spacing
Measure (or make a cardboard template of) the spacing of your air filter’s hanging bolts, from side to side and front to back.

Unfortunately, the mounting eyes on my air filtration unit aren’t even close to matching my joist spacing. But since I have no ceiling, it was easy to add a spanning joist to which I could fasten the hardware. In my previous shop (which did have a ceiling), I bolted a pair of 2x4s to the ceiling – each spanning and attached to 3 joists – to provide my anchor points.

Added support joist
I used a pair of joist hangers and a piece of 2×4 to give me something to hang one end of the filter unit from.

On the down side, open joists also means that the air filtration system will be less efficient at moving the air that’s below “ceiling level”, even with strategically-located deflectors. But I’m working with what I have right now.

Whatever your setup, be sure the weight of the air filter is ultimately supported by solid joists and not by toggle bolts through drywall.

4 Eyes – Quite A Spectacle

Drilling pilot holes
The size of your pilot hole will depend on the hardware you use. It should just accommodate the screw shaft between threads (to prevent splitting) while allowing the threads to bite full depth into the wood. In my case, the pilot hole was 5/32”.

Once you have your spacing figured out, drill the appropriate size pilot holes for the eye lags and screw them into the joists. I used #4 eye screws, which are made of 1/4” wire and have a 1/2” diameter eye. The shank and threads measure only an inch long. You want at least that much sunk into the joist, so be sure to compensate with longer bolts if you’re going through ceiling material.

Eye driving
It’s easy to drive the eye screws with, ironically, a screwdriver.
Marking for other eyes
I used a framing square to position the other two eye screws. Double check the spacing with your template or a ruler.

I made the rookie mistake of naively assuming my main joists were precisely aligned. As a result, I got the eyes about an inch closer together on one end. No huge deal, but it’s a reminder that you should always measure and never assume previous workers valued tight tolerances as much as you do. Especially with framing construction.

You S-hook Me All Night Long

Hook pinch
Hang an S-hook from each eye screw and close the top loop enough that it can’t come off. I used 1-1/2” S-hooks (3/16” thickness).

Connect an S-hook and chain to each eye screw. Use hardware that’s strong enough to support the weight of the air filtration unit a few times over. None of that wimpy, unwelded swag lamp chain.

Chain in place
I used assorted chains I already had on hand, including this “dog chain”.
Horror-free zone
In the movies, this is how horror scenes begin. But this time it’s all about not getting hurt.

A Hook In Your Eye – Safely Hanging Your Shop Air Filtration System

I'm hooked
Hook two of the chains to one end of the unit. Then close the S-hooks around the eyes enough that they cannot come loose.

Some shop air filters come with hooks on top, but most have eye bolts. If you’re lucky enough to have hooks, omit the S-hooks (but still use S-hooks up at the ceiling). The rest of us can either replace the eyes with hooks or use S-hooks as shown.

One end ready to go.
One end ready to go.

You will have only one free hand to work with. So after connecting the S-hooks to the air filter, wrap some tape to keep them upright and at attention. Doing so makes it much easier to connect the chain with one hand while lifting the unit with the other.

Taped to make life easier
Imagine this is the hook and eye on top of the unit itself. This is how I did it in the past. But it completely escaped my mind this time and I ended up doing it the hard way instead. Argh.

Raising Your Air Quality Standards

Up, up and away!
Begin raising the air filter by lifting the other end and hooking it to the chains.

By now, you can probably see where this is going. From here it’s just a matter of going back and forth from end to end, lifting the unit a little higher each time.

A little higher each time
Then go to the other side. Lift it a little higher and reposition the chains.
Rest if you need to
Even if you only lift it by a few chain links each time, you’re making progress. And if you get tired, you can rest for as long as you need to without having to start all over again.

Your Climb To The Top

Lean into the ladder
I started with this ladder but eventually moved to a taller one.

As you work your way higher and higher, always keep an eye on the chains opposite you. If one slips off, reattach it before proceeding.

Loose chain
It might be hard to tell from the picture, but that chain over there has come loose from the S-hook. Reattach it before going any further.
Pick up the slack
Before lifting an end, see if either chain has slack. If so, start with that one, then move on to the other.
It's getting there!
It’s getting there!

Your Moment Of Victory

Closing in
Use a ladder tall enough that you can brace yourself while working up high.

The other ladder was no longer cutting it at this point. I needed something to lean on while lifting the weight near ceiling level, so I switched to a taller ladder. Finally, once you reach the desired height, cut off the excess chain.

Single links
I want my air filter hanging at ceiling height. So I replaced the chains with single links.
Link liberation
Liberating links with the Ryobi 18 Volt cordless bolt cutter.

Or you can just double up the S-hooks by hooking the ones from above through the eyes on the air filtration unit. And hooking the ones on the filter unit through the eyes on the ceiling.

Links close at hand
A magnet was used to keep extra rings at hand, just in case I dropped the one I was holding after removing the chain.
Mission complete
Success! In the background, you can see what I meant about one eye screw being off a bit. Oops, my bad. If it was any farther askew I would have repositioned it to reduce lateral pull on the threads.

At many times during the process, the weight will temporarily be supported by only three corners. Once you have the unit positioned where you want it, however, check that the load is distributed among all four. If one has slack, adjust an eye screw or hook to snug it up.

If you’d like to see the process in action, check out my decidedly “unpolished” video demonstration from 5 years ago:

I’m No Superman – But No One Has To Know That

Well that was easy!
Well that was easy!

And there you go – one shop air filtration system suspended from the ceiling. Best of all, you’ll live to enjoy its benefits! If and when you ever need to take it down again, simply reverse the process. Your friends might wonder how you managed to do it all by yourself. But don’t worry; your secret is safe with us… and the rest of the Internet. And if you can’t trust anonymous users on the Internet, who can you trust?


Love you, mom!
This is my mom visiting the new shop a couple years ago, shortly after it was built. Sadly, she passed away as I was writing this article. RIP
Photo of author

About Steve

Steve made his first woodworking project at age 9 (in 1982) and whittled his first wooden chain at 18. He was also a consumer electronics repair tech and shop owner for a little over 20 years, until his impending obsolescence became impossible to ignore. Since then, Steve has focused passionately on manipulating his wood... in his workshop. Don't judge him.

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7 thoughts on “How To Safely Hang An Air Filtration Unit In Your Shop – Without Help”

  1. great way to get it done!!! When u have no help and u need to get it done sometimes just got to come up with a eway to get it done


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