Fog and smoke machines are used for many events, from concerts to weddings, but what’s the real difference between them? Half of the time, Google and YouTube results interchange these names to mean the same – a big mistake! So, what is the difference between a fog machine and a smoke machine?
Smoke machines expel a cloud that rises, spreads across a room, and disappears. Fog machines – correctly called “low fog machines” – remove an opaque cloud that remains close to the ground. Both machines can function with a fog/smoke liquid, but some high-grade, low-fog machines use dry ice.
Let’s dive into the differences between these two machines and when it’s best to use each.
How Do Fog and Smoke Machines Work?
Fog and smoke machines function similarly, especially using a liquid-based device. Both of them atomize – AKA vaporize – a special liquid by forcing it under high pressure in a heated pipe. This substance is then pushed into the air to create the effect we’re looking for.
Some machines do not require a heated element. There are water- and oil-based fluids, depending on your device. Some higher-grade fog machines use dry ice to function. The liquid is safe to breathe in so long as you don’t overdo your special effects.
Both fog and smoke from these machines are safe around electrical equipment, but your gear should be regularly cleaned to ensure the highest safety standards.
The Types of Fog Machines
Smoke and fog machines are very similar, so when people mention fog, they usually incorrectly refer to smoke machines. Actual low fog machines produce a dense opaque cloud near the floor. You know – the kind you’ve seen for first dances at all of the post-COVID weddings you’ve been attending.
This effect uses cold liquid particles to help the “fog” remain near the ground. This cloud creates a special short effect in many settings.
There are two kinds of low-fog machines: dry ice and cryogenic.
Dry ice fog machines use dry ice and water to create the foggy effect, but this has a short lifespan. Cryogenic low fog machines use a liquid – like liquid CO2 – and it lasts a bit longer.
When to Use a Fog Machine
Apart from the standard wedding entrance, low fog machines are great for special effect productions. They’re also used in music videos and as effect lighting. And, of course, DJs love to pump out the fog machine to create a romantic slow-dance vibe.
The Types of Smoke Machines
On the other hand, smoke machines create a dense, thick white cloud that rises and spreads throughout a room. Many people refer to fog machines as smoke machines, causing confusion between the two. Remember that fog should be low-lying, whereas smoke rises – much like in real life.
The smoke rises because smoke machines expel heated gas, which is different from the cold particles in fog. To create this smoke, you’ll need a special smoke fluid for the machine.
When to Use a Smoke Machine
Smoke machines are great for shows, concerts, and spooky settings. Some fire stations also conduct their training using smoke machines with oil-based liquids.
What About a Haze Machine?
From YouTube to Google, you’ll see people interchange smoke, fog, and the third type of machine – a haze machine. It can get quite confusing.
Haze machines can be oil-based or water-based as well, but they produce a fine mist haze that is primarily used to emphasize lighting effects.
To put it, a smoke machine creates a thick cloud that rises and spreads, a fog machine produces a thick cloud that stays close to the ground, and a haze machine produces a thin cloud that rises.
There are big differences in price for both low fog and smoke machines depending on the professional grade you choose. Beware that on famous marketplaces like Amazon, many “fog machines” are smoke machines, so the fog will not stay on the ground. You can verify this by reading the machine’s details.
Generally speaking, low-fog machines are more expensive than smoke machines and cost $150. Smoke machines can run from $60 and up, depending on the quality.
Some features that may affect the price include:
- Remote control features (a timer, ability to move the fog, fog intensity, etc.)
- Whether it uses dry ice or not
While fog machines produce an opaque low-lying cloud, smoke machines create a cloud that rises and dissipates across a room. Both have different models that use both water-based and oil-based liquids, although low-lying fog machines can also use with dry ice. The latter is usually more expensive.
No matter which you choose, both fog machines and smoke machines can add a cool effect to your next party, conference, event, or production. You’re sure to have a fun time, and don’t forget to take some cool pictures to remember the day by!