Festool CT SYS Compact Systainer Dust Extractor Review

The ultimate in super compact jobsite and shop dust management.

Festool CT SYS Compact Systainer Dust Extractor

Festool CT SYS Compact Systainer Dust Extractor

The Festool CT SYS is probably the smallest – and definitely the coolest – compact dust extractor on the market. If you have a small workshop, it offers a viable alternative for managing dust at source (directly from the power tool). Tradespeople and renovators are likely to find it especially convenient on jobs that don't generate huge volumes of dust and debris, or where they have to work in small, confined spaces. 

The dual Systainer CT SYS

The CT SYS comes in two Systainer boxes that measure approximately 15" by 12" by 11" overall, and weigh in at a paltry 15 pounds. The bottom Systainer contains the motor, HEPA filter, dust bag, and hose attachment tools. The top Systainer provides storage for the 9' 8" anti-static dust hose and the 16' power cord. A carry handle makes it convenient to cart the unit to and from your vehicle, or about the jobsite.

Quick strap attachment: (L) top Systainer; (R) bottom Systainer

For easier portability, the CT SYS comes with an adjustable shoulder strap that can be quickly attached to either the top or bottom Systainer.  You attach it to the top Systainer if you plan on carting both Systainers about, or, my preferred method, dispense with the top Systainer and carry only the bottom Systainer.

Hose and cord storage 
As you can see in the top right photo, the hose and power cord don't conveniently store flush with the top of the Systainer, regardless of how carefully I wrap them around the carry handle. This doesn't matter overmuch to me, as I haven't felt a need to place any Systainers on top of the CT SYS.

Power controls on the bottom Systainer

Controls (left to right in the above photo) consist of an auto start outlet (AKA 'tool triggered activation outlet' or 'appliance socket'), an auto/manual switch, and an on/off switch. The extractor is driven by a 8.3A motor that produces 80" of water lift and 106 CFM of air flow (suction) – at a mere 67 decibel level. 

Air flow and water lift work together to keep air moving, and sucking up dust. CFM is a measure of the quantity of air flowing through the hose, which will vary depending on the hose diameter and length, and the type and condition of filter being used. Ideally you want a high volume of air flow for moving the lighter weight dust particles. Water lift is a measure of the suction force of the motor, essentially the amount of suction the extractor can develop. Again, a bigger number means you can expect greater suction, especially for moving larger wood chips. Given the size of the CT SYS, the air flow and water lift stats are pretty impressive. For comparison, the mid-range Festool CT26 dust extractor has a 10 amp motor that delivers 137 CFM of air flow with a water lift capability of 96".

Festool specifies a maximum connection load of 12A, which means that you can use the CT SYS with power tools that draw no more than about 1300 watts – that includes pretty well all the Festool power tools except the Kapex KS 120 miter saw. Of course, you can use it with any other power tool that doesn't exceed the 12A limit.

The auto start feature is a real gem – a definite efficiency enhancer.. Plug any tool into the outlet, and when you press the tool trigger, the extractor starts. There seems to be a one or two second delayed start-up. It's barely noticeable, but results in a smooth, rather than a sudden, jerky start-up.

The CT SYS doesn't have variable suction control, as found on Festool's larger extractors, a feature that enables you to regulate the airflow to the tool you are using. It's not an issue that is particularly important to me. However, some people find that when sanding, too high a suction can pull the sander down tightly against the material, increasing swirl marks. A suction control gate on the tool end of the hose would resolve this issue. 

Blower port

At the back of the lower Systainer is the air outlet. Attach the dust hose to the outlet and convert the CT SYS into a pretty powerful blower, convenient for blowing debris out of hard to reach places or blowing dust off projects before applying a finish. In a pinch you can also use it with a flow through spray gun to lay on a finish or spray paint. 

In use, particularly when you're using the bottom Systainer with the shoulder strap attached, you need to remember not to place the CT SYS on end, as it will effectively block the air outlet, potentially causing the motor to overheat.

Dual dust connection ports

You can connect the dust hose through either the top or bottom Systainer. The hose has a press-fit connector that attaches very securely to the Systainer. In all the time I've been using the CT SYS the connector hasn't come undone.

Filter/dust bag carrier

Open up the bottom Systainer to reveal the HEPA filter/dust bag carrier, and the two hose tools. I like that the carrier housing the filter and dust bag can be lifted out of the CT SYS. This means I can carry it outside the client's home to remove the dust bag when full.

The HEPA filter removes 99.99% of particulate matter down to 0.3 micron. I've found that HEPA filters, when used with a dust bag, last a long time. You can clean the filter by knocking it against the side of a garbage can, but Festool recommends that you don't use compressed air to clean it. A replacement HEPA filter is $90. A 1 micron economy filter can also be had for $32.

The dust bags are not reusable, and are available in a 5-pack for $28. You can also purchase a reusable long-life bag for $112. It might seem steep for a dust bag, but for most contractors and renovators it will probably work out to be much more cost effective than single use disposable bags in the long run.

As with any dust extractor, you could configure the CT SYS with a cyclone lid or a cyclone separator to extend the life of both the filter and dust bags. 

Easy access bag and filter

Both the dust bag and filter are super quick to remove. Changing bags takes less than 30 seconds. The cardboard sleeve slips under two plastic tabs, and then latches into place. There really is no way the dust bag can work loose. In the top left photo you'll notice a rubber seal on the cardboard sleeve – it wraps securely around the connector on the end of the dust hose for a leak-proof seal.

The dust bag holds 1.19 gallons (4.5L) of debris. Connected intermittently to a ROS, track saw, and Domino joiner, I was surprised at how long it took the bag to fill up. Once filled, the trick is to move the bag to a trash bin with a minimal amount of dust escaping the bag. Festool has put a simple cardboard handle at the mouth of the bag opening - pull the handle, and the opening is sealed. It works really well to keep the debris in the bag.

The CT SYS doesn't automatically turn off when the dust bag is full - you'll know that it's time to change the bag when the extractor stops sucking up debris.

Hand cleaning tools

The two cleaning tools that come with the CT SYS are handy, but to take full advantage of this mini extractor you might want to ante up for a compact cleaning set (#497697), which includes all the accessories you need to keep a work site clean. 

A space miser

The CT SYS has such a small footprint that it can be placed almost anywhere. In the shop it sits unobtrusively on a bench top or tucked underneath the bench, making it ideally suited for dust management at source. Connecting the CT SYS to various power tools is super quick. Paired with a larger cannister style dust extractor, or a small compact dust collector, it provides a viable option for a practical dust management system for the small shop. Likewise, it's much easier to tote the CT SYS around a clients home with the shoulder strap than it is to manhandle a larger wheeled dust extractor – it's especially effective on small jobs that don't require the dust and debris storage capacity of a larger extractor.

The CT SYS has a lot going for it – high suction, quiet operation, tool triggered tool activation, anti-static hose, in-board tool storage, long power cord, HEPA filter, and it's stackable (for those who use other Festool products). It does lack variable suction control, and the top Systainer doesn't easily accommodate the hose and power cord. Still, it offers a heck of a lot more than it lacks. You'd be hard pressed to find a more compact, lighter, and functional dust extractor for use on a jobsite or in the shop.

  • Motor: 8.3 Amps
  • Maximum connection load: 12 Amps
  • Static water lift: 80"
  • Suction capacity: 106 CFM
  • Sound level: 67dBA
  • Hose length: 9' 8"
  • Power cord length: 16'
  • Dimension: 15-9/16” x 11-5/8” x 10-5/8”
  • Weight: 15.2 lbs
  • Warranty: 3 years
  • Includes: HEPA filter, dust bag, brush and crevice tools, shoulder strap

MODEL:CT SYS (#584174)
MADE IN:Germany
SOURCE:Dealer Locator

Carl Duguay
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