Refurbished, Used or Pre-Owned Particle Counter

These experts discuss used particle counter issues for choosing, calibrating and using pre-owned particle counters
Our experience in particle counter technology and uses involving indoor air quality, clean rooms and HVAC

Do You Think Buying a Used Particle Counter Will Save You Money?  Industry Experts Give You the Heads Up on Refurbished Particle Counters has asked its industry experts and sales professionals to research the positives and negatives of buying a refurbished particle counter. We offer unbiased comments and opinions on if you should use a refurbished model for your application.

CAUTION: A condition where a particle counter can not be returned for calibration is exposure to hazardous chemicals.  Any equipment used with hazardous chemicals must be properly treated, stored or disposed.

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Common Part Failures in Used Particle Counters

Buying a refurbished or used particle counter can appear to be an affordable alternative to buying a new particle counter... But be warned when buying a pre-owned particle counter. It is highly unlikely to have any warranty.  Generally, warranties only last about 1 or 2 years.  This is especially important because certain parts tend to wear out or "go bad" after a period of time.

Parts That Tend to Fail on Used Particle Counters:

  • Laser Diodes

  • Internal Environmental Probes

  • Vacuum Pumps

Laser Diode
Typical life of a laser diode may be as short as two years.  Though some can last indefinitely.  Newer laser diodes have been improved with longer life spans.  Older laser diodes are known to have shorter lives.  The older the particle counter, the higher the risk of laser diode failure and factory service expenses.

Vacuum Pump
Vacuum pumps are mechanical devices, thus the more use, the sooner they fail.  Some companies use carbon vein pumps, some use fan based blowers and others use a variety of pumps.  Carbon veins are the most accurate, though need to be replaced periodically.  With continuous use, a carbon vein should be replaced every 6 to 12 months or every 4000 hours.  When used 3 hours per day, the carbon vein should last about 3 to 4 years.  If you lower your initial purchase amount by buying used, with no warranty, you will have to pay out of pocket for carbon vein replacement.  Carbon veins are covered by most new particle counter warranties.  Fan based blowers do not produce as consistent airflow as carbon veins and also have a tendency to fail after a period of time.  Again, a used particle counter beyond its warranty period will incur maintenance costs.

Internal Environmental Probes
The type of internal probe that tends to fail within a 3 to 5 year period of time is the temperature/relative humidity probe.  For external probes, if they are still available from the factory, you can simply buy a new part.  Avoid purchasing used particle counters with internal relative/humidity probes.  These will have to be sent back to the factory for replacement when they wear out... further maintenance expenses.

Service Unavailable for Some Used Particle Counters

Your particle counter will require service, whether it is calibration or part replacement.  But, there are a couple reasons why your used particle counter may not even be serviceable.

We won't name names, but there have been recent corporate buy-outs that have left several brands of particle counters without service.  One company buys the product lines of another, than chooses which items to continue and which to drop.  We have had several customers who owned particle counters that were only about 7 years old when service for their units was dropped.  Even when buying new equipment, it can be beneficial to talk to one of our experts to find out which companies are the big players and which ones may be a higher risk.

The other reason a refurbished particle counter may not be serviceable is simply obsolescence.  Advancements in particle counter technology is on pare with most other electronics in the marketplace.  In fact, change moves faster for scientific instruments as sophisticated and progressive as laser particle counters.  Do you want to make a wise investment? Buy the newest and most advanced instrument you can afford.  Initial cost of a new particle counter is generally lower than the ongoing expenses and risks of trying to maintain older, used particle counter equipment.

Calibration of Refurbished Particle Counters

Make sure you know when a used unit was last calibrated as particle counters are very sensitive, delicate and need adjustments every 12 months. Initial cost of a used particle counter can be quite low, but if the particle counter has not been calibrated find out the additional costs before you buy.  For some used particle counters, calibration service will be unavailable.

Refurbished particle counters may or may not have been refurbished at the manufacturer. You might have to research if the manufacturer did the work or if it was contracted out, vital to verify if the particle counter was calibrated correctly.  Older models that work can generally be calibrated by the original manufacturer who can also provide validation documentation to prove that the instrument has been accurately calibrated.  Ask for NIST traceable calibration to ensure proper air particle counter calibration procedure.  For a minimum level of accuracy, you can expect to calibrate the particle counter once a year.

Older Laser Technology

With any device, try to avoid buying older models.  Older lasers are more costly to service once they become replaced by newer technology.  Laser technology has been changing slower than computers, but faster than automobile engine technology.  Look at home entertainment and computer equipment to gage laser technology.  Off the shelf lasers became common when CD players became popular.  Later, DVD quality lasers became available as DVD players became popular.  Now, CD lasers are less available as DVD players and writers are more prevalent in current home computers and AV equipment on the market.  As laser technology goes, you can go back about 4 years and still be relatively up to date.  7 years may be pushing it.  Definitely, avoid any particle counters 10 years or older.

Limited Laser Life of Used Particle Counters

Also be conscious of laser life.  Lasers have a limited useful lifetime.  Life expectancy for most particle counters is about 10-12 years.  For a used particle counter, it is better to find one that has been used intermittently, as apposed to continuously.  Lasers last longer if they are given downtime to cool.  Heat generated by the laser shortens the life of the optics.  This knowledge can be applied to choosing a refurbished particle counter for your application.  If you plan to continuously monitor an area for real time data, buy a new particle counter.  If you simply want to have one on hand to take occasional readings to troubleshoot a clean room, test HVAC, or track down mold, these are less strenuous applications and would put little wear on the optics.  For these intermittent uses, you could get away with choosing a used particle counter.

Accessories Unavailable for Older Particle Counters

If you are dead set on purchasing an old particle counter, here are some things to remember.  Be sure to obtain any accessories that came with the used particle counter when it was new. Batteries, printers, carrying cases and other model specific items will be harder to find for older equipment.  If its not too old, certain new replacement accessories like purge filter, probes and sensors, will probably work with your pre-owned instrument. But before buying, check with the manufacturer for compatibility and availability.  Look for models with external sensors, as opposed to built-in sensors.  For example, Lighthouse particle counters have external environmental sensors you can take off and replace.  If sensors are built-in, you have to send the unit to the factory and pay to have sensors replaced.  Environmental sensors, such as temperature and relative humidity tend to last 3-5 years before replacement.  Even rechargeable batteries do not last forever.  Newer Lithium Ion (Li-ion) batteries hold their charge longer and are less affected by memory phenomenon, but are not perfect and will only last a few years before loosing the ability to hold a charge.

Is It Safe to Buy a Refurbished Particle Counter?

Safe?  No, it is not safe.  For particle counters, buying used instruments is a big risk.  You may think you've found the diamond in the rough... but when it comes to used instruments, buyer beware!  Particle counters are delicate, sophisticated and will need ongoing service.  The safest investment is to buy new equipment with a factory warranty, from a reliable company.

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