Smoke test demonstrating air lea at a door (C) Daniel Friedman Smoke Pens: Where to Buy Smoke Pencils, Smoke Puffers & Smoke Generating Tools

  • SMOKE PENCIL / SMOKE GUN SOURCES - CONTENTS: type of smoke generating & smoke testing equipment for building & mechanical system investigations. Where to buy smoke pencils, smoke pencil sticks, smoke puffers, smoke guns, air current tubes, & energy savings inspection equipment: smoke gun suppliers. Using smoke emitter pencils, smoke guns, or smoke generators for finding air leaks & building heat loss. Building heat loss & energy efficiency tools & procedures: smoke matches, smoke pellets, smoke generators. How to find and seal building air leaks, how to find and correct points of un-wanted building heat loss or heat gain
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about choosing, buying, & using smoke pens, smoke pencils and related HVAC and building air movement test tools. Solar Age Magazine Articles on Renewable Energy, Energy Savings, Construction Practices
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Smoke test tools & smoke generators:

Where to choose & buy smoke test equipment for HVAC & air movement tests in buildings: This article provides sources of smoke pencils and air leak detection tools for building energy savings. Smoke generators of a variety of types have a wide range of diagnostic uses including finding building air flow studies, air leaks or heat loss points, HVAC duct air leaks, heat exchanger leaks, testing for air movement around ventilation hoods, checking for indoor air ventilation in office or test lab spaces, operation of exhaust fans, even leaks in drainage and drain piping systems.

The mechanics and chemistry of smoke pens and smoke generators vary widely and some include irritating or even toxic fumes and chemicals while others are safer to operate. We discuss and compare all of those features and uses in this article. Our page top photo shows the website author using a smoke tester to view air movement into an un-insulated wall cavity.

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Where to Find & Buy Smoke Pencils for Tracing Air Leaks in buildings

Smoke test for air leaks (C) Daniel Friedman Steven BlissArticle Contents

Reader Question: what is a source to purchase smoke testing equipment?

Where can I buy a smoke pencil ? -- Jerry Fry, Monterey CA


Immediately below we provide a list of companies providing smoke guns, pencils, bombs, emitters, puffers and similar HVAC and building air movement test equipment. We also provide links to MSDS and other safety and usage guides for smoke emitting and test equipment.

Our photo (at page top and again at below left) shows a simple smoke generating "pencil" in use to test for air leaks at an opening in an icynene foam insulated crawl space. The glass tube is filled with a chemical that generates a chemical "smoke" when the tube ends are broken off and air is pushed through the tube by the rubber bulb in the website author's hand.

List of Companies Producing & Distributing Smoke Pens, Pencils, Bottles, Powder Puffers & other Smoke Generating Equipment for Various Test Purposes

Gastec 9501 smoke generator (C) Daniel Friedman

Smoke test equipment manufacturers can refer you to local distributors for smoke pencils or other smoke testing and air testing or air movement testing equipment.

Also many home inspectors have and use this equipment, as do home energy auditors and "house doctors".

At Basement Energy Losses- IR & Visual we show additional photographs of using a smoke generator tube (smoke pencil) to check building air flow and building air leaks at a basement wall.

At AIR LEAK DETECTION TOOLS we show using a smoke pencil to determine the direction of air flow (under a door) when evaluating return air supply adequacy for an air conditioning system

Table of Properties, Chemicals, Operating Mechanisms of Smoke Generating & Smoke Testing Equipment & Devices

For a list of specific smoke test products, properties, and suppliers see CATALOG of Types of Smoke in the next section of this article.

Smoke Device Type Key Ingredients Mechanism Comments
Air current test kit Various Chemicals in one or a series of sealed glass tubes; tube ends are broken open to permit air, moisture etc. to pass through tube, chemical reaction creates "smoke"

E.g. see Air Current Test Kit — Dräger Cat. No. 800-216 (replacement tube 800-25301 ) or the Airflow Indicator Kit — GASTEC Cat. No. 810-500 (replacement tube 810-501 )

Potentially hazardous, not suitable for respirator fit testing

FP Smoke Dimethyl silicone
reaction product
with silica, Calcium Carbonate
Mechanical: a plastic bottle of powder is squeezed to produce a puff of white particles. Bottle orifice determines the size or volume of the puff of test smoke. Rubber bulb squeeze pump device is available from Regin Co.

BJÖRNAX AB & Regin Co.

Not classified as hazardous

Gas tubes Various

Rubber squeeze bulb or pump to which a glas tube is attached.

Chemicals in one or a series of sealed glass tubes; tube ends are broken open to permit air, moisture etc. to pass through tube, chemical reaction creates "smoke"


& see air current test kits listed earlier in this table

Potentially hazardous

Qualitative Fit Testing Kit Tin tetrachloride or Stannic chloride (irritating smoke) Tube (ampoule) is broken (flexible plastic tube) and either contains its own bulb-pump at one end, or is inserted into a rubber bulb or hand pump to emit puffs of test smoke for respirator fit testing.

Respirator fit testing. See Nextteq & VeriFit™ Irritant Smoke Generators for Respirator Fit Testing

Smoke Bottles Titanium tetrachloride, releasing Hydrogen chloride (HCl) gas Mechanical: ampoule contained inside a plastic bottle is broken by squeezing the bottle, to emit dense smoke. Stop smoke emission by capping the bottle.

Smoke generation can continue for 24 hours.

Highly toxic, hazardous

Smoke Cans Butane/Propane hydrocarbon blend Aerosol spray used to test smoke alarms;

Home inspection, HVAC testing; typically 300 tests per can; E.g. SmokeCheck™ from HSI Fire & Safety Group LLC.

Potentially hazardous

Smoke Candles, smoke emitter cartridges Titanium tetrachloride ampoules, (
or Potassium chlorate and/or Ammonium Chloride
Hydrated zinc chloride, water condensate, carbon monoxide
Chemical reaction, may require ignition, white to gray smoke, burn time varies, as short as 3 minutes.

Operate for 24-hours per ampoule, corrosive irritating smoke. E.g. Superior® Signal 3C Smoke Candles (sold through Grainger et als) can produce as much as 40,000 cu.ft. of smoke.

Potentially hazardous

Smoke Emitter Bottles Titanium tetrachloride ampoules, (or Potassium chlorate and/or Ammonium Chloride) Mechanical, chemical; Ampoule is crushed within a plastic bottle

Operate for 24-hours per ampoule, corrosive irritating smoke

Potentially hazardous

Smoke Guns Various, Typically a rubber bulb attached to a glass tube or vial containing a chemical that reacts with air or moisture in air to emit smoke as "puffs" Potentially hazardous
Smoke Matches Potassium chloride & Ammonium Chloride Solid cartridge is ignited mechanically or chemically;

Short burning, 20 seconds typica.

Potentially hazardous

Smoke Pens, Smoke Pencils

Various including:

Butane/Propane hydrocarbon blend,

Particle size 0.3 to 2.5 microns

A smoke-emitting wick is inserted into the clutch pencil & ignited. Operating like a "mechanical pencil" the wick is adjusted to expose about 3/8" of wick that is ignited to provide a continuous stream of light gray to white smoke.

6 wicks provide up to 3 hours of continuous smoke or 360 - 30 second tests. E.g. HSI SmokeCheck™

Potentially hazardous

Smoke Pencil Puffer Stick Propylene glycol, glycerine, distilled water Battery powered hand-held device puffs vaporized "smoke fluid" or "super fog fluid" chemical. Smoke Pencil Puffer Stick includes a trigger on the smoke stick to release puffs of smoke (instead of squeezing a bottle) to show the direction of air movement.

Low toxicity

Smoke Powders Silica, calcium carbonate Finely ground silica or CaCO3, typically in a plastic squeeze bottle, emits a white puff of "smoke", typically heavier than and shorter airborne time than some other smoke types .

Low toxicity

Smoke Wicks   See smoke pens, smoke pencils Potentially hazardous

Catalog of Types of Smoke Bottles, Smoke Emitters, Smoke Pens & Pencils, Guns, Smoke Puffers

Foam insulation air leaks (C) Daniel Friedman

Smoke pencils, smoke guns, smoke matches, canned smoke, and fine powder smoke "puffers" are valuable for detecting where air infiltrates (leaks in) or exfiltrates (leaks out) of buildings or HVAC ducts, can be purchased from a variety of building and environmental test equipment suppliers including those listed below.

Watch out: some smoke tracing emitters produce highly toxic fumes (such as sulfuric acid H2SO4) that can injure lungs, eyes, skin, or even cause death if used at high concentrations in an enclosed space.

Gastec 9501 smoke generator (C) Daniel Friedman Smoke test example (C) Daniel Friedman

Because smoke guns and smoke equipment are widely used by and produced by people involved in both HVAC and indoor air quality work, companies providing those services or who sell equipment to those practitioners can supply smoke testing equipment in a variety of forms such as ultra-fine powder that is "puffed" into the air to detect air movement direction, chemical tubes that generate smoke when opened, and capsules used to generate smoke to test for leaks in furnace heat exchangers.

We (D Friedman) use smoke generating tubes and other gas sampling equipment provided by the two most reliable companies in the world, Draeger-Safety's detector-tubes and Drager accuro™ bellows pump, the Gastec™ cylinder pump and detector-tube system produced by Gastec or Sensidyne, and we also use Sensidyne's Gilian air pump.

For broad screening for combustibles and a number of other toxic gases and for leak tracing we also use Amprobe's Tif8850. All of these instruments, their applications, and sensitivities (minimum detectable limits) for specific gases are described in our Gas Sampling Plan online document.

Smoke bottle (C) Daniel Friedman

Also see the smoke pen or smoke puffer products listed below at Smoke Gun & Smoke Pencil System Safety, Hazards, MSDS Sheets just below

The question-and-answer article about buying smoke pencils to test for air movement in buildings, quotes-from, updates, and comments an original article from Solar Age Magazine and written by Steven Bliss.

The importance of setting priorities for sealing these points of energy wasted is emphasized and discussed, and sketches as well as photographs of common points of building heat loss, or unwanted heat gain, and air leaks are provided in the following articles:

Building Heat Loss & Air Leaks - [PDF]

Building Heat Loss & Air Leaks - part 2 - [PDF]

Building Heat Loss & Air Leaks - part 3 - [PDF]

Building Heat Loss & Air Leaks - part 4 - [PDF]

Smoke test for air leaks (C) Daniel Friedman Steven Bliss

Here we include solar energy, solar heating, solar hot water, and related building energy efficiency improvement articles reprinted/adapted/excerpted with permission from Solar Age Magazine - editor Steven Bliss.

Smoke Gun & Smoke Pen or Smoke Pencil System Safety, Hazards, MSDS Sheets

Watch out: some smoking or fogging equipment uses highly irritating or even toxic gases or chemicals (tetrachloride acid or Titanium tetrachloride, or Hydrogen chloride HCL gas) that can cause eye or respiratory problems or may be poisonous if swallowed. Be sure that you use your smoke product only after having read (and followed) the manufacturer's directions.

See the example smoke pen, smoke pencil, and smoke emitter MSDS sheets below and see our full list at Smoke Generator Chemicals Powders MSDS. The MSDS sheets for these smoke candles, pens, powders, sticks, etc. include hazard warnings, intended usage, and the original manufacturer. Our original source links indicate suppliers who distribute these products in various countries.

The link to the original Q&A article in PDF form immediately below is the original article that has since been replaced by an expanded/updated online version of this article (found above).

The question-and-answer article above paraphrases, quotes-from, updates, and comments an original article from Solar Age Magazine and written by Steven Bliss.

Also see the previous section of the article series HEAT LOSS DETECTION TOOLS that article explains how to survey a building for air and heat loss or gain points in basements and crawl spaces and how to correct them.

Beyond simple caulking and weatherstripping, it is important to look at the whole building - moisture and moisture sources, air quality, heating and ventilation equipment, and other energy sources and energy loss or unwanted gain points.


Continue reading at SMOKE GUNS for AIR LEAK DETECTION where we discuss the use of smoke generators, and smoke guns or smoke pencils in buildings, or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.


Or see AIR MOVEMENT in BUILDINGS - When, where, how & why air moves in buildings.

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SMOKE PENCIL / SMOKE GUN SOURCES at - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.


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