Home VS Office Paper Shredders

Home vs office paper shredders

Whats the difference between home and office paper shredders? (Part 1)

As we head into the 21st century, many of us are more and more conscious of security. We are becoming more aware of ways our information can be used and abused, and therefore seek to secure our private information. Many years ago, with the advent of email, it was thought life would become “paperless”, and everything would be done online. Although this form of communications has left Australia Post with a big gap in its letter delivery business, we definitely do not have a “paperless” society. Cheap, easy to use printers, available for domestic use, have allowed us to print everything, from digital bank statements, to emails from our loved ones. Astute manufacturers have recognised this, and now we have a plethora of paper shredders to cater for everyman and his love of printed documents. The end result is we now have a dramatic increase in the range of paper shredders. In many senses this is a good thing. Never before has it been easier to proactively secure your own information. No longer do we have to tear up paper before throwing it out. We can easily access a number of paper shredders either online, or at any stationary supplier. We are now educated in shredding, whereas 15 years ago, the only places you would expect to find a shredder was the AFP headquarters, or your solicitors office.

For larger companies, who have been using paper shredders for many years, and have been used to paying, sometimes many thousands of Dollars, for a paper shredder, this growth in the range of shredders seems like a godsend. It may seem that if you require a shredder, just pop down to the local stationary shop, grab a machine off the shelf, or go online and buy the cheapest machine which can chew a staple, ( all shredders can chew staples, and always have been able to ), and the jobs done. I would like to challenge that concept. I feel that, like buying any piece of equipment, no matter how complex, buying a shredder should involve more than just considering price.

So, what should we look at? I have found hat there are machines designed for home use, and machines which are designed for professional use. And there are some major differences. A home shredder used in an office like environment will have a short lifespan, and, I know this from experience, you won’t be able to fix a home shredder. They, like so much stuff being manufactured these days, a throwaway item. And they aren’t recycled either. They usually end up in landfill somewhere, adding to the worlds pollution and wasting precious resources. I am not saying there is no application for these small home machines, just that we need to ensure we get the right machine for the job, therefore maximising the useful life we get from it.

So what is the difference, you may ask. They shred paper right? Its not very tough, that paper, you may say. Well, any of us that have attempted to tear 10 sheets of paper will know that’s not entirely true. Paper is basically wood, the same fibres which make up a tree go into that sheet of A4, and when you combine a number of them, well, they become more and more tree like.

Home Shredders:

I have some points on what constitutes a home paper shredder:

  1. DC Motors: small home machines use small DC motors. They are quite noisy, and they have no fan to cool them, so the time taken to overheat them is short.
  2. Automatic start/stop function: home shredders have no auto start/stop ability, or if they do, it will be a mechanical device, usually a rigid arm protruding into the throat of the machine, which is depressed when paper pushes on it, and returns to the original position with the aid of a spring. An electronic switch is activated when the arm is pushed in, which activates the motor. Some home machines don’t even have this, but use a simple 3 way switch, one way for forward, in the centre for off, and the other way for reverse. These mechanical devices can break easily, and if the user is not aware of the break, can allow the machine to continue running, causing the motor to overheat. This can cause the motor to burn out, and may even lead to serious damage as these machines can have a fair bit of paper and paper dust in the head unit, and can catch fire.
  3. Duty Cycle: this is another side effect of DC motors, and means that the machines can only be run for a short period of time before they require a cooling down period, if they have a thermal protection device installed. Anyone having to shred half a ream of paper can testify to how frustrating it can be when you have only shredded a quarter of the pile before the machine stops and needs to cool down. Check if the machine has a duty cycle, if it does, make sure its more than 5 minutes, or you will get a home shredder.
  4. Waste Capacity: shredders designed for home use tend to have very small waste containers. 20 litres is considered a generous waste capacity on a home shredder. Depending on the type of cut the machine does will depend on how many sheets it will take to fill the bin. Strip shred machines fill the bin very quickly. The strips of paper wont sit flat, and tend to spring up in the bin, and unless you continuously squash the paper down, the bin will fill up in a very short period of time. Some small machines are using cross cut blades, and this reduces waste by two thirds, but when the bin is only 10 to 20 Litres, it will require very regular emptying. If the bin is neglected, paper will be drawn back up into the blades, and can be pushed into the head space of the machine, reducing the machines sheet capacity, and also adding to the risk of fire as the paper is now in contact with the motor. Home shredders generally sit on top of the bin, you have to remove the main head of the machine from the bin before you can empty it, and this can be awkward, and messy. If your shredder sits atop a bin, and not a cabinet, you have a home shredder.
  5. Sheet Capacity: it is a bit more of a grey area, this. Shredders which take only 10 sheets per pass aren’t necessarily home shredders. Machines which shred the paper into strips, and only take 10 sheets generally are home shredders, though. Very high security machines are exceptions, as they must do many times the work to shred paper into minute particles, and many high security machines will only have low sheet capacities due to the work they must do. If the shredder you are looking at has a low sheet capacity, and is a strip shred, it is definitely a home shredder, and users will soon come to realise how frustrating shredding a few sheets at a time can be, especially when in a rush.
  6. Large Shred Size: this is a follow on of the last point. Machines designed for home use tend to be of a lower security rating than office models. They would usually shred the paper into strips of between 3mm and 8mm. This is not highly secure, and if the paper is shredded a certain way, you can find that each line of print is perfectly preserved on each strip of shredded paper. This is called inline shredding, and has been proven to be a major problem with strip shredding. Some machines are using cross cut blades, but they will have a sheet capacity of less than 10 sheets, and the cutting mechanism will be of inferior quality as the manufacture of the cross cut blades is much more complex, and expensive, compared to strip cutting mechanisms.  

Read Part 2 about office paper shredders here.

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