I decided it was time to stop breathing in leaded solder fumes and get a fume extractor. Being on a limited budget getting a new iron with one built in or a larger unit was out of the question. Actually we have an iron with extractor on it at work (Blackjack hot-air rework station with very handy electric de-soldering tool) and it works brilliantly. Maybe one day.
Maplin were for once actually the cheapest source of desk-top extractors so I decided to take a chance on their £15 model. Turns out it was quite a good choice as it seems to work pretty well. It produces about 55dB at 30cm which is about where it needs to be on the desk to work well. The noise is just about acceptable, not quite enough to be annoying or distracting and it fades into the background pretty quickly. It’s about the same as a noisy PC fan.
It takes up a fair bit of room compared to an iron-mounted or vice-mounted version but you can angle it up and down which helps when using PCB holders and the like. It seems to such most of the fumes away from your face. Some still get through but I find I don’t the the usual symptoms like headaches, watering eyes, dry throat etc.
It comes with three filters. No idea how long they will last, obviously it depends entirely on how much you use the fan. They are easy to remove and clean, and fairly cheap to replace.