I work for Hypertherm so I will have to say....and I will stand behind the statement 100%...that Hypertherm makes the best torch and consumables. We have over 85 engineers that are devoted to design and quality control in our Hanover NH facility....all of our pproducts are of our own design...as opposed to many aftermarket consumables that are copies. Our consumables and torches are not the cheapest to buy...but prove to be the cheapest in use with better cut quality, longer life, and free technical support that is second to none!
You can purchase just a torch head. There is no shielding required with a Powermax1000 torch as there is no high frequency. Adding length will affect performance of the torch in terms of starting, life of the consumables, and cut quality. There are a few manufacturers that manufacture torches that will fit Hypertherm units. They may be a little less expensive to purchase...but you will have a torch with less safety features...and lesser performance and shorter consumable life. Over time it will not prove as inexpensive!