The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reported that indoor air pollution is one of the top five environmental health risks. Air pollutants, such as smoke, dust, mold, and pollen, can easily enter your home and stay there for a very long time. They can come from cigarettes, fireplaces, pets, plants, and many other sources. Improper ventilation, alongside the contaminants, can make things worse for the air in your home.
To solve this problem, you can either find and get rid of the source of the problem or improve the ventilation in your home.
Controlling the source of the problem can be very difficult; for example, can you really stop pollution coming from the highway into your home? Or for pollutants like pollen, is it possible to get rid of all the trees or plants in the area?
Improving the ventilation in your home is also something you can try, but it might not completely solve the problem or it might cause additional concerns. For one, it doesn’t remove the pollutants that are already in your home. It might also open your home to additional pollutants, as well as let in unwanted hot or cold air.
If you are looking for a solution that will truly meet the needs of you and your family, then consider modern air purifiers.
Air Purifiers – How They’ll Work for You
Air purifiers are electrical appliances that circulate the air in the room in order to capture the unwanted particles and gases. Most modern air purifiers have become advanced and efficient enough to trap anything from mold spores to bacteria particles. These minute particles are too small to be completely removed by regular cleaning actions such as vacuuming and dusting.
They are usually made up of a filter, a motor, and a fan that are all encased in a special kind of housing. Depending on the type of air purifier, there might be differences in how they work, but basically the device’s motor and fan will circulate the air in the room. As it intakes the air, the filter will trap the pollutants. For filters, the finer its sieves, the smaller the particles it can trap.
These devices can be simply plugged into an electrical socket or installed alongside your HVAC systems. Because they can work independently, they can deal with various kinds of problems regardless of the source of the pollutants and without the need for additional ventilation systems.
There are many benefits to using air purifiers in your home. These include:
Protection from Respiratory Diseases. Because air purifiers can clean the air, you can breathe easier knowing that you have additional protection from asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases such as bronchitis and emphysema.
Allergen Prevention. Pollen, pet hair, and dust can trigger allergic reactions for anyone — seniors, adults, and children. Air Purifiers can easily capture all of these contaminants so you won’t have to worry about an allergy attack.
Mold Remediation. Mold buildup is a serious problem that you need the help of experts to properly get rid of the source. Most of the time however, you won’t even know that it’s there until it’s too late. Get an extra layer of defense against mold when you use air purifiers.
Reduction in the Dust that Settles in Your Home. By adding an air purifier to your room, dust particles will be trapped before they have time to settle. This will reduce the accumulation of dust on your furniture, appliances, tables, and the hard to reach places in your home. By using air purifiers regularly, you can achieve a significant reduction in household dust.
Peace of Mind. Most indoor air pollutants are difficult to see and feel until something already happens. Air purifiers will help you rest easy knowing that you have everything that you need to protect yourself and your loved ones from the unseen threat.
Choosing an Air Purifier That Fits Your Needs
There are many things that you should take into consideration before buying an air purifier. We’ll go through them point by point.
Purpose. Depending on the pollutants that you are most concerned with, you would need to consider 1) the filtration technology used in the air purifier and 2) the type of air purifier. Do you need to protect yourself from your allergy-inducing pollutants? Are smoke and odor your main problems?
Air Purifier Technology. There are a lot of air purifier filtration technologies available in the market today. These include 1) High-Efficiency Particulate Air or HEPA Filters, 2) “HEPA-Type” Systems, 3) Ozone Generators, 4) Ionic Filters, 5) Electrostatic Precipitators, 6) UV Light Filters, and 7) Activated Carbon Filters. There’s a lot to consider, so we’ll go through each kind one-by-one.
- High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) Filters. Probably the most popular, air purifiers with HEPA filters use an advanced configuration of fibers in order to capture 99.97% of all harmful particles in the air, as defined and rated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. For this reason, it’s also recommended by physicians and used in many hospitals.
Air particles are usually measured in microns, a unit of measurement that is one millionth of a meter. HEPA filters use three kinds of systems: interception, impaction, and diffusion, to trap particles above 0.4 microns and below 0.1 microns into the web of fibers in the device.
Because it can only trap airborne particles, it does not work effectively against gases. Radon, carbon monoxide, and other gaseous pollutants just pass through HEPA systems. Another disadvantage is that the device is also usually more expensive and needs regular filter replacement. However, if your only concern is to remove air particles, such as pollen and dust, then HEPA systems are a great choice.
- “HEPA-Type” Filters. Be careful about air purifiers that are labelled “HEPA-Type.” Not only are they confusing, they are also less effective. These devices’ effectiveness in removing air particles range anywhere from 25% to 95%.
- Ozone Generators. Instead of using filters, these generators use high-voltage electrical currents to convert the oxygen in the air to ozone. Ozone then breaks down the harmful molecules and microorganisms in the air. These include anything from bacteria to mold.
However, these generators are hardly recommended due to the threat that ozone poses to the human body. Ozone, in large concentrations, can damage the lungs, cause shortness of breath, and irritate the throat. This is why organizations like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the American Lung Association advise against using them.
- Ionic Air Purifiers. This device uses wires or needles to create ions which are negatively charged gas molecules. These ions cause air particles that pass through or come near the device to become negatively charged as well as stick to the nearest surface — which can be your floor, wall, or furniture, so you don’t breathe them in. However, they also produce a trace amount of ozone which, as mentioned before, can be hazardous in large amounts.
- Electrostatic Precipitators. They clean the air by using static electricity. They have a series of plates which are negatively and positively charged. These plates work similar to a magnet in which a charge is emitted into the air to attract airborne particles to the filter.
Their biggest draw is that they do not need regular filter replacements. They are also very effective and can remove about 95% of bulk dirt and 85% of microscopic particles. However, they also use ion systems which can produce ozone.
- UV Light Filters. This technology is primarily used in conjunction with filter-based systems. It uses ultraviolet rays to kill viruses and bacteria that are captured in the system. The UV bulbs in this system can deteriorate over time so they also need to be replaced every so often.
- Activated Carbon Filters. This filter’s porous structure and absorption properties make it effective for capturing gaseous pollutants such as chemical fumes, smoke, and odor. These kinds of air pollutants are not removed by other kinds of filters. That’s why activated carbon filters are usually used in tandem with other kinds of systems.
- Combinations. A lot of modern air purifiers combine technologies in order to address more issues. A popular combination is the HEPA system with activated carbon filters. This kind of air purifier utilizes the effectiveness of HEPA filters to trap air particles and activated carbon filters to handle the gaseous pollutants. These devices can be a lot more expensive though. But if both air particles and gaseous pollutants are your problems, then this combination device can be a great investment.
Type of Air Purifier. Air purifiers can also be classified as 1) Single-Room Air Purifiers or 2) Whole-House Air Filters. Single-room air purifiers are small devices that you can move around the house to purify a room’s air one at a time. They can be tabletop or console type devices. Their portability and relatively inexpensive price make them great options for all kinds of people. If you are concerned about multiple kinds of pollutants, then getting different single-room air purifiers is a viable course of action.
Whole-house air filters on the other hand are added to your existing forced-air heating and cooling system in order to protect all of the areas in your house that is connected to the system. They are harder to maintain and will usually garner you an additional expense for hiring a professional. They are also not versatile enough to deal with different kinds of pollutants.
Filter Maintenance. When choosing an air purifier model, be sure to take the frequency of future filter replacements into consideration. You need to change the filters regularly according to the manufacturer’s recommended intervals. This is important for maintaining the air purifier’s ability to remove pollutants.
Depending on the kind of device you have, there will be different specifications on filter replacement and maintenance. This is usually listed in the manual or on the device itself. If changing filters frequently will be difficult for you, look for a unit with a long filter life.
Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR). Air purifiers have a CADR rating that measures how effective the device is in actually cleaning the air in a specific room size. The higher the number the more effective and faster it is at cleaning air.
The CADR is displayed as a set of three numbers, which looks something like this: 200/250/300, based on how well the device can clean dust, tobacco smoke, and pollen respectively. It is provided by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers as the industry standard. You should be wary of devices that don’t even have this rating.
Air Changes Per Hour. This rating tells you how often the air is exchanged each hour by the air purifier. For example, an ACH rating of 7x means that air volume is exchanged 7 times every hour. Typically, the higher the number, the more efficient the device is in purifying the air in your home.
Maximum Space Coverage. You need to have a good estimate of how much space there is in the rooms that you need an air purifier. Check the square footage information for the air purifier to know how big an area it can effectively filter contaminants. Usually, the more space that the device can filter, the more expensive it will be. But if you plan to use the device in several small rooms, you won’t have to spend as much by getting an air purifier that fits your exact needs. Also note that if you are placing the unit in a high-traffic room, where window or doors are continuously opened and closed, then you might need a more powerful unit.
Energy Star Label. The Energy Star is something that you’ll see on a wide variety of home appliances. It was created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to differentiate products that have high-energy efficiency. This means that you’ll be able to help the environment as well as save on your monthly electrical bill. On average, this label means you are getting 20-30% reduced energy costs. For air purifiers, this even goes up to a 40% reduction.
Noise. Noise is also a kind of pollution. Most modern air purifiers have near-silent operation capabilities. When checking the noise level, use the highest fan setting to be sure. After all, you don’t want a noisy device particularly if you’re using it in the bedroom where you rest.
Portability. If you are planning to move the air purifier around your house, make sure that you can carry it easily and safely – especially if you expect to be carrying it over staircases. If it is too heavy, check if there are lighter options.
Brand. Choose an air purifier brand that is known for their product performance, durability, and customer support. It is important to know what they can offer you in terms of filter replacement, device repair, and your other concerns. Also, check the warranty period and coverage.
Total Cost. When you’ve narrowed down your options by using the criteria listed above, you should have a general idea on how much it costs to purchase an air purifier. However, you should also consider the recurring costs of using the device. These include costs related to electrical consumption and filter replacement. HEPA devices, in particular, are among the most expensive when it comes to filter replacements.
Other Features. Optional features, such as remote controls, carrying handles, and programmable timers, can make your air purifier experience much more comfortable. There are also models with dirt sensors that can determine the level of dust and adjust the settings accordingly.
Using Your Air Purifiers
Get the most out of your air purifiers by following these simple tips.
Running Time. Air purifiers are designed to be used for extended periods of time. Pollutants from outside air, HVAC systems, humans, and pets will always find their way into your rooms. Check your manual to see how long you should be running the air purifier, though typically you want to keep it running for around 5 to 8 hours at a time.
Remove Excess Pollutants. Getting an air purifier doesn’t mean you can be lax when it comes to cleaning. Dust will still build up, albeit at a reduced rate. You should also avoid introducing excess pollutants such as those from smoking a cigarette or lighting a fireplace. Also, make sure not to store pesticides, glues, and solvents that produce chemical fumes inside your home.
Install Exhaust Systems. This is particularly useful for areas where you can’t avoid introducing pollutants into your home. Exhaust fans are great for reducing air contaminants when you’re cooking in the kitchen or when you’re washing clothes in the laundry area.
Location. The places you should put your air purifier are the rooms that you spend the most time in. Usually this is the bedroom since that is where you sleep. However, if you have a family member who is allergic to a household pet, then you might want to keep it running in the rooms where the pet spends the most time in.
Buying an air purifier is a decision that you need to thoroughly research in order to maximize the benefits it can give you. Your purpose is the most important factor to consider so that you can purchase the type of device that really fits your needs.
If you are still worried about the cost, think of it as a long-term investment instead. It gives you peace of mind that you are doing everything you can for yourself and your family’s well-being.