What are Air Purifiers?

Unfortunately, air pollution is believed to be on the rise. This means that irritants, allergens, and microbes float freely in the air that we need to breathe. When we inhale these pollutants and microbe infested air into our lungs, we are likely to develop health issues. Hence the need to protect our indoor air as much as we can. To protect ourselves against the harmful effects of poor ventilation and air pollution, we must use air purifiers.

An air purifier is a device used to clean air in your home to improve air quality by removing irritants like pet dander, mold spores, dust mites, tobacco smoke, and other undesirable airborne particles. The activity of Air purifiers improve indoor air and helps individuals who may experience Asthma symptoms to fare better in small rooms or spaces. Air purifiers can be placed anywhere in the home, including common areas like the living room and dining room, or in the bedroom, for a more relaxing rest.

If you’re thinking about using an air purifier in your home, knowing how they work, what features are most important and how to optimize your use of the air purifier can help you get the most out of the experience of owning and using such a device. Here’s what you need to know so you can make a choice on the best air purifier for you.

How Does an Air Purifier Work?

There are different types of air purifiers and depending on the type, they work in different ways. The most common types have a filtration system and they work by sucking in air, circulating the air through a filter or device for cleaning, and then blowing the produced clean air back into the room. Filters for air purifiers can be made from a variety of materials including paper or fiberglass. Air filters need to be replaced periodically as they become dirty with pollutants. Failure to carry out filter replacements can force the device to work harder than necessary to clean the air, and can eventually compromise its ability to do its job as an air cleaner or air purification device. If you decide to buy air purifiers that use filters, you must budget for the periodic replacement of the filters. The annual cost of replacement filters can vary depending on the type of purifier being used and the type of filter required for that device. Also, the different types of air purifiers have different prices. Some are more expensive than others. For instance, the HEPA air purifier is more expensive than the Ionizer.

Who Needs Air Purifiers?

Indoor air quality suffers for many reasons. Common reasons for poor indoor air quality include poor ventilation, old ducts, use of chemicals in the home, or a tight building envelope that prevents the home from “breathing.” All of these features can lead to a buildup of moisture content, mold, and mold spores, dust mites, pollen, pet dander. In some homes, tobacco smoke, firewood smoke, radon, pesticides, newly installed carpeting, paint, and even asbestos can also have an effect on indoor air quality.

Almost everyone can benefit from an air purifier, but some people benefit more than others. The following are populations that benefit more from air purifiers than other people:

  • Pregnant women
  • Children
  • Seniors
  • People with allergies
  • People with a compromised immune system
  • Asthma sufferers
  • People who live near industrial sites

You may also benefit from an air purifier if you live on a property with many trees, flowers and other plant life that produces pollen. People who have a hard time keeping a clean house can reduce the amount of dust they breathe in by using an air purifier on a regular basis.

What Are the Different Types of Air Purifiers?

Like so many other appliances, air purifiers come in different types and models. Each type of air purifier works in slightly different ways and targets different pollutants.

HEPA Air Purifiers

HEPA stands for high-efficiency particulate air. HEPA air purifiers use HEPA filters which remove much smaller particles than standard air filters. HEPA filters are often recommended for people suffering from allergies and asthma because these devices are generally very effective at removing small particles like pollen and dander. HEPA filters are also categorized into two, namely; True HEPA filters and HEPA-type filters.

True HEPA filters are of such good grade that they are graded at 99.97% efficiency. To be certified high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) a filter it must be tested shown to filter particles as small as as small as 0.3microns which is really small.. To appreciate what a HEPA filter does, it helps to understand that a micron is 1 millionth of a meter. This means it will stop most particles and microbes. Some have even argued that HEPA air purifiers can protect you from the coronavirus. However, the truth is that viruses are often smaller than bacteria. Viruses are significantly smaller than bacteria. This makes HEPA filters not as effective against viruses to the level some people suggest. HEPA filters will help filter larger particles from 0.3microns(which is still ridiculously small) upwards but any finer particles as small as some viruses get, will go through. For this reason, some room air purifiers use a technology that combines HEPA filters with anti-microbial filters or UV lights to deactivate any microbes that may be present in indoor air.

There are standards and tests distinguishing “true” HEPA filters from HEPA-type filters. The second type of HEPA filters is referred to as “HEPA-type” filters. They are not as effective as the true HEPA filters but they do an awesome job removing particles, irritants, allergens, and odor from indoor air. Their efficiency ranges from 85% to 95%.

Maintenance is important for all air purifiers. For HEPA air purifiers, the filter replacement should be carried out from time to time. Replacement filters should be available. You can make your purchases on Amazon if you please.

UV Air Purifiers

Ultraviolet light can destroy bacteria, viruses, and pathogens in the air. UV-C light is the most useful in neutralizing microbes.

Many UV air purifiers now make use of this technology in deactivating germs or sterilizing air contaminated with microbes. These devices contain a special UV bulb in a chamber in the center of the device that produces different spectrums of UV light. UV-C is not good for any organism and as such, scientists advise caution in dealing with UV-C. The purifier passes the air through the chamber, where the light kills the bacteria. UV air purifiers can be used to kill mold spores and are especially effective for people who are allergic to mold. So, with UV air purifiers, it does not matter if the microbes are the sizes of fine particles or larger particles. Enough exposure to UV-C will do a good job.

The light bulbs in the UV air purifier chambers must be replaced, often annually, for the device to keep working.

UV air purifiers are germicidal but do nothing about the odors in small rooms.

Ionic Air Purifier (Ionizers)

An ionic air purifier also called an Ionizer, works by emitting negative ions into the air. These ions bond with positively charged particles (like dust mites, pet dander, and bacteria). When the bond is created, the dust becomes too heavy to remain airborne and falls out of the air. Some air purifiers work by trapping the particles inside the device to be cleaned out later. Some models are self-cleaning, others must be cleaned regularly in order to maintain functionality.

Ionizers, however, have a bit of a bad reputation due to the activities of another device known as the “Ozone generator”. Ozone generators produce Ozone in quantities that are unsafe for people. The aim is to bond air particles with ozone so they can get heavy and drop to the ground. But the Ozone itself is more likely to harm you than the pollen or other particles that need to be cleaned. This is why many states, Health Organizations, and even the Environmental protection Agency warn against air purifiers that produce Ozone.

Unfortunately for the Ionizer, it produces small harmless levels of Ozone as its by-product during the process of air purification and this is due to the negative charges it releases. Also, marketers and producers of Ozone generators often market them as Ionizers, creating a bad name for Ionizers.

If you choose to get an Ionizer, be sure that you have not bought an Ozone generator instead. Buy from reliable and reputable sources. If you can get an expert to go with you to help make the choice, even better.

For maintenance, you should clean the Ionizer regularly. Some have collection plates that will need to be cleaned regularly.

Activated Carbon Air Purifiers

Activated carbon air purifiers are designed to remove odors from smoke and fumes inside the home, but do not help with viruses, bacteria, allergies, pet dander, and dust. Activated carbon air purifiers work by using activated carbon, usually charcoal to carry out adsorption, trapping pollutant particles in the pores of the carbon structure. These appliances help people who live close to industrial sites and landfills, where odors can decrease the quality of life. Some activated carbon air purifiers also contain a HEPA filter to remove dander. Activated Carbon purifiers are not as effective as HEPA air purifiers. Carbon filters work on particles ranging between 0.5microns to 50microns. 

Buying an Air Purifier? What to Watch For

If you’re buying an air purifier, do your research before purchasing a model for your home. Watch for the following:

  • Filter price and recommended replacement rate. Find out through consumer reports and manufacturer notes how often an air purifier’s parts (like the air filter or UV bulb) need to be replaced, and how much those parts cost. This will help you decide whether you can afford to maintain that particular air purifier.
  • No ozone. Some ionic air purifiers (Ozone generators passed off as Ionizers) produce ozone in unsafe quantities. This gas can irritate the lungs. Check the packaging information to ensure the purifier you buy does not produce ozone in harmful concentrations. It cannot be stressed enough. On no condition should you get an ozone generator. It does not work effectively and it puts your health at risk. Even if you get it for free, it’s a “penny wise, pound foolish” deal.
  • CADR (clean-air delivery rating). The CADR rating indicates how fast the purifier will work. The best devices have a rating of 300 or more. Choose one with a rating that suits your room size, ensuring quick distribution of purified air and reducing air pollution. At the end of the day, to feel and benefit from the effects of an air purifier, the air purifier has to distribute and clean air fast enough to ventilate the room properly.
  • Sizing. Measure the space where the purifier will be operating, then find a model that is properly fitted for that size.

Check for certifications as well. The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers is an association designed to ensure the efficiency of a home appliance like an air purifier. Buying an air purifier with AHAM’s logo ensures that this device is certified, effective, and reputable.

Do They Really Work?

A Havard-Medical school professor of Otolaryngology recommends a well-chosen air purifier for anyone who has allergies and who lives with allergens in their home. Pet owners in particular may find air purifiers to be an effective way to eliminate pet dander and other airborne particles that can affect the quality of life. Air purifiers are most effective if the consumer buys a well-rated device that is designed to eliminate the specific pollutants they need to eliminate. By doing research and reading online reviews, consumers can choose the best device for them.