Do air purifiers work?

Do air purifiers work

Do air purifiers work? The air around you is filled with dust, pollen and germs. Those are the main factors that can cause you respiratory health problems. I am guessing one of the reasons you got to this post is because you are worried about your health and want to know if the air purifier can help you.

The short answer to your question is YES and NO. It is confusing right? Well the problem is that certain air purifiers can help you with some air “trouble maker”, but not with others. Before you jump in an buy an air purifier, consider doing the basic things. To reduce the quantity of contaminants that pollute the air in your home, you should minimize or eliminate the sources of the pollution and increase the ventilation. For some of you the ventilation may not be the solution, especially if you live in a big city with a lot of traffic. Take care of the dust frequently and avoid having pets if you have allergies. Now as an addition to this come the air purifiers. By the end of the post you will have much clearer image if you should buy an air purifier and which one.

How Do Air Purifiers Work?

In order to understand how an air purifier works, you need to know that there are different types out there and the technology behind them. It is vital to know how each of the types work, so you can choose the best for your specific needs. There are 5 most common types of air purifiers:

1. HEPA
2. Activated Carbon
3. Ionizing Purifiers
4. Ultra Violet (UV)
5. Ozone Generators

HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters are being used for many years. This technology is capable to trap 99,97% of the particles that are flying trough the air. In order to be trapped the particles must be bigger than 0,3 microns, such as dust, chemicals, pollen, mold, bacteria and viruses. Because of the ability to trap mold, bacteria and viruses, these purifiers create a sanitary environment.

The HEPA air purifiers are built with very fine fiber materials that are folded back and forth in accordion shape. This maze of fibers traps the particles from the air. In order to work the air must be able to go trough the filter. The more quantity of air goes trough the filter in an hour the higher the capacity to trap the air particles. As time goes by the filter becomes full and the air will not be able to go trough. This is when you need to change your filter. It usually takes 2 to 4 years, but it depends on the usage.

HEPA air purifiers are most effective against airborne particles. The downside is that they do not remove, odors or gases. If the HEPA air purifier contains activated carbon at some level of the barrier, it can help in absorbing the odors and gases.

Activated Carbon is a type of carbon (also known as charcoal) that produced to be extremely porous and is able to absorb the particles that are flying in the air. They also have the ability of chemical bonding, which allows them to capture chemical emissions, gases, smoke (tobacco smoke as well) and different odors. Once the chemicals are bonded with the activated carbon, they are not released back. This is very important for people who have MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity), asthma, little babies and the elderly.
While activated carbon air purifiers can help reduce the quantity of chemicals and odors from the air, they have a lower capability in removing allergens and airborne particles.

Ionizing Air Purifier is a type of purifier that uses the process of ion emission in order to clean the air. An ion is a particle that can have positive or negative charge. These purifiers inject negative ions into the air. The negative ions bonds with particles from the air (such as pollen and dust). This bonding happens until the newly-formed particle is too heavy and falls on objects in the room. It simply takes the airborne particles and places them on surrounding items, instead of eliminating them. There is a good chance that those particles will become loose and contaminate the air in the room again.

Ultra Violet (UV) air purifiers are excellent for killing germs such as viruses and bacteria. These air purifiers have an UV lamp inside. When the germs pass by the lamp, the UV light disrupts their DNA and kills them. The UV air purifiers have the ability to convert oxygen and water molecules from the air into ozone and hydroxyl, which help killing the germs. The ozone is not needed and in fact can be harmful. A good UV purifier should eliminate or minimize the quantity of created ozone.

Although the UV air purifiers are very efficient at killing the germs from the air, it is best i they are used with a filter system such as HEPA and activated carbon.

Ozone air purifiers produce ozone and are not the safest choice you can make. The ozone can provoke asthma symptoms. High levels of ozone can star the lungs. Ozone purifiers are not effective in eliminating dust and pollen, so they are used in combination with ion purifiers.

How long does it take for air purifier to work?

Basically it depends on the power of the air purifier to filter the air, the size of the room you want it to filter and the quantity of airborne particles that are flying freely in the air. In order to know exactly how fast a certain air purifier can clean the room, you need to know the CADR of the purifier. CADR stands for Clean Air Delivery Rate. This indicates the volume of clean air delivered by the purifier per minute. It provides three measurements, pollen, dust and tobacco smoke. The higher the CADR, the faster it will filter the air. CADR was developed by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), so if you see a purifier with CADR certification this means that the unit has been tested to the industry standard.

What do ACH and CFM stand for?

ACH (Air Changes per Hour) indicates how often certain air purifier can filter all the air of a given space in an hour. For example if you have ACH-6 filter, this means that all the air in the room will pass trough the filter 6 times per hour. The higher ACH – the better the results.

CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute) indicates how many cubic feet of air will move trough the filter per minute. This depends on the fan speed, air flow, insulation, etc. The higher the CFM, the better the results.

How much space will an air purifier cover?

Take a look at the information from the manufacturer. Every product is different due to their difference in power and technology they use. Calculate the room cubic footage by multiplying the length, width and hight of that room. Once you find the room volume, you can look for a specific purifiers that are capable of cleaning that space. You do not want to buy overpowered machines and waste unnecessary energy either.

Where should I place my air purifier?

Okay, you bought the best purifier for your needs, but now you have a new problem. Where to put it? Place it near the source of pollution in your home. The closer it is to the contamination source the faster and better job it will do. Do not put it in a corner or behind the furniture. You need to make sure that the front of the purifier, where the air comes in on most purifiers, has access to air. Some machines have 360 degree filtration capability. To be safe, try to give it a few feet of clearance on all sides for best results. Avoid placing it near the TV, stereo equipment and microwaves.

How long should I run my air purifier?

The biggest myth about air purifiers is that you should use it from time to time. No it isn’t like vacuuming and you can do it once a week. For best results, you should use it continuously, 24/7. The air in your home is constantly changing. New airborne particles are being introduced by walking, coughing, sneezing, pets running around… If you want clean air, you need to run the purifier all the time. Most of the purifiers have a lower setting for when you are not at home to save energy.

Are air purifiers safe to use?

Yes they are safe and they will help you improve your health. Except for one. I would avoid ozone air purifier or a purifier that has the ability to produce and release ozone. Ozone is naturally fond in the Earth’s atmosphere and protects the Earth form the sun’s harmful rays. if found in your home it can be very harmful. The ozone is well known respiratory irritant and can cause asthma attacks, chest pain, lung scarring as well as increase the risk of respiratory infections. While it can help remove some of the allergens the cost may be very high. Some of the UV air purifiers also release ozone in the air in your home. If you notice that, move on to find another one.

How do I choose an air purifier?

1. Indentify your problem – What do you need a purifier for? Every purifier has certain pros and cons. You need to know how each purifier works, the technology behind the in order to understand if they are going to help you solve your problem. For example if you are having allergies, you might consider a HEPA filter. If you want to get rid of tobacco smoke or some odors you should go for a heap filter with active carbon installed behind the filter as a second barrier. In case you want to get rid of air germs try the UV air purifier. It all comes down to finding your problem.

2. Room coverage and filter efficiency – Find the best model for the room you want it to filter by knowing the room volume and the CADR of the air purifier you want to purchase.

3.Maintenance and cost – When buying it you do not only want to save money on the purchase. Think long term. How much energy it will spend throughout the year. Calculate how much it will affect your budget. Next you want to think about maintenance. How often do you need to change the filters and how much they cost?

4. Noise – Most of air the purifiers have noise level information on the package in dB. A lot of air purifiers contain fan which is the main source of noise. The more powerful fan, the bigger the noise. Think about this especially if you want to use it in the bedroom. Try to find a purifier that doesn’t go above 55dB

5. Reliability and warranty – My best advice for this is to read customers reviews. Find a few air purifiers that thick all the boxes for you on Amazon and read what the customers say. There you will find out if it is worth the purchase. Also make sure that you get good warranty from the seller. Usually you should get about 5 years warranty on fan and motor parts.

Do air purifiers work if windows are open?

If you open the refrigerator door will it still work? Of course, but not with full capacity. Same goes for  air purifiers. There have been some studies regarding this question and the results were quite the obvious. With closed windows the air purifier can clean the air much faster. But even if you open the windows the air purifier will still do it’s job, just not that efficient and you’ll be wasting energy.

But does this mean you should never open your windows? No, that is not the case. You need to take a few factors into consideration. First, how clean is the outside air? If it is extremely polluted would you open your windows? Of course not. Second, will you remember to close the window later? If you leave it for a long time you air basically cleaning the air outside. Bottom line, you can open your windows for a while if your outdoor air is relatively clean. This will not affect the efficiency of your air purifier significantly.

Do air purifiers use a lot of energy?

Many people worry about the cost of using an air purifier. Especially since you have to run it 24/7 for best results. These days you shouldn’t worry about this a lot. Modern air purifiers are much more energy efficient than they used to be before. It goes without saying that the more powerful purifiers consume more energy. But on the other hand they are much more efficient. Filter purifiers such as HEPA, tend to use more power since they need powerful fan to move the air trough the room. Ionizing air purifiers consume less energy, but they are not as efficient as the others in filtering the air.

My best advice is to find a balance between the size of the room and the ability of the air purifier. Also make sure you read the energy consumption listed somewhere on the product packaging. You can count the total energy consumption by multiplying the power consumption of the purifier (in Watt) with the current rate of electricity ($/kWh) and with hours of usage.

Can air purifiers help with cigarette smoke?

Before I start on this, you should know that no air purifier can completely eliminate the cigaret smoke in your home. By far the best solution is to avoid smoking inside, especially if having kids and babies.

If you decide to try an air purifier to remove cigarette smoke, HEPA filters are your best shot. They are designed to remove 99,97% of the airborne particles that are bigger than 0.3 microns. But the cigarette smoke also contains even smaller particles as well as gases, which the HEPA filter can’t adsorb. To remove these VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds) you need a filter that has a chemical adsorbent built in, such as activated carbon. The activated carbon should weight more than 5 pounds to be able to reduce the VOC.

Do air purifiers help with mold spores?

The most powerful air purifier against mold is the HEPA air filter. HEPA filters are capable to reduce the level of airborne mold spores, which affects their spreading around and forming new colonies. But this doesn’t solve the problem with the existing active mold. The main factor for mold growth is humidity. To ensure that your room remains mold free, you can use humidity gauges to monitor the humidity levels. You can follow this link to Amazon to see the one I use at my home. Consider placing an air purifier in rooms where the humidity is higher, such as the basement. This will not solve your mold problem but will slow down mold spreading.

Do I need an air purifier or humidifier?

These two devices are completely different. While the air purifier puts away “stuff” from the air, the humidifier does the opposite. It adds more watter to the air and helps to solve the problem of dryer. The dryer can give you symptoms like dry and chapped lips, sore throat, frequent nosebleeds, dry skin, vocal cord problems, etc. Although the humidifier can solve these problems, too much moister can cause mold in your house. That is why before considering a humidifier you should check the levels of humidity in your living space. In case of increased levels of humidity you should consider buying a dehumidifier. Read more about it here.

Conclusion: Should you buy an air purifier?

Air purifiers can be expensive. Not only the buying it, but the maintenance and energy consumption as well. But is it worth it? Of course. Especially today when the level of pollution keeps growing in certain areas. You will see benefits fast. It will reduce the dust in your home – providing you much more free time instead of running around with the cloth and picking up dust. Using an air filter will help you control allergies and reduce asthma attacks – thus improve your health. Many of the harmful chemicals will be removed from the air such as VOC from the cigarette smoke. If you are sensitive, if you have respiratory problems, If you have little baby and kids or maybe live in a fairly polluted area you should definitely consider buying one. It is worth it!

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