Almost everyone is aware that many urban areas are full of environmental pollutants from factories and automobile emissions. But according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), most indoor air quality in homes is often up to 10 times worse than outdoor air. To combat poor indoor quality, many people are turning to air purifiers.
A Solution for Allergy or Asthma Sufferers
If you have asthma or allergies like more than 50 million Americans, chances are good that certain triggers such as animal dander, mold spores, or volatile organic compounds (VOCs) make your symptoms worse. Even if you’re otherwise healthy, the array of chemicals such as asbestos or formaldehyde present in indoor air may alarm you. Air purifiers, in turn, remove these small particles from the air and create a healthier environment.
Different Technologies, But the Same Objective
Air purifiers trap and remove contaminants from the air. Basic air purifiers use filters made of synthetic fibers, foam, or other materials with tiny gaps in them that allow only air to enter the HVAC system. These filters often fit into the furnace or into air ducts around the house. To be considered High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) standard, filters should trap up to 99.97 percent of all airborne particles that are more than 0.3 microns wide.
Air purifiers can also come as a stand-alone unit used with an existing HVAC system. Some units use added substances within the filter, such as activated carbon, to absorb offending molecules or toxins. This action also aids in odor removal, since carbon removes smells from the air. Others use ultraviolet light to kill bacteria or other microorganisms that come into the filter.
Many units use ionization or electric attraction to trap and remove particulates. Ionizers use a fan to pull particles from the air and charge them. A plate with the opposite charge attracts the particles and removes them from the air. Air purifiers that give off electrical charges through tiny needles or filaments, which break down trapped particles, are also effective at improving indoor air quality.
Using an Air Purifier in Your Home
Air purifiers work best when used continuously in the same room, preferably rooms where you spend the most time. Close windows so that air from the outdoors can’t get in and interfere with the results. Keep the unit on, even when you are not at home.
When you are shopping for an air purifier, you want to choose one that will service your home and improve air quality, not simply take up space. Some criticism has come up for air purification systems that removed negligible amounts of toxins from the air.
High-quality air purifiers will have a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rating of at least 8. This value measures how efficient the purifier is at trapping particles, and the higher the number, the better the unit achieves this task. Another factor to look at is how quickly the system cycles air through its filters in one hour, the Air Changes per Hour (ACH). Four is the minimum, but the higher this rating, the better the unit will work, too.
Air purifiers work using all types of techniques, but not all these units are equal. If you are planning on using one in your home, do your research to make sure the model you choose is safe and effective.