How about an Air Purifier
for Cleaner Air
An air purifier (or air cleaner) employs what seems to be simple technology by drawing air from the room with a fan, cleaning the air, and sending it back out into the room.
But there are a number of ways an air cleaner performs:
- Absorption: Uses a media like activated carbon to remove the chemical contaminates from the air.
- Mechanical filtering: The room air is screened of particles by a very fine filter like a HEPA filter which can remove particles as small as 0.3 microns. Filtering is usually use in combination with some form of absorption.
- Electrostatic or electronic: These cleaners use charged plates to give particles a charge of one polarity and a set of collecting grids or plates with an opposite charge to collect the particles.
- Ultra violet or UV light: The use of UV light to kill microorganisms such as bacteria and mold spores used in conjunction with other technologies.
Most high-end cleaners will use some type of pre-filter to extend the life of the fine filter such as a HEPA element by removing large particles before they can get to the HEPA filter.
Four different forms of electronic air cleaning available for an air purifier are:
- Electrostatic precipitator: consists of a series of metal collection plates that are oppositely charged to the ionized particles. The particles are attracted to these metal plates like a magnet and collected. Particles as small as 0.1 micron can be collected on these plates. The drawback is as the collection plates fill up with particles and their surface area becomes clogged with particles, the ability to attract more particles decreases until the plates are taken out and cleaned.
- Media charged filter: An electrostatic filter which collects the particles by being oppositely charged to the ionized particles with the ability to collect particles as small as 0.1 microns. The efficiency of this filter will also decrease as it becomes clogged with particles. It will maintain its ability to filter out the larger particles better than the electrostatic precipitator because its filter media is small enough to collect the larger particles without having to rely on the opposite charging attraction needed for the smaller particles.
- Negative Ionizer: This machine cleans the room by basically eliminating the particles from the air. Particles are drawn into the machine where they are negatively charged and sent back into the room where they are attracted to the positively charged walls, furniture, positive and neutrally charged particles where they collide with them until they are heavy enough to fall to the floor. The drawback is that all of your particles land on the floor, walls, and furniture. As the particles lose their charge they will release themselves from the walls falling back into the air. Also, unless you regularly clean, the particles will be kicked back into the air when any air movement occurs by a door being opened or someone walking into the room. These type of cleaners are quiet and do not have any filters to clean or replace.
- Ozone machine: Manufacturers claim the air is cleaned and the gases, chemicals, and odors are removed from the air. However, the ozone reacts with the chemical and breaks it down into another form of pollutant which may be worse than the original particle. Also to be effective it must emit high levels of ozone which have been determined to be detrimental to the respiratory system.
The real key to addressing any indoor air quality (IAQ) issue is the removal of the source of the pollutant or irritant if possible. For instance, if you are allergic to cat dander you must remove the cat or deal with the dander. If you are allergic to mold spores you must remove the source yourself or have a professional remove it.
Here are some common air purifier applications:
- Asthma - The asthma triggering irritant may be either a particle such as pollen or a chemical or smell. Therefore, both mechanical and absorption technology should be used. In other words; a HEPA filter is used to collect the particles and activated carbon is used to combat the chemicals and odors.
- Chemical sensitivity or allergies - Immediately look to remove and eliminate the source. While air cleaners will help, the constant irritant will increase your sensitivity. After the source is dealt with, the primary technology to use is absorption (activated carbon).
- Pollen, dust, and mold allergies - These pollutants can be classed as particle pollution and can be handled by two of the technologies; HEPA and electronic filters.
- Pet allergies - If you cannot remove the pet emphasize the cleaning of their bedding and other items such as toys and play gyms to reduce the source of the pet material as much as possible. This problem represents particles in the air, a HEPA or electronic cleaner will work good. If you want to remove any odors also, try absorption.
- Tobacco smoke - Smoke from cigarettes or cigars is very hard to address with air cleaners because the source is so active putting out so many pollutants in such a short time. There are a few manufactures which specifically make air cleaners for tobacco smoke (particles and odors) but even with the best you should not expect to smoke a cigar next to an air cleaner and not have your wife notice in the next room.
- Bacteria or virus - Generally air purifiers used to address this application are for cases where there is an ill person in the home and we are trying to protect others from infection or as a preventative for people like the elderly that are susceptible to infection. UV light is needed to be effective in addressing this issues.
As with any high quality air purifier maintenance is a key concern to both the overall life of the air purifier and the efficiency as well as the effectiveness. Filter elements need to be changed, electronic systems cleaned, and pre filters cleaned regularly. Regular cleaning will allow your air cleaner to breathe more easily translating into many clean breaths for you.
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