gap intelligence launched Air Purifiers as a Data Intelligence Service in December 2018 and I’m sure I’m not alone when I say, Holy Moly! Who knew there were so many different types of air cleaners out there? Why would someone need an air purifier you ask? Well believe it or not, indoor air pollution is a major problem and these pollutants, such as formaldehyde, mold, dust and pollen can have a negative effect on human health.
Air purifiers have been proven to help improve indoor air quality by drawing in and trapping certain particles, followed by blowing out clean air. Air Purifiers cannot completely eliminate all pollutants, but can significantly reduce certain particles and gases.
Shopping for air purifiers can be a bit overwhelming and although there is a ton of information available, it’s difficult to navigate and know what consider when choosing the perfect air purifier. In this blog, I will cover the various types of air purifiers and filters available as well as some important things to consider throughout the buying process.
Harmful Pollutants Quick Guide
VOCs: Volatile Organic Compounds contain various airborne chemicals some of which can cause negative health effects. According to studies conducted by EPA.gov, there is an average of 2.5 times higher VOCs found indoors than outdoors, regardless of location. Below are examples of what materials and products contain VOCs.
- Viruses: Small and often missed when using a single filter regardless of the type
- Bacteria: Larger than viruses and therefore can be easily trapped
- Mold: Large enough to be captured by a True HEPA filter but make sure to stay on top of replacements to prevent mold re-releasing into air!
Filters are almost more important than the machine itself. In order to achieve maximum filtration and extend the life of a filter, various types of filters are necessary. Most high performing air purifiers will contain a separate pre-filter, HEPA filter, and activated carbon filter. Many products contain filters that work together with an electronic technology such as ionization.
There are several different types of filters and air cleaners.
Mechanical Air Filters
HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) There are several manufacturers that claim their filters meet HEPA standards, however, in order to be legitimately HEPA certified by the U.S. Department of Energy, the filter must be capable of removing 99.97% of particles at 0.3 microns. Due to false HEPA claims, manufacturers are now using the term “True HEPA” to differentiate. True HEPA is most effective in removing large particulate matter such as pet dander, pollen and dust mites but will not remove odors or gases.
Activated Carbon Filters are essentially charcoal that’s been activated and used to adsorb certain contaminates that at tach to the carbon surface by chemical attraction. When used in conjunction with a HEPA filter, it can be extremely effective in eliminating dust, smoke, pet hair, common household chemicals and more. The biggest downside to a carbon filter is it needs to be replaced often or else, similar to a HEPA filter, it begins to release the harmful contaminates into the air.
Electronic Air Cleaners
Ionizer: While many air purifiers use fans and filters to clean the air, an ion generating purifier electronically charges the particles so they are attracted to certain surfaces of a room which should be cleaned. Unless combined with another filter to collect the trapped particles, this process often results in temporary purification and can be fairly ineffective against harmful gases. Ionization also runs the risk of producing harmful ozone which can cause asthmatic symptoms.
Ozone Generators: Beware of ozone generating air purifiers (also referred to as activated oxygen)! Although an ozone generator can be used to reduce certain odors after smoke damage, it is best used in unoccupied spaces due to its harmful effects on our lungs. According to EPA.org, even at concentrations below public health standard, ozone will be ineffective in the removal of odor-causing chemicals and viruses, thus becoming more harmful than helpful.
Ultra Violet: Air Purifiers with a UV Light bulb will emit an invisible light that attacks viruses, bacteria and germs and sterilizes them, preventing further spreading. Although the UV bulb itself will rarely need a replacement, an air purifier is unlikely to solely use a UV light and would need additional filters to remove dust, mold, dander etc.
Electrostatic: Electrostatic air cleaners work with static electricity to negatively charge and trap particles in the product’s built-in filter plate, which the consumer must manually clean regularly. This type of purifier is effective at removing fine particulate matter such as dust, pet dander and other allergens at a 60-80% efficiency rate. This a great option for individuals who don’t want to “break the bank” since the filter does not require replacement but could also run the risk of creating harmful ozone.
Photocatalytic: This technology uses energy illuminated from an ultra violet light bulb to zap air pollutants, essentially converting them into harmless substances such as carbon dioxide and water. This can be very effective for individuals suffering from asthma and allergies but is still recommended to use in tandem with other filters such as HEPA.
Other Factors Worth Considering:
CADR rating: The Clean Air Delivery Rate is determined by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM). This simply measures how quickly a unit delivers filtered air and how well it reduces tobacco smoke, dust and pollen. The higher the CADR, the more clean air is delivered from the unit. AHAM recommends units with a tobacco smoke CADR at least 2/3 your room's area. Note that CADR ratings apply only to particles and not gases. There are no rating systems for products that remove gases.
Energy Star certified products: Keep in mind CADR ratings are not directly related to Energy Star ratings. According to the Energy Star website, a standard air purifier uses about 550kWH per year when used consistently, which is a lot for a small appliance. If you’re concerned about saving energy and money then choose an Energy Star certified purifier.
Form Factors: Tower, Console, Tabletop, Personal, Plug-in, Wearable, Wall Mount etc.
Coverage Area: The amount of square footage covered is vital in determining where to place the product within the home.
Fans: Units without a fan can be less effective because filter performance is partly dependent on the airflow rate, for example, higher fan speeds will cover more square footage than lower speeds but will make more noise as a result.
Noise Level: According to airpurifiersrating.com, quiet air purifiers range 15-25 decibels while noisy products reach up to 65-75 decibels.
The TI Professional (11840) by Winix America is an excellent example of an electronic air cleaner which utilizes a 6-stage filtration system (detailed below). The washable pre-filter typically captures larger particles and is extremely helpful in extending the life of the carbon and HEPA filters that follow. PlasmaWave is Winix’s proprietary technology that uses ionization (without causing ozone) to convert harmful molecules to a water vapor, making it effective against pollen and odors. Due to its advanced filtration, this product is considered more of a high-end air cleaner with prices ranging $999-1299.
If you’re seeking a similar product as the TI Professional but want something a little easier on your wallet, I recommend the Coway AP-1512HH. This product ranges $199-$259 and covers up to 360 square feet using 4-stage filtration including True HEPA and ionization. With additional features such as auto mode, filter replacement indicator and 3 fan speeds, this purifier is ideal for large spaces.
If you want to avoid ion generating air cleaners that still maintains quality filtration, a great choice is the Honeywell HPA300. This product covers up to 465 square feet and uses a pre-filter and a True HEPA filter making it 99.97% effective at capturing odors, VOCs, allergens and germs. The auto shut-off and filter replacement indicator light are excellent features that help extend the life of the product, not to mention the attractive 5 year warranty! The HPA300 ranges from $249-$329 in price.
Sitting at a comfortable $89, Levoit’s LV-H132 (HOHASA11EL) contains a 3-stage filtration system including a True HEPA filter as well as 3 fan speeds, perfect for a small room. With a 2 year warranty and compact size, this is great for budget friendly shoppers that care about clean air.
Keep in mind that ventilating your home with clean outdoor air is first and foremost the best purifier as it’s free and available in abundance. Indoor plants are also inexpensive and excellent at absorbing gases and VOCs through their leaves. Happy breathing!
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