Everyone wants to breathe clean air. But how clean or dirty is the air that circulates through your home? This question is at the crux of whether or not you should install a home air purifier. The other big one: do they actually work? This article will sort out the facts from fiction regarding air filtration, and give you the information you need to make an educated decision about installing an air purifier in your home. So continue reading to learn more.
How dirty is my home’s air, really? (And is it dangerous?)
The short answer: it varies by household and by person.
In a fresh-air state like Montana, the air inside your home may be more polluted than the air outside it. Why? Think of pollen, dust mites, and mold spores. Think of pet dander, lint, and household dust. All those accumulated particles, circulating through the confined space of your home, can be aggravating to your lungs, especially for people with allergies. For those with respiratory risk factors, it can even be dangerous. Removing environmental triggers from the air can reduce allergic reactions, as well as symptoms related to asthma or other lung-related issues.
But this isn’t meant to scare you into an impulse purchase. Let’s dig into how air purifiers work, and what you should pay attention to when deciding if one is right for you.
How do air purifiers work? (And do they work?)
Air purifiers use a system of internal fans to pull the air in your home through a series of filters that remove harmful airborne particles like dust, pollen and bacteria. The air purifier then circulates the purified air back into the room. This process repeats itself several times an hour, keeping your environment healthy.
However, not all air purifiers are created equal. Many have different levels of effectiveness, for different kinds of particles. Here are the main things to look out for when determining whether or not an air purifier will accomplish what you want it to.
When in doubt, look for HEPA.
Standing for “high-efficiency particulate air,” HEPA air purifiers have been manufactured, tested, and certified according to air filter efficiency standards enforced by the U.S. Department of Energy. These standards matter. An air filter cannot be classified as HEPA unless it removes at least 99.97% of airborne particles as small as 0.3 micrometers in diameter. That’s efficient! In short, HEPA air purifiers are rigorously tested against high air filtration standards, and therefore you can trust them.
Note the difference between “True HEPA” and “HEPA-Type.”
Marketing language has made this unnecessarily confusing. “True HEPA” purifiers are just that — air purifiers officially backed by HEPA standards. However, there are many “HEPA-Type” air purifiers, which, in plain terms, are not HEPA-tested. While some may be as efficient as their True HEPA counterparts, but you can never know for sure. So be cautious.
Note the difference between Filtered and Filterless.
All HEPA air purifiers, by definition, use a filter to remove particles from the air. However, there are also filterless air purifiers on the market. The most popular are ionic air purifiers. These purifiers remove particles through electrical charge, usually by collecting pollutants on electrically-charged plates. It should be noted that ionic air purifiers are known to produce ozone, which can be a dangerous pollutant at high enough levels. Not every ionic air purifier is dangerous, though. More on that below.
Learn about patented filtration systems.
There are many other air purifiers that use their own patented air filtration systems, some that claim to be much more effective than HEPA filters. Some of these products are indeed telling the truth — while others are not. We encourage you to learn about the science and professional standards behind any patented filtration system, so that you can be sure what you are buying is truly effective.
Know what your needs are.
As we’ll explore in more detail below, your needs will help determine the most effective air purifier for you. Have seasonal allergies? You’ll need an air purifier designed to eliminate smaller particles like pollen, dust mites, and mold spores. Have minor breathing difficulties? An air purifier that only removes larger particles like pet dander, lint, and household dust might be effective enough for your needs.
What are the upsides?
Home air purifies have many upsides. Here are a few.
Make your indoor air “Montana” clean
According to the EPA, the air in your home is up to five times dirtier than the air outside it. An effective air purifier will clean that up significantly.
Remove (most) airborne bacteria
Pollen, dust mites, and mold spores can travel through the air and get you sick. Well-filtered air can remove up to 99% of these airborne pollutants.
Remove unpleasant odors
Air purifiers are good for smells, too. This includes odors from cooking, pets, and even smoking.
Beat your seasonal allergies
Prevent allergens from circulating through your home.
Cut down on dust and pet dander
Air purifiers will trap floating dust and dander, which should help both your allergies and your breathing.
Stop sickness and germs from spreading
An air purifier equipped a quality air filter and a UV bulb can remove up to 99.97% of airborne germs.
What about the risks?
There are two main risks regarding home air purifiers that you should take into account:
A home air purification system can lead to a false sense of security for those with respiratory issues. But the fact is that cleaner air does not mean 100% safe air. Nor does it mean that a homeowner’s breathing difficulties will disappear. This is especially true for smokers. The best way to remove respiratory risk? Remove the source — not the effects!
As mentioned earlier, filterless air purifiers such as ionic purifiers can produce ozone. This indoor air pollutant, when produced at high levels, can completely counteract any of the benefits of an air purifier. However, some ionic air purifiers — like one of our recommendations below — produce so little ozone as to be harmless. Our advice? Research the fine print to make sure your air purifier — filtered or filterless — has been rigorously tested for safety.
We’re currently installing these two home air purification systems in homes across Montana:
Trane CleanEffects is a whole-house air filtration system that combines ionic air purification with a patented air filter that’s more effective than even the best HEPA filters. The result? This system can remove up to 99.98% of allergens from filtered air, and traps particles as small as .1 micron in size. While Trane CleanEffects does produce ozone, the amount — 3 ppm — is far less than the FDA’s ozone emission standards of 50 ppm. In short, this product is safe.
Air Scrubber Plus by Aerus combines a HEPA air filter with a special UV light to remove airborne allergens, germs, microbes, and odor-causing bacteria.
Have more questions?
Give us a call. We’ll be happy to help.