How Air Purifiers Work

Air purifiers have become an important appliance in many households over the last few years. With allergies and/or asthma affecting 50 million Americans, indoor air quality is a big concern to many. The home air purifier is a leading advancement in the quest for cleaner and safer indoor air. This appliance helps to keep the air free from common allergens such as smoke, pollen, mold, pet dander, and even certain viruses and bacteria. These unseen particles can cause immune system and lung damage. Asbestos, radon, and appliances which can emit carbon dioxide into the air are also health hazards. This portable appliance cleans the air with either a filter system, electrical attraction, or ozone.

Filter air purifiers use a fine sieve to filter the particles from circulating air. As the air flows in, the particles are trapped by the sieve. Filter purifiers have become the accepted standard set by HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters. HEPA filters trap 99.97% of airborne particles that are larger than 0.3 microns. A micron is simply the standard unit for measuring air particles. A micron is 1/25,400 of an inch and is impossible to detect with the naked eye. The HEPA filtering system does far more for air circulation than a basic room air conditioning unit, which can only filter particles that are 10.0 microns or larger. HEPA filters can remove the smallest of particles, such as smoke, dust, asbestos, chemicals, pollen, and pet dander. The air becomes cleaner each time it passes through the HEPA filter. The more times it passes through, the cleaner and safer it is.

Electrical attraction is another type of air purification technology. One type of electrical attraction purifier utilizes electrostatic precipitating cleaners to draw the particles in by a fan. The particles are then charged with a series of high voltage wires. This type of air purifier might be considered simpler and more convenient by those who do not wish to have the extra responsibility and cost of changing HEPA filters regularly. One drawback of electrical attraction is that it can produce an ozone byproduct.

Another type of electrical attraction technology used in air purifiers is the electric filter. This system cleans the air with synthetic fibers that create static charges to attract particles. They are available in pleated, plain, disposable, or reusable varieties. The different types of filters vary concerning how often changing is required.

Negative ion generators, or Ionic purifiers, are a third option in the electrical attraction group of air purifiers. This machine uses tiny, charged wires to create gas molecules with negative charges (ions). These adhere to particles in the air and collect in the filter. However, there is a risk that many will end up back in the air, or sticking onto surfaces and furniture. This type of purifier does not have as much effectiveness against gases or chemical odors. It is considerably less effective than the HEPA filter and carries the risk of dirty particles recirculating in the air.

Ozone generator air purifiers use high voltage electrical currents to convert oxygen into ozone. Ozone, a strong antioxidant substance, breaks down the molecules and microorganisms in the air. This type of purification system has been shown to be least effective against allergies. This appliance also emits some ozone. Ozone is helpful up in the atmosphere of the planet, but on ground level it is a harmful and powerful lung irritant. The American Lung Association and the EPA both have advised against the use of ozone generator air purifiers. They can aggravate allergies, trigger asthma episodes, and cause chronic cough or lung irritation if used.

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