Choosing An Air Purifier

An air purifier, also referred to as an air cleaner, is a machine that has the ability to remove undesired particles such as smoke, pet fur and dander, pollen and mold spores from the air inside your home or business. These particles being removed from the air can be beneficial for people who suffer from allergies, those with asthma, or those with sensitivities to things like cigarette smoke. Some of these devices are believed to reduce the amount of airborne particle clutter by 99.97%, and are relatively affordable, ranging from about $35 for a smaller portable model to more than $300 for a larger, multi-room unit.

There are numerous types of these air filtering machines available, but the four most common ones are the HEPA filtration, Ionic, Ozone and Ultraviolet. The HEPA, which stands for high efficiency particulate air, uses filters which look like floor mats that are made up of different fibers that are arranged in no particular order throughout the filter. Usually, the fibers are made out of fiberglass, and range from 0.5 micrometers, which is smaller than the width of a piece of human hair, to 2.0 micrometers. In order to be considered a HEPA filter, according to standards set by the U.S. Department of Energy, the device is required to eliminate no less than 99.97% of all particles in the air that are at least 0.3 micrometers big. There are, of course, a few drawbacks with this particular model, specifically the fact that not all of these machines are created the same way. A less well-designed cleaner will sometimes let air go around the filter, in which case, the contaminants in that air don’t get cleaned! Also, the filters are not set up to remove bacteria or odors from the air, so “cleaned” air might not have smoke particles in it, for instance, but might still smell of the smoke. And, of course, there are the filters themselves, which must be changed fairly regularly in order for the machine to work best.

The ionic models use technology known as an air ionizer to remove the unwanted pollutants from the air. An air ionizer uses a high electrical current to give each molecule of air an electrical charge. If the charge is positive, the new molecule becomes known as a cation, if it is negatively charged, it is called an anion. The impurities in the air are pulled towards an oppositely charged metal plate or plates inside the machine by their electrical charge, the same way hair is attracted to fabric because of static electricity. The downside of this model is, as with the HEPA filtration style of these devices, the ionic type cleaner also only tends to trap dust, pollen, smoke, etc, it doesn’t catch bacteria. Also, since its capture method is based on electrical charge, if a particle can’t or doesn’t have a charge, it can’t be caught. Also, because the captured particles collect inside the machine, and later fall to the floor, it needs to be located in an area that is fairly easy to sweep, mop or otherwise clean around.

The versions of indoor air cleansers that use ozone to eliminate impurities in the air work very similarly to their ionic counterparts, the difference being that in this case, the machine is uses activated oxygen, or ozone, to attract and destroy pollutants in the air, including bacteria and mold spores. The major issue with this device is the Environmental Protection Agency’s concern that, even when it is used according to the manufacturer’s directions, it can produce levels of ozone inside the building that exceed current safe levels. Recent findings also suggest that the devices don’t really “clean” the air, they just produce an odor that covers up the original undesired smell, like an air freshener would do.

An ultraviolet, or UV, air de-contaminator is a machine that is specifically designed to kill airborne bacteria only, as it doesn’t have the ability to catch or remove any other types of irritants from the air. Because of this, the light is often found as a secondary form of cleansing in some of the other devices, particularly the ionic and ozone models. There doesn’t appear to be any stumbling block in using the light to eliminate pollutants in combination with another cleaning system.

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