Homes are becoming more and more tightly sealed in order to reduce energy costs and our environmental impact. Unfortunately, that also means that many homes don't have clean air. While older houses were drafty, that also meant that they had better air circulation than a well sealed modern house. The air inside your house can be up to ten times more polluted than the outside air - that's a big problem, since we spend about ninety percent of our time inside. A good air purifier has never been more important. But how do you find the right one for your home and your situation? Here's what you need to know.
It can be tricky to find the right air purifier, especially when some of them can create as many irritants as they remove. However, there are a few things you should look for in any air purifier, no matter how large or what style. You'll need to know how the purifier works, what pollutants it targets, and what you're getting for your money. Careful analysis is the best way to figure out which unit is right for you.
There are several different types of air purifiers and many modern models combine multiple filter types to get the best filtration. No matter what type of filter your air purifier uses, it should have a sealed system that doesn't let pure air mix with dirty air. The major varieties are HEPA filters, ion and ozone generators, charged media filters, and activated carbon air purifiers. Some air purifiers also include germicidal or antibacterial filters to remove bacteria from the air.
HEPA filters - Commonly considered the standard for air purifiers, these high-efficiency particulate air filters remove more than 99% of particals 0.3 microns in size or smaller. They were originally invented to capture particles of radioactive dust for the Atomic Energy Commission and catch all but the smallest particles. That makes them highly efficient at removing mold spores, dander, dust and pollen. The fitler does need to be changed from time to time, and a larger filter can remove more particulates than a smaller one.
Ion and ozone generators - These air purifiers emit charged particles that stick to dust and other air impurities, causing them to stick to the nearest surface. That means that ion generators tend to create dirty spots on floors and walls where the charged particles have adhered. Regular home cleaning is important if you have one of these air purifiers. Ozone emitting purifiers are sometimes problematic for asthma sufferers. Check with your doctor before buying one.
Charged media filters - This type of air purifier collects particles on a fiber filter and collect extremely small pollutants. Particles as small as one tenth of a micron can be eliminated by this type of filter, which works by electrostatic charge. Frequent filter changes are required to keep charged media air purifiers working properly. Electrostatic precipitators - This type of air purifier uses the same electromagnetic principle as an ozone or ion generator and works the same way as a charged media filter. The goal is to get the contaminants to stick to a collector plate inside the air purifier. The big advantage of this kind of purifier is that you don't have to replace the plates - just run them through the dishwasher when they stop being effective.
Activated carbon filters - Air purifiers that include activated carbon media can help neutralize odors and other non-particulate contaminants. This material is also used to purify water, since it has an enormous surface area that attracts gases, smoke, and other substances. Larger carbon filters will absorb more and work longer. A full filter needs to be replaced. Carbon filters are rarely used alone and are usually part of an air purifier that uses at least one other filtration method.
Germicidal and antibacterial filters - These filters work to eliminate germs and other microbes. They may use antibacterial agents to kill microorganisms that pass through the filter, or they may use a UV lamp. This type of air purifier is commonly used in areas where contamination is a big concern, such as hospitals and can be useful at home for people who suffer from frequent illness.
When you purchase an air purifier, be sure to read the literature carefully. Different models will use one or more of the above filtration mechanisms and should list the different types of pollutants they target. An air purifier might be able to remove airborne particles, such as fungi, smoke, mold, dust mites and pet dander, may absorb household odors, and may help deal with the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found in paint, adhesive, cleaning supplies, and other household items. Some will deal with microorganisms, as well. Choose the purifier that will deal with the major irritants your home is subject to. Take personal health issues under consideration when you choose, too. Some purifiers are better for asthma and allergy sufferers than others.
Remember that an air purifier isn't the best solution to household pollutants in all cases. Whenever possible, you should remove the source of the pollution before turning to a purifier. However, when it's not possible to completely do away with the contaminant, an air purifier can do a lot to make your home's air safer and healthier. If source control won't work out, purification is a good second choice. An air purifier can also be a real benefit for people with susceptible immune systems and health problems that are aggravated by environmental contaminants. Just make sure you talk to your health care provider about what's best for you.
The right air purifier could do a lot to make your home a more pleasant, healthier place to live. Take the time to check out all the options on the market and see what might work for you. Don't just buy the first air purifier you come across - shop smart and get one that will do the job well.