Everything You Need to Know about Air Purifiers
Published Jan. 14, 2018
While they may seem like an unnecessary luxury, air purifiers serve an important role in keeping you and your loved ones safe. When purchasing a standalone air purifier, make sure it's one you can rely on and trust for years to come. Here are some helpful tips and guidelines when buying an air purifier.
A standalone air purifier keeps the air in your home clean. Events in your area, such as wildfires or intense forms of air pollution, can affect your indoor air quality. Poor indoor air quality may lead to long-term damage to your lungs and general health. Studies have shown that "[w]hen exposed in a laboratory to pollution levels comparable to those found in the atmosphere of the Amazon region during the forest and crop burning season, human lung cells suffer severe DNA damage and stop dividing. After 72 hours of exposure, over 30% of the cultured cells are dead."
While research indicates air pollution can be harmful, it's unclear just how The Environmental Protection Agency has explained that "the long-term risk from short-term smoke exposures are quite low," meaning that such conditions may not always lead to serious repercussions. It's difficult to attribute long-term health benefits to air purifiers generally, as there are so many factors in a person's life that contribute to an individual's overall wellbeing. So while it's inarguable that "particle pollution does impact health," it isn't clear to what extent it will affect yours.
Additionally, houses contain air far longer than any open outdoor space. In fact, the indoor spaces hold far more pollution in the air, making purifiers that much more necessary.
How an Air Purifier Works
Standalone air purifiers actively combat air-polluting natural disasters, collecting the polluted particles from the air and holding them in a mesh of fibers contained inside the device. It then emits the clean air, ensuring that what you're breathing is fresh and untainted. Statistics show that while HEPA certified air filters are able to contain 99.97 percent of all particles that are 0.3 microns in diameter, the best air purifiers can remove "all particles as small as 0.01 micron, one-thirteenth the HEPA standard."
Air Purifier vs. Air Cleaner
A crucial distinction to make is the difference between an air cleaner and an air purifier. An air cleaner is attached to HVAC systems, and uses a built-in filter to contain whatever pollution is filtered through it. A standalone air purifier, uses ultraviolet (UV) germicidal lamps, removing said pollution rather than trying to collect them. Air purifiers are also known to be much quieter and less intrusive.
Selecting an Air Purifier
When selecting a standalone air purifier, make sure it is HEPA approved. As mentioned above, these are proven to catch pollution more effectively and has a stronger seal around the filter, helping it better contain the contaminants. These products will be listed as "true HEPA," making them easy to identify.
Another factor that to consider is the unit's Clear Air Delivery Rate, or CADR. This measures how much air moves through an air purifier at once, a measure of the machine's efficiency. It's suggested that you purchase a device that has "a CADR rating of at least 200, which means the unit effectively delivers the equivalent of 200 cubic feet of per air per minute."
An air purifier will clean a certain amount of air per cubic foot based on the CADR. If you're home contains only a few rooms, you may be able to work with a less powerful air purifier, as it will successfully reach every room with less effort. The bigger the space you're looking to purify, the stronger the unit you'll need. Ideally, you'll want to place your air purifier in the most central location in your home so it can reach every room as easily as possible. A few brands that are known to produce the highest quality air purifiers are Kenmore and Lifebreath.
Cost and Maintenance
The cost of a standalone air purifier can range from $200 to $850, depending on which model you choose. If you decide on upgrading to a whole house air purifier, that can cost between $600 and $2,500. On top of this, air purifiers require a lot of electricity to operate, with some using over $300 of energy per year. When selecting your model, be sure to consider how much power it consumes so you aren't surprised by the sudden spike in your monthly bills.
To offset the cost of your air purifier, you can upgrade your HVAC unit to include an air cleaner. While these come with some basic filtering functions for larger particles, such as pet dander, the cleaner's filter can be upgraded to provide a stronger and more reliable service.
If you choose to go this route, keep in mind the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) associated with whatever replacement you select. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has gone on record stating that "[f]ilters with a MERV between 7 and 13 are likely to be nearly as effective as true HEPA filters at controlling most airborne indoor particles." There is the option to upgrade your HVAC to a whole house purification system, but this is costly and often requires a complete overhaul of your current unit.
Generally, air purifiers are very low maintenance, made to run for an entire year with little to no issue. Still, many manufacturers recommend you at least inspect the inside of your unit once every six months to ensure there is no dust build-up and that nothing is going wrong with the inner workings of your device.
In regards to warranties, most companies offer limited lifetime warranties on their air purifier products. This means that the company dictates specific parts or conditions that is covered under their lifetime warranty policies. Be sure to read these agreements through thoroughly before selecting the machine to purchase.