While air purifiers have been around on the market for a while now, it seems like this appliance has gained popularity a lot since more and more cities are facing extreme conditions with outdoor air pollution, making it very difficult to keep indoor spaces properly ventilated.
An air purifier is an electrical appliance designed to keep the indoor air clean and set you free from the presence of unpleasant odors, dust, pet dander, smoke, and pollution. Indoor air can become five times more polluted than outdoor air, simply because outside the pollutants may get carried around by the wind or airflow, while inside, the air simply ‘rests’ until you do something about it.
Air purifiers can help you reduce the potential threat caused by air pollution and our everyday indoor life.
In this article, we’ll share with you our knowledge about air purifiers, how they work, what are they efficient for, and whether do you actually need one.
How Do Air Purifiers Work?
The most important parts of any air purifier are the filters and the fan. A single air purifier can have one or multiple filters and the fan usually serves the purpose of pulling or pushing the air through the filter to remove contaminants.
That’s the basic mechanism. While this goes, the particles and other pollutants are being captured, while cleansed air is being ‘exhaled’ from the purifier.
A filter is commonly made of fiber, mesh, or paper, and you should keep in mind that these need to be replaced from time to time, depending on the frequency of use. The frequency of filter replacement depends on numerous factors. For example, filter type will dictate whether you even have to replace it or is it enough to just wash it. Reusable filters usually need cleaning, washing, and drying, but this kind of maintenance is quite demanding, and these kinds of filters are rarely found on high-end air purifiers. This type of filter has shown to be effective when it comes to removing larger polluting particles from the air such as pollen for example.
There are also UV filters present on the market. These are usually marketed as able to destroy bacteria and mold, however, even in cases when this is true (and in some isn’t, as there are certain types of bacteria that are UV resistant), these types of filters use more energy in order to work effectively.
Replaceable filters, on the other hand, involve some additional regular costs, for running an air purifier. You should factor in $100 per year for filter replacement costs as well as $50 for electricity.
Besides these two universal components, some models of air purifiers have built-in ionizers designed to catch particles such as dust and allergens by bonding them to negative ions, however, if you would like to purchase such a unit, you should be careful about the ozone levels it produces. Exposure to high levels of ozone can be quite harmful to your health.
If you want to find out more about this topic, we strongly recommend you to read through our article on what does ozone do. Also, those air purifiers that contain ionizers, usually have it mentioned on the packaging, and if you search for the model on the web, you will probably find all the details you need to figure out whether it is safe for your desired indoor area or not.
In our opinion, it is better to either not purchase, or switch off the ionization function on your unit, as we still don’t know what are the potential harmful effects. Also, this is a way to save a bit of energy, as switching on an additional function for a minor and negligible additional purification will also use more energy.
What Is Being Filtered Out by Air Purifiers?
Air purifiers usually have filters designed to catch microscopic particles such as pollen, dust, and smoke. However, not all air purifiers are efficient with odors. It depends on if they include a carbon filter.
You should replace the filter every 3-6 months, depending on how often you use the unit, to maintain its effectiveness.
Another commonly present element that is not being eliminated by an air purifier is allergens present in and on the furniture and on the floor. You also need to vacuum regularly to get rid of these things.
An important detail to talk about here is the effectiveness of air purifiers. Namely, effectiveness is usually measured in labs in highly controlled conditions, which is when their effectiveness reaches up to 99%. However, the real world and a real home are much more unpredictable than the laboratory, so you can expect certain variations in the efficiency of your purifiers.
Furthermore, in-home environments and the unit itself have many additional factors that could affect the work of the air purifier, such as installation, location in the space, number of continuous running hours, flow rate, but also there is the ventilation, how often you open the windows, whether the outdoor air coming inside is more or less polluted, etc. All of this can impact the extent to which the air purifier is successfully fulfilling its role.
Of course, in order to remove any bacteria and dust from surfaces in your home, you should use antibacterial chemicals and cloths.
How Efficient Air Purifiers Are Against Outdoor Pollutants that Enter the Home?
Outdoor pollutants such as car exhaust, cigarette smoke, and air pollution can and do enter your home, and the only way to remove them from the air you’re breathing is by using an air purifier.
For example, during the West Coast fires, many people have experienced symptoms of sinusitis, with also coughing and having a stuffy nose. People with chronic respiratory diseases experienced worsening of the symptoms while the fires were burning and the smoke was entering their homes.
Probably the best type of air purifier that can address literally any type of air quality issue is one with a HEPA filter. These filters have been created for industrial and laboratory settings where protecting the health of the staff was a number one priority, and most of them have shown to be 99% or more efficient in removing harmful particles from the air. They can remove both large, PM10 particles, but they are also efficient in cases of smoke and smaller, PM2.5 particles.
HEPA stands for High Efficiency Particulate Air, and these filters are able to deal with harmful pollution particles of different sizes. They are commonly made of fiberglass, which is many times thinner than human hair, so you can imagine that this one very sensitive, efficient, and dense filter. The fibers are placed in plastic or metal frames, which are then installed into the air purifier.
The fan of the purifier sucks the air into the filter and that’s how the particles are being captured. The larger are captured when they crash into the fiber, which is called ‘impaction’, while the middle size particles are being captured by simply touching the filter fiber, which is called ‘interception’. Finally, the finest particles are caught by a method called ‘diffusion’ which means that they simply fly around and eventually get caught and stuck in the filter.
So, Is an Air Purifier Worth Buying?
Put simply, yes. They are worth buying because they actually help prevent certain health issues as they remove pollutants and allergens from the air in your home or office.
Health benefits from using an air purifier are numerous and they vary from one person to another, depending on your initial health condition, the in-home lifestyle, and the level of outdoor pollution. However, overall, buying an air purifier is not a waste of money.
In the following paragraphs, we’ll go into detail explaining how air purifiers work for different types of pollutants in your home.
Air Purifiers Against Allergies and Asthmatic Issues
Airborne particles such as for example pollen, different types of bacteria, mold, and pet dander, can trigger asthmatic and allergy attacks. The quantity of these particles inside your home can get as much as five times higher than outdoors. A proper HEPA filter can help you establish a certain level of control over the symptoms of allergies and asthma, as the number of particulates inducing them will be significantly lower. If you are on any kind of medication for treating this type of health issue, and you are considering quitting them and using an air purifier instead, you should consult your doctor first. In case of more severe symptoms, an air purifier may just be an addition to your existing treatment plan, but not a replacement.
Air Purifier Against Dust
While an air purifier can’t extract dust from your furniture, it can reduce the amount of dust in the air, which will consequently lead to having less dust on the surfaces and in the furniture. HEPA filters are able to trap airborne particles that dust is made of and make your air more breathable. HEPA filters can trap for example dust, pollen, mold, human skin and hair cells, etc.
If you buy the type of purifier that has an ionizer inside, its electrical charge on the air will make the pollutants fall on the ground, so you can then vacuum them, however, as we mentioned before, you should be careful with these, as you don’t want to end up with high levels of ozone around you.
Overall, an air purifier that reduces the amount of dust in the air will save you time, because there will be less cleaning to be done around the house.
Air Purifiers Against Odors
There are many different causes of in-home unpleasant odors. For example, cooking, smoking inside, collecting garbage, but there is also mold, and natural human odors that we produce that sometimes stick around our homes. Many people who have bought air purifiers consider them worth the money just for the sake of removing unpleasant odors.
Some air purifiers have additional features designed especially for odor removal such as an activated carbon filter, which captures molecules responsible for odors, leaving the indoor air fresh and pleasant. This makes air fresheners completely unnecessary, and it’s a much healthier way of making your air smell nice.
Air Purifiers Against Harmful Toxins
Maybe you didn’t know about it, but many household items actually emit toxins into the air. For example, certain building materials, wall paint, cleaning chemicals, adhesives, etc, can represent a source of health-harming toxins. These toxins come from volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These can represent a threat to your health if present in high concentrations. If you don’t ventilate your home very often, you may face issues with VOCs.
An air purifier with a carbon filter can help you deal with these and protect your health more efficiently. VOCs may end up in either your lungs, throat, or eyes, and result in allergic reactions and respiratory symptoms.
Air Purifiers Against Pet Dander
Every pet owner is familiar with the problems that come with furry animals: dander, hair, odors, it’s so hard to remove them. A proper air purifier with a good filter is able to trap most of these and help your home remain clean and smell nice. Additionally, even if you don’t own a pet, an air purifier can help remove allergens that come with your guests who actually own pets, and bring their hairs and other molecules on their clothes and shoes.
Air Purifiers Against Viruses and Bacteria
Our environment is basically comprised of millions and billions of bacteria and virus particles that are all around our homes. While many of them may be harmless, or even benevolent, there are also those that can cause different kinds of sicknesses.
A HEPA filter can help remove undesirable pathogens and microbes that might infect you or your loved ones. However, when it comes to viruses, air purifiers are not that effective. The best option for getting rid of viruses is buying an air purifier that has a UV light built-in. These are able to destroy the DNA of the viruses, so they just keep on floating around, but they remain harmless to your health.
What About the Coronavirus?
Most air purifiers that use HEPA filters are able to catch particles that match the size of the coronavirus. Yet, nobody knows if these are actually helpful in the prevention of virus transmission, since the transmission rate could be much faster than the time necessary for the purifier to catch the particles. Therefore, you shouldn’t rely on an air purifier as a method of protection against coronavirus inside any indoor space, but rather follow the usual CDC recommendations.
Air Purifiers Against Mold Spores
A common problem present in many homes is mold. There are many sources and methods of how mold is being formed, however, air purifiers are able to capture mold spores as these are airborne particles before they reproduce further.
If the purifier has a HEPA filter as well, an activated carbon filter, or a UV light, these should help with removing mold spores from your home.
Air Purifiers Against Smoke
If you or any of the people you share your home with are smokers, if you live near an area that is prone to wildfires, or if it’s hard to ventilate your kitchen, an air purifier can be of great help to remove the smoke for your indoor space. An activated carbon filter is probably the best option here since its main role is to reduce odors caused by smoke, but a HEPA filter is also good, as it would remove the smoke particles from the air.
So, Do I Need an Air Purifier?
With all of the information provided above, you may be able to form a decision for yourself by now. If you are having any of the above-mentioned issues, yes, an air purifier could be a good solution.
However, for some people, the decision about buying an air purifier revolves around making better living conditions that revolve around health. For others, this purchase has more to do with having nicer-smelling air at home.
So, to help you make your decisions, here is a summary that should answer the question ‘Do I need an air purifier?’
You Need an Air Purifier If:
- You suffer from asthma, allergy, or any other chronic respiratory disease. An air purifier can provide relief from the symptoms, as it helps you breathe better. After some time of using an air purifier, you should notice a reduction in the symptoms and the number of attacks that occur. However, do not quit any type of medication before consulting your doctor.
- You want your home to smell better and fresher.
- You want less dust in the air.
- You want your home to feel and be cleaner.
- You or the people you’re living with have a compromised immune system and get sick easily. An air purifier will remove harmful pathogens and reduce the probability of sickness.
- You want to protect your body from toxins that live in the air. An air purifier is able to remove the potentially toxic VOCs.
- You want to lower the smoke levels in your home produced by either cigarette smoking, the proximity of wildfires, or cooking.
- You have pets. Pets produce a lot of dander, odors, and hairs and a good air purifier is efficient at trapping and removing these types of particles and keeping your home cleaner.
- You have mold in your home. Especially if you are allergic to mold, you can significantly profit from getting an air purifier, as it helps trap mold spores before reproduction, which basically means removing it at its root.
- You want to improve your health in general. Air purifiers are primarily designed for making the indoor air healthier, and almost all people, even if initially healthy, experience an improvement in how healthy they feel once they start using the air purifier.
You Might Not Need an Air Purifier If:
- You clean your home regularly and the indoor dust is not your greatest concern.
- There are no unpleasant odors in your home that can’t be removed by simply opening the window.
- You and the people you live with are healthy and don’t get sick easily, so exposure to bacteria and viruses doesn’t concern you too much.
- You and the people you live with are not smokers.
- You don’t have pets that produce hair, dander, and odors.
- You don’t suffer from allergies, asthma, or chronic respiratory diseases.
- You haven’t been renovating around your home, and you are using non-toxic cleaning chemicals, so you don’t fear any potentially present VOCs.
- Your living area has good air quality in general, which also reflects the air quality in your living space.
- The air quality of the outdoor air around your home is good.