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Air Purification Systems and Other Options for Keeping Your Indoor Air Clean

The air you breathe in your home, office and other indoor spaces has a major impact on your overall health.

An air purification system can improve the air you breathe by removing contaminants from the air within a room or an entire building.

These systems are particularly useful for eliminating pollutants such as dust, pollen, smoke and even certain germs and bacteria.

What an Air Purification System Does

Air purification systems use filters to trap contaminants.

  • HEPA filters capture dust, pollen and mold spores
  • True HEPA filters conform to the U.S. Department of Energy standard for HEPA filtration
  • Activated carbon filters remove smoke and VOCs (volatile organic compounds, which include industrial solvents and by-products produced by chlorination in water treatment)
  • Some devices use ionizers to charge particles so they stick to surfaces and UV light to kill bacteria and viruses

Air purifiers address a broad range of pollutants, including:

  • Large particles like dust and pollen and microscopic ones such as bacteria, viruses and mold spores
  • Pet dander and other allergens
  • VOCs and smoke

How Air Purifiers Work

Air purifiers improve indoor air quality by removing contaminants through various filtration methods and advanced purification technologies. These devices ensure cleaner air, contributing to a healthier living environment.

Traditional air purifiers use a combination of filters and a fan. The fan draws in air, which passes through multiple stages of filtration.

HEPA filters capture particles as small as 0.3 microns, including dust, pollen and pet dander. A True HEPA filter offers even higher efficiency (99.97%), ensuring most contaminants are trapped.

In addition to HEPA filters, some purifiers incorporate carbon filters. These utilize activated carbon, which is effective in removing gases, odors and VOCs. As air flows through the filters, the cleaned air is then circulated back into the room, ensuring constant airflow and circulation.

Beyond traditional filtration, some air purifiers employ advanced technologies. These methods complement filters to provide a comprehensive purification system and include:

  • Ionizers release negative ions that bind with airborne particles, causing them to fall out of the air
  • Germicidal irradiation uses UV light to eliminate microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses
  • Electrostatic precipitators charge particles which are then attracted to a collection plate, removing pollutants from the air
  • Photocatalytic oxidation combines UV light with a catalyst, breaking down contaminants into harmless substances

Other Options for Improved Air Quality

In addition to traditional and advanced air purification systems, air scrubbers and whole-home humidifiers are two other options for improving indoor air quality.

Air scrubbers: While an air purifier cleans the air by filtering out particles, an air scrubber removes contaminants directly from the air and surfaces in a room and can handle a broader range of contaminants. These devices often employ a combination of filters and technologies, such as UV light, to not only filter but also neutralize harmful chemicals, gases and VOCs. They are frequently used in industrial settings where airborne contaminants are higher.

Whole-home humidifiers: If your indoor environment is particularly dry, a whole-home humidifier adds moisture to the air, maintaining an optimal humidity level throughout your house. This can alleviate dry skin, reduce static electricity and preserve wood furniture. These humidifiers can be connected to your HVAC system. When the humidity level drops below a certain point, the humidifier turns on and a fan pushes the moisture into your ductwork and throughout your home.

Installing both a humidifier and an air purifier can create a more comfortable and healthier living environment. Each system addresses different aspects of indoor air quality, working together to ensure that the air you breathe is not only clean but also well-humidified.

Selecting and Purchasing Air Purifiers

When selecting an air purifier, determine the square footage of the area you want to purify. This helps you choose a device capable of handling that space effectively.

Consider the CADR rating (Clean Air Delivery Rate), a measurement that indicates how much air an air-filtration system can filter and deliver per minute. A higher CADR means an air purifier can filter out pollutants like pet dander, smoke particles and allergens more efficiently. You may also want to check if the device is certified by The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM).

Air purifiers come with various features designed for specific needs. If you suffer from allergies or asthma, look for models with HEPA filters, which are excellent at trapping small particles. For homes with pets, choose a purifier that targets pet dander.

Noise levels and maintenance are also important. A device with a quiet operation is ideal for bedrooms or living rooms. Consider the cost and frequency of filter replacements, as this can impact the overall expense of your air purifier.

Where to Buy Air Purification Systems

Stand-alone air purifiers are available from a variety of sources. Online retailers, big box home improvement stores and warehouse clubs are a few options.

A recommended option is to consult a cooling and heating company in your local area. An HVAC company that you know and trust can help you determine the type and size of system that will be best for your home or office and your specific needs.

You may want to consider a whole-home air purification system, such as the AccuClean® Whole-Home Air Cleaner, which is installed as part of your home HVAC system. Whole-home humidifiers also can be installed as part of your HVAC system.

Remember that some units are more efficient in handling specific allergens or pollutants, so choose one that fits your needs.

Air Purifier Use and Maintenance

Proper use and maintenance of an air purifier are essential for ensuring air quality and health benefits. This involves selecting the optimal placement of the device and regular upkeep, including cleaning and replacing filters.

To maximize the effectiveness of your air purifier, position it in areas where you spend the most time, such as the living room or bedroom. Good ventilation is vital; place the unit near doorways or windows to enhance airflow.

Avoid placing the purifier behind furniture or near walls, which can obstruct air intake. For homes with poor air quality or heavy indoor air pollution, having multiple purifiers in different rooms can be beneficial.

Regular maintenance extends the life of your air purifier and keeps it functioning optimally. Clean or replace filters as directed by the manufacturer or your HVAC company.

For more information on air purification systems, check out the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Guide to Air Cleaners in the Home

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