How To Choose The Right Air Purifier For Your Indoor Environment

Air purifier
Philips air purifier

Image courtesy of Rob Pegoraro

Air purification in your home is no longer a luxury, but a necessity. Even if you don’t suffer from allergies, asthma or other respiratory ailments, the amount of biological and chemical contaminants polluting homes today is why the Environmental Protection Agency deems indoor air quality one of the top five environmental health risks.

A quality, portable air purifier is one of the most effective ways to improve the health of your house – and ultimately – its occupants. Shopping for one can be a daunting task. Because air purifiers are not all created equal, you need to know what to look for and what to avoid.

Two things to consider are your budget and the size of your space. Most brands will clearly reveal the amount of square footage they effectively clean. With a little knowledge, you’ll be breathing a whole lot easier.

Look for a multistage filtration process. Air cleaning devices use a combination of several types of cleaning methods which can include:

  1. A Pre-filter
  2. Activated carbon / zeolite
  3. A HEPA filter / HyperHEPA® / Nano Coil
  4. Electrostatic filtration
  5. Negative ion generation
  6. Ozone
  7. Ultraviolet light

TIP #1: The Prefilter

A prefilter is essential to trap large particles such as dust, hair and pet dander. Be sure your unit has a prefilter and that you change per the manufacturers recommendations; usually once or twice a year.

TIP #2: Activated Carbon / Zeolite

Activated carbon is important because this part of the filtration process actually adsorbs toxic gas molecules like cigarette smoke, gases, odors, mildew and volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) like formaldehyde and pesticides. It works by adsorption (particles stick to carbon), not to be confused with absorption. “Adsorption” occurs when materials attach through a chemical reaction, ultimately, catching smaller dust particles than a HEPA filter. Zeolite is a natural mineral that can be added to absorb certain gas molecules including formaldehyde, ammonia and carbon monoxide.

TIP #3: HEPA / HyperHEPA® / Nano Coil Filtration

High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters are 99.97 percent efficient in removing particles 0.3 microns in size or greater (ie: dust, pollen, mold spores). Look for a non-petrochemical, true medical grade HEPA filter. HEPA filters are paper-like filters made of randomly positioned fibers that create narrow passages with many twists and turns. As the air passes through, particles are trapped, clogging holes and making the grid smaller, which enables the filter to be even more efficient with ongoing use. The IQAir uses something unique called a HyperHEPA® to filter harmful ultrafine pollution particles down to 0.003 microns in size.

Nano Coil Technology removes 99% of airborne contaminants, reduces bacteria and kills cold and flu viruses. It’s five times better than HEPA in clearing the air of pet hair, fur, dander, dust and mold. This technology cleans microscopic particles down to 0.05 microns.

Philips Smart Air Purifier

Image courtesy of Philips Communications

TIP #4: UV-C Light

An ultraviolet C lamp emits short-wave ultraviolet light that kills airborne microorganisms captured on the HEPA media surface. UV-C light is the same technology used by hospitals for sanitization, killing 99.9% of germs, which can cause colds or flu. Assure the brand you select does not generate ozone by checking HERE.

TIP #5: Avoid Ozone Producing Filtration

Electrostatic precipitators remove pollutant particles by charging them as they pass through and collect them on an oppositely charged metal plate or filter; producing some ozone as a byproduct. Even small amounts of ozone, a lung irritant, are not recommended.

The negative ion generator is a unit that changes the electrical charge of its surroundings. It attracts particles and dust, which then drop out of the air onto the floor near the unit. The dust or pollen is taken out of the air, but these particles are then stuck to the wall or items in the room that the air purifier is cleaning. The particles can easily become loose and circulate the air again. Some negative ion generators also emit potentially harmful levels of ozone as a byproduct and should be avoided.

Ozone generators release ozone (O3), a toxic gas, into the air and produce relatively large amounts of this gas by design. While ozone in the upper atmosphere protects us from the sun’s ultraviolet rays, ground-level ozone (smog) is an irritant that can worsen asthma and compromise your ability to fight respiratory infections. It is not a very stable molecule; it reacts readily with other chemicals that may be in the air, forming new compounds that can be more dangerous than the ozone itself. These purifiers should be avoided completely.

Choosing the right air purifier for your home doesn’t have to take your breath away.  By following these 5 simple steps, you’ll be breathing a sigh of relief (and cleaner air) in no time.

Feature image courtesy of SamsungTomorrow

Lisa Beres
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Lisa Beres

Lisa Beres is a healthy home expert, Baubiologist, published author, professional speaker and Telly award-winning media personality who teaches busy people how to eliminate toxins from their home with simple, step-by-step solutions to improve their health. With her husband, Ron, she is the co-founder of The Healthy Home Dream Team and the 30-day online program Change Your Home. Change Your Health. She is the author of the children’s book My Body My House and co-author of Just Green It!: Simple Swaps to Save Your Health and the Planet, Learn to Create a Healthy Home! Green Nest Creating Healthy Homes and The 9 to 5 Greened: 10 Steps to a Healthy Office. Lisa’s TV appearances include "The Rachael Ray Show," "Nightly News with Brian Williams," "TODAY," "The Doctors," "Fox & Friends," "Chelsea Lately" and "The Suzanne Somers Show."
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