Air purifiers are an ever increasingly popular item for households, offices and other enclosed areas. There are even air purifiers available for cars. They are obviously useful in environments where the air tends to be polluted. However, you might wonder: do air really work or are they just a waste of money?
The short answer is: Air purifiers are really working. In fact, they are doing a good job and can help reduce the air pollution inside houses, RVs and cars. However, not all types of air purifiers are recommended for use in private homes.
There are several types of air purifier currently available on the market. The main two being ones which utilize a filter and ones which generate Ozone.
The 2 Types of Air Purifiers
What Are Filter Air Purifiers?
These have been tried and tested for many years and they are only as good as the quality of the air filter installed inside, so quality is really important here: Buy yourself a cheap air purifier and you will probably get a lower quality filter so it will not work as efficiently as a better quality one.
They typically have two main components: A fan to push the ambient air through the filter and also the filter itself. This configuration works well as long as the filter has not been left too long to get clogged up. Then, of course, the efficiency will be reduced.
Buying a replacement filter might prove almost as costly as buying a completely new unit as it is the main component. Manufacturers know that filters must be replaced comparatively often, so they tend to charge a rather high price for them. Unfortunately, it is not possible to manually clean this type of filter without impeding its efficiency.
When choosing a filter air purifier, you should therefore not only consider the price of the unit but also the quality and the replacement costs of filters.
What Are Ozone Air Purifiers?
These are often simply called “Ozone generators” and they do not use a filter at all. Instead, they use a nifty bit of science: A fan is built in to suck air into the unit. This air flow passes an ozone generator afterwards. This ozone generator releases ozone which mixes with the airflow. As the ozone is an unstable molecule, it attaches itself to any pollution in the air such as smoke, mold spores and even viruses and bacteria. Once attached, the ozone effectively destroys these types of pollution.
There is however a downside to ozone generators: it has been proved that ozone can create a reaction in the lungs if exposed to it for long periods of time. This can lead to health issues and makes the lungs more susceptible to infection. Some studies go further than this and suggest exposure to ozone may reduce the body’s immune system. Ozone may aggravate symptoms of restricted airways in asthma sufferers causing coughing and breathing problems. While some states and countries have prohibited the sale of ozone generators, they are still available in others.
These types of air purifiers have some advantages after all and they can be efficient if professionally used and monitored. However, air purifiers with a filter seem to be the better and safer choice for private homes.
How Do Air Purifiers Work?
Air purifiers do a really good job at filtering pollutant particles such as dust, pollen and smoke. However, they are not very good at removing gas pollutants such as radon or VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds).
These are gases released from burning fuels such as coal, wood or gasoline. They are also released from many consumer products such as freshly applied paints, glues, air fresheners and cleaning products.
Unfortunately, of the two types of pollutants – particles and VOCs – it is the VOCs which are most harmful. As they are not filtered by air purifying filters, it can be a problem if your home or car is exposed to these pollutants. Long term exposure to VOCs can cause dizziness, fatigue, eye nose and throat irritation and worse still, damage to the liver, kidneys and possibly even cancer.
Activated carbon filters (like these) are the answer to such situations but they can affect the air flow and the overall performance of air purifiers.
How Are Air Purifiers Used Correctly?
So, we know that air purifiers used correctly can work reasonably well but how exactly can they be used correctly? Well, for a start, they need to be left running continuously for long periods of time to ensure that all of the air inside a room has been filtered through the purifier.
Depending on the size of the room this may take one or more hours. The doors and windows in the room should have good tight seals to prevent outside air from seeping into the room and decreasing the efficiency of the air purifier. Similarly, if the room has an air conditioner, this may introduce chilled airflow from outside the room which needs to be filtered by the air purifier as well.
If you are unsure about the extent and type of air pollution in your home, you should consider renting or buying an air quality tester. You can then tackle the issue based on the recommendations of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Can You Use Air Purifiers in Cars and RVs?
Car air purifiers are also available. These are either 12-volt units that plug into the car’s charger socket or solar-powered units that operate even when the car’s ignition is turned off. Generally, these solar-powered units are less powerful than the plug-in type. Even if they work for longer, at least on sunny days, they are still less efficient at purifying the air. The advantage of cleaning air in a car or RV is that their doors and windows are always designed with rubber seals. Thus, there is less outside air entering the car, at least if you do not forget to put the car air conditioner into recycle mode!
Is an Air Purifier for Cars and RVs Really Necessary?
Some people consider that air purifiers in cars and RVs are not required. They might argue that the filter connected to the in-car air conditioner system filters out all harmful pollution. However, this is not the case. Although it is true that car air conditioner filters do filter a lot of pollution, they are not as efficient as a proper air purifier that is additionally installed in the car.
If you need to drive through industrial areas, heavily polluted air or rush-hour congestions, it is well worth considering an in-car air purifier.
Are Air Purifiers Useful? The Conclusion.
So, are air purifiers really a waste of money or not? It all depends on individual circumstances:
Avoidance of pollution first: If it is possible to stop the pollution at source, such as avoiding inside pollution or making smokers go outside, then prevention is better than cure as they say. However, if you are not able to control the pollution at source then the next best thing is to move away from it to reduce its impact.
However, there are lots of examples were either option would not work. If, for example, you happen to live in a badly polluted area or city and you have no option but to remain where you are, then using an air purifier with the doors and windows closed as tightly as possible is the last option.
As air pollution is often invisible, we tend to underestimate their health impact. But even living in a city center or next to a main road can cause serious health effects over time.
Get an air purifier with the best quality filter you can afford and leave it on 24 hours a day. Check the filter every few days or weeks and replace it as soon as you can see deposits building up. Although it may not be as good as breathing pure mountain air, be assured that those dirty pollutants you see sticking to the filter are far better there than sticking to the inside of your lungs!
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