Unfortunately, in today’s world, pollution is everywhere.
And with the type of cleaning products, manmade goods, and activities
undertaken within homes and buildings, indoor environments can become very
uncomfortable. Even “fresh,” outdoor air has as many as 30 million dust or
pollutant particles per cubic foot.
There are, however, measures you can take to lessen the
effects of these particles in your home. Since the home is essentially an
enclosed system, heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration
(HVACR) contractors are able to tackle pollution head-on by moving the air
through a high-efficiency air cleaner.
What does an air
At its most basic level, an air cleaner filters out the
particles that cause irritation, such as pollen, spores, dust, and other
contaminates. In order for any air cleaner to work correctly, the particles
need to pass through it. Hence, if the particles are not in the air stream (for
example, they’re dust on furniture), an air cleaner won’t remove them. However,
a good air cleaner will:
allergy-causing particles that pass through it.
economical to maintain.
a large volume of air efficiently.
How can an air
cleaner help with allergies?
A good air cleaner reduces or removes the irritants that
cause allergic symptoms. You may choose a portable air cleaner for smaller
spaces or a whole-house air cleaner that works in conjunction with your forced-air
system to provide cleaner air throughout your home.
What kinds of
residential air cleaners are out there?
There are basically two: furnace-mounted, whole-house units
and portable single-room units. Both types of cleaners have different models with
varying methods of cleaning the air and capacities for doing so. Your dwelling
may help determine the right unit for your needs. A room air cleaner may be
best in an apartment, for example, while a whole-house unit might work better
with a furnace and air conditioning system. It’s important to note that both
room and system air cleaners come in a variety of models, and that not all
models use the same technology to clean the air.
Each kind of air cleaner has its pros and cons, which may
differ depending on your air-cleaning requirements. Take a look at what your
needs are based on your dwelling and allergies and talk to your professional
HVACR contractor about the best kind for you.
What are the most
effective air cleaners?
Media Air Cleaners
These units use high-efficiency pleated filters, or “media,”
to remove about 99% of larger particles, including many allergens. With
irritants in the spore and pollen range, they are as effective as HEPA filters
but not as effective in filtering out the super-small particulates such as
bacteria, viruses, and respirable dust. Media air cleaners are cost effective
compared to HEPA filters because the filters are usually less expensive and
generally need to be replaced only every one or two years.
HEPA Air Cleaners
HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) cleaners also use
high efficiency pleated media to remove particles. To be designated HEPA, an
air cleaner must remove 99.97% of all particles 0.3 microns in size (such as dust
and mold spores). Due to high cost, operational complications, and other
problems, HEPA units are usually seen in residential applications as one-room,
portable units. When media in these units need to be replaced, it’s often
relatively expensive to do so. Some require charcoal filters that need to be
cleaned frequently. Warranties for HEPA cleaners are normally one to three
Electrostatic air filters are not recognized as true high-efficiency
air cleaners. However, they are generally recognized as being more effective
than the standard one-inch throw-away filters. Electrostatic air filters depend
on the movement of the air through the filter to give particles a weak
electronic charge. Usually, these models are less than 20% efficient, with some
models having efficiencies below 5%. They need to be cleaned often, sometimes
weekly, to maintain air flow. Electrostatic air filters have warranties ranging
from one year to lifetime.
There are two types of electronic air cleaners. Both electrically
charge particles and attract them to a collection material. The standard
electronic air cleaner will collect charged particles on a specially designed
“plate.” Most electronic cleaners can obtain 95% efficiency or higher on
various particles when the collection plates and ionizing wires are clean, but
they can lose some efficiency as they collect dirt.
A newer technology in electronic air cleaners is called “electronically
enhanced media” combining elements of both electronic and media air cleaners.
Particles are electrically charged and then collected by the massive air
cleaning media of a traditional high-efficiency cleaner. Because the
replacement of the media is simple and there are no plates to clean, efficiency
is maintained throughout the media’s life. Electronically enhanced media air
cleaners are 99% effective in the removal of numerous particle categories.
Electronic air cleaners generally have warranties of one to five years.