The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that indoor air pollution is among our top five environmental health risks. And while ventilating with clean outdoor air is a solution, it’s not always practical. Weather conditions and outdoor air pollution often make it difficult or impossible.
The EPA goes on to say that air cleaning devices may be the answer. But if you’ve done any research online, you’ve discovered many different kinds of air purifiers. You’ll see terms such as “HEPA,” “activated oxygen,” “air filtration,” and “ionic comfort.” Many of these are portable purifiers. A whole house air purifier or whole home air purifier is contractor installed in the HVAC system of a home to clean home air. Some whole house air purifiers work along with cleaners, filters, and the HVAC's fan.
If you’re confused about air purification products, you’re not alone. So what’s best for you and your family?
A good place to start is to evaluate what indoor air pollutants may be in your house. The EPA divides them into two categories: particulate matter and gaseous pollutants.
Particulate matter may come from organisms such as dust mites, molds, bacteria, and viruses. It can be dust, smoke, animal dander, or particles from combustion in the home such as stoves and fireplaces.
Gaseous pollutants originate with combustion and from materials found in and around the house. Stoves, vehicle exhaust, tobacco smoke, and wood smoke produce gaseous pollution.
Household products also release gasses, called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the home. This “off-gassing” can originate in building materials such as particle board and home furnishings. Off-gassing also occurs when you use paint, varnishes, or common household cleaning products.
Every home is different and the weather, pollen count, and outdoor air is unique to each region of the country. Plus, the people living in your home may have special medical conditions such as asthma. If they’re young children or seniors, they will also be more vulnerable to indoor air pollution.
Some air filtering systems and portables are designed to remove certain types of pollutants from your air. Other air treatment systems work to destroy the pollutants.
There are really two types of air purifiers: a whole house and portable. Whole house air purification systems take care of the entire home from kitchen and bathrooms to bedrooms and living areas. Portable air purifiers works best in single rooms and offer extra protection in an infant's or child's bedroom or the bedroom of an elderly parent or a family member with asthma or allergy sensitivity.
Here’s more on how different air filtering systems work to control indoor air pollution…
To rid the air of polluting particles, purifiers use either mechanical air filters or electronic air cleaners.
A sorbent such as activated carbon is used in gas-phase air filters to adsorb gasses and odors. This removes them from the air. Adsorption is the adhesion of atoms, ions, or molecules from a gas to a surface, in this case the filter.
The thing to look out for in gas phase filtration systems is that they usually work on only one or a limited number of gaseous pollutants. They will not work on gasses that they were not designed for. And none remove all the gaseous pollutants in a typical home’s air. For example, carbon monoxide is one gas that is dangerous but not easily captured by today’s air filtering systems.
Air cleaners that use ultraviolet light (UV) to destroy indoor air pollutants are called ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) cleaners and photocatalytic oxidation (PCO) cleaners. Some manufacturers also sell air cleaners that produce ozone to destroy pollutants. But, as you will see, that is not a recommended option, as ozone is a known lung irritant.
The EPA and other government agencies have determined that ozone generators are not safe and they do not effectively eliminate indoor air pollutants. When you shop for air purification in your home, the best advice is to stay away from any system using ozone generation. According to the EPA, “At concentrations that do not exceed public health standards, ozone has little effect in removing most indoor air contaminants. Thus, ozone generators are not always safe and effective in controlling indoor air pollutants.”
There are two kinds of air cleaning devices you can buy. You can get a whole house air purification system installed in the ductwork of your HVAC system. Or you can buy a portable air cleaner for one room only or if you do not have a forced air heating/cooling system.
The quality of filters installed in your ductwork are measured in terms of their efficiency in removing airborne particles from the air that passes through them. The measurement is called the minimum efficiency reporting value, or MERV. The ratings range from a low of 1 to a high of 20.
Portable systems are measured by their clean air delivery rate, or CADR. The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers developed this measure of a portable’s delivery of contaminant-free air in cubic feet per minute. So, let’s say an air cleaner has a CADR of 150 for dust particles. That means it reduces dust particles in a room to similar levels if you were to add 150 cubic feet of clean air per minute. The higher the CADR, the better the filtration.
An ionic air cleaner gives airborne germs and particles a static charge so they stick to the walls, ceilings, floors and furniture in the room as well as you. Ionic air cleaners do not get rid of particles, they pile them up in the home.
An ozone purifier creates harmful ozone and should be avoided. In fact the state of California has banned certain ozone producing air purifiers since they are harmful.
We hope that you now feel more comfortable in your search for solutions to indoor air pollution. Below you’ll find links to more information on indoor air quality, asthma and allergies, and common household products that emit pollutants into your house.
Also, Field Controls offers custom HVAC air purification solutions that meet the highest standards for indoor air quality. Our Healthy Home System is a whole house air purification system that combines air purification, air filtration, and a reliable source of fresh air to keep your home healthy.
Our Healthy Home Trio Portable is ideal for homes without forced air ductwork and for extra protection in any room. This portable air purification includes multi-stage filtration and PRO-Cell Technology odor and VOC reduction.
Since 1927, we have been a leader in the development and manufacture of products that control, move, and improve air. We look forward to helping you keep your indoor air fresh, clean, and pure.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), www.epa.gov/ and https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/guide-air-cleaners-home