Do you sneeze your way through spring and summer? Love cooking but not the odours that come with it? Or just want to improve the air quality in the house? Well, it might be time to look at an air purifier.
Globally, there’s one thing we’ve shared in common over the last 18 months – we’ve all spent more time indoors than ever before. Temporary working from home conditions have now become permanent for many of us, as we adjust to conducting business from within the four walls of our abode. In fact, it’s estimated that Australians spend 90 per cent of their time indoors.
However, spending so much time inside can expose us to poor air quality, and that can lead to complications with our health. A report by the US environmental protection agency found that pollutants inside buildings can be up to five times higher than the air outside.
Pollen, dust mites, pet dander, smoke and mould spores are just some of the irritants that exist inside the home. Installing a portable air purifier is a good place to start to eliminate impurities in the air. They can be especially helpful for asthmatics, allergy sufferers, households with babies and pets, or homes with smokers.
What is an air purifier?
An air purifier can be installed as part of a ducted system or as a single portable unit, and it’s these that are more commonly found in the home. Air purifiers work using a fan to draw the air in a room through a single or series of filters. When the air passes through these filters, pollutants and particles are trapped and clean air is redistributed back into the room.
This depends on several factors, the first of which is the quality of the unit and the type of filter installed. It’s unlikely you’re going to get the same level of performance from a $50 air purifier than you are from a unit ten times that price. A budget model will be restricted in the space it can clean and the number and type of impurities it will trap. Additional features like real-time sensors, multiple speed control, Wi-Fi connectivity and voice control will also be limited. As we’ve already mentioned, the other important factor is the filter used in the filtration process. This will determine what the unit can trap. An air purifier can catch the following:Pollen: Suffering from seasonal allergies is no fun at all. And pollen isn’t restricted to just the outside, either. An open window or a poorly sealed home can wreak havoc on allergy sufferers.
Dust mites: The waste from dust mites can be a major trigger for allergy and asthma sufferers. Exposure to dust mites can happen while you’re sleeping or even just walking through the house.
Pet dander: Pet dander is another enemy of asthmatics or those prone to allergies. Dander is tiny particles of skin shed from an animal and it’s a protein in the dander that causes allergic reactions. Additionally, the protein is also found in pet saliva. Once dried onto the fur, it can be released into the air when an animal scratches.
Smoke: Whether it’s smoke from burn-offs, tobacco, or another misadventure in the kitchen, an air purifier can be effective in cleaning the air.
Mould spores: Mould in the home can have serious health implications, from respiratory infections to triggering allergic reactions. Provided that you have the right filter, an air purifier can be useful in containing airborne spores.
Bacteria and viruses: Again, depending on the filter in the unit, air purifiers can be effective at trapping bacteria and viruses. Some models even have built-in UV technology designed to kill any virus and bacteria once trapped in the filter.Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC): Household VOCs are gases that can be emitted from paint, paint strippers and thinners, glues and cleaning products. Not all filters can contain VOCs, so a specialised filter is required.
Filtering the facts
Without a filter, an air purifier is useless. The filter is the wicket keeper’s gloves, responsible for catching all the nasties we have already spoken about. While recommendations will vary from device to device, it’s important to change the filter according to the advice of the manufacturer. Some models will even prompt the user directly that it’s time to change the filter.
So, why does the filter need to be changed frequently?
No different than the aircon unit at home, once the filter fills up with pollutants, it becomes less effective, leading to poor air quality. On top of that, the unit will have to work harder, putting additional strain on the motor and consequently using more electricity.
In some cases filters can be washed and reused, which is not only good for the environment but for the back pocket too. Bottom line: change or clean the filter as required to keep your unit – and its performance – in tip top shape.
Different filters perform different tasks. The most popular type in domestic air purifiers is the HEPA filter, although some units will combine multiple filter systems in one unit.HEPA: The most common type of filter, HEPA is an acronym for High-Efficiency Particulate Air. The filter is a multi-layered fine mesh netting designed to catch a multitude of different sized particles. A True HEPA filter can capture over 99.97 per cent of pollutants.Carbon: A carbon filter is an efficient filtration system due to its porous nature. The absorbent material makes it ideal for gases and odours that HEPA filters can’t catch.
Ozone: An ozone filter is excellent for neutralising odours but will not trap any other impurities in the air.
UV: UVC sanitation has become more and more popular over the last two years for obvious reasons. In air purifiers, you’re most likely to find UVC technology working in conjunction with a HEPA filter. For example, as the air flows through the filter, the UV light shines on the air, potentially killing mould spores, bacteria and viruses as clean air exits into the room.
CADR? What’s that about? The Clean Air Delivery Rate, or CADR, is an industry standard measure for how efficient an air purifier is based the size of a room and the amount of clean air produced by the minute. When units are initially tested, the results are converted to cubic metres per hour. The three pollutants that are used in the testing process are dust, smoke, and pollen. So essentially, the higher the CADR rating, the better the air purifier will perform.
Before you choose an air purifier, the first step is to establish the size of the room it will be used in and cross reference that with the unit’s performance specs. Just as a unit that is underpowered for a larger room will not perform properly, one that is too overpowered for a smaller space will just clock up the power bill.
The good news is that most models will openly display coverage rates in metreage. All you need to do is establish the floor area at home and correlate the measurement with the unit’s coverage. If you have rooms that adjoin and you want to use the air purifier, you’ll need to calculate the overall floor area. As a rule of thumb, it’s better to buy an air purifier that will cope with a slightly larger area than the one you’re buying for.
How to work out your room area
Working out the room area is surprisingly easy. The formula is length x width = area. So if a room is four metres long and three metres wide, the total area is 12 meters square.
Air purifiers come with an array of different features depending on the price, and it can be hard to cut through the noise to determine which one to buy. We’ve already covered the essential basics but there are some other features that can improve the user experience.
As we’ve already mentioned, some units will prompt you when a filter requires replacing or cleaning – this digital reminder is a good idea for busy households. An air purifier with variable speed settings will enable flexibility in filtering the air. A higher setting is ideal for cleaning a room quickly, while a lower fan setting would be a better option for running in a bedroom at night. An oscillating air purifier is a good option for covering more room area.
Sensors built into the unit can relay information about the air quality to the user. The technology can also assess the air quality during operation and adjust accordingly. A remote control can be the art of convenience, but many air purifiers can now connect to the home Wi-Fi network. This provides a full suite of control options through your smart device. Some models even offer voice control, so all your need to do is call out across the room to bring it online.
Every air purifier will offer something different, so it’s important to establish exactly what you want to use it for. Will it be against the pollutants in your home? If you need to use it at night, does it have a quiet mode? Are you buying a model that will cover the room where you intend to out it? Do your homework to ensure you’re getting exactly what you need. The right air purifier can make quite the difference.
Looking for an air purifier at JB? These are some of the best-sellers!
An entry-level air purifier, this JB exclusive model offers three stage purification, 360-degree circulation, and will cover rooms up to 8.5m2.
Breville The Easy Air Purifier with Connect
Also featuring 360 degrees of air circulation, this one, as the name suggests, can connect through Wi-Fi and be used via the app. It’s perfect for rooms from 15 to 25m2.
Philips Series 1000
With four speeds, the 1000 caters for areas of up to 63m2. An excellent air purifier for night-time with quiet operation, the unit will prompt the user when the filter needs to be replaced. A colour coding system on the dashboard reveals air quality in real-time.
Sleekly designed, the Z-3000 cleans air in 360 degrees and uses a pod to read air quality, relaying the information to adjust operation in real-time. It will cover 70 square metres.
At the top end of the price range is the HP09, an air purifier that analyses the pollutants and displays the results on an LCD screen. It has hot and cold functionality, Wi-Fi connectivity and can detect, and destroy, formaldehyde. It will cover an area of 81m3.