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Home Air Purifying Technology Overview

how-home-air-filter-worksCompare home air filtering technologies used by leading air purifiers and find out which are the ones you should look out for. Confused by the jargon you see in marketing brochures? In this article, we clear the air by giving you the lowdown on common air purifying technologies and highlight their strengths and weaknesses in terms you can understand.

The five technologies that we will look at are:

1. HEPA Filter
2. Activated Carbon Air Filter
3. Air Ionizer
4. Germicidal UV Lamp
5. Ozone Generator

1. HEPA Air Filter

  • hepa-air-filterHow It Works:
    High Efficiency Particulate Air, or HEPA air filters are the most efficient type of air filter available. Usually made of fiberglass, they are 99.97% effective at removing particles as small as 0.3 microns. HEPA air filters were first developed in World War II to remove radioactive contaminants produced during the development of atomic bomb. They are now widely used in many high technology industries that demand high air quality.
  • Air Filter Strengths:
    • Remove dust, dust mites, pet dander, pollens, mold, some bacteria and other common indoor allergens.
    • Air contaminants that have been trapped in the filter won’t be released back into the air.
    • Does not generate ozone or harmful byproducts.
  • Air Filter Weaknesses:
    • Won’t remove odors, gases, chemical fumes, volatile organic compounds, cigarette smoke, and ultra-small particles, viruses and germs (0.01 microns and below).
    • HEPA filter works passively. It requires a fan to draw in air in order to trap air contaminants.
    • Bacteria and viruses trapped in the filter can breed and reproduce.
  • Complementary Technologies:
    • Activated carbon air filter can remove gases, fumes, and cigarette smoke missed out by HEPA filter.
    • Air ionizer proactively uses magnetic charges to clump very fine air particles together, making them large enough to be removed by HEPA filter.
    • Germicidal UV lamp kills viruses and germs and prevent micro-organisms trapped in the HEPA filter from breeding and reproducing.
    • Ozone generator is capable of removing odors that go undetected by HEPA air filter.

2. Activated Carbon Air Filter

  • activated-carbon-home-air-filterHow It Works:
    Derived from coconut shells, wood or coal, activated carbon filters contain millions of small pores between carbon atoms that can trap or interact with chemical fumes, gases and odors, rendering them harmless. Due to the high surface area of the carbon granules, carbon filters are excellent at trapping gases that would otherwise go right through other filter media.
  • Air Filter Strengths:
    • Highly absorbent, making it very effective in trapping chemical fumes, gases, cigarette smoke and odors.
    • Does not release captured contaminants back into the air.
    • Does not generate ozone or harmful byproducts.
  • Air Filter Weaknesses:
    • Does not effectively remove dust and other allergens.
    • Does not effectively capture bacteria and viruses.
    • Like HEPA filter, activated carbon filter works passively too. It requires a fan to draw in the air in order to trap air contaminants.
    • As the pores in the filter become filled with trapped contaminants, the filter loses its effectiveness and will need to be replaced.
  • Complementary Technologies:
    • HEPA air filter can capture allergens and other particles missed out by activated carbon air filter.
    • Air ionizer can be used to release ions that proactively remove contaminants in the air.
    • Germicidal UV lamp can destroy germs trapped on activated carbon filter.

3. Air Ionizer

  • home-air-ionizerHow It Works:
    An air ionizer creates negative ions which change the polarity of airborne particles, causing them to magnetically attract together. As these particles become heavier, they settle on the ground or on walls instead of staying airborne, removing pollutants from the air you breathe. The charged air contaminants are then collected by the ionizer with a charged collector plate. Most effective ionizers use a stainless steel “needlepoint” to produce negative ions.
  • Air Filter Strengths:
    • Remove particles from the air, including particles as small as 0.01 microns.
    • Neutralizes chemical fumes, cigarette smoke, viruses and bacteria.
    • Works proactively. Air ionizer sends out ions that can circulate throughout the room, removing airborne particles across the room from where the air purifier sits.
  • Air Filter Weaknesses:
    • It is useless against bad odors.
    • Cannot kill all viruses.
    • Does not remove all chemicals.
    • Cannot effectively collect all of the charged particles removed from the air.
    • Produces trace amounts of ozone and other oxidants as by-products.
  • Complementary Technologies:
    • HEPA air filter can be used to collect ionized particles.
    • Ozone generator or activated carbon air filter can be used to remove odors.
    • Germicidal UV lamp can be used to kill germs, viruses and mold.
    • Activated carbon air filter can be used to capture chemical fumes more effectively.

4. Germicidal UV Lamp

  • Home-air-uv-lampHow It Works:
    Ultraviolet (UV) lamps can effectively destroy germs, viruses, mold and bacteria that pass through the lamp. UV light irradiation is recommended by the Centers of Disease Control to prevent illness and disease.
  • Air Filter Strengths:
    • Can destroy micro-organisms, such as germs, viruses, bacteria and fungi (including mold).
    • Helps prevent the spread of illnesses and diseases.
    • Does not generate ozone or harmful byproducts.
  • Air Filter Weaknesses:
    • No effect on particulate, including most allergens like pollens and dust.
    • Cannot remove chemical fumes, gases, or cigarette smoke.
    • Cannot remove odors, unless designed to produce ozone.
  • Complementary Technologies:
    • HEPA air filters and air ionizers can be used to remove and capture solid particles, including dust and other allergens, which are not affected by UV lamps.
    • Activated carbon air filter can be used to remove chemical fumes which are not affected by UV lamps.
    • Ozone generator can be used to add odor elimination capability to the UV lamp.

5. Ozone Generator

  • home-air-ozone-generatorHow It Works:
    Ozone is a highly reactive oxidant that destroys certain bacteria and chemicals, including odor-causing bacteria and chemical agents. Ozone is highly effective against strong odors, but is not always needed or wanted under normal circumstances. In which case, it is best if it can be completely turned off when not required.
  • Air Filter Strengths:
    • Highly effective against odors, including cigarette smoke odors.
    • Helps to remove certain chemicals and bacteria.
  • Air Filter Weaknesses:
    • Ozone itself is an allergen that cause irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat when present in high enough amounts.
    • The smell of ozone can be off-putting to some people.
    • No effect on solid particles such as allergens.
    • Does not neutralize most chemicals.
  • Complementary Technologies:
    • HEPA air filter and air ionizer can be used to remove undesired solid particles from the air.
    • Germicidal UV lamp can be used to kill bacteria and viruses unaffected by ozone.
    • Activated carbon air filter can be used to remove chemicals that have not been neutralized by ozone.
    • Ozone controls should be in placed to control the amount of ozone desired.


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