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Last updated on September 1st, 2020 at 03:41 pm

How Does An Air Purifier Work? Everything You Need To Know

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Last updated on September 27th, 2020 at 01:28 pm

Air purifiers have been touted to make an enormous change in the quality of air in your house. As you well know, your home can potentially harbour a lot of contaminants, including pet dander, dust, cigarette smoke, bacteria, allergens, and so on.

With all these contaminants lingering around your home, you must invest in the best air purifiers. A good air purifier should improve the air quality in your home and protect your loved ones from airborne pollutants.

Although air purifiers have been around for quite some time, they have evolved over the years. Today they come in different sizes, models, and shapes. So, before you even think of buying one, let’s discuss how an air purifier works. 

How Do Air Purifiers Work?

Before we get into the details of how a purifier works, you should understand that there are different types of purifiers. Each type uses a unique kind of technology to purify the air. So, in this section, we will walk you through how each type of purifier works.

How Does an Air Purifier Work?

How Does A HEPA Air Purifier Work?

HEPA air purification is considered as the standard for air purifiers. Most of the air purifiers we recommend come with a prefilter and a HEPA filter as well. Such purifiers are pretty reliable because of their ability to filter out most contaminants.  

What the prefilter does is to catch all the large particles (pet dander, human hair, e.t.c) before they even get to the main filter. Prefilters need to be changed or often cleaned to ensure the purifier is working correctly. 

As you would expect, small particles will make it past the prefilter. Now, this is where the high-efficiency air filter comes in. High-quality HEPA filters are designed to remove 99.7% of particles that are larger than 0.3 microns.

HEPA filters have several layers of fibreglass threads that help purify the air. As the air purifier continues to draw in air through the HEPA filter, any large particles will crash into the fibre threads. The medium-sized particles will stick on to the fibres, while the tiniest particles will hover around the fibres until they get trapped.

How Does An Air Ionizer Work?

An ionizer is a device that uses a unique form of ionization technology to purify the air around you. Most people tend to think that an ionic air purifier works in a complex and very unique manner.

While this might be the case to some extent, how an air ionizer works is not as intricate as it looks. Here is a brief explanation of how an air ionizer works:

Basically, an ionizer air cleaner works by releasing negatively charged ions into the contaminated air.

The –ve charged ions are meant to attract airborne pollutants such as mold, pollen, bacteria, and dust that contain positively charged ions. When the two types of ions come together, they will form an ionic bond, thus creating ionized air.

Here is the trick! Once the air becomes ionized, the airborne contaminants will become denser than pure air. This heaviness is what makes the particles separate from the air you’re breathing.

These particles will fall onto the floor, and therefore you will have to vacuum the room to get rid of the contaminants completely.

black air ionizer
Air Ionizer

Some companies do realize that having to vacuum the floor is too much to ask, which is why they have introduced an electrostatic collection rod in their ionic air purifiers. Instead of the particulates dropping onto the floor, they will collect on the rod/plate. 

Air ionizers are ideal for people who do not want to undergo the cost of replacing HEPA filters now and then. However, ionizers are not as effective as HEPA air purifiers; they can only remove 95% of pollutants while their counterparts remove up to 99.7% of contaminants. 

As much as air ionizers work, studies have shown that some generate ozone, which can cause health problems. High ozone levels can cause chest pain, aggravation of asthma, throat irritation, decreased lung function, shortness of breath, and other respiratory-related conditions. 

How do UV light air purifiers work? 

The other type of air cleaner you can get is one that uses short-wave ultraviolet light to disinfect indoor air. How does it work?

Well, it is quite simple! This type of purifier comes with UV lamps that are designed to change or inactivate the DNA of microorganisms. 

GermGuardian Air Purifier with UV Light

In most cases, VU light air purifiers depend on a combination of an air filter and the UV lights to clean the air.

What happens is that air is forced through the device, where it passes through a chamber containing lamps that are emitting UV lights within a certain frequency. The UV bulbs are normally placed downstream of a HEPA filter or whichever filter your unit uses. 

The downside of using a UV light air purifier is that it does not work against dust, pollen, smoke, and dander. It can only be used to get rid of microorganisms such as bacteria.

The only way you can be sure it is removing most contaminants is if it has a filter media that can trap other particles as well. 

How Does An Ozone Air Purifier Work?

Although ozone air purifiers are not common, it is only fair that we walk you through how they work. As you’ve probably heard, ozone air purifiers are not the best air-cleaning devices.

They can cause long-term skin and lung damage or even cause respiratory problems to your pets. All in all, some professionals use these devices to clean air in the absence of people. So, how does it work?

Well, this type of air purifier uses a technology that emits ozone into the air. Why ozone? Because it is very unstable and reacts to anything, it comes into contact with. In this case, it will react with airborne chemicals and strong odours, thus getting rid of them.

Besides, ozone has a fresh scent that helps cover any unpleasant odours in the house. 

Does An Air Purifier Really Work?

Most of you guys want to know whether a purifier is effective before buying one. To be honest, air purifiers are useful, however, you’ll need to use other strategies to ensure that you are breathing the cleanest air possible. 

The bottom line is you can count on an air revitalizer to improve the quality of air in your home. Below are some of the particulates that an air purifier can help you get rid of.

  • Smoke – if smoke fumes have become a problem in your home, a filter-equipped air purifier should sort the issue out. An air revitalizer might not get rid of the smell of smoke completely, but it will sure help to reduce the amount of smoke.
  • Allergens – People who suffer from allergic reactions always wonder whether air purifiers actually work and whether they work for allergies. The truth is that HEPA air purifiers are the best-suited devices to trap airborne allergens such as pollen, dust mites, and pet dander.
  • Mold – If you are allergic to mold particles, you might want to invest in an air purifier that has a HEPA filter. Indoor mold particles might aggravate asthma and other lung conditions. Make sure you use a good dehumidifier along with an air purifier to get the best results.
  • Indoor toxins – Apart from dust, mold, allergens, and pet dander, your home might also contain toxins from personal care products, cleaning products, and more.

While air purifiers are effective in cleaning your indoor air space, their efficiency depends on certain factors. For starters, you have to consider the size of a purifier. Large homes will need a larger system or multiple portable purifiers placed in different rooms.

used vs new air purifier filter
Air Purifier Filter New and Used

As mentioned various times in this post, an air purifier will only be useful if you take the responsibility of cleaning the surfaces of your home. Below are some tips that should help you maintain clean air in your indoor air space

  • Always sweep your spaces with a HEPA filter vacuum at least once a week
  • Avoid smoking tobacco inside the house
  • Change filters every month to maximize the efficiency of your air purifier
  • Always dehumidify your house to keep mold and dust mites at bay
  • Make sure you ventilate your home when using harsh cleaning products. You can as well switch to much safer cleaning products
  • Always dust and clean rugs, fabric furniture, and carpeting often
  • Bathe your pets often to minimize animal dander

How do I know if my air purifier is working?

As much as an air purifier is worth every coin, it can be hard to tell if it is doing its job. Remember, you can’t intuit the quality of your indoor air, or see the contaminants being sucked in by the purifier.

So, how do you tell if your air purifier is working? Worry not, we are going to walk you through a few trusted methods to test whether your air purifier is working.

Use an Air Quality Monitor

An air quality monitor is a device that measures indoor pollutants in real-time. You can use this simple device to monitor the quality of air in your home whenever you are using an air purifier.

air quality monitor
Eve Air Quality Monitor

The logic of using an air quality monitor is quite simple. You just need to switch off the purifier and get an air quality reading after two hours.

Record the reading, close all the ventilations, and turn on the purifier. Allow the purifier to run and observe whether there are any changes in the air quality monitor. If there is an improvement, then your air purifier is working.

Use a Chemical Test Kit

If you are looking to conduct a more serious investigation, then I would suggest you use a chemical test kit. A good kit should test your indoor air for pollen, dander, mold, and mildew. Using a chemical test kit is quite simple since it comes with clear instructions on how to conduct the test. 

You will be required to turn off the purifier and conduct the test after two hours. Record the results and then switch on the air purifier for 24 hours. Run a second test and compare the two results. If the results are better, then your air purifier is in perfect condition.

Stale Air Checks 

An air purifier is meant to improve the quality of air. And you should be able to tell the difference in air quality after one or two days of running the purifier.

If a purifier indicates that it gets rids of bad smells and one week down the line, your indoor air is still stale; you should know the device is not working well. 

Physical Checks

There are various physical checks you can conduct to tell whether your purifier is working. The checks will vary depending on the technology that a purifier is using. Some air purifiers have filters, while others don’t. 

If you are using an ionic air purifier, dust and other particles should collect on its metal rods. You should regularly check to see whether its ionizing rods are collecting any fluff and dust. If there is no dust, then your device is faulty. 

black airmega air purifier
Airmega Purifier

You can as well check on the pollutant collector compartment in case your ionizer has one. There should be dust and other pollutants collected in the compartment if the device is working.

Be sure to check weekly to know if it’s working or not. 

For those of you who might be using a PCO (Particle and Carbon) air purifier or a HEPA air purifier, you’ll have to use the breeze test. This test involves checking the airflow by placing the back of your palm close to the part which blows out air.

If you feel a breeze on your palm, then the purifier is working. You can as well place it near your ear to check if the device is blowing out any air or not. 

Wrapping Up

That is it on how different types of air purifiers work. You even have a few tips on how to check whether your air revitalizer is working or not. 

Air purifiers do work; all you need to do is buy from reputable brands such as Dyson, Honeywell, Levoit, Winix Plasmawave, and others.

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