Are air purifiers worth it? Or are they simply an expensive way to move air around in your house? The promises are certainly alluring: cleaner air with fewer pollutants and harmful toxins. Less dust, smoke, and smells. This is something we are especially aware of after the emergence of Covid-19. But how much of this is just marketing? Can an air purifier really make much of a difference?
We'll take a look at the key points surrounding air purifiers - considering how they work, what they are able to do, and what the potential benefits might be to you and the people around you. By the time you're done reading, you'll have filtered out all the noise, and be left with nothing but pure knowledge. And possibly cleaner air.
Are Air Purifiers Worth It?
Why should anyone even be considering an air purifier? It's a good question, we're glad you asked it. We all know that the world is a dirty place. Traffic, industrial chemicals, and all sorts of other things involved with billions of people living their lives, create pollution.
And while we may all feel safe in our homes, the reality is slightly different. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, Americans spend on average around 90 percent of their time indoors. And indoors, the concentration of some pollutants can be up to five times higher than you get outdoors. This is more pronounced the better insulated your home is, and less air can get in or out. The Uk government states that:
Poor air quality is the largest environmental risk to public health in the UK, as long-term exposure to air pollution can cause chronic conditions such as cardiovascular and respiratory diseases as well as lung cancer, leading to reduced life expectancy.
And there are plenty of potential causes for all these pollutants:
- What are termed 'combustion byproducts' - tobacco smoke, particulate matter and carbon monoxide.
- Naturally occurring substances like Radon, pet dander and mould.
- Pesticides, asbestos, lead (which used to be common in paint).
- VOCs - volatile organic compounds, which are found in many products and materials, such as household cleaning products and paint.
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All of these substances, and others, can potentially impact the quality of the air you are breathing. Air purifiers, in theory at least, are able to mitigate some of this. But what do they do, and how do they work? Let's find out.
What Do Air Purifiers Do?
Air purifiers are designed to remove many of the pollutants that are floating around in our air. Typically, this involves the use of a filter, or multiple filters, to capture rogue elements. They also use a fan to circulate the air, sucking in the 'dirty' air, and churning out freshly filtered air. Some (but not all) air purifiers can also capture microscopic items such as bacteria and viruses.
The filters in air purifiers are commonly made of paper, mesh or fibreglass. They require regular changing to ensure efficacy. Many are reusable, but still need to be well maintained to keep them working effectively. The EPA reckons you need to change filters every three months or so.
Some purifiers have additional features - UV lights, carbon filters or ionizers to kill or catch other particles. Once again, these will need careful maintenance and regular changing to remain useful.
But while this is the theory, just how beneficial are air purifiers? We'll cover that next.
Air Purifier Benefits
We've covered what air purifiers do in the previous section. But why does any of this matter? The benefits of cleaner air shouldn't be a mystery, but they are well worth repeating:
Most obviously, having cleaner air in your home can bring major health benefits. According to the European Environment Agency particulate matter in the air was estimated to account for 428000 deaths in 41 European countries in 2014. An air purifier can reduce the amount of this particulate matter in the air around you, reducing your exposure to it.
But while premature deaths are clearly a major concern, there are other benefits other than keeping you alive. Importantly, cleaner air can dramatically improve your health and wellbeing. Cleaner air can reduce respiratory health problems, reduce fatigue, breathlessness and wheezing. It is also beneficial for anyone who may have Asthma or other respiratory conditions that react badly to low air quality.
There are suggestions that cleaner air can also improve skin appearance, digestion, sleep, and indirectly, mood and productivity.
What Can An Air Purifier Capture?
A good air purifier can help to remove many of the pollutants that become trapped in the air in your home. Things such as pollen, dust and pet dander, bacteria, smoke, industrial emissions, VOCs, Nitrogen Dioxide (often released by gas stoves and car exhausts) ultrafine particles. And even, in some cases, formaldehyde.
Formaldehyde is often found in household products such as paints and glues, as a preservative in fabric softeners and dishwashing liquids. And fertilisers and pesticides. It can even be produced as a by-product of combustion, for example in gas stoves or even scented candles.
None of these pollutants is desirable in the home. Having an air purifier to help remove, or at least reduce, your exposure, can certainly be beneficial from a health perspective.
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What Matters In An Air Purifier?
If you are unsure about what to look for in an air purifier, there are a few important things to look out for:
- Look for something called the clean air delivery rate (or CADR). This is a scale that measures the performance of residential air purifiers. It shows the ability of a specific model to filter smoke, dust and pollen. Ideally, a number above 300 is the minimum you want to look for. Above 350 is really good.
- True HEPA. HEPA filters remove ultra fine particles from the air. Don't be fooled by marketing terms like "HEPA-type" or 'HEPA-like'. These do not have an industry standard that they are required to conform to.
- Size guidelines. It's important to get a model that can be effective in your room. So choose something that will cover a larger space than it will be working in, so that you can run it more quietly.
- Noise is also something you need to consider, especially if you want to use it in your bedroom while you sleep.
- Because filters need changing regularly, an air purifier that tells you when this is needed, can be extremely helpful.
- Last, but no means least, is to look for filters that can detect the air quality, and alert you. Some can automatically switch on when needed.
So, Are Air Purifiers Worth It?
Are air purifiers worth it? Given the growing awareness of the negative impacts of poor air quality, it seems like a no-brainer to buy something that will improve the air around you. This is even more pronounced for anyone who may have allergies, or is sensitive to particular pollutants. Or for anyone whose lungs may not be in the best shape.
Of course, it's essential to make sure you get an air purifier that will do the job effectively. And while some are very expensive, you should be able to get something that does most of the important jobs for around $200. And $200 to reduce your exposure to potentially harmful pollutants seems like a bargain to us.