According to experts, the air in our home, in many cases, maybe more polluted than the air outdoors! The Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is crucial for health, and those that suffer from allergies and pre-existing respiratory illnesses will notice this first. Many homeowners would like to improve the IAQ in their homes, but they don’t know how to proceed. In this brief guide, we will present some crucial information to help you make more informed decisions.
The Dangers of Poor IAQ
The pollutants in our indoor air can have a dramatic effect on our health and mood. If you have people in your home that have allergies or breathing conditions, they will certainly notice poor IAQ. There are many contaminants that contribute to poor IAQ, including pollen, mold, dust, pet hair, and more. For this reason, it’s a great idea to open your windows for at least an hour each day to let fresh air indoors. But, when it’s extremely hot or cold outside, this simply isn’t possible. Also, if you live in an area that has higher levels of pollution or a large pollen count, this can be counter productive. This is why many people are interested in air purification to improve their IAQ and improve their health.
Do I Need an Add-on Air Purifier?
Many homeowners believe that the standard air filter in their HVAC system improves their IAQ. Although the air filter does make a minor difference, its primary purpose is to prevent particulates from entering the HVAC components and causing damage. For this reason, it’s important to clean or replace the air filter regularly, but it will not have a major impact on the IAQ. This is equally true for the ducts. There may be mold or other contaminants lurking that lower the IAQ, but professional duct cleaning can correct this problem in most cases.
An add-on air purifier is something entirely different, and it represents a significant investment in your indoor comfort. If you have a family member that suffers from breathing issues and allergies, an air purifier is a no brainer. But, adding extra equipment to your HVAC system may not be enough to improve the IAQ sufficiently. Think of this solution as a less than optimal choice. To put it simply, an add-on air purifier is not a very cost effective solution to solve your IAQ problem. In most cases, a central air purifier will be a better and more efficient method to improve the IAQ in your home.
Do I Need a Whole Home or Portable Air Purifier?
There are two main methods to purify the air in your home. They are portable and whole home systems:
A portable air purification unit is a small and affordable machine that you use in a single room. This system is usually light enough to carry, or you can move it using a set of wheels on the base. No professional installation is required, but the performance is limited, and it needs to be moved around to have any effect on the IAQ.
A whole home air purification system, as the name suggests, covers your entire home. This will require a professional installation, and it offers the best all round IAQ for the entire family. This is also known as a central air purifier in the HVAC industry, and it is the gold standard if you want the best IAQ for your home.
Choosing the best of these two methods will depend on your available budget. The whole home system is the better choice if you’re a homeowner and can afford the system. But, if you rent or you have less to spend, one or more portable units may make enough of an improvement to make the purchase worthwhile.
Air Purification Systems with HEPA Filters
It’s pretty common for modern air purification systems to come with HEPA filters. Many people consider this as a desirable feature, but they don’t understand how these filters actually work.
As we mentioned earlier, the main purpose of the filter is to protect the HVAC components. But, High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters actually remove particulates and contaminants from the air and boost efficiency. As the air passes through a HEPA filter, the microscopic contaminants are trapped on the surface. Over time this layer of surface material grows thicker, and this will impede the airflow. Gradually, the efficiency will diminish, and this can cause the equipment to overwork. So, just like a regular filter, a HEPA filter needs a regular change to ensure that it is working efficiently. Some HEPA filters have warning indicators that let you know when they need changing. When you consider a HEPA filter for your air purifier, don’t forget to factor in the cost of filter replacement. A HEPA filter is effective, but it can be expensive.
Air Purifier Noise Levels
An air purifier will be running at night when people are sleeping in the home. So, you don’t want a system that has a noise level over 50dB, which is around the level of a refrigerator. If you have a noisy system, you can turn down the fan speed to lower the volume when you’re in the room.
If you get an air purifier with washable pre-filters you can reduce the wear on your HEPA filters and keep them cleaner for longer. Another cool feature is an indicator light that tells you when to change the filter before it becomes too clogged with debris. An air quality sensor can inform you of the current IAQ in your home, which helps you to select the correct speed for the system. Finally, if you get a portable air purifier, go with a unit that has wheels to make it easier to move around.
Air Purifier Maintenance
Regular filter changes will optimize the performance and efficiency of your air purifier. Most modern systems require a HEPA filter change once or twice per year but check the manufacturer’s recommendations first. Some portable units have washable filters that are easy to clean, and this saves you money on replacements. If your air purifier has a UV light disinfection system, the bulb should be changed by your local HVAC technician.