Part I: Introduction
Food, water, and air - out of the three most basic human needs, air happens to be the most important. In particular, good air quality is crucial for our health. However, as Singapore is a largely urban environment, the chances of breathing in pollutants such as vehicle exhaust, paint fumes, and dust, are very high. This has the potential to cause many health conditions such as asthma, cardiovascular diseases, and even cancer! In addition, the current COVID-19 pandemic has made ensuring good air quality all the more important as the virus can also spread through the air. Even though we cannot control outdoor air quality, we can do so for indoor air quality with the help of air purifiers.
While air purifiers have been in the market for a long time, not many people may be aware that they have to be utilised properly to maximise their efficiency. As such, this article shall serve as a comprehensive guide to using air purifiers. It will cover the science behind them, how to choose the right one, and why you should invest in one. If you have been thinking about getting an air purifier but are unsure of where to start, keep reading to find out more!
Part II: Understanding How Air Purifiers Work
2.1. An Anatomy of An Air Purifier
They may come in different shapes and sizes, but most air purifiers are usually made up of 3 standard parts. First is the outer casing that is made out of hard plastic. The inside contains the fan and the air filters. The air filters are the most important part because they ‘clean’ the air by trapping the contaminants. The fan draws in the surrounding air into the purifier and pushes the clean air out.
As such, when buying an air purifier, you should pay attention to the types of filters it has as that determines its effectiveness. Currently, there are 5 types of filters in the market. They are:
1. High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) Filter
This is the most basic filter and has also been in the market the longest. They can be made of a variety of materials such as foam, fibreglass, or even cotton. However, the material has to have a penetration rate of 0.03% or less to be classified as a HEPA filter. These filters are good at trapping a wide range of particles and are also used in industrial air purifiers for hospitals and power plants.
2. Ultraviolet (UV) Light Filter
As UV light can kill germs, an air purifier that contains a UV light filter can potentially destroy airborne bacteria and viruses that carry diseases. This filter is particularly useful for these molecules that are often small enough to pass through HEPA and activated carbon filters.
3. Activated Carbon Filter
Activated carbon is an adsorbent (not absorbent) material that traps molecules on its surface and prevents them from passing through. Due to its porous surface, this filter is best suited for eliminating odours and fumes in the air. It can also trap large substances such as hair, dust, and pollen. Other particles may even react with the activated carbon and bond to it, thus trapping it on the filter.
4. Silver Ion Filter
A relatively new technology, silver ion filters are the most suitable for eliminating microbes and pathogens. Silver ions are positively charged ions that interfere with the cellular structure of micro-organisms by binding to their DNA and blocking their respiratory systems - causing them to burst. As such, silver ions have strong antimicrobial and sterilising properties.
5. Ionising Filter
An ionising filter works by sending ions into the air. As most air molecules are neutral, these ions work to destabilise them by either making them positively or negatively-charged. When that happens, they end up sticking to the surfaces rather than floating freely in the air. Some air purifiers that use an ionising filter may also come with metal plates so that they can attract these molecules and keep them from going back out.
As the air in your home contains a variety of microorganisms and particles, it is not enough to only use one air filter to ‘purify’ the air. That’s why most modern air purifiers are equipped with a few different air filters that will properly clean the air. At the very least, a good air purifier should have a pre-filter, an activated carbon filter, and an anti-bacterial filter.
2.2. 5 Compelling Reasons Why You Should Invest In An Air Purifier
Did you know that the air inside your home can be five times as polluted as the air outside? This is because there are a variety of air contaminants residing inside the home. Excess moisture, especially in the bathrooms and kitchens, can lead to the growth of mould and fungi that often release spores into the air. If you have pets, they may shed hair and skin cells. With so many opportunities for contaminants to accumulate in your home, an air purifier can ensure that the indoor air quality remains fresh and clean. If that is not enough reason to convince you to invest in an air purifier, here are 5 more reasons why you should:
1. Get rid of potential allergens
As your home is an enclosed space, air circulation is usually poor and allows dust and other large particles to gather in the air. It is even worse if you happen to keep the air conditioning turned on for long hours. You may think that keeping windows open will promote better air circulation, but it may also end up letting in pollen and dirt from outside. All these can impact you and your loved ones’ health as they are potential allergen triggers and can cause breathing difficulties for people with asthma. Of course, medications can relieve the symptoms of allergic reactions and asthma, but it may be more beneficial to reduce the source of these symptoms in the first place. Subsequently, an air purifier will capture these pollutants and ensure that the air remains allergen-free.
2. Protection from harmful indoor chemicals
Like most people residing in Singapore, you likely live near roads where vehicles pass through frequently. The carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide from the vehicle fumes can get into your home and accumulate in the air. In large amounts, they can be very harmful to humans. Cleaning products, house paints, and insecticides that are commonly found in homes release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air that are equally as harmful. When inhaled repeatedly, these substances can damage your lungs, brain, and kidneys and cause your eyes, nose, and throat to be irritated. Not only that, but these harmful chemicals may produce unpleasant odours. As such, an air purifier can clean the air of such substances and odours (if it has an activated carbon filter), thus ensuring your health.
3. Improve sleep quality
Did you know clean air has been linked to improving sleep quality? When the air is filled with allergens and harmful chemicals, it can cause respiratory problems. A runny nose, constant sneezing and coughing, and breathing difficulties are common symptoms. These can interfere with your sleep and result in poor sleep quality. With clean air supplied by an air purifier, you will be less likely to experience respiratory issues and enjoy a good night’s sleep.
4. Ensure the good air quality in your car
Cars are another hotspot for dust, bacteria, and all sorts of air contaminants to accumulate - especially since it is a small enclosed space. Although you may not spend as much time in your car as in your home, it is still important to ensure that the air quality is of a decent standard. Many people often use car air fresheners but they only work to eliminate odours and do not actually clean the air of contaminants. Luckily, there are car air purifiers in the market that can do just that. They are typically small and portable so that they can easily fit anywhere in your car.
5. Reduce the transmissions of airborne diseases
Many pathogens, such as the common cold and the flu, are spread through the air. That’s why when one family member falls sick, it is likely that other family members will follow suit. Consequently, air purifiers equipped with antibacterial filters such as silver ion and UV light are helpful as they will sterilise the air. Such an air purifier is especially useful now as it can get rid of the COVID-19 virus that can transmit through the air. As such, an air purifier can help protect you and your loved ones from airborne diseases.
Part III: Using An Air Purifier
3.1. A Checklist To Help You Choose The Right Air Purifier
Now that you understand how the air purifier works and the benefits it can offer, you may be tempted to go out and buy one right away. Since this appliance has the potential to impact your health, it is important to carefully select the right one for your needs. As such, here is a checklist of 4 things you should consider before purchasing an air purifier.
1. Room Size
The first thing that you need to consider is the size of the space where you want to place your air purifier. The bigger the size of the space, the more air there is to ‘clean.’ As such, when looking over the specifications of an air purifier, be sure to take note of the maximum area it can ‘purify’ the air. It will also be helpful to remember the dimensions of your home/car so that you can better determine the capacity of the air purifier and also how many you may need. Let’s say your home is around 60 square metres. You may choose to invest in an air purifier that has a capacity of 50 square metres and a mini air purifier that has a capacity of 10 square metres so that your entire home is properly ventilated.
Whether you are looking for an air purifier to clean the air of odours or reduce dust, its certifications are a good indicator of its effectiveness. More importantly, if you are searching for an air purifier to reduce viral transmissions, certifications by authorised science laboratories ensure that it has been thoroughly tested and approved by experts. In Singapore, such authorities would be ATCC, ASTM, and SGS.
Another certification to look out for is the Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) of the air purifier. This determines the volume of clean air, in cubic feet per minute, that an air purifier can create when it is at its highest setting. For example, an air purifier that has a CADR of 250 will produce 250 cubic feet of clean air per minute. The higher the amount, the more efficient it is at producing clean air. In general, air purifiers that have a CADR of 240 and above are considered to be the best at efficiently purifying the air.
Whether you want to bring it to your office or just want to easily move it around your home, having a portable air purifier can be quite useful. They usually weigh less than 10 kilogrammes so you can carry it with no issue. Alternatively, you can also consider mini air purifiers. Smaller in size and capacity, these air purifiers are perfect for your car, or when you want to keep one at your office desk.
4. Smart features
Nowadays, even air purifiers are equipped with smart technology. Some useful features include having sensors that can detect air pollution levels so that it can adjust airflow rate, sleep mode setting to keep the fans running at a low speed, and sounding an alert once air filters need to be changed or cleaned. Some even come with a child-lock feature so that those with children can ensure that their air purifiers are not accidentally tampered with!
Do note that the above 4 things are just meant to be guidelines to help you properly choose the right air purifier for you. You should still do your research so that you can determine what type of air purifier best suits your unique needs or home space.
3.2. Ensuring the Best Use of Your Air Purifier
Like most products, the benefits of an air purifier cannot be fully experienced if it is not utilised properly. As such, here are 3 things that you can do to maximise the effectiveness of your air purifier as well as increasing its longevity.
Given the fact that the purpose of an air purifier is to trap pollutants and ventilate clean air in an indoor environment, it is crucial that it be placed in an appropriate location so that it can do its job properly. In fact, the wrong placement of an air purifier can reduce its effectiveness by up to 50 per cent! In essence, you can consider the following factors when deciding where to place your air purifier:
- Ensure that the location has the most airflow so that the air purifier can clean and ventilate as much air as possible. Good locations would be near doorways, windows and against walls. Conversely, avoid corners and placing them behind objects that may obstruct ingoing and outgoing airflows.
- Avoid areas with high humidity. This is because humid air is usually ‘heavier’ and requires more energy to clean - thus wearing out your air purifier quicker. The kitchen and bathrooms are typically the main culprits of this. However, that does not mean that you absolutely cannot keep an air purifier in these locations. If you want to use an air purifier in your kitchen or bathroom, it will be better to keep them on when the humidity levels are low (i.e. when the bathrooms are dry and no one is cooking in the kitchen).
- Keep it at least 2 metres off of the ground. Indoor air circulation moves in 2 directions - horizontally and vertically. For your air purifier to efficiently clean air, it should be able to capture air moving in both directions. As such, keeping it on the floor may only allow it to trap substances that are moving vertically and not horizontally. This is why most commercial air purifiers are portable and have compact designs so that you can easily keep it on an elevated surface such as your nightstand or your desk.
As air purifiers collect a lot of grime, dust, and large particles over the course of its use, the filters and the fans should be cleaned regularly so that they can do their job effectively. Regular maintenance may even help to extend its lifespan. Many air purifiers also come with instructions on its maintenance, so be sure to thoroughly read that. In addition, other important maintenance tips include:
- Cleaning the pre-filter every 6 months. This is the first layer of filter that catches and traps hairs, fibres, dander (dead skin cells) and other large particles. As such, it accumulates dirt the fastest. Vacuuming or washing the pre-filter are the preferred cleaning options. If it is no longer effective, you can easily replace it with a new one.
- Replacing the air filters every 6 to 18 months. The air filters in air purifiers are typically very effective for the first 2000 hours. If you happen to keep it running 24/7, you will probably need to replace your air filters more frequently than someone who may only keep them on for half the time. Luckily, if your air purifier is equipped with smart sensors, it will sound an alert when the filters need to be replaced.
- Clean the fan every few months. As it is the mechanism that draws in the dirty air and pushes out clean air, the fan is another place where grime can easily accumulate. You can use a damp sponge or rag to wipe down the fan and allow it to dry completely before switching on the air purifier. Most people often opt to clean the fan together with the pre-filter but it is really up to your discretion.
At the end of the day, it is good to remember that air purifiers are only one way to ensure good indoor air quality. They may be able to purify the air and sterilise it of pathogens, but it still cannot completely prevent particles from landing on surfaces. As such, it is still important to carry out regular housekeeping so that germs and dust levels remain low. You can do so by:
- Consistently vacuuming floors and dusting beds and furniture
- Washing bed linen at least once a week
- Using non-toxic cleaning products so that less volatile organic compounds are released into the air
- Increasing air ventilation and circulation by opening the windows once in a while
- Checking your pipes once in a while to ensure that there are no leaks - as it encourages mould and fungus growth
All in all, using an air purifier should supplement our cleaning efforts and not be a replacement for consistent sanitation.
Part IV: Conclusion
One of the best ways that we can ensure our health is to make sure that we are breathing in fresh and clean air. As taking care of our health has become more important than ever, investing in an air purifier may prove beneficial for us. In addition, having an air purifier is also a simple way that we, as individuals, can combat the negative effects of air pollution and airborne diseases. That way, our indoor environments can be a safe haven for us.
Lamch & Co. (Ante Limited) aims to provide clean and safe air for everyone. Browse our catalogue of air purifiers today!