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Air Purifiers: Do They Work?

Updated on June 14, 2020

The common dust mite. An ugly little critter isn't it? This microscopic creature, a relative of the spider and mite, feeds off the skin cells shed by you or your pets. Just like pollen, they can cause a severe allergic reaction. Signs of dust mite allergy include those common to hay fever, such as sneezing and runny nose. Many people with dust mite allergy also experience signs of asthma, such as wheezing and difficulty breathing.

Allergy symptoms include sneezing, wheezing and itchy eyes. A life-threatening allergic reaction can also cause swelling and breathing difficulties. An allergy is a damaging immune response by the body to a substance, especially pollen, pet dander, fur, or dust, to which it has become hypersensitive. Exactly the sort of problem we’re looking to eliminate with our air purifier.

Air filters and air purifiers go together really well. Each complements the other. It is advisable to have both for the most effective treatment of your room. For people with allergic rhinitis or other respiratory conditions, you might want to consider this as essential.

So do air purifiers work?

The short answer is - yes, to a point. Unfortunately, they are unable to shift all the toxins in your room. This is mainly due to the toxins sticking to soft surfaces such as furniture, bedding, curtains and carpets. Providing the toxins are airborne, an air purifier does an admirable job of filtering them out. In fact, it will stop 99.97% of particles over 0.3-microns if it’s fitted with a HEPA filter.

So, what is a HEPA filter? A High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter is a type of mechanical air filter; it works by forcing air through a fine mesh that traps harmful particles such as pollen, pet dander, dust mites, and tobacco smoke. To meet the minimum requirements of a HEPA filter, the filter must be tested and certified to prove that it will remove at least 99.97% (9,997 out of 10,000) of particles 0.3-microns in diameter from the air passing through the filter. These regulations are really tough but are necessary to provide the maximum amount of integrity. There is also a True HEPA filter which removes particles over 0.03-microns. Really impressive stuff.

What should you look for if you want to buy an air purifier?

In the first instance, you should consider whether you actually need an air purifier. Do you, for example, have a special need? Allergies, Asthma, Tobacco smoke and Pets could be considered special needs and most air purifiers will have you covered. There are more specialised air purifiers which could address your needs more directly. For example, there are models which specifically address allergies. They generally have multiple filters and work brilliantly but the cost, however, may seem prohibitive to most people.

You should consider the size of your room before purchasing an air purifier.

Air purifiers tend to come in three sizes

  • Small for rooms up to 299 square feet
  • Medium for rooms between 300 and 699 square feet
  • Large for rooms 700 to 1900 square feet

It is possible to get whole-house models but these are expensive and specialised. They are therefore beyond the scope of this article.

Many air purifiers come with various options, such as remote controls, wifi-enabled (so you can control them from your phone), energy ratings, air quality indicators, caster wheels and handles for portability, multiple fan speeds and filter replacement indicator. There are also filter options such as carbon filters, pre-filters and HEPA filters. You must consider filter replacements and the cost of maintenance. Carbon filters need to be replaced about every 6 months. Pre-filters every 3 months although some of these are washable. HEPA filters generally need replacing about once a year. I recommend the HEPA and particularly, True HEPA models.

Consider where you will put the air purifier. Most people choose to site them in the bedroom as this is where we tend to spend the most time. You may need to buy multiple units to cover your whole home or, you can choose a portable unit which can be wheeled into any room.

PROS:

  • Most modern air purifiers do a great job especially in conjunction with an air filter.
  • Can provide relief from allergies
  • Can clear tobacco smoke and it’s smell.
  • Models to match your home decor.

CONS:

  • Will not clear all the contaminants in the room.
  • Some models can be noisy.
  • Specialised models can be very costly.
  • HEPA filters need to be replaced every year.

Conclusion

If you suffer from hay fever, dust mite allergy, black mould allergy or any other form of allergic rhinitis, an air purifier just might be the answer you’re looking for. If your symptoms are really serious, you might want to consider getting an air filter too. If you follow the advice above, you should be able to get a model which suits all of your needs, looks beautiful and will give you many years of clean air and allergy relief.


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