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I love opening the windows and smelling the fresh spring air on a sunny day. Unfortunately, that warm breeze delightfully rustling my drapes also brings with it pollen and allergens. My husband and kids suffer from seasonal allergies. To my boys, spring means runny eyes and noses and headaches, so now our windows stay tightly closed. I will do whatever needs to be done to keep my family healthy, but I wonder about the allergens already invading our home. These concerns lead me to investigate air purifiers.
We live in a home that is over a hundred years old. No doubt, there are plenty of unknown threats floating throughout the vents of our house. My husband seems to be permanently plagued with unrelenting sinus issues. These are exacerbated, I am sure, by the factory in which he works. We make certain to change our furnace filters regularly, but I’d like to know that we are doing everything we can to keep our family healthy. Poor air quality obviously worsens health issues like asthma and allergies, but it can also cause sleep problems and lead to potentially bigger issues such as lung cancer and cardiovascular disease.
The Scary Facts
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the air quality inside your home is often two to five times worse than it is outdoors. Volatile Organic Compounds, also known as VOCs, are found in paints, cleaning products, adhesives, and many other household products. They release gasses that account for these conditions. Carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, radon, and particulates can be released by fireplaces, gas stoves, space heaters, and sump pumps. Even the building materials and textiles used to build your house can taint the air you breathe and cause potential health risks.
A Simple (but overwhelming) Solution: An Air Purifier
Of course I want to avoid unnecessary health concerns, so one option that my mom actually encouraged me to explore is purchasing an air purifier. They come in a range of prices, styles, and types so it can be a bit overwhelming when you begin shopping. Because I come from a family of researchers, I decided it was time to do some homework.
As it turns out, there are three types of purifiers that are most commonly used for cleaning the air. The one that was most familiar to me was a HEPA filter. “High Efficiency Particulate Air” purifiers are incredibly effective, trapping about 99.97% of particulate matter. Because of the allergies suffered in our family, I look for furnace filters that claim to fight allergens. You need to be careful, however, of selecting ones that claim to offer HEPA filtration. Because of the dense filtration, a true HEPA filter restricts air flow to such a degree that no air would get through your vents. Any furnace filter claiming to use any type of HEPA filtration actually causes your furnace to work harder, increasing your monthly bill.
Ionizers, or ion air purifiers, are another option. They are not the most effective. They work by producing negative ions, which then attract pollen and dust like a magnet. This weighs the ion down, causing it to get stuck to walls or the floor of your home. Ionizers are unable to absorb these particles, so if they aren’t immediately cleaned up, they just become loose once again, rereleasing into the air.
It seems like, aside from HEPA filters, the most effective purifier is an electrostatic filter. They are similar to HEPA filters, but they use an electrical charge to trap particles. These particles stick to the side of the filter, allowing only the clean air to escape. You then remove the particles from your home when you change the filter, which only needs to be done about every three months. The best part about electrostatic filters is the longer you use them, the cleaner your air remains. This enables you to change your filter even less frequently.
I found it interesting that there were many warnings not to use ozone to clean the air. My husband, who once was a manager for Thrifty Rental Car, would often use ozone to neutralize odors in cars. Instead of being helpful, however, these systems can actually act as a respiratory irritant. They are effective for cleaning water, but clearly water purification is very different from air purification.
So Many Options
The Levoit Air Purifier LV-Pur 131
Armed with my newfound knowledge on filtration systems, I headed to Amazon and Consumer Reports to see which system would be best for our home. One of the first systems that I came upon was the Levoit Air Purifier. Using a three stage filtration system that uses a pre-filter, a true HEPA filter, and finally a carbon filter, it eliminates 99.9% of dust, pollen, smoke, mold, odor, and pet dander.
Levoit has several different models, but the LV-Pur 131 not only has a “smart auto mode” that automatically suggests a fan speed depending on the air quality, but also offers a sleep mode, which sets the fan to the lowest setting, creating a quieter sleep environment. It also covers more square footage than many models I looked at, reaching up to 322 square feet. With a price tag less than $200, it’s fairly reasonable priced. Filters are around $60 for a two pack and only need to be changed on average every six months.
The Pure Enrichment PureZone 3 in 1
The next one I looked at was the Pure Enrichment PureZone 3 in 1. This, too, offers a three stage filtrations system using a pre-filter, activated carbon, and a pure HEPA filter. The PureZone also boasts a UVC light, which destroys microorganisms as well. While this model only covers a room of about 200 square foot, its quiet fan makes it an ideal model for the bedroom. It is slightly more affordable than the Levoit model, but it also covers less square feet. For this model you need to purchase two types of filters. The prefilters run around $30 for a two pack. Regular filters are under $20.
The Rabbit Air MinusA2 Ultra Quiet HEPA Air Purifier
Ideally, I want a model that will cover a large area. Of course, that also comes with a higher price tag. The Rabbit Air MinusA2 Ultra Quiet HEPA Air Purifier covers a room up to 700 square feet. It also is significantly more expensive than the other models reviewed here. However, you often get what you pay for. Filters only need to be replaced every two years. They actually offer four different types of filters, customized to your specific needs. You can purchase filters that focus on odor, pet dander, toxin absorbing, or germ defense. The Rabbit boasts a BioGS HEPA filter, which not only traps 99.7% of the allergen particles in the air, but also reduces the buildup trapped on the filter. It reduces the growth of bacteria and viruses on the filter itself, prolonging its own efficiency. While the above two examples offer three stages of filtration, the Rabbit actually offers six. It all begins with a washable pre-filter that traps and reduces large particles. Next there is a medium filter that grabs smaller particles, such as pollen, mold and pet dander. The BioGS HEPA filter is next, followed by the customized options mentioned above. They include a charcoal-based activated carbon filter, which reduces chemicals and household odors. Finally there is a negative ion generator, which helps to fortify the air and freshen the indoor environment. The unit is sleek and stylish, and able to be mounted to a wall as well.
The Honeywell True HEPA Allergen Remover
The last model I checked out was the Honeywell True HEPA Allergen Remover, which is middle of the road where price is concerned. Covering an area of 465 square feet, it has a larger capacity than many of the previously mentioned models. However, this Honeywell model only uses a two filtration system, combining both a carbon pre-filter and a HEPA filter. The carbon filters are reasonably priced, but they do need to be replaced about every three months, while the HEPA filter only needs to be replaced once a year. A three pack of those costs around $30. While the price is reasonable considering the large capacity and the average Amazon rating is 4 stars, there are a fair amount of mixed reviews as well. One user alleges that the purifier’s touch-sensitive keypad was anything but sensitive, while someone else claimed that it gave off a chemical smell that actually made them more ill. Despite the many glowing recommendations contradicting the few mixed reviews, the simple two filtration system that the Honeywell offers puts this model pretty low on my list of possibilities.
After all of my research, I feel more convinced than ever that a filtration system of some kind is necessary for the betterment of our health. Interestingly, some scientists suggest that the best purifier is actually a natural air filter. NASA has studied certain plants and found that they can be just as effective as the expensive filtration systems. Specifically the Peace Lily and English Ivy are two such examples.
Do you use an air purifier in your home? If so, which one do you recommend? Leave your suggestions in the comments!