Using an air purifier to help you keep the inside air clean is a reasonable investment.
The issue, as with all electronic appliances, is that proper maintenance is required to maintain its effectiveness.
When maintained, good air purifiers can last for a long time, making this investment better every year. The top of the line air purifiers, often called air cleaners, are not only easier to use than older models, they also are easier to maintain. The first thing, of course, is to understand how they work.
So, How Do Air Purifiers Work?
Air purifiers clean or filter the air. The particles they filter out consist of things such as pollen, dust, pet dander and even, depending on the model and filtration system, odors and chemicals as well as smaller allergens that are dangerous to all living things. This is accomplished by pulling the ambient air into the unit and causing it to flow through filters. The filters, again depending on the type and configuration, trap these particles. Clean air is then blown back into the living space.
The filtering medium type of purifier is the most common. However, some of them will use an electrostatic system as well. This attracts dust and other contaminants and holds them in an electrical field, on a metal plate. Others will use carbon filters as these catch and absorb some chemical fumes and odors.
So, Why Is Maintenance Key To Proper Functioning?
As with anything that has moving parts and/or an impact on your health and well-being, your air purifier must be maintained to ensure the utmost in efficiency and design performance.
No matter what type of air cleaner you have, either primarily electrostatic or one that consists principally of filter media, there are really only a few tasks needed to maintain this valuable appliance.
For Electrostatic Air Purifiers
These are easy to maintain, and the costs are inexpensive. These work by pulling air into the unit, causing it to flow through an electrostatic field which traps particles on metal plates. It is interesting and should be quite telling to actually see the plates become darker as they clean contamination out of the air. As the plates get dirtier and dirtier, the efficiency slowly degrades.
In order for the unit to work properly, these plates must be cleaned off. This is the easy part as they can usually be removed and cleaned in a dishwasher or dunked in a bathtub or large sink. They are much more cost effective as they rarely need to actually be replaced, like filters do.
Regular cleaning is the maintenance needed for the electrostatic unit, all other things being equal. In the absence of visual inspection, cleaning once per week would be appropriate to start with.
Electrostatic systems also occasionally have a pre-filter and a carbon filter that help improve efficiency. These, again, collect and trap larger than normal particles so they do not hit the metal plates. This has the effect of increasing the amount of time between cleanings as they do not get as dirty. Most of these are the cleanable type, and they should be cleaned every month or so. If they have been torn or are extremely filthy, they can be replaced.
The carbon filters will need to be replaced once their effectiveness has been shown to be lacking. This depends on the amount of chemical and gas fumes and odors they are expected to clean out of the air. This is handled by removing the container of carbon material and replacing it as a unit.
More about pre-filters, HEPA filters and carbon filters
A pre-filter is a filter that is designed as a loose weave construction to collect large particles. The main purpose of this fairly inexpensive filter is to protect the HEPA filter from getting all clogged up prematurely. It is also a safeguard against particles, especially dust and dirt, getting into the motor and other electric and electronic components of the unit. It helps extend the life of both the real filters and the unit itself, and can be cleaned or replaced inexpensively.
HEPA filters are extremely densely woven media. They are folded back and forth across each other so that even very small particles and other contamination gets caught before the air is sent back out to the room.
A visual inspection is often helpful in determining the frequency of this replacement. However, in many modern air purifiers, there is also a monitoring system that indicates when a HEPA filter needs replacement.
The carbon filters are composed of activated carbon and do their job by absorbing or trapping chemicals and odors from the air. They come in a wide range of densities and thicknesses. This is based on their purpose and the type and amount of contaminants they are expected to handle.
As this carbon is activated, it becomes porous or opens up, looking like little holes in the material. These holes are where the odors and fumes are trapped. The fan on the purifier sucks air across the surface of the carbon, and it absorbs impurities. These holes fill up, and according to the level of contamination in the space being treated, the carbon will need to be replaced again.
If the layer of carbon being used is a thin one, due to the design of the unit, it must be replaced more often. The quality and quantity of contaminants in the air will also impact the frequency of replacement. A smoker’s home, for example, may require more frequent changes of the carbon than a non-smoker’s home does.
The reason your air purifier must be maintained, and why this is so important, is that this machine will not work properly unless it is taken care of at the right time, in the right way.