What Should A Home Air Purifier Do?

what should a home air purifier do

Disclosure: Nothing in this blog should be taken as investment advice. Do your own research. This blog is supported by advertising and affiliate links... Links to products and/or services on this blog may include links to affiliate programs that provide commissions to this blog. All of the content in this blog is 100% my own opinion.


Choosing a home air purifier often goes hand in hand with building out a “smart home“…

But what should a home air purifier really do?

This article presents the basics behind what a home air purifier should do and why you might want to buy one.

Summary:

  1. Why buy a home air purifier?
  2. What should a home air purifier do?
  3. How do professionals measure indoor air quality?

We answer these questions and provide links to other more comprehensive reviews that compare the best home air purifiers from the popular choices below.

1) Why Buy A Home Air Purifier?

We spend 90% of our lives indoors.

However, according to research by the EPA, our indoor air is 2-5 times more polluted than the outdoor air.1

How is this possible..?

Because most of our homes are not designed with sufficient ventilation rates (fresh air exchanges) from the outside in mind.

Ventilation helps reduce the presence of pollutants and particulate matter from building up in our homes.

Our homes are filled manufactured items such as furniture, carpets, paints and sealants that were produced with God knows what, God knows where… 2

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and chemicals, such as formaldehyde, can turn into gases and become extremely concentrated in indoor air.

Reducing exposure to pollutants, particulate matter and increasing fresh air volume can enhance occupant comfort, well-being and even cognitive function.3

While home air purifiers do not remove all chemicals from the air, the best ones should help reduce such pollutants.

2) What Should a Home Air Purifier Do?

A home air purifier should improve air quality, which is one aspect of indoor environmental quality.5

Our indoor environmental quality is influenced largely by the following factors:

  1. Exposure to natural light
  2. Access to views of the outdoors
  3. Volume of outdoor air ventilation
  4. Quality of indoor air
  5. Thermal comfort

Air purifiers and air filtration units can affect #3, #4 and #5. However, every unit is different in its technology and functionality.[/note]

Specifically, a home air purifier should remove particulate matter and airborne pollutants from the air including:

  1. Eliminating VOCs: Volatile organic compounds, aka “VOCs”, are common in manufactured products. Perhaps the most well-known VOC experience you may be familiar with is that “new car smell”. Sources of VOCs include paints, adhesives and coatings, tobacco smoke, composite wallboards and plywood, cleaning materials, deodorizers, furniture and carpets.
  2. Managing Indoor CO2 Levels:
  3. Air Exchanges Per Hour: Delivering ample fresh, conditioned outside air
  4. Reducing Airborne Particulates:

A home air purifier may help with any or all of the items listed above.

However, removing VOCs is very difficult. Indeed, most budget home air purifiers will not remove VOCs and mostly remove particulate matter and other airborne irritants, such as smoke or odors.

Home air purification systems that remove VOCs will cost more than those that do not.

Therefore be careful before assuming that a high priced home air purifier removes VOCs. Some systems may cost more but not do any more than lower priced, “budget” air purification systems.

3) How Do The Pros Measure Indoor Environmental Quality?

Indoor environmental quality issues are not limited to residential homes…

Indoor environmental quality issues also exist in big office buildings and commercial spaces.

So how do the professional engineers and architects specify what they use for levels of indoor environmental quality performance?

Professional “green” architects and designers often use green building rating systems such as LEED and WELL as frameworks for indoor environmental quality, following specific guidelines, such as ASHRAE, to design for good indoor environmental quality.6

By understanding what the green building pros do, you can apply the same criteria that the professionals use when evaluating the performance of home air purifiers.

Professionals gauge indoor environmental quality by measuring the following factors:

  1. Exposure to natural light
  2. Access to views of the outdoors
  3. Volume of outdoor air ventilation
  4. Quality of indoor air
  5. Thermal comfort

With few exceptions (those being “whole home” air purification systems and systems that incorporate heating or cooling), air purification products focus only on improving #5… The quality of your indoor air.

However, by understanding the other aspects of your indoor environmental quality, you can potentially get a better subjective experience from your home air purifier.

Finding the Best Home Air Purifier

The following is a link to a more comprehensive review that compares the best (or most well known) home air purifiers.

We included a link to the Molekule because that seems to get a lot of press. However, the others are much less expensive and may be better suited to your needs:

  1. IQAir Health Pro Compact
  2. Coway AP 1512HH Mighty
  3. Germ Guardian
  4. Molekule

 

Footnotes

  1. EPA Report on the Environment
  2. Furniture, carpets and building materials are often imported from China or other countries and provide very little or no transparency regarding what chemicals and materials go into making them.
  3. A study by the Harvard School of Public Health found that improved indoor environmental quality doubled cognitive function test scores.
  4.  Most home air purifiers do this by recirculating and cleaning the indoor air.4However, in some cases, whole house air purifiers also make fresh air exchanges… They remove stale air from the inside and replace it with fresh, treated air from the outside.
  5. If you are interested in LEED, you should consider earning the LEED Green Associate beginner credential.