When seasonal allergies spike many people seek refuge inside but indoor air quality can be far worse than outdoor air. There are many different types of filters, electronic air cleaners, air purifiers and other devices that promise cleaner air within your home. Some models feature filters while others use ultraviolet light. There is a wide range of sizes from small desktop models to whole house air purifiers. At Thiele Heating & Air Conditioning, we have cared for the indoor air of homeowners and businesses since 1883. So to help cut through the confusion, our experts help you understand the causes of poor indoor air quality, how different systems work and what systems are best to improve the air you breathe.
What factors affect indoor air quality?
Outdoors airborne particles are quickly dispersed because of the volume of air and how wind circulates. Natural ventilation or fresh air ventilation refers to how air passes through a space when you open windows and doors. Your HVAC system is designed to circulate air efficiently but there are many factors that affect the air inside your home.
Outdoor air quality
Air conditioners and the air filter in your air handler help to clean outdoor air pollutants from entering your home. City smog, proximity to industrial sites and seasonal allergens enter your home through openings, though.
Common Household Pollutants
There are the common causes that every homeowner works to clean such as dust, pet dander, pollen, mold, viruses and bacteria. Ironically some of the products you use to remove and clean these harmful contaminants produce their own issues. The biggest contribution to poor indoor air quality may come from common home cleaning supplies and furniture that contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
Another surprising cause of poor indoor air quality is cooking such as oils that enter your home’s air. Inadequate ventilation can trap pollutants indoors and cause stale air. On the other hand, over-ventilation from exhaust fans can lead to high energy consumption or introduce more pollutants from outdoor sources.
Excessive humidity levels can lead to mold growth and cause respiratory problems. Mold spores can irritate asthma symptoms and other respiratory issues. Low humidity levels can dry out your skin and respiratory passages, making you more susceptible to infections. During cold and flu season air cleaners and air purifiers are popular additions for many homes. Controlling the relative humidity helps by trapping particles and circulating through filters.
Extreme temperatures, whether too hot or too cold, can impact IAQ. High temperatures can lead to the formation of ozone. Low temperatures can lead to dry air, condensation and mold growth. All of these issues can impact your property and the health of your family.
Media Air Filters versus Air Purifier
So how do you combat all of these problems? Media air filters and air purifiers are two different types of devices that can be used to improve indoor air quality, but they work in different ways and have different features.
Media Air Filters
The main air filter in your home’s HVAC system promotes cleaner air. If you have ever shopped for a filter you will see a wide range of options. They are typically made of fiberglass, polyester, or another synthetic material and are rated based on their Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV). Whole house air filters help control air pollution in your home but are limited.
Media air cleaners use media air filters that are far more sophisticated than standard air filters. The MERV rating on these filters is higher which means whole house air cleaners capture smaller particles and trap particles more effectively than standard filters. Some air cleaners use a HEPA filter or electronic filters to improve performance. Electronic filters work to charge particles and attract dust, debris and other contaminants into the filter.
Unlike media filters, most air purifiers target particles with either ultraviolet light or ionization. Ultraviolet light is effective at neutralizing pollutants including mold, bacteria and viruses. Some air purifiers specifically target cold and flu viruses. Air purifiers, particularly those with HEPA filters, are effective at capturing a wide range of particles, including those as small as 0.3 microns.
In summary, the primary difference between media air filters and air purifiers is function. Media air filters are effective at capturing larger particles and physically removing them from indoor air. Air purifiers are more effective at capturing a wide range of pollutants, but there is a wide range of design options.
Portable Versus HVAC Air Purifiers
Selecting the best air purifier for your home can be overwhelming because there are so many options. There is a clear distinction between portable air purifier systems and whole home purifiers. A portable air purifier refers to any system that doesn’t install directly into your HVAC system. While these systems use similar technology in comparison to whole home air purifiers, a portable air purifier has a limited effective range. Since ventilation is key to controlling air pollution, most portable air purifier models are designed to clean the air in a single room.
Whole home air purifiers install into your HVAC system so all of the air circulating through your ventilation system is treated. The size and type of filtration will vary as well. Portable air purifiers typically have smaller filters, while HVAC air purifiers have larger, more powerful filters that can trap a wider range of pollutants.
Another key difference is noise level. Portable air filters can be noisy and when set at higher speeds become distracting. HVAC air purifiers are quiet and do not add to the noise within your home. The noise level typically corresponds to the fans that circulate air through a portable model. These devices are often less energy efficient than whole home air purifiers.
Modern whole home air purifiers activate when your air handler is running. Running on the same power source helps to save on energy use. This also helps to reduce maintenance on a whole home air purifier. Models that use a UV bulb require inspections and occasional replacements. Models that use UV air filters have regular replacement intervals. In general, a whole house air purifier will last for years with minor maintenance.
How HVAC Air Purifiers Work
There are a number effective designs for whole home air purifiers. Ionization attaches to airborne particles. This helps to trap contaminants within filters. Some ionization models treat all of the air as it circulates through the home. UV light bulbs target pollutants entering the air handler. Ultraviolet light kills viruses and bacteria.
The Bryant Evolution air purifier uses a combination of charging and capturing airborne particles including viruses, flu, dust, pet dander and allergens. This system mounts into the cabinet of your air handler. When your air conditioning or furnace starts, the purifier electrically charged ions that attach to particles. The MERV 15 filter is oppositely charged to attract and trap these pollutants. This is one of the most popular systems that Thiele Heating & Air Conditioning offers because it is unobtrusive, effective and durable.
Contacting Your Indoor Air Quality Experts
To find out the best system for your home, contact Thiele for a complete consultation. We offer a number of air purifiers including the Reme Halo. This system combines a UVC light on an advanced catalyst to create hydrogen peroxide in the air. As air disperses throughout your home, the low concentrations of gaseous hydrogen peroxide helps to sanitize your indoor air. Whether you need help with air filtration, reducing allergens or promoting an overall healthier indoor environment, an HVAC whole home air purifier is an ideal accessory.