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Using the Right Type of Air Cleaner Promotes Better Air Quality

You might be surprised at the number of options to choose from when selecting the right type of air cleaner. Indoor air quality has taken on ever-increasing importance as homes become more energy-efficient. Airtight structures conserve heating and cooling energy and reduce operating costs. However, these homes also tend to accumulate airborne contaminants in living spaces. Because the majority of the 23,000 breaths you take each day are in your home, you and your family may be at risk of receiving a daily dose of pollution in greater concentrations than outdoor levels.

Controlling indoor air pollution at its source is difficult because much of it actually originates outdoors. Each time an exterior door or window is opened, a flood of microscopic particulates like pollen, bacteria and mold spores are drawn into the home. Because of the limited amount of fresh air exchange in many of today’s homes, these common allergens and irritants aren't diluted and may even increase exponentially in a short time span.

Airborne microorganisms can multiply rapidly in a controlled environment and often survive longer than outdoors. In addition, many contaminants such as inorganic dust, lint, skin flakes and chemical fumes are simply the unavoidable consequence of normal indoor household activities. But the right type of air cleaner can make a big difference.

The right type of air cleaner depends upon its intended use. Room air cleaners are effective only in the rooms where they're placed. Unfortunately, indoor air pollution often circulates through the entire home and isn't limited to confined spaces. However, most homeowners have a very effective alternative in the fight against unhealthy air already installed: a central heating and cooling system. Mounted in existing ductwork, whole-house air cleaners filter the entire air volume of the home as it's conveyed through the ducts many times every day. These units are on the job as long as the system fan is running and require no user input besides regular changes of filter media or collection plates.

Whole-house air cleaning options

  • Mechanical filtration - These units utilize mechanical filters with much greater efficiency than the standard A/C filter. Incorporating pleated cotton or polyester filter media with enhanced surface area, whole-house filters are available with minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) ratings as high as 16. These air cleaners will remove up to 95 percent of particulates down to a size of 0.3 microns. This includes mold spores, bacteria, pollen and even some viruses. True high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters are medical-grade cleaners used in hospitals and clinics with MERV ratings that surpass 16. However, because HEPA filters excessively restrict system airflow, their use in residential whole-house applications is limited to units that connect to the ductwork in a bypass loop. This technique diverts air out of the duct, through the filter array and returns it to the duct. For one-room household applications, room air cleaners that incorporate HEPA filtration are also available.      
  • Electronic air filtration - Utilizing ionization to capture airborne particulates, these air cleaners are available as whole-house arrays or as individual room air cleaners. Air entering this type of electronic air cleaner is exposed to an ionized field that endows airborne particulates with either a positive or negative electrical charge. As the airflow continues into the collector stage of the filter, these particulates are electrically attracted to collector plates with the opposite charge and removed from the air. A mechanical post filter finishes the filtration process by removing any large inorganic dust particles that escape the ionization process.
  • Germicidal filtration - The germicidal effects of ultraviolet (UV) light have long been used in hospitals. Living microorganisms such as spores, bacteria and pollen present a challenge to a strategy for healthy indoor air quality. That’s because simply capturing these pathogens in a high-efficiency mechanical filter or an electronic air cleaner doesn’t kill them. In fact, these organisms actually utilize filter media as breeding grounds where they multiply and spread even further throughout your home. UV lamps installed in a whole-house filter destroy microorganisms by disrupting their DNA and eliminating their capacity to reproduce. When used in combination with a titanium dioxide grid incorporated in some filter arrays, UV light also breaks down chemical fumes such as volatile organic compounds emitted by carpets and building materials.

In Chicago, no one looks after homeowners' comfort and indoor air quality like the dealers on this website. Ask us for more advice about how to select the right type of air cleaner to fight indoor pollution in your home.

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