If you search for air purifiers on the internet, then you will get a list of 28,20,000 results to be specific. (Imaging: Sumant Chawla)
If you walk into an appliance store in Khan Market (Delhi) and ask for an air purifier, the shopkeeper will show you different kinds of air purifiers in the price range of a Rs 1,000-2,000 to well above Rs 10,000-20,000. If you search for air purifiers on the internet, then you will get a list of 28,20,000 results to be specific – though not all these links are different air purifiers – thank God!
With so many different air purifiers available in the market, can we say that you, the consumer, are spoilt for choice? Or do you have to sift through heaps of research to understand if the technology that goes into the purifiers is truly helping you breathe cleaner air? Should you be paying the kind of money for these products and will it actually make any difference? Will your children be able to breathe better air in the world’s most polluted city (read: Delhi)?
This blog has tried to simplify this to help you understand the basics of an air purifier.
Particulate Matter2.5 (PM2.5)
One of the main pollutants in the air is PM2.5 – this is an extremely small particulate matter that stays suspended in the air, is invisible and we breathe it in all the time. As per the WHO guidelines, this PM2.5 should be below 50 micrograms per cubic meter in the air outdoors and less than 15 micrograms per cubic meter in the air indoors. Our numbers in Delhi – even indoors – are way higher (10 to 30 times higher than the safety limits).
The best way to reduce PM2.5 in indoor spaces is to use an air purifier that has a true High-efficiency particulate arrestance (HEPA) filter with a good fan that throws out lots of air after pulling it through the HEPA filter. The combination of a good filter and fan is one of the keys to a good air purifier.
Technology in air purifiers can harm you
Any other technology in a room air purifier – electrostatic precipitator, TiO2, Negative Ionizers, UV Lights, Ozonizers, Photocatalytic Oxidation, etc. – is just an eyewash and sometimes can be much more harmful to health than being helpful. Adding some of these technologies can actually cause damage to your lungs instead of helping one breathe better. This is because some of them will produce ozone – a gas that gets accumulated in closed indoor spaces and causes damage to our lungs. It is ozone that actually makes one even more sensitive and delicate or one may say, susceptible to air pollution and is the reason why so many people are scared to put an air purifier in their bedrooms. Some of the other technologies like Photocatalytic Oxidation ends up producing gaseous pollutants that are much more harmful than the gases that it is designed to remove.
Gases and Odour
The next part to a good air purifier is a good carbon filter. An activated carbon filter helps remove odours, and to an extent, certain gases from the air. Removing PM2.5 and odour can actually help reduce stress on the lungs and help one breathe better and reduce the symptoms of wheezing and asthma.
If we fix the air quality indoors, in our offices and our homes, it will give our respiratory system the rest it needs and help in building immunity to fight pollution outdoors.
Noise levels of air purifiers
Air purifiers can be quite loud and it could be disturbing your sleep. Most air purifiers give specifications of the size of the room that they are capable of filtering, based on running the machine on high mode. This is also the noisiest mode. Consider a larger machine to run at a medium speed to keep the noise lower and the room clean.
Filter change and availability
Is the shop you are buying the product from capable of guaranteeing replacement filters for the air purifier? Find someone who will guarantee the replacement filters for at least a few years. Or else your investment will be wasted. Also, consider the cost and frequency of replacing filters as this can add up quickly.
(The author, Barun Aggarwal is Director of BreatheEasy, a division of Paharpur Business Centre, New Delhi)