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Breathe Easy this Winter

Elizabeth

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Jan 7th, 2013

Winter isn’t when people typically think about allergies, but respiratory issues start to resurface the more time you spend indoors. The first time you light the wood stove, kick on the furnace, you start introducing tons of particles into your environment and since it’s winter, when the house is closed up, it is extremely important that allergy or asthma sufferers spend time in a clean home with fresh air.

So, if you don’t already own an air purifier, check out the following guide for some helpful hints.

Air Purifiers Buying Guide

Air Purifiers Buying Guide
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People use air purifiers to reduce exposure to dust and other allergy-causing substances (allergens) and to ensure cleaner indoor air for people with respiratory conditions, such as asthma. In fact, in houses that are tightly sealed to increase energy efficiency, indoor air may be more polluted than outdoor air. As you choose an air purifier, keep the following mind:

  • Health insurance may cover the cost, or you may be able to use a health savings account to pay for an air purifier, especially if needed for a specific health condition such as allergies, asthma, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Call to find out before your purchase.
  • Consider your intended use to help you select the best model for your needs: How big is the room in which you’ll use the purifier? Is noise an issue? Do you want to remove particulate matter such as dust, smoke, pollen, molds, pet dander, and bacteria? Or gaseous and volatile pollutants such as household odors, aerosols, gas cooking exhaust, pesticides and off-gases from adhesives, paints, furniture, carpeting, and cleaning products?
  • Some manufacturers overestimate the square footage covered by a given model; if in doubt, you may want to purchase a larger unit.
  • Consider additional costs of using the product, such as replacement filters or pre-filters.
  • Consider extras you may or may not want, such as automatic shut off, timer features, and 360-degree dispersal of cleaned air.
  • Ask about the warranty and which components are covered. Many air purifiers cost hundreds of dollars and a better warranty may be worth extra cost up front.
  • HEPA Filters

    What they are: HEPA stands for High Efficiency Particulate Air. HEPA filters remove nearly 100% of particles down to 0.3 microns in size, which includes pollen, mold, fungus, pet dander, dust, bacteria, and dust mites.

    Why to buy: HEPA filter purifiers are less expensive than other types and do a great job of removing a wide variety of common allergens.

    Things to consider: You must change the filter in a HEPA air purifier regularly for optimal functioning and filters can be expensive. HEPA units do not remove viruses, smoke, or volatile and gaseous pollutants. The size and shape of a HEPA filter affects function. When a filter has more surface area, which can be created with pleats and folds, particulate removal is more effective. Differences in filter construction may account for price differences in HEPA air purifiers.

  • Activated Carbon Filters

    What they are: Activated carbon contains millions of microscopic pores and holes, which can trap gases, smoke, volatile chemicals, fumes, and odors. These filters generally do not operate in stand-alone units, but instead are combined with other purifiers, such as HEPA filters.

    Why to buy: When added to HEPA purifiers, activated carbon filters will remove gaseous, odorous, and volatile air pollutants not captured in the HEPA unit. Activated carbon filters are inexpensive and increase the range of pollutants and allergens removed from the air.

    Things to consider: As stand-alone units, activated carbon filters are not as effective as other air purifiers.

  • Antibacterial Air Purifiers

    What they are: Antibacterial air purifiers may combine a HEPA filter with a UV lamp, which kills bacteria and mold, or may use a HEPA filter that has been treated with an antimicrobial compound.

    Why to buy: These units provide two benefits—removing particulate pollutants and destroying microbes and mold. If combined with a charcoal filter, gaseous and volatile air pollutants also are removed. These units may be helpful for people with asthma or severe allergies.

    Things to consider: Antibacterial air purifiers are the most expensive models. The HEPA component will require periodic filter replacements. If a unit with a UV lamp is purchased, the UV lamp may require replacing at some point, and UV lamps are expensive. Antimicrobial filter replacements may cost more than conventional HEPA filters.

  • Electrostatic, Charged-Media, & Ion-Generating Air Purifiers

    What they are: All three of these models work by adding a positive charge to dust, pet dander, mold, and other particulates in the air. These charged particles stick to a nearby surface, removing them from the air. A plate or filter captures the charged particles in electrostatic and charged-media models. Ion-generating models add a charge to particulate pollutants, which stick to any nearby surface, such as a wall or furniture. Ion generators are come in tabletop, portable, and ceiling mounted units.

    Why to buy: Like mechanical filters, electronic air cleaners can be installed in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. Only units that do not produce ozone are recommended.

    Things to consider: Although electronic air cleaners remove small particles, they do not remove gases or odors. These units often generate ozone, which is a lung irritant and can worsen chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma. Ozone can compromise the ability of the body to fight respiratory infections. Ion-generating filters may cause dark spots on nearby objects, as they work by causing particles in the air to adhere to solid surfaces. Some electrostatic filters produce ozone and some do not. In these units, the charged particles accumulate on a series of flat plates called a collector that is oppositely charged; cleaning collector plates is essential to maintaining adequate performance.

**This content is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your primary care physician.

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