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  • The Clueless Parent's Guide to Air Purifiers

    From type to cost, here's a simple guide to help you decide what air purifier to buy--without too much tech speak.
    by Nico Bacani . Published Sep 19, 2016
The Clueless Parent's Guide to Air Purifiers
PHOTO BY Pixabay
To read this story in Tagalog, click here.
  • There is nothing like a sick child that will get you researching and asking questions. That’s what happened to me when my wife and I had to bring my then 4-month-old son to the pediatrician because of a bad cold. 

    My son had frequent bouts with the cold, which I always thought was caused by a virus. My son’s pediatrician, however, said that 70 percent of cough and colds was due to allergens brought about by mold, dust mite, pollen, and even seasonal changes. It was highly probable allergens were my son's problem. So I asked him how do I know which allergen to avoid. I wasn’t exactly thrilled when he replied it was a process of elimination. I wanted to ease my son’s discomfort as soon as possible. He couldn't eat or sleep well, he was losing weight, and he was irritable all the time. 

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    Our doctor gave us three options: antihistamines, air purifier or a combination of both. I was very much against putting my son under antihistamine maintenance at such an early age even though my doctor said it was safe. (By the way, my son, who is 4 now, is on the third option.) So I asked about air purifiers. Our doctor didn't explain much about it, but he said one can cost P20,000. I calmly nodded, but later in private with my wife, I went ballistic about the cost. I couldn’t fathom the expense. And so I researched. 

    When you Google "types of air purifiers," you will be bombarded with over 20 types and under each type, there are subcategories like HEPA, UV, ionic, etc. What I learned is there are two things to consider above all else: type of technology and size.

    There are two types of air purifier technologies, one that uses a filter (the mesh mat) and one that uses heat. In both cases, the device sucks in the air and emits cleaner air as a result of the filtration, either via the mesh filter or by heat.

    Under filter-based air purifiers, there are four to consider:

    • HEPA filter
    • activated carbon
    • germicidal / antibacterial filter
    • charged media filter

    The HEPA filter, which stands for “high efficiency particulate arrestance,” is most recommended since the fine mesh in these filters captures 99.7 percent of air particles, whether it is dust or other foreign objects. A lot of air purifier products these days use the HEPA filter in conjunction with others such as the activated carbon or germicidal filters. 

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    You may hear about "ozone" in filters. There are conflicting data about whether it actually cleans the air or it does more harm. If you ask me, it's better to be safe so I'd avoid anything with ozone. “When ozone interacts with many products found in home construction, it leads to to higher ozone levels, causing respiratory illnesses,” says Green Builder

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also states, “Available scientific evidence shows that, at concentrations that do not exceed public health standards, ozone is generally ineffective in controlling indoor air pollution.”

    The downside to filter air purifiers is you need to periodically either change the filter or clean it. There is none of that when it comes to the second type of air purifier technology: one that uses heat.

    There are several fancy names for heat-type air purifiers. One of the most current ones is the “thermodynamic sterilization system” (TSS). This technology uses highly heated air to destroy mold, allergens, dust mites, bacteria, viruses, pollens, pet dander, tobacco, ozone and other organic pollutants. The appliance is completely silent, and it does not require any filters or maintenance. 

    There’s also what you call “heat-based” air purifier that uses ultraviolet (UV) technology. UV air purifiers kill microbial particles “without any actual filtration, but rather with rays of ultraviolet light that incinerate them as they pass through it.”

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    Once you’ve decided which technology you prefer--filter or heat--turn your attention to the size of the space you want the air purifier to cover. Take note of your space’s height. Often, an air purifier will cover a room that is 10 feet high (floor to ceiling) and 15 to 20 square meters in floor area. 

    So what did we buy? Eventually, we learned that my son’s primary allergens were dust mite and mold. We went for a heat-based (TSS) air purifier for his bedroom (around 16 square meters in floor area). Obviously, this was three to four times more expensive (today entry level is around Php18,000) than filter-based air purifier, which starts at Php5,000. But it was maintenance free (you don't need to clean or change anything periodically) and came with a lifetime warranty. If you do get a filter-based air purifier, get the one with a HEPA filter, and make sure it doesn't generate ozone. 

    On last note, keep these things in mind before you buy:
    1. Shortlist the allergens you want to eliminate. 
    2 Just like air conditioners, it's much better to buy an overpowered air purifier unit than an underpowered one.
    3. If you opt for filter technology, be sure you know where to buy the consumables (e.g., replacement air filter mats)
    4. Be sure you buy an air purifier with a service center locally accessible and with a good warranty (some offer lifetime warranties!)

    Do you have any questions about air purifiers? Or would you like to share your own experience? Sound out in the comments below or send us a message via our Facebook.  

    Nico Bacani is a husband to a loving wife and father to two rambunctious boys, ages 4 and 2. When not busy with his primary job--parenting--he dabbles in events, marketing and advertising.  

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