Breathe eas­ier with whole-house air pu­rifi­ca­tion

The Progress-Index - At Home - - NETWORX - Laura Firszt writes for net­worx.com. This post orig­i­nally ap­peared here: http://www.net­worx.com/ar­ti­cle/breathe-eas­ier-with-whole-house-air­puri.

Laura Firszt

Ac­cord­ing to the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency, the air in­side our homes may be any­where from 2-5 times as pol­luted as the great out­doors. To­day’s tightly sealed, en­ergy-sav­ing con­struc­tion has ac­tu­ally made this prob­lem worse. Air leaks are re­duced, which im­proves HVAC per­for­mance ad­mirably, but the de­crease in ven­ti­la­tion leaves air­borne al­ler­gens and other con­tam­i­nants trapped in­side. The re­sult? Your home’s air qual­ity suf­fers, as does your health. Whole-house air pu­rifi­ca­tion sys­tems com­bat this prob­lem and help you breathe eas­ier by clean­ing the in­door air.

What whole-house air pu­rifi­ca­tion sys­tems can and can­not do

Whole-house air pu­rifi­ca­tion sys­tems pro­vide re­lief for fam­ily mem­bers with al­ler­gic rhini­tis or asthma. Th­ese pu­rifi­ca­tion sys­tems are de­signed to re­move al­ler­gens, in­clud­ing pollen, dust, dust mites, and an­i­mal dan­der, from the in­door air. Some will also fil­ter out cig­a­rette smoke and cer­tain harm­ful VOCs (volatile or­ganic com­pounds), chem­i­cals which may be off-gassed from com­mon house­hold items such fresh paint or syn­thetic fab­rics and floor­ing. All of them are ca­pa­ble of re­mov­ing only air­borne con­tam­i­nants, how­ever, and not toxic sub­stances which have set­tled on a sur­face.

Don’t ex­pect the sys­tems to re­move all tox­i­c­ity from your home’s air, ei­ther. For health­ier in­door air, you should also im­ple­ment prac­ti­cal mea­sures your­self. Ask smok­ers to in­dulge out of doors. Avoid stor­age of toxic sub­stances like paint, pes­ti­cides, or sol­vents in­side the house. Be sure that fuel com­bus­tion ap­pli­ances (kerosene heaters or gas stoves, for in­stance) are ad­e­quately vented and never use gas or char­coal bar­be­cues or camp­ing stoves in­doors. In­stall a car­bon monox­ide de­tec­tor and have your house checked for the pres­ence of mold or radon.

How the sys­tems work

If your home uti­lizes forced-air HVAC, an ef­fi­cient whole-house air pu­rifi­ca­tion sys­tem can be built in, us­ing the duct­work and blower which are al­ready in place. Make sure that the air fil­tra­tion sys­tem you pur­chase will not in­ter­fere with the ef­fi­cient de­liv­ery of heat­ing and cool­ing. You will also need to scrupu­lously clean the duct­work be­fore in­stal­la­tion and keep it clean. There are a few non-ducted air pu­rifi­ca­tion sys­tems which may be free­stand­ing or wall­mounted; they tend to be on the pricier side.

The ad­van­tage of a whole-house pu­rifi­ca­tion sys­tem over smaller, por­ta­ble ver­sions is that it is ex­tremely pow­er­ful and af­fects all rooms of the home, yet it has a much qui­eter fan. How­ever, this type of sys­tem is also quite ex­pen­sive and usu­ally must be in­stalled by an HVAC pro­fes­sional. The best-sell­ing mod­els cost ap­prox­i­mately $2500-4000, not in­clud­ing in­stal­la­tion.

What to look for

When pur­chas­ing a whole-house sys­tem, you will find var­i­ous types of air clean­ing mech­a­nisms to choose from. An HEPA fil­ter is a bar­rier that will screen out air­borne al­ler­gen par­ti­cles as small as 0.3 mi­crons. A hy­brid fil­ter com­bines a bar­rier method with an­other sub­stance (usu­ally ac­ti­vated car­bon) to fil­ter out tobacco smoke as well as al­ler­gens. An elec­tro­static pre­cip­i­ta­tor uti­lizes an elec­tric charge to at­tract and col­lect al­ler­gens in the air; how­ever, its elec­tro­static plates de­mand fre­quent clean­ing and the sys­tem may pro­duce a small quan­tity of ozone. An ozone gen­er­a­tor works to elim­i­nate air­borne con­tam­i­nants, but its high level of ozone is danger­ous for peo­ple with breath­ing prob­lems.

ASHRAE (the Amer­i­can So­ci­ety of Heat­ing, Re­frig­er­at­ing, and Air-Con­di­tion­ing En­gi­neers) rates whole-house air pu­rifi­ca­tion sys­tems on a scale from 1 to 16, ac­cord­ing to their MERV (min­i­mum ef­fi­ciency re­port­ing value). Con­sumer Re­ports found that the best-per­form­ing fil­ter sys­tems they tested tended to have a MERV rat­ing of 10 or above.

Fi­nally, com­pare the var­i­ous whole­house air pu­rifi­ca­tion sys­tems based on the cost of re­place­ment fil­ters and the length of their war­ranties.

PHOTO BY JUSBEN / MORGUEFILE

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