What is an electronic air cleaner used for?
Electronic air cleaners, often referred to as air scrubbers, efficiently remove all manner of air contaminants from a space. Though they can be permanently installed in buildings to maintain air quality, they are often found in the construction and restoration industries. In these settings, air scrubbers are relied on for removing mold, dust, fumes and other airborne contaminants that arise from building damage or construction. When needed in a permanent role, air scrubbers are ideal for medical facilities, as well as manufacturing centers in the computing, pharmaceutical, food and chemical industries.
Is a HEPA filter necessary with an electronic air cleaner?
Electronic air cleaners vary in their ability to handle airborne contaminants, and in most applications, thorough filtering is a necessary quality. The only sure way to maximize an air scrubber’s cleaning potential is with a HEPA filter.
HEPA is considered the industry standard for applications that demand high efficiency filtering. To receive the HEPA mark, a filter must remove from the air at least 99.97 percent of all particles that are 0.3 microns in size or larger. The reason for this metric is that particles around 0.3 microns in size are the most difficult to capture with an air filter. To meet the HEPA standard, the filter must be proven against particles of this size.
HEPA filters do not work like an extremely tight sieve, as this would restrict air flow through the air scrubber. Instead, HEPA filters rely on interception and impaction methods to trap particles. In short, a HEPA filter will not adversely affect air flow through a space as it cleans.
HEPA filtering should be considered the minimum for any application where airborne pollutants are likely to be a concern. In the restoration industry, for example, water damage is a common scenario. With water damage often comes mold, especially if the water is from a contaminated source, like river flooding. By the time restoration teams have a chance to rescue such a building, mold spores may already have a presence in the air. HEPA filters can remove these spores to limit the extent of the contamination and to protect anyone inside from inhaling the spores and developing health issues from mold exposure.
A HEPA filter also offers a safety advantage over filters that rely on ionic or ozone filtration, as HEPA operates using only mechanical forces. This eliminates the likelihood of the filter producing any adverse health effects.
When selecting an electronic air cleaner, a true HEPA filter should be part of the package. Be wary of any air scrubber that promises HEPA-Like or HEPA-Type performance, as these are poorly defined standards. To be considered HEPA-Type, the filter should be able to remove 99 percent of all particles 2 microns are larger. Some HEPA-Like filters don’t even deliver that level of performance, but this standard is still inadequate for most demanding applications. Contaminants like insecticides, dust and various pathogens are smaller than 2 microns, so choosing anything other than a true HEPA filter may expose people to harmful conditions.
What other features should come with an electronic air cleaner?
Electronic air cleaners are usually placed in situations where they need to operate reliably and efficiently. That means an air scrubber that is built to last. If the air cleaner is to be permanently placed in a facility, or at least installed long term, then it should be built from something sturdy like stainless steel, which has the added benefit of resisting corrosion. In the field, mobility is more important in an electronic air cleaner, making metal housing impractical. However, portable air scrubbers should be made from heavy duty polymers that provide strong chemical and water resistance.
What else should be prioritized in an electronic air cleaner?
1.The entire air cleaner should be HEPA certified – HEPA filtration, again, is a necessary quality in an air scrubber, but it doesn’t mean much if the cleaner leaks those contaminants back into the environment. In addition to a true HEPA filter, the air scrubber should offer HEPA performance from every part of the system.
2. Mobility – Some air scrubbers are integrated into the building and aren’t going to be moved around much, but most systems should offer some measure of mobility. Air scrubbers that are connected to the building’s ductwork should come with something like a carted design, so the air scrubber can be moved around a site with little effort. Portability is especially important for restoration and construction work, as air filtering needs will change as work crews move to different parts of the building. Portable electronic air cleaners should be light enough for easy carry and should be stackable, so many cleaners can be transported to a worksite at once.
3. Variable speed operation – Some air scrubbers can be operated at different speeds, and this is something that makes sense for many applications. The finer the degree of control over the system, the better. With a larger speed range, users can optimize energy efficiency and filtering efficiency to create a perfect balance between the two. When airborne contamination is a significant problem, high speed operation ensures frequent, rapid cleaning. When contamination is limited, switching to a lower speed setting will save energy while maintaining clean conditions.
4. Delivers power to other devices – Electronic air cleaners are often placed in areas where access to power is either limited or non-existent. In these settings, it helps to have an air scrubber that can run power to other devices. Some portable air cleaners are built with additional outlets to deliver amperage to other equipment. The cleaner should be able to deliver this power while running at its highest speed setting, and the outlet should be GFCI-certified. As portable air cleaners are usually installed in areas where there is water, a GFCI outlet is essential for preventing deadly accidents.
Electronic air cleaners do an important job wherever they are used, whether stemming the spread of mold, protecting people from airborne pollutants or keeping manufacturing facilities safe from accidents. It’s essential, then, that you know what to target in a quality system.