June 11, 2024
The Role of Air Cleaners in Combatting Air Pollution in Illinois

Indoor air pollution continues to be a top environmental health risk for Illinois residents. Many spend 90% of their time indoors where concentration levels are even higher than outside. Pollution from outside making its way indoors is certainly one concern, and there are many indoor pollution sources as well. Let’s explore how people in this area use air cleaners to combat pollution in the home.

Portable vs. Whole-House Air Cleaners

Most experts agree that whole-home air cleaners are the superior option. They do cost more initially but provide better value in the long term. This is because whole-house systems clean air throughout your entire home. Some air cleaning is, of course, better than none, and portable air cleaners are an affordable entry point for many. They help to improve indoor air quality (IAQ) in the areas where you spend most of your time. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also recommends using them along with your whole-house system. This is useful for achieving clean rooms, which the EPA recommends for bedrooms and rooms designated as safe zones.

Large Particulate Filtration

Most air cleaners have mechanical filtration that traps large particulate matter (PM). Many systems have a prefilter that traps the largest particles to preserve the more expensive filter media. Most air cleaners have a primary mechanical filter that combats particulate air pollution.

The industry uses the minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) rating system to measure air filters. The higher the rating, the more effective the filtration. A MERV 13 filter will trap allergens, such as:

  • Dust
  • Pollen
  • Fibers
  • Pet dander
  • Mold spores

A MERV 13 filter will trap 75% of all particles down to 0.3 microns in size. Many air cleaner brands opt for a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. HEPA filters have a MERV rating between 17 and 20 and trap at least 99.97% of PM down to 0.3 microns.

Fine Particulate Filtration

Fine PM comprises particles that are 2.5 microns in size and smaller. Modern medicine recognizes PM2.5 as a leading cause of many cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Fine PM is a concern if you’re in an area with high outdoor air pollution, including living on a busy road.

It is true that HEPA removes a significant portion of fine PM but not ultra-fine PM, which is as small as 0.1 microns. There are medical-grade HEPA filters that do: H13 and H14. H13 True HEPA filters trap 99.95% of course, fine and ultra-fine particles. An H14 True HEPA filter removes 99.997%.

Absorbing Odors and Gases

There are substances that mechanical filtration cannot trap, or at least not at a high enough level to combat the pollution. For this reason, many manufacturers include activated carbon. It provides some mechanical filtration, but its main purpose is to absorb. Activated carbon has many tiny pores and an expansive surface area within them. That allows it to absorb unpleasant smells but also:

  • Smoke and fumes
  • Airborne chemicals
  • Ozone and other gases
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)

Neutralizing Bacteria and Viruses

Some air cleaners feature ultraviolet (UV) light for ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI). UV-C is a germicidal light. It neutralizes bacteria, viruses, and microbes. UV-C can also neutralize dust mite eggs, mold spores, and fungal spores. The airflow of an air cleaner, measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM), can be too high for UVGI. It benefits from slower moving air because of the lower exposure time. You can pair the air cleaner with a UV lamp in those cases.

Air Changes Per Hour

An important consideration in combating air pollution is how much air the system moves. CFM is one factor, but you must also consider the total square footage and the overall size of the filter media. Most whole-house air cleaner brands rate their systems for air changes per hour (ACH) at a certain square footage. A system that provides 4 ACH at 3,000 square feet will filter all the air in a 3,000-sq.-ft. home four times an hour. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 4 ACH as a minimum and 5 ACH for most homes. If you live in an area with bad air quality, perhaps target 6 ACH or higher.

Your Local IAQ Pros in Arlington Heights

IBBOTSON Heating & Air Conditioning Co. has helped homeowners throughout Arlington Heights and the surrounding areas breathe healthier air since 1946. Our IAQ team installs and services many types of air purifiers and humidifiers. Our technicians also install, maintain, and repair smart thermostats, furnaces, boilers, heat pumps, air conditioners, and mini-splits. You can also count on us for water heater installation, maintenance and repair. Contact us today with questions or to schedule an appointment.

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