Air Purifiers and Indoor Air Quality: What to Look For

As you may know, air pollution can be two to five times worse inside your home than outside. Certain conditions, such as living in a high-traffic area or living in the same building as a smoker, can make the air quality situation even worse. Evidence of the harmful effects of indoor air pollution is piling up, and an increasing number of people are searching for a way to protect and improve the air quality inside of their homes. Buying an air purifier can be an effective indoor air quality solution, as long as you choose one that can meet your needs. Below, we discuss why you may want an air purifier, and how to find the right one for your specific situation.

Air purifiers to improve general air quality

The seals on your windows and doors may be effective at keeping outdoor air pollution such as smog or pollen from entering your home. However, they also make it easy for indoor air pollution to accumulate to potentially unhealthy levels. One way to improve the air quality inside of your home or office is to add an air purifier to the room (or rooms) in which you spend the most time. For the most significant benefit to indoor air quality, look for an air purifier that has the following attributes:

Is the device easy to maintain? 

When shopping for an air purifier, it is important to note the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance protocols. Before you buy, you can check:

  • How many filters the air purifier requires (some models have more than one type of filter, and different filters may need to be changed out on different schedules)
  • How often the air purifier’s filter(s) should be replaced
  • How much replacement filters cost

Improper air purifier maintenance—such as not replacing filters often enough—can hinder the unit’s performance. If the purifier gets too dirty, it can even start reintroducing pollutants back into your air. Look for an air purifier with upkeep guidelines that are simple and cost-effective.

How loud is it? 

For an air purifier to effectively improve your indoor air quality, it needs to be able to operate without interrupting your daily life. Running an air filter for a longer amount of time will increase air filtration. If you find an air filter that is too loud for you to keep on for any length of time, it will not do you much good. Plus, most people do not want to create additional noise pollution to address a non-immediate indoor air quality concern.

Many air purifier manufacturers—though not all—list the noise ratings associated with each model’s different settings. If you are not sure how the decibel (dB) ratings correlate with real-life noise levels, the EPA suggests comparing it to other household appliances. For example, 50dB is about the same operating noise level as a modern refrigerator.

Does it  generate hazardous byproducts?

If you are looking for a way to improve your indoor air quality, you will want to avoid introducing new pollutants into your home. Some types of air purifiers, such as ozonators and ionizers, create ozone as a part of their purification process. Breathing in ozone can cause lung damage and respiratory symptoms such as coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain and throat irritation, according to the EPA. There are plenty of air purifiers on the market that do not produce ozone.

How the Molekule air purifier improves indoor air quality

Our solution, the Molekule air purifier, was designed to address the shortcomings of the majority of air purifiers on the market today. Molekule uses two filters: a Pre-Filter to trap larger airborne particles and a PECO-Filter to destroy, VOCs and bioaerosols, including bacteria and viruses without releasing any harmful byproducts into the air. By using the Molekule filter subscription service, you can have new filters delivered to your front door right when you need them. Our unit is also one of the quietest on the market, with a noise rating of 42 dBa on “Auto” mode, 30 dBa on “Silent” mode, and only 55 dBa on “Boost” mode, our highest setting.

Air purifiers for specific indoor air quality problems

Not all air purifiers are equipped to handle every type of indoor air pollution. To find an air purifier that can effectively address your concerns, you may need to figure out whether you are primarily dealing with particle pollution or gaseous pollutants. Some air purifiers can only trap one or the other, though other air purifiers have a combination of filters that can remove both from the air.

Specific indoor air pollution concerns can come from:

  • Living near a high-traffic area: Traffic emissions and smog are made up of VOCs, ozone, and particulate matter. The EPA says that people who live, work or go to school near high-traffic areas are more likely to experience pollution-related health problems. These health effects can include asthma, cardiovascular disease, impaired childhood lung development, birthing complications, childhood leukemia and premature death.
  • Living with (or in the same building as) a smoker: Like smog, tobacco smoke is made up of a combination of particulate matter and gaseous pollutants. There are over 7,000 chemicals found in tobacco smoke, and at least 250 of those are known to be harmful, according to the National Cancer Institute.
  • A mold infestation: If you have found a mold infestation in your home, you may be concerned about its effects on the air that you breathe. Though an air purifier cannot help you clean up the mold, it can help remove any mold spores that have been released into the air. The CDC warns that indoor mold exposure has been linked to coughing, wheezing and other respiratory symptoms.
  • Home renovations: A wide range of products used during home renovations—including paints, caulks, carpeting, sealants and adhesives—emit VOCs that can be harmful to your health, according to Boston College. Additionally, most types of home improvement projects can stir up particulate matter that pollutes your indoor air.
  • Cooking: Scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have found that cooking, especially high-heat activities like frying, can produce levels of indoor air pollution that exceed the EPA’s recommendations for outdoor air. Though range hoods can help reduce cooking-related pollution, their effectiveness can vary.
  • Burning incense: A 2002 study found that incense smoke can contain concentrations of harmful gases and particulate matter that are high enough to cause adverse health effects (Jetter, et. al, 2002). If avoiding incense altogether is not an option for you, an air purifier can be a helpful tool to improve indoor air quality.

If you are dealing with any of the above air quality concerns, you will need an air purifier that has the power and filtration technology to remove the relevant pollutants from the air. This is especially true if you are living with children, the elderly or someone with asthma or allergies who may be more vulnerable to the health effects of pollutant exposure.

If you have specific air quality concerns, you should ask the following questions about an air purifier:

Does the device remove particulate matter and gaseous pollutants?

For a full range of pollutant removal, an air purifier should be able to trap both particulate matter and harmful gases. A mechanical filter, such as a HEPA filter, can help trap particle pollution, and an activated carbon filter can help remove airborne chemicals (such as VOCs) from the air. Sources of pollution such as cooking, burning candles or incense, or nearby traffic pollution release both types of pollutants—particulate matter and harmful VOCs—and an air purifier should be able to help remove both types. Some air purifiers may also implement further technology, such as UV lights, to potentially increase airborne pollutant removal, though they may not be necessary in every case.

Does the air purifier create ozone?

Some air purifiers produce ozone, either as a byproduct of the filtration process or by directly generating ozone to clean the air. Because ground-level ozone can cause adverse health effects, especially for sensitive groups, including children and those with asthma, we recommend finding an ozone-free air purifier.

Is the device portable?

Air pollution problems are not always confined to one room in the house.If your budget prevents you from purchasing multiple units, an air purifier should be compact enough to be moved from room to room when necessary for the greatest improvement to your indoor air quality. This may become important if you have specific problem areas in your home and need to move the unit to the area in question.

How Molekule helps with specific indoor air concerns

Unlike other air purifiers that simply trap pollutants on filters, Molekule uses proprietary PECO technology to destroy pollutants such as  VOCs and airborne mold. The California Air Resources Board has certified the Molekule air purifier as an air cleaner that does not produce ozone. Plus, its sleek design includes a natural leather handle that makes it easy to move the unit to wherever you need it most. These considerations will be important if you need to tackle certain air quality problems, such as placing Molekule in the kitchen or bathroom, or you have a specific pollutant to remove, such as smoke.

Investing in an air purifier can be an effective indoor air quality solution, as long as you find one that can handle your specific concerns. With the Molekule air purifier, you can eliminate harmful pollutants and start breathing truly clean air.