October 2, 2020

Is Sound the Most Important Factor in Air Purification?

Well no, it’s safety. Of course noise level matters and when implementing any air purification system, you want to make sure it has the least amount of disruption, but if it’s “quiet as a mouse” and doesn’t work – you may have wasted your money and gained a false sense of security in the process. When making air sanitization choices, doing your homework is highly recommended. But after hours of weeding through snake oil, industry jargon, and a bewildering array of choices, it’s easy to feel paralyzed by indecision. What are the most important factors in air purification?

In a world altered by COVID-19, technology is king. Everyone is brainstorming the latest and greatest solution to air sanitization issues. Consumer-grade solutions are popping up everywhere.

Before purchasing, consider how a machine fits into your space. Sound is a crucial factor, but so is safety and ensuring it actually does, what it says it does. Being wary of opportunists is crucial – Learn how it works, read the fine print and don’t be fooled.

So what questions are necessary when selecting the best air purification system for your workspaces?

Safety Matters

When you’re making a decision, numbers and statistics matter. If you can’t find citable research that isn’t skewed by jargon, it’s a big warning sign for potential purchasers. Here are some important questions to consider before you buy a machine.

  • Does the company publish their research findings?
  • What is their filter rating?
  • How many air changes per hour can their air purification systems handle?
  • What is their CFM rate?

This type of information should be easily accessible, because the answers to these questions directly impacts safety. Checking decibel levels is a smart choice, of course, but it’s not a top question. That’s because silence sometimes equals inefficacy. A machine may work in complete silence, while only conducting one air change per hour in a space the size of a broom closet. Picking the proper air purification system means placing a high-stakes application in a hazardous environment, and it has to perform. Safety–for yourself and those you care about–is what matters most.

The answers to the above questions point to the efficacy of the product they’re selling. For instance, a machine may achieve between 1 and 2 air changes. At that rate, contaminants come into the air faster than they’re being removed. If someone enters your business and coughs, it could be an hour before those aerosolized respiratory droplets are removed from the air. These aerosols remain suspended in the air and can travel impressive distances. By the time they are removed, a healthy person could have inhaled this aerosol into their respiratory tract and become infected.

Meeting Industry Standards

What filtration standard is being used? These days, consumers are bombarded with terms such as HEPA-Type and HEPA Like. These phrases mean nothing. Filters labeled like this haven’t been rated, and don’t hold up under any sort of scrutiny. The term to watch for is True HEPA. This means it’s an actual HEPA filter, constructed for high-stakes environments such as low-level nuclear clean-up.

Look out for rating scales, too. For instance, the MERV scale is accepted by the air filtration industry. There’s no gray area for opportunistic companies. Either filters meet these accepted standards, or they don’t. Below is a graph that illustrates HEPA and MERV standards and uses.

These scales “provide standardized procedures based upon peer-approved applications of environmental technology.”

Few consumer-grade machines combine UVGI and HEPA. If the machine you’re considering includes ultraviolet light, though, how are they applying it? Exposing humans to bare UV bulbs is dangerous, since this light harms eyes and skin. Upper room UVGI applications, exposed bulbs, and unsealed UV light chambers are huge warning signs. Well-sealed, contained UV chambers are the safest way to apply this technology to an air sanitization system.

If a machine is well-built, it can balance both sound and safety concerns. Applying caution and safety considerations to air filtration means that you have to be able to trust the machine that you’re placing in your environment. You’re relying on ventilation and filtration to protect those you care about, which is why safety is the most important factor in air purification.  

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