Best Air Filters For Your Home And Business

With the sudden increase of wood burning forest fires and cities shrouded in smoke, finding the best air filters might be as important as finding the perfect mattress. We’ve actually been reviewing air filters for quite some time since they are a part of a healthy sleep hygiene program in your home.

Recent dramatic increases in both the scale and the frequency of forest fires has caused all of us to address the air quality inside of our homes and in our place of business, but finding the best air filters when shopping online takes a little bit of knowledge so you don’t buy a unit that is too small, too large, or inefficient. First, let’s take a look at how smoke and particulate matter can harm us, even while we are sleeping or spending time at home.

How Smoke And Particulate Matter Damages Our Bodies: The Danger Of “PM2.5”

Smoke can damage the throat and lungs through various mechanisms, primarily due to the presence of harmful substances and irritants in the smoke. The damage can be quickly overwhelming when exposed to super concentrated smoke such as in a house fire, or cause subtle symptoms that gradually cause damage over a long period of time when the source is more remote. Here are some ways in which smoke can impact various parts of your body:

  1. Irritation and Inflammation: Smoke contains a mixture of gases, chemicals, and fine particles. When inhaled, these substances can irritate the mucous membranes in the throat and airways, leading to inflammation and swelling. This irritation can cause sore throat, coughing, and a feeling of tightness or discomfort in the chest.
  2. Fine Particulate Matter (PM2.5): Smoke from fires produces fine particulate matter (PM2.5), which consists of tiny particles suspended in the air less than 2.5 µm in size. These particles are small enough to penetrate deep into the respiratory system. When inhaled, PM2.5 can irritate and inflame the delicate tissues of the lungs, impairing their function. Prolonged exposure to PM2.5 can lead to respiratory symptoms, decreased lung function, and exacerbation of respiratory conditions.
  3. Toxic Substances: Smoke can contain a range of toxic substances, including carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, benzene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), among others. These substances can be harmful when inhaled, causing damage to the respiratory system, cellular injury, and oxidative stress. They can also enter the bloodstream, potentially affecting other organs and systems.
  4. Carcinogens: Some components of smoke, such as certain PAHs, are known or suspected carcinogens. Prolonged exposure to these substances, particularly in the case of repeated or chronic smoke inhalation, can increase the risk of developing lung cancer or other respiratory-related cancers over time.
  5. Exacerbation of Respiratory Conditions: For individuals with pre-existing respiratory conditions like asthma, COPD, or allergies, exposure to smoke can trigger or worsen symptoms. The irritation and inflammation caused by smoke can lead to increased coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and respiratory distress.
  6. Elderly Individuals: The elderly population often has reduced lung function and may have underlying health conditions that compromise respiratory health. They are more likely to experience respiratory symptoms and have a higher risk of complications from exposure to smoke.
  7. Pregnant Women: Pregnant women may be more susceptible to the effects of smoke due to hormonal changes and potential respiratory system adaptations during pregnancy. Exposure to smoke and pollutants can pose risks to both the mother and the developing fetus.
  8. Individuals with Cardiovascular Diseases: People with cardiovascular conditions, such as heart disease, hypertension, or a history of stroke, may be more vulnerable to the cardiovascular effects of smoke. The fine particles in the smoke can enter the bloodstream and trigger inflammation and other responses that can exacerbate existing cardiovascular problems.
  9. Outdoor Workers and First Responders: Workers and first responders involved in firefighting, emergency response, or other outdoor occupations are at increased risk of exposure to smoke and pollutants. Prolonged exposure during their work can have significant respiratory health impacts.

How Do Air Purifiers Work And Which Type Should I Consider?

Air purification systems work by removing contaminants and pollutants from the air, improving its quality and making it safer to breathe. While different types of air purifiers may employ varying technologies, the basic principles are similar. Here’s a general overview of how air purification systems work:

  1. Air Intake: The system pulls in air from the surrounding environment, drawing it into the purification unit. In a typical unit mean for a room, the air will be drawn in, filtered, then discharge from the front of the device. These units can be on the floor, wall mounted, or even part of a whole house system and integrated into the HVAC system.
  2. Filtration: Most air purifiers use filters as their primary mechanism for removing particles from the air. These filters can be made of different materials, such as fiberglass, activated carbon, or HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filters. The filters trap and capture airborne contaminants, including dust, pollen, pet dander, mold spores, bacteria, and some viruses. HEPA filters are highly effective and capable of removing particles as small as 0.3 microns with an efficiency of 99.97%. They are commonly used in air purifiers for allergen and particle removal. Activated carbon filters are effective at absorbing odors, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and certain gases.
  1. Pre-Filters: Some air purifiers include pre-filters to capture larger particles like dust and hair, extending the life of the primary filters and improving overall efficiency.
  2. Germicidal or UV-C Light: Certain air purifiers incorporate germicidal or ultraviolet (UV-C) light to target and neutralize microorganisms like bacteria and viruses. The light damages the DNA or RNA of the pathogens, rendering them unable to reproduce and making them harmless.

A UV (ultraviolet) air filtration system, also known as a UV air purifier or UV germicidal irradiation system, uses ultraviolet light to deactivate or kill microorganisms like bacteria, viruses, and mold that may be present in the air. Here’s how a typical UV air filtration system works:

  1. UV-C Light Generation: The system contains a UV-C light source, which emits short-wavelength ultraviolet light in the range of 254 nanometers. This wavelength is particularly effective at disrupting the DNA and RNA of microorganisms, preventing them from replicating and rendering them harmless.
  2. Air Circulation: The UV air filtration system is integrated into the air handling or HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system of a building. As air flows through the system, it passes by the UV-C light source.
  3. Irradiation Zone: The UV-C light is contained within an irradiation zone, typically a chamber or a reflective surface that helps maximize exposure of the microorganisms to the UV light. The design of this zone ensures that the air remains in contact with the UV-C light for a sufficient amount of time to achieve effective disinfection.
  4. Microorganism Inactivation: When airborne microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, or mold spores, pass through the UV-C irradiation zone, the ultraviolet light disrupts their genetic material. This process inhibits their ability to reproduce, rendering them unable to cause infection or spread.
  5. Air Disinfection: After the microorganisms are exposed to the UV-C light and inactivated, the purified air continues its flow through the air handling system. The treated air is then distributed throughout the building, improving the overall air quality.

It’s important to note that UV air filtration systems primarily target microorganisms and are not designed to remove particulate matter or other airborne contaminants. Therefore, they are often used in conjunction with other air purification technologies like filters to provide comprehensive air cleaning.

UV air filtration systems require regular maintenance to ensure optimal performance. This includes periodic replacement or cleaning of the UV-C light source and cleaning the reflective surfaces to maintain their efficiency.

UV air filtration systems can be particularly useful in environments where there is a higher risk of airborne transmission of infectious diseases, such as hospitals, laboratories, or crowded public spaces. They can provide an additional layer of protection by reducing the presence of viable microorganisms in the air.

Electrostatic Precipitators: Another technology used in air purifiers is electrostatic precipitation. These systems charge the particles in the air, causing them to adhere to oppositely charged collector plates or other surfaces. This method can be effective in capturing smaller particles, but it requires regular cleaning of the plates.

Ionizers: Ionizing air purifiers release negative ions into the air, which attach to particles and make them heavier. The heavier particles then settle on surfaces or are easily caught by filters. Some ionizers may also produce ozone, which can be a concern if not properly regulated.

Air Circulation and Output: After the air is filtered and purified, it is released back into the environment, often with the help of a fan or blower. The purified air mixes with the surrounding air, gradually improving the overall air quality in the room.

The best air filters have different capacities and coverage areas, so it’s important to choose the right size and type of purifier based on the specific needs of your space and the pollutants you want to target. Regular maintenance, such as filter replacement and cleaning, is also crucial to ensure optimal performance.

There could be several reasons for a sudden increase in wood fire smoke affecting urban areas. Here are some possible factors:

  1. Seasonal Changes: During certain seasons, particularly winter, wood burning becomes more prevalent as people use fireplaces, wood-burning stoves, or other wood-burning devices for heating or ambiance. Increased wood burning can lead to more smoke in the air, especially in urban areas where population density is higher.
  2. Weather Conditions: Weather conditions can play a significant role in the accumulation and dispersion of smoke. Stable weather patterns, such as temperature inversions, can trap smoke close to the ground, preventing its dispersion and leading to higher concentrations in urban areas.
  3. Residential Wood Burning: Residential wood burning, particularly in older or inefficient wood-burning devices, can be a significant source of smoke pollution. In urban areas, where homes are closer together, the collective effect of many households burning wood can lead to localized smoke issues.
  4. Forest Fires or Agricultural Burning: Smoke from forest fires or agricultural burning activities, such as the burning of crop residues, can travel long distances and affect urban areas. Depending on the wind patterns and the scale of the fires or burning activities, the smoke plumes can reach cities and impact air quality.

During forest fires, one of the hazardous components that can pose a risk to lung health is fine particulate matter (PM2.5). PM2.5 refers to tiny particles suspended in the air with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers or smaller. These particles are small enough to be inhaled deep into the lungs, which can lead to various health issues.

The particulate matter produced during forest fires consists of a complex mixture of substances, including organic matter, gases, metals, and other chemicals. The exact composition can vary depending on factors such as the type of vegetation burning, the intensity of the fire, and the distance from the fire source.

Exposure to PM2.5 from forest fires can have several adverse effects on the respiratory system and overall health:

  1. Respiratory Irritation: Inhalation of PM2.5 can cause irritation of the respiratory tract, leading to symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and sore throat.
  2. Exacerbation of Existing Respiratory Conditions: People with pre-existing respiratory conditions like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or allergies may experience worsening symptoms when exposed to high levels of PM2.5. It can trigger asthma attacks, increase the frequency of respiratory symptoms, and reduce lung function.
  3. Systemic Effects: PM2.5 can also enter the bloodstream from the lungs, potentially causing systemic effects. Prolonged exposure to high levels of PM2.5 has been associated with cardiovascular problems, including increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular diseases.

To protect against the hazardous effects of particulate matter during forest fires, it is advisable to follow local health advisories and take appropriate precautions. These precautions may include staying indoors with windows and doors closed, using air purifiers with HEPA filters, and wearing masks specifically designed to filter out fine particles. Vulnerable individuals, such as the elderly, children, and those with respiratory conditions, should take extra care to minimize exposure.

It’s worth noting that the specific composition and health risks associated with particulate matter can vary depending on the specific circumstances of a forest fire. Monitoring air quality updates and following guidelines from local health authorities is crucial for staying informed and taking necessary precautions during such events.

In some cases, a sudden increase in wood fire smoke in urban areas may be due to a lack of regulatory compliance or enforcement. If there are regulations in place regarding the type of wood-burning devices allowed or the type of fuel that can be burned, non-compliance or the use of low-quality fuels can result in more smoke emissions.

It’s important to note that the specific reasons for a sudden increase in wood fire smoke may vary depending on the location and local circumstances. Local air quality management agencies, environmental organizations, or government bodies are typically responsible for monitoring and addressing air pollution issues and can provide more detailed insights into the specific causes in a particular area.

Air Purifiers We Recommend