Do I Need an Air Purifier?

Do I Need an Air Purifier?

Many of us find ourselves spending more time in our homes, especially in the past few years as working remotely has become commonplace. This shift has brought a heightened awareness to the quality of the air we breathe day in and day out. In this blog post, we delve into the world of air purifiers – exploring what they are, how they work, and whether they live up to the promise of creating a cleaner and healthier living space. From understanding different types of air purifiers to determining their effectiveness for tackling various issues, we aim to answer all the most commonly asked questions. We also provide expert tips for homeowners living in Ottawa and surrounding regions such as Nepean, Barrhaven, Kanata, Orleans, Gloucester, and Vanier.

Table of Contents

What is an Air Purifier?

An air purifier is any device that improves the air quality of a home by removing contaminants and pollutants from the air. Air purifiers work by drawing in air from the surrounding environment, passing it through a series of filters and other purification technologies, and then releasing the purified air back into the home.

What Does an Air Purifier Do?

The primary purpose of an air purifier is to reduce the concentration of airborne particles such as dust, pollen, pet dander, mould, and other allergens. Some air purifiers can even help remove odours, smoke particles, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the air. Air purifiers are seen as a luxury product for some but for individuals who suffer from respiratory conditions or allergies, a high-quality air purifier can be essential to health and well-being. 

Woman breathing in home

Do I Need an Air Purifier?

Whether you need an air purifier depends on your indoor environment, personal health, and specific concerns. Here are some situations in which an air purifier might be beneficial:

  • Allergies or Respiratory Issues: If you or your family members suffer from allergies, asthma, or other respiratory conditions, an air purifier can help remove allergens, dust mites, pollen, pet dander, and other particles that may exacerbate these conditions from the air. In Ottawa, peak allergy season comes in late spring and lasts into the summer and the past few years have been especially intense. All of southern Ontario has seen an increase in pollen counts for the past several years due to higher temperatures. Get ready for allergy season with a new furnace filer or HEPA filter. 
  • Smoke or Odour Concerns: Air purifiers with activated carbon filters can be effective in removing smoke particles and odours from cooking, pets, and more.
  • Pet Owners: Minimizing pet dander and odours is a priority for many pet owners. Furnace filters or portable HEPA filter units can help maintain a cleaner and fresher indoor environment for you and your pets.
  • Mould or Mildew Issues: If your home is prone to mould or mildew growth, an air purifier with a HEPA filter and a UV-C light can help reduce airborne mould spores. It’s also a good idea to look into dehumidifying options as well. – Learn more about home humidity
  • Urban or Industrial Locations: If you live in areas with high levels of outdoor pollution or near industrial zones (e.g. Centertown Ottawa, Vanier, Cyrville…) an air purifier can help filter out pollutants and particulate matter from the outdoor air.
  • Enhanced Indoor Air Quality: Even if you don’t have specific health concerns, you may choose to use an air purifier to boost overall indoor air quality, creating a more comfortable and healthier living environment.

In Ottawa, many homeowners find air purifiers helpful, especially during the cold winters. Ottawa homes are designed with tight seals to prevent heat loss, yet this design feature also results in limited air circulation during the winter months. Consequently, the stagnation of indoor air can lead to elevated levels of pollutants and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) beyond the desirable range. 

What Type of Air Purifier is Best for My Home?

There are thousands of different air purifiers on the market and it can be overwhelming trying to select the right option for your home. To simplify the process there are really only two big decisions to be made when selecting an air purifier: Do you need a whole home or standalone air purifier? And what purification technology is best for your home?

Whole Home vs Portable Air Purifier:

  • A whole home air purifier is a great option for any home with a centrally ducted HVAC system – after cleaning the air it then circulates the air throughout the entire home.
  • A portable air purifier is a great option for homes without ductwork, or for dealing with a targeted air quality issue.

Type of Air Purification Technology:

  • Furnace Filters
  • HEPA Filters 
  • Activated Carbon Filters 
  • UV-C Light Systems

We will explore all of these options fully in the rest of the blog post. 

Clean air filter vs dirty air filter

What is a Furnace Filter?

Did you know that you likely already have an air purifier in your home? If you have ductwork in your home your furnace or air handler will have a filter. It’s surprising just how many homeowners aren’t aware of this filter and that they need to be replacing it. In fact, having a clogged furnace filter is the number one reason for HVAC failure. Here’s everything you need to know about furnace filters: 

When do I replace my furnace filter?

Over time the furnace filter accumulates dust and other particles from the air stopping them from circulating around your home. If you hold your filter up to the light and can’t see light through it, it needs to be changed. When the filter is full your system has to work harder to blow air through it decreasing the efficiency of your system, decreasing the expected lifespan of your system and increasing your monthly bills. Changing your filter regularly will improve the air quality in your home and the efficiency of your HVAC system. Every home is different and factors like the presence of pets or renovations can mean you need to change your filter more often.

What size furnace filter do I need?

The furnace filter must fit snugly in the filter rack, if it is not airtight it will not function as intended. Common sizes range from 1’’ to 5’’ in width, thicker filters tend to last longer as they have more surface area with which to catch particles and often filter the air more efficiently than thin filters.

What MERV rating do I need for my air filter?

The Minimum Efficiency Rating Value (MERV) is an index of the efficacy of your filter media. The higher the MERV rating, the smaller the particles it is able to capture. Your lungs have a MERV 8 rating so you want to ensure your HVAC system can filter more than your lungs or they’ll be absorbing everything your filter misses! A MERV rating between 10 and 13 is generally recommended however, if you struggle with environmental allergies you may want to put a stronger filter in.

MERV Rating Scale

What Is a HEPA Filter? Do HEPA air filters really work?

A High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter is a type of air filter that is designed to capture and trap very small particles in the air. HEPA filters have a MERV rating of 17+ depending on the specific filter meaning they can filter out dust, pollen, mould, pet dander, smoke and even bacteria from the air.

  • Portable HEPA Filters: A portable HEPA filter can be a great choice for individuals with allergies or respiratory conditions, as it helps to improve indoor air quality by removing airborne particles. There are portable air filters that exclusively use a HEPA filter for air purification and there are also air purifiers such as the Jade 2.0 that use a HEPA filter in conjunction with other purification technologies such as an activated carbon filter and UV-C light. 
  • Whole Home HEPA Filters: There are HEPA filters that can replace your standard furnace filter, however doing so is not suggested as the filter will limit airflow and put extra pressure on your blower motor. This will drive up energy usage and potentially damage or break your motor. Instead, it’s best to select a furnace filter with a MERV rating of 10-13 and additionally use a standalone HEPA filtration unit.
Jade 2.0 air purifier

What are UV-C Light Systems? Do UV-C air purifiers work?

Air purifiers that contain UV-C lamps emit short-wavelength UV-C light, which is effective in damaging the genetic material of microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, and moulds. As air passes through the purifier, it is exposed to the UV-C light, leading to the inactivation or destruction of the microorganisms. While UV-C air purifiers are effective against a variety of bacteria and viruses they cannot filter larger particles such as dust, debris, pollen, and pet dander. This is why they are typically used in combination with a physical air filter such as a furnace filter or a portable HEPA filter unit. 

  • Portable UV-C Light Systems: Some portable air purifiers will utilize UV-C light technology in addition to HEPA filters and other technologies. The Jade 2.0 is a great example of this as it uses a HEPA filter, activated carbon filter and a UV-C light system to purify the air. 
  • Whole Home UV-C Light Systems: UV-C light systems can be installed by HVAC professionals inside your ductwork or air handler. After the light purifies the air the central HVAC system will then disperse the clean air throughout your home. Your furnace filter will still need to be replaced regularly as the UV-C light will not remove larger particles such as dust and debris from the air. 
UV-C Light

What is an Activated Carbon Filter?

An activated carbon filter, also known as activated charcoal or activated carbon air filter, is a type of air filtration device designed to remove odours, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the air. Activated carbon is a highly porous form of carbon that has undergone a special activation process to increase its surface area, allowing it to adsorb a wide range of chemical compounds.

For individuals grappling with allergies, respiratory issues or just looking to boost the quality of their air, air purifiers can prove to be an invaluable tool. As we strive for cleaner, fresher air in our homes, the decision to embrace an air purifier is a step towards creating a living space that promotes both comfort and well-being. Whether you’re interested in a portable solution or a whole-home system the experts at Francis Plumbing Heating & Cooling can help you find an air purifier that fits your home and fulfills your needs. If you’re an Ottawa area homeowner give us a call today and we’ll be happy to answer all your questions!  

Do you live in Cornwall or surrounding regions? Check out Walker Climate Care our partners and local Cornwall HVAC experts. They also offer indoor air quality and air purification services, take a look at their Cornwall specific resources such as: Why Indoor Air Quality Matters and How to Improve It.