What is an air scrubber and why do I need one?

What is an air scrubber and why do I need one?

When you clean your home to remove dust and germs, how often do you think about cleaning the air? Air scrubbers are a new development, but they have quickly built a reputation as the workhorses of air purification for your home.

Considering the air inside your home could be two to five times more contaminated than outdoor air, improving your indoor air quality should be a priority. Poor air quality can lead to sick building syndrome (SBS), a condition where you have cold or fever symptoms in a particular building, only for the symptoms to pass as you leave that space. Air scrubbers can help you avoid SBS and other dangerous, unnecessary illnesses. 

woman-breathing-deeply-in-home

How does a home air scrubber work?

An air scrubber is an HVAC appliance that purifies the air of contaminants. The breadth of the air scrubber’s germ-killing ability is impressive. This device can kill particulates like dander and pollen, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that create odors like smoke and organisms like mold and viruses. 

Air purifier vs. air scrubber

The cleaning scope of an air scrubber also goes beyond the capabilities of competing devices. While an air purifier is limited to airborne particles, some whole-home air scrubbers can kill germs on surfaces like doorknobs or countertops. These air scrubbers release particles that travel through your home, attract the germs off of surfaces and pull them back through the HVAC system to be filtered out of your indoor air. 

Types of Air Scrubbers

Air scrubbers come in both whole-house and portable varieties. All air scrubbers work by passing contaminated air through filters, but the specific filters they use can vary slightly by model and brand. 

With a whole-house air scrubber, the process starts when air gets pulled through the HVAC system. The air scrubber’s inner chamber has a mosaic of rods that are coated in titanium oxide. Centered within those rods is a germicidal UV light. When the air passes through the air scrubber, titanium rods and UV light alter the air’s DNA and kill the contaminants. 

Finally, clean air is transferred out of the HVAC ductwork and back through your home. Some whole-house air scrubbers create negatively charged ions that attract the positively charged contaminants off of surfaces. In simpler terms, the air scrubber creates healthy particles that are sent into your home to grab unhealthy or harmful particles and pull them back into the filtering process. 

In a portable model, dirty air gets sucked into the air scrubber and passes through a series of filters. The first filter, or pre-filter, captures large particles like animal fur or lint. Next, the HEPA filter removes smaller airborne pathogens like mold spores and asbestos. Finally, most models have a carbon filter that tackles odors like smoke and mildew. Between the array of filters, up to 99.97% of pollutants are killed.

Whole-house vs. Portable Air Scrubbers

Both whole-house and portable air scrubbers deodorize and sanitize the air, but they differ in factors like price and installation method. Let’s break down the differences between the two types of air scrubbers. 

Whole-House

  • Attaches directly to HVAC system’s ductwork
  • Permanent fixture
  • Can disinfect both air and surfaces
  • Covers up to 3000 sq. ft. 
  • Uses titanium oxide rods and a UV light
  • Ideal for homeowners
  • Must hire HVAC technician to install
  • UV germicidal light should be replaced every 12 months
  • Same-day installation

Portable

  • Can be moved, doesn’t attach directly to HVAC system
  • Disinfects air, but not surfaces
  • Covers anywhere from 500-900 sq. ft. 
  • Can be daisy chained with other portable air scrubbers
  • Uses a series of 2-4 filters 
  • Ideal for construction, homeowners without HVAC ductwork, offices, etc. 
  • Can set up and plug in yourself, no extra tools or certifications needed
  • HEPA filter should be changed once yearly, pre-filters changed monthly

To ensure that your air scrubber is cleaning effectively, we recommend getting an air quality monitor. This device will measure your indoor air quality, then report it back to you. Monitors run between $80-110, but this worthy investment helps keep you in the know while your air scrubber is hard at work. 

Are air scrubbers loud?

Many homeowners worry about their HVAC appliances’ noise, and for good reason. Nobody wants loud whirring or ventilation keeping them up at night. Thankfully, both varieties of air scrubbers are relatively quiet. Most whole-house models measure under 20 dB, the approximate volume level of a soft whisper. However, some portable models can get up to 60 dB, about as loud as a restaurant conversation, when running at their highest settings. 

Do air scrubbers have filters?

Since portable air scrubbers’ filtration systems vary widely, you may have to change out each filter at different times. 

Check your air scrubber’s owner’s manual or contact the manufacturer for the most accurate time estimate. The manufacturer can tell you when to replace your filters and keep your device running at its smoothest.

If you have a whole-house model, the filter is a UV light. To ensure the UV germicidal light is working optimally, replace the bulb every 12 months. The UV lights typically cost between $10 and $15.

Best air scrubbers

Best value air scrubber

XPower X-2580 Professional 4-Stage HEPA Mini Air Scrubber | $570

Portable air scrubbers are more affordable than whole-home models, but some buyers call their effectiveness into question. The XPower X-2580 strikes a beautiful balance between high quality and budget friendliness. This air scrubber boasts four-stage filtration, going above and beyond the two or three-stage filtration norm of comparable options. The X-2580’s dual nylon filters help catch more dust and dander than other air scrubbers in its price range. It also weighs in at 26.6 pounds, making it considerably more portable and accessible than the market’s 35 to 40-pound standard. 

The X-2580 is most commonly used in the commercial sphere, but its mold remediation capabilities and versatility also make this model a great option for homeowners. It has five adjustable speed settings that you can customize to fit your needs, and it can clean up to 550 square feet. While some portable models cost over $1000, many online retailers list the X-2580 for under $600. With an impressive array of filters, high speed, and lightweight design, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a portable air scrubber with more features for the price. 

Best comfort air scrubber

Air Scrubber by Aerus | Price varies by dealer

Aerus has emerged as a leader in the air purification industry, and for good reason. Aerus and its affiliate brands, including ActivTek, use technology developed for NASA and make it accessible for consumers. The Air Scrubber by Aerus attaches to your HVAC system’s ductwork, and has the power to cover 3000 sq. ft. of space. This model uses a honeycomb-shaped matrix of rods and a UV light to alter the DNA of the air that it encounters. 

Aerus explains that its proprietary ActivePure technology helps to clean up to 99% of airborne and surface germs. With this dual sanitation, you can reduce your time spent cleaning your home. Additionally, the Aerus model operates at less than 20 watts. This home air scrubber pairs powerful cleaning with impressive energy efficiency. 

Another perk of the Aerus Air Scrubber is that it’s low maintenance. You’ll need to hire an HVAC specialist to come out and install the device, but it’s a one-time setup that takes about half an hour. The UV bulb can last for years, but an indicator will tell you when it’s time to replace it. It’s recommended that a UV germicidal light be changed every 9,000 hours or about once a year to maintain optimal germ-killing powers.

There’s also no need to change out filters, which is an inconvenient necessity with portable models. Installation of a whole-home air scrubber will likely fall between $500 and $4,520. The cost will vary depending on the size of the unit needed and any additional work to get the system up and running.

With a slightly higher price tag comes unmatched convenience and ease of use. You can get the Aerus installed once and not have to worry about your indoor air quality for months to come.  

Best air scrubber for dependability

COLZER 1800 Industrial Air Scrubber | $499

The Colzer portable air scrubber’s heavy duty design and cutting edge features make this a reliable choice, especially for homeowners. One unique feature of this model is that it comes equipped with an air quality indicator. After determining the status of your indoor air, it tells you which speed is best for your air’s needs. With this convenient indicator, you will have the peace of mind that your air scrubber is working efficiently to tackle the specific contaminants impeding your home’s air quality. 

A 1-year product warranty gives the Colzer air scrubber extra points in the dependability department. The device is California Air Resources Board-compliant, meaning that it produces minimal harmful toxins and emissions during the cleaning process. Ultimately, this air scrubber delivers a reliable and efficient purification process, and if it fails during your first year, Colzer will work with you to resolve the issue. 

Is an air scrubber right for me?

Poor indoor air quality can pose a threat to you and your family’s well-being. Thankfully, air scrubbers help clean your space so you can breathe, sleep and live easier. 

Whether you’re looking for a portable air scrubber or a whole-house model, air scrubbers are an invaluable investment that keep you and your loved ones comfy at home. 

This post appeared first on HVAC.com

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