Home should be synonymous with comfort, but nothing is comforting about getting sneezes and red itchy eyes once you get in. Many things can negatively affect the air quality in your home, and air purifiers can help by improving this quality. So, is a whole-home air purifier worth it?
A whole-home air purifier is worth it for the sole benefit of breathing cleaner, fresher air. However, it also purifies the air for people with health conditions exacerbated by poor air quality, like allergies and asthma.
This article describes a whole-home air purifier and whether whole-house air purifiers are worth the money. I also explore whether central air purifiers work and if you need an air purifier with central air.
What Is a Whole Home Air Purifier?
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says some pollutants are two to five times more concentrated indoors than outdoors. This information is sure to make you think twice about the quality of the air you’ve been breathing in your home.
A whole-home air purifier is an air purifier that cleans and freshens air throughout the house at once. Unlike a portable air purifier that tackles one or two rooms at a time, this one purifies your home’s entire air.
You get healthier, fresher air in every corner of your home. Whole-home air purifiers are ideal for the home space since air circulates and doesn’t remain in one room.
How It Works
Whole-home air purifiers install directly into your HVAC—the return-air ductwork – and work in tandem with it. Each purification system cleans and uniquely freshens the air, but they all follow a general pattern. On turning on the heating or cooling unit, fans bring air into the vent.
The system cools or heats the air as it passes through the ductwork, and the purification device removes pollutants. As a result, clean air circulates back towards the vents, blowing into the rooms of your home.
Types of Whole Home Air Purifiers
Air purifiers use two basic filters: media filters and electronic filters. Media filters create a physical barrier to trap minute particles, whereas electronic filters use high-voltage charges. Some filters combine both techniques, and others add activated carbon to tackle odors.
Here’s a breakdown of the different types of whole-home air purifiers:
Flat filters: These are higher-standard filters you fit onto your HVAC handler. They keep dust and large particulate contaminants but aren’t effective against finer particles, gases, or smells.
Extended media filters: They are a thicker version of flat filters and comprise several stacked layers of filters. Stacking the filters next to each other slows down the movement of the pollutant, increasing its chances of being trapped and removed. Again, you’d need a professional to fit them since they must enter your HVAC ductwork.
Electrostatic/ionic air purifiers: This is the first actual air purifier on this list, and it creates negative ions using an electrical charge. The charge traps air pollutants on the metal plates that the negative ions rest on. Ionic purifiers run at a low cost, but you must clean the metal plates frequently.
Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation purifiers (UVGI): They use UV light to destroy bacteria, germs, and other microorganisms. You can connect the device along your air duct or on your air handler. Alternatively, you can get it in combo with other types of air purifiers, as a single whole-home air purifier unit.
APCO air purifiers: Advanced Photocatalytic Oxidation (APCO) air purifiers are pretty standard and are effective without combining them with other types. UV light and a thin metal catalyst absorb and oxidize pollutants into carbon dioxide and water.
These air purifiers can handle particulate matter and gases, unlike the others. Unfortunately, it also doesn’t use a filter, and you’ll need to replace the reaction chamber every two to three years.
HEPA whole-house air purifiers are another good choice for your home. A combo whole-house air purifier combines the strengths of one or more types of air purifiers. For example, there are APCO plus activated carbon purifiers that work wonders for your home’s air quality.
Are Whole House Air Purifiers Worth the Money?
Air pollution isn’t only an outdoor problem because it can also thrive within your home. Particulate matter can be inhalable in sizes from 10 micrometers and below. However, particulate matter (PM) sizes 2.5 micrometers and smaller pose the most significant health risk.
With links to cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disease, and premature mortality, you don’t want to be breathing PM, especially in high concentrations. Burning incense or candles and cooking on a stove contribute to indoor pollution.
Biological contaminants like animal dander, pollen, bacteria, viruses, cockroaches, house dust, etc., also compromise indoor air quality. If you cannot increase ventilation or eliminate the pollution source, an air purifier is the next best thing.
Since whole-house air purifiers cost more than portable purifiers, it’s understandable that you’d want to match the expense and benefits. Whether they are worth the money depends on your home and its occupants.
If you have family members who suffer from respiratory infections, allergies, or asthma, an air purifier may be worth the money. After all, cleaner air can help relieve symptoms and eliminate triggers. Conversely, if your householders are positively healthy, you may not see the benefits of a whole-house air purifier.
Cost of Whole-House Air Purifiers
The standard installation of whole-air filters involves adding them to your HVAC system. You’d need a professional to install one, and you may also have to modify the HVAC system. What you’re looking at in costs could run from hundreds of dollars to thousands.
The type of unit or filter you’re using determines a significant portion of the cost. A combined unit with multiple filters and activated carbon costs $2,500 and above, including installation.
Models with germicidal UV lamp technology are even more expensive.
Two types of UV light systems are:
- An in-duct purification system: An in-duct system is akin to putting the sun’s rays into your ductwork, unleashing the UV rays on the germs, odors, etc. This is the pricier option, ranging from $800 to $1,500. The bulbs cost $300 to $400 and last up to three years.
- An object-cleaner purification system: You place this purifier next to your air conditioner’s coil to flood the area with UV lights. The light kills the organisms before they enter the ventilation system. Object-cleaner purifiers cost $350 to $800, with bulbs going for $100 to $300 (a one- to two-year lifespan)
You may think that portable air purifiers cost less, but they are only suitable for one or two rooms at once. If your home is larger (four-bedroom or more), a whole-house air purifier is more cost-effective than seven portable purifiers.
Maintenance, operation costs (electricity), and the cost of replacing filters reduce marginally when it’s a whole-house purifier.
When You Need a Whole-House Air Purifier
Asthma and Allergies
Whole-house air purifiers remove harmful air contaminants, which can help reduce symptoms in people with allergies and respiratory conditions. They filter airborne particles like pollen and dander.
If your householder has animal allergies and there’re pets in the house, or you leave windows open, air purifiers are worth it. However, they won’t be effective for people with allergies to dust mites that live in bedding and carpets.
If your home’s in an industrial area or region prone to wildfire, whole-house air purifiers will reduce the toxins produced by these conditions. Urbanization also drives population explosions, resulting in more cars on the highways.
Ground-level ozone is a product of chemicals released from vehicles and sunlight. It is harmful to all living beings on the planet, and whole-house air purification may help keep your air free from it.
Even if you don’t fit either category above, a whole-house air purifier is still worth the money. Particulate matter is constantly in the air, and consistent inhalation of small amounts over an extended period may cause issues.
The most effective air cleaners are generally the most expensive because of their high air flow rates and efficient pollutant capture systems. Ultimately, the decision of its worth lies in your hands. Will you go for the convenience of a whole-house air purifier or cheap portable purifiers?
Do Central Air Purifiers Really Work?
Central air purifiers can neutralize some air pollutants and improve your home’s indoor air quality. Good air purifiers can handle various pollutants, including dust, smoke, pet dander, or odors. However, not all air purifiers match their marketing hype, making people skeptical about their efficacy.
Honestly, they won’t eliminate all pollutants in your home. Many particles can rest on surfaces like walls, furniture, carpeting, and beddings. If these particles don’t become airborne, they’ll remain outside your air purifier’s reach.
The best means of ensuring good air quality is to reduce the number of airborne contaminants in your home. To keep them from entering the house and removing those already settled inside, use these tips:
- Keep your shoes at the door and use house shoes once you get inside.
- Vacuum frequently and use a vacuum that has a HEPA filter.
- Brush your pets often to remove loose hair that may become dander.
- Don’t smoke or allow smoking indoors.
- Inspect and clean your HVAC system annually.
- Wash your beddings at least once a week using hot water to destroy dust mites.
- Consider getting a whole-house air purifier system to remove pollutants and pollen.
- For humid regions, use a dehumidifier to prevent mold and mildew development.
- If possible, replace carpeting with hard-wood flooring that’s easier to keep dust-free.
- You can replace furnace and HVAC filters more often than the recommended three-month period.
- Consider using furniture that won’t trap as much pollen and dust, like wood, vinyl, or leather.
While an air purifier alone can’t significantly raise indoor air quality, it does a fantastic job with proper cleaning and filtration methods. If you tailor your expectations within their capacity, you’ll be happy with what air purifiers can do.
Do You Need an Air Purifier with Central Air?
Central air often describes the cooling part of the HVAC system, which is essentially an air filter or a whole-house filtration system. Having this system and maintaining it well may negate the need for an air purifier. The problem is that many homeowners barely pay attention to the care of their central air.
Some people use thin, cheap filters that barely filter the air or forget to change the filter as often as required. The connection point between the return air duct and HVAC (the blower) is the location of this filter. Sometimes, you may find the filter behind the return air vent’s vent cover.
Dust and debris from the house follow the air into the air ducts, where it meets the filters. The filter traps large particles, preventing them from entering the HVAC cabinet, where they can damage the refrigerant coils and motors.
If you’re not replacing your filter every one to three months, the clogs will decrease HVAC energy efficiency. Also, the filter in your HVAC system removes large particles, but it’s not enough to improve overall indoor air quality. For better air quality, you may need an air purifier.
You can try installing special air filters before going the air purifier route. These special filters don’t directly replace the HVAC filter; instead, you integrate them into the ductwork.
Professionals are best suited to select these filters for your home because over-powerful filters will cut off the HVAC system’s airflow.
Air purifiers are great for handling smaller particles that may escape an HVAC filter. The right filter-air purifier combination can remove over 98% of contaminants, providing cleaner air.
You don’t have to choose between an air purifier or central air, but here are some points to note:
Purpose: If your primary concern is large pollutants like dander, dust, and lint, an air filter may be enough. There are even air filters strong enough to contain tiny contaminants.
Media cabinet: Adding a media cabinet to your HVAC increases filtration capacity since it can hold a deeper disposable filter (about five inches). They last from eight weeks to six months.
Choice of air purifier: If you decide to get an air purifier, settle on the kind you need: whole-house or portable. Portable stand-alone models will do if your house doesn’t have air conditioning but has radiant heat.
Overall, your home is the only place where you can control the quality of the air you breathe. So I hope you can make a good choice and provide your family with the best air quality.