Saturday, 13 July 2013

Air Purifiers for Haze

Update 2: I've found some potentially decent deals on eBay, including some 240V options from Australia.

Update: our new purifiers have been delivered to us, and despatched to our parents' homes :)

With even most mainstream media sources admitting that PM2.5 is the real killer component in the haze, what can you as an individual do right now, apart from wearing respirator-type (as opposed to surgical) masks?

The short answer that most would agree upon, is an air purifier. There has been enough said online about air purifiers, but sometimes, we all need a bit of help in cutting through the smoke. For you, my fellow Neurotic Ramblers, I present my take after conducting my own research.

My temporary solution. Got this US set used (hence the need for a step-down transformer), from a friend.
In short: buy HEPA, skip ion. An activated carbon layer is good too.

After posting this picture on my Facebook, an FB friend chipped in that he had bought a Novita air purifier too. Now, Novita seems to be a local start up that makes a range of lifestyle products. I even own a garment steamer made by them, and while the device itself was nondescript, Novita has wowed me with their awesome customer service by sending me a spare tank cap by mail, FOC, when I misplaced mine. No questions asked. This was some time back even before NRSC was started (so it's not like they expected any reciprocal goodwill from me, either). So thanks Novita! This is my shout out for you guys for that kind gesture.

However, I wouldn't buy their air purifiers.

This "air cleaner buying guide" published by Best Denki seems logical and gels with my limited scientific understanding. This paragraph, in particular, caught my attention:


Ionic filters

Does not work on odors, but can remove very small pollutants from large spaces. Ionic air purifiers, also known as electrostatic air purifiers, work by giving particles in the air a negative or positive electrical charge, and then draw the particles to plates within the air purifier. Ionic air purifiers run very quietly. Like the ozone air filter, ionic filters are controversial as well because one of the byproduct of the electrical charge is ozone gas, which can exacerbate respiratory conditions like asthma.
The irony is that Best Denki sells Sharp air purifiers, which purportedly use Plasmacluster ion technology. The website says it is safe (but... they would say that, wouldn't they) but it probably also produces ozone, which is bad. In short, it's the same gas which forms our ozone layer, but at ground level, it's a pollutant which harms our skin and lungs. It's so powerful that it can actually be used as a deodoriser to remove the smell of dead bodies! Of course in such applications, one would wear the appropriate protective gear and ventilate the room after using ozone to disinfect and deodorise.

My new Honeywell

Actually, it's not mine and it's not new. It's for my dear in-laws whom I actually have a good relationship with (contrary to all the in-law jokes and horror stories). I bought it from a friend who obtained it in USA, hence the need for the step-down transformer which he also helped me procure (it can be bought from Sim Lim Square, or is it Sim Lim Tower...?). Honeywell is a big name company that is well known for lots of cool stuff, much like General Electric. They are particularly well-known for ventilation systems.

I am NOT a re-seller and neither is my friend, so don't contact me to ask me for lobang. I don't have their shares, so I don't have a vested interest in Honeywell or any other brand or company. I also don't go apeshit about brands, like some people I know who worship Apple or Blackberry or Microsoft. I use whatever I believe works. And of course, I am no more an expert in air purification technology than anyone else who has spent a bit of time googling the subject. This is just my personal overall sensing based on my digesting of the facts from online. So I'm going to just delete all comments from people who have bought the "wrong" - according to me, anyway - air purifiers and focus on constructive comments, as always.

This friend of mine has used Honeywell systems since the 1997 haze, for his own family needs (which for privacy reasons I will not reveal details about). The HEPA filter lasts 5 years, according to him.

Let's take a closer look at the system:
Input requirements, and model number for anyone interested.

The transformer as mentioned earlier.

Approximately 43cm diameter, HEPA filter removed.

HEPA filter

Washable DIY activated carbon mesh pre-filter. My friend DIY, not me. I think you can use those for cooker hoods.

Front view. Pardon the poor Photoshop skills

As we are primarily facing smoke haze which is PM2.5, the HEPA filter is of greatest interest here. The carbon filter serves more of a pre-filter function - to catch the bigger particles which would clog the HEPA really quickly. Ideally it should be replaced every three months or so if you want the activated carbon layer to function at top efficiency (to absorb stuff like odours and even some gas pollutants). But to save money and hassle, I've told my mother-in-law to just vacuum the filter and give it a good rinse when it gets clogged.

I've just ordered this from Amazon for S$369 including shipping. It's more than what I paid for this, of course, but still way cheaper than what people pay from local retailers. It covers 390 sq ft which is good for a large room or so. I guess it's a trade off between paying a large sum to get full coverage, and making some compromises (like staying in one room) to reduce cost. Can't have everything. As it's a US set, I'm going to have to grab another step down transformer for this.

Further reading

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