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Clearing the air: 2020 air filter buying guide

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Clearing the air: 2020 air filter buying guide

Clearing the air: 2020 air filter buying guide

Whether you're at home or in the thick of it, the Getprice team has the info you need to make an informed decision when buying air filtering products in 2020

It’s been almost 5 months since the disastrous 2019/2020 bushfire season started. Mega blazes have continued to roar across NSW, Victoria and Queensland, scorching through thousands of hectares of bush, destroying hundreds of homes and, at the time of writing, decimating a staggering estimate of half a million native and domesticated animals.

Australians who aren't in the direct path of the fires can also be affected too,  simply due to the sheer amount of smoke and particulate matter the fires create. 

 

Smoke in the air

As a result of the continuous burning, hazardous smoke has been lingering in many highly-populated areas for months. From Sydney to Melbourne and even across the pond in New Zealand, many people have been breathing in a smog that seems to linger unendingly.

That smoke isn’t just a visual inconvenience either – it can have very negative effects on human health, both in the short and long term.

What makes smoke dangerous?

According to Associate Professor Fay Johnston of the Menzies Institute for Medical Research (who was interviewed by the Sydney Morning Herald), the main factor that can cause harm is the presence of minuscule solid particles within the smoke.

These small particles are classed as ‘PM2.5’ – which means particulate matter that’s less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter.

These tiny particles are treated as dangerous foreign objects by your body’s immune system, and can trigger defensive responses such as inflammation – think itchy eyes and a sore throat. What’s most perilous about these particles, however, is that they’re so small they can travel deep into the lungs and enter the bloodstream.

According to Professor Johnston, healthy individuals shouldn’t experience any major health problems due to the smoke or any minor irritation that it may cause – they should be able to recover from exposure fairly quickly.

However, individuals that have underlying respiratory or circulatory concerns, such as asthma, emphysema or heart conditions, are at an increased risk of developing complications. 

In a recent study, British healthcare outfit BMJ also reported that high levels of PM2.5 have been linked to rises in hospitalisations for illnesses not previously associated with the particulate, such as septicaemia, kidney failure, UTIs and skin and subcutaneous tissue infections.

 

How to keep safe

There are a few ways you can use to ensure you and your family remain as safe as  possible – and breathe in as little hazardous air as possible.

1. P2/N95 face masks 

P2/N95 face masks (also referred to as P2/N95 respirators) are able to filter out tiny particles from the air and will therefore reduce your susceptibility to bushfire smoke. Standard paper or cloth face masks are ineffective – only P2/N95 models are able to filter out PM2.5 particles that are generated by bush fires.

The masks work by only allowing air to pass through the filter situated on the mask, removing the microscopic particles produced by the bushfire smoke, which provides you with clean air. In order for the mask to be effective, the mask needs to be secure over the bridge of your nose and mouth, with no gaps. 

If you’re prone to respiratory distress and frequently have to venture outside on days where the  air quality is poor to hazardous, it could be a worthwhile investment to purchase one of these face masks – and for anyone with a pre-existing health condition that could be triggered by the smoke, they’re a no-brainer.

Note that you can check the air quality readings via the NSW Government's website, which provides an hourly-updated score and historical readings for many regions, which are measured using the following scale that tops out at 250:   

Air Quality Index from the NSW Department of Planning, Industry & Environment

Image: Copyright State of New South Wales (Department of Planning, Industry and Environment) (CC BY 4.0)

 

2. Air purifiers 

For protection at home, the best option is an air purifier. Air purifiers work by removing contaminants from the air to improve overall indoor air quality. Dust, odors, and particles from bushfire smoke are all pollutants that a good-quality air purifier can filter out, and they’re a great option for allergy or asthma sufferers to ‘smoke proof’ their home. 

What should you look for in an air purifier?

CADR rating 

Clean air delivery rate (CADR) is an industry standard measure of the amount of air that a purifier can clean which is measured in ‘cubic metres per hour’. A higher result means the machine will be able to filter air for a larger space.

It's useful to note that air purifiers are tested by being placed in the middle of a small room (roughly the size of a single-occupant office) and run on the highest speed settings for roughly 20 minutes. Given most people won’t be place their air purifier in the middle of the room and running it on full blast – so that those numbers with a grain of salt 

CADR ratings only show the cleaning capacity, too, not the cleaning capability. For that, you’ll need to check the filtration specs.

Filtration

Filtration is an important factor to take into consideration when purchasing an air purifier, as  not all filters are the same – and moreover, some types of filter don’t look particularly good under scientific scrutiny. 

Filters are generally made of fibrous or porous material that’s designed to capture particulates (such as dust and pollen) from the air. Different materials are able to catch different kinds of particulates. Some filters are also able to remove odors and gaseous pollutants. 

Types of filtration:

HEPA filtration

HEPA filtration is the most important aspect to look at when purchasing an air purifier.

HEPA stands for ‘high-efficiency particulate air’ and is a highly regarded – and effectual – type of filter. This filter can trap an array of pollutants such as 99.95% of dust, smoke, mould and other particles in the air, down to a minute 0.3 microns in size.

Carbon or charcoal

Good for trapping odours and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as formaldehyde.

Ozone

Ozone is sometimes generated by air filters (often as a byproduct) and this gas can be touted by some manufacturers as a good way of removing odours. However, ozone is the main component in ground-level smog pollution, and in higher concentrations or with prolonged exposure it can also be extremely bad for your health. Whilst it may be good at removing mildew, it can also irritate skin, eyes, lungs, and other exposed areas and can lead to long lasting negative health effects. We’d therefore recommend avoiding these models.

Ionic or ionisation

This type of filtration can be effective at screening out microscopic and fine particles (such as dust and smoke), however it can also have the same negative effects as ozone, so as above, it’s recommended that these models be avoided.

Ultraviolet (UV) sterilisation

UV light sterilisation is a feature that sounds good on paper, but often doesn’t deliver the desired results. . The main problem here is speed: at the rate most filters operateUV light doesn’t  have sufficient time to kill the bacteria in the air before it passess through. If you’re a germaphobe, we would recommend utilising another method to achieve your desired level of spotlessness.

Filter cleaning and replacement

When purchasing an air purifier, it's important to factor in cleaning and replacement of the machines filters. Depending on the type of air purifier, you may need to replace multiple filters at regular intervals. HEPA filters are generally not washable and therefore require replacement when they wear out.

If you’re someone that will be using their air purifier frequently, it may be wise to purchase an air purifier with filters that are reusable.

Most quality air purifiers will have an inbuilt indicator to warn you about when the filter requires replacement or cleaning. If this is not the case, most instructions will state an interval after which the filters should be changed/cleaned – usually on a 3-6 month basis. The actual time does all depend on the frequency which you use your appliance, of course. 

Additional features

Based on your own needs, some other features you may wish to consider are:

Sensors and timers 

Sensors are able to monitor the air for pollutants and notify you accordingly. Some devices can be set to activate themselves once particles are detected and reach a certain level. 

Timers are a great alternative to sensors if you are going for a more budget friendly air purifier. Both are handy options, especially if you wish to consistently maintain your air quality. 

Fan

A good air purifier will have a range of fan speeds. The fan in an air purifier controls the air flow, so it will give you greater control over how fast (or slow) you want the purifier to work. Faster speeds also generally mean more noise – so if you were leaving an air purifier on overnight, then you’d likely want to use a lower fan speed for a peaceful night’s rest.

Remote controls and apps

Remote controls are handy for ease of use and convenience. Some higher-end air purifiers are even able to connect to your home Wi-Fi network and be controlled through an app on your smartphone.

 

3. Vacuums

On a daily basis, your home is exposed to food particles, dust, pet dandruff, soil and other microscopic particles. This is why it is a good idea to regularly vacuum thoroughly to keep unwanted organisms at bay and your home smelling fresh. 

HEPA vacuums generally capture 99.97% of allergens (and any particles down to 0.3 microns), including dust mite faeces, pollen and tobacco particles.

In saying this, for the vacuuming to genuinely be effective against unwanted particles, you will need to vacuum not only the floor, but also furniture and drapes as well. 

Non-HEPA vacuums are said to capture 96% of household allergens however, that is no guarantee as HEPA approved vacuums need to go through testing to be certified hypoallergenic vacuum cleaners. In addition to this, if you suffer from a breathing condition, a 3.97% deduction of allergens would make a big difference.

To make things easier, we’ve put together a list of products that can help you breathe in clean and crisp air, no matter where you are.


Xiaomi Smartmi Anti-Pollution Air Sport Face Mask

RRP: $47.54 | Official Xiaomi website

The Xiaomi Smartmi Anti-Pollution Face Mask allows you to breath easy. The built-in filtering protects you from dust, PM2.5 particles, haze, pollen grain and automobile exhaust. Coming in a pack of three, it’s adjustable and skin friendly, with soft memory foam for comfort. The Xiaomi Smartmi mask provides an affordable method of protecting yourself from any potential harm that smoke or pollution may cause.

Click here to find the best Xiaomi Smartmu Anti-Pollution Face Mask prices in Australia


Dyson Pure Hot+Cool Purifying Fan Heater 

RRP: $899 | Official Dyson product page

The Dyson Pure Hot+Cool Purifying Fan Heater is an all-in-one heater, cooler and air purifier. The device is remote controllable and has Wi-Fi connectivity that integrates with a smartphone app. This newly-upgraded model adds a 360-degree Glass HEPA filtration system, which Dyson claims can trap 99.95% of microscopic particles in the air. The same feature also eliminates many odours, domestic fumes and gases. Note, however, that the filters are not reusable and need to be changed every 4000 hours – something you can track via a dedicated Dyson app.

Click here to find the best Dyson Pure Hot+Cold Purifying Fan Heater prices in Australia


Dyson V11 Absolute

RRP: $1,199.00 | Official Dyson product page

The Dyson V11 Absolute is a beast of a vacuum cleaner. This flagship cordless vacuum is sleek and powerful, lasts up to 60 minutes, has a very powerful suction when on high speed. It is inbuilt with Dyson’s legendary HEPA filter that can capture 99.97% of allergens (as small as 0.3 microns) in the air. This vacuum is also intelligent; it’s capable of detecting altitude, air pressure and temperature and using these to regulate itself for improved cleaning effectiveness. 

Click here to find the best Dyson V11 Absolute prices in Australia


Breville The Smart Air Purifier (LAP300WHT)

RRP: $329.95  | Official Breville product page

The Breville Air Purifier is one of the latest products from the Australian appliance maker. This particular model is meant for medium sized rooms (those up 40 metres squared), but it’s also available in both a larger and small size. What makes it ‘smart’ is its capacity to automatically detect air quality and adjust itself accordingly to produce the best results. With a true HEPA filter, it can capture 99.97% of particles (as small as 0.3 microns), along with dust and smoke, and can eliminate general odours via a built-in carbon filter. 

Click here to find the best Breville The Smart Air Purifier prices in Australia

NOTE: Due to the recent bushfire crisis, this air purifier (and many other popular models) are in short supply across Australia. Additional stock is reportedly due at most retailers between mid to late February. Please confirm with your local store on availability and time frame.


Ionmax ION401 Ionic Air Purifier

RRP: $369 | Official Ionmax product page

The Ionmax Ionic Air Purifier has a five step filtration process, which includes passing the air through a HEPA and a carbon filter, as well as a UV lamp. The device also claims to release negative ions into the air; these ions then cling to particles, making them fall to the ground. This process also freshens the air, recreating a clean nature-like smell. It’s suitable for use in medium to large rooms (up to 60 square metres) and includes a wireless remote control. As is often the case, the HEPA filter here is not reusable, and will require replacement when indicated on the machine.

Click here to find the best Ionmax ION401 Ionic Air Purifier prices in Australia

NOTE: Due to the recent bushfire crisis, this air purifier (and many other popular models) are in short supply across Australia. Additional stock is reportedly due at most retailers between mid to late February. Please confirm with your local store on availability and time frame.