healthy home

The Ultimate Guide To Air Purifiers

As a chemically sensitive person and a nontoxic home enthusiast, one of the questions I am asked most frequently is...

"What's the best air purifier?"

There are three that I quickly rattle of the top of my head to choose from. These are the best in the business and recommended by the expert building biologists and air inspectors that I know. I have actually owned or used all of them and am going to break them down for you. 

But real quick, you might be wondering if you need an air purifier. I tend to say yes, across the board, that just about everyone could benefit from an air purifier. Of the higher end healthy home upgrades, this one is my top essential. Why? 

Indoor air is actually more polluted than outdoor air.

If you have any allergy symptoms at all, if you live in new construction or a recently remodeled home or in an older home, near agriculture or in a city you could certainly benefit from cleaner indoor air. Want to know more about this? Check out my podcast with my Building Biologist, Martine Davis here.

For the type of air purification I need to control chemical fumes in my home and workplaces, I recommend those with carbon filters that soak up the chemical gasses and fumes. If there is an option for a HEPA filter in addition to the carbon, that's even better. However, I do not recommend HEPA filters as the sole filter. The carbon is what will control the chemical gas levels in the indoor air. 

On to my top picks for purifiers. 

Foust Co.

I have the Foust Co 160R2 Room Air Purifier. It is made of all metal and has 7 pounds of activated carbon filter that targets chemicals, fumes, odors, gasses, and dust. It has an option to add on a HEPA filter as well. I change my filter in this unit 1-2 times per year. It is best used for about 500 sq. ft. of space. It's in the mid range at $451 for the base unit. 

PROS: Foust Co. has amazing customer service and insanely fast shipping. The replacement filter does not cost an arm and a leg ($90-ish). They also have different carbon blends to meet your homes needs. 

CONS: This unit has a very industrial look to it and will not blend in with your decor. It also has one speed which is definitely of a noticeable, but not too loud, noise level. If this annoys you, you may want to consider a model with adjustable speed. The noise makes for great "white noise" in the bedroom if you like that for sleeping. The air comes out one large opening which I find to be kind of gusty. 

 

Austin Air

The Austin HealthMate Standard is a popular choice in the air purifier world. This unit retails for $539 and covers about 1500 sq. ft. It has a pre-filter for dust and pet dander, a second medium sized particle pre-filter for pollen and spores and 15 pounds of carbon to control chemicals, gasses and odors. This unit also comes with a medical grade HEPA filter. 

PROS: This unit is compact, particularly if you size down to the junior model. I think the both the standard and junior models are truly the most bang-for-your-air-purifier-buck if you only need coverage in a smaller space like a bedroom. If you only want an air purifier for a bedroom, I would go for their junior model. The models have three speeds and therefore three volumes. The stainless steel case has holes all the way around so the filtered air comes out evenly. It also has a number of filters for all types of air pollutants and it has wheels to make for easy movement.  In addition to the junior models and the standard, Austin also makes a heavier duty model for those with chemical sensitivity. If you have chemical sensitivity, please consider jumping up to the HealthMate Plus. The filters also last for FIVE years under "normal" use. I would personally change them more frequently, though. 

CONS: Honestly, I can't think of many. Austin is a great bang for your buck and the perfect first air purifier. If you are a more sensitive individual and have a larger budget, I would continue down the list to filters with more customization and ability to intake larger spaces.  The replacement filters are a little pricier (about $200, depending on model), but they do last for FIVE years. 

 

AirPura

The AirPura V600 was my first heavy duty air purifier that I purchased when I lived in my new home that was off gassing all sorts of toxic new construction gas. It really made a difference in the way my home smelled, my physical reactions and my quality of life. AirPura offers a number of carbon filter models and choices. Most of the filters are interchangeable if you purchase one unit and say move to a different home with different filtration needs down the line. You would most likely (there are a few exceptions) be able to just purchase a different replacement filter, rather than a whole new unit. The V600 is really made for VOC's and for people with chemical sensitivity.  Most of their units house an 18 pound carbon filter and a HEPA filter, which cover 2000 sq. ft. of space. 

PROS: There are a lot of options including filters for smoke, VOC's, UV light and more. (I personally do not recommend UV light as most UV lightbulbs emit ozone. There are some very high quality UV light bulbs that are rumored to not emit ozone if you really want this feature - but do extensive research if you do not want ozone in this case.)  This includes a cleanable pre filter, HEPA filter and carbon block in a stainless steel cylindrical case on wheels. It has a dial to change the speed so you can have it really quiet or quite loud if you need to get a chemical smell out of a room really quickly on high. The carbon filters are good for two years and the HEPA are good for five.. This unit also emits air in an even 360 fashion. 

CONS: Pricey. These babies will run you about $800. The replacement filters are about $250 and last two years. These are shorter, but a bit wide, so depending on your space they may not fit. 

 

My thoughts

For the average chemically conscious gal to the moderately sensitive gal, my choice would be the Austin. It's a great quality for the price and will last you a long time. There are several models and prices to choose from. 

For the moderate to extremely chemically sensitive gal, I would recommend the AirPura V600. Some websites describe this as a "pet" filter, but if you contact the company directly they will assure that the model V stands for VOC, as it filters nearly 400 different kinds of them! In the US, I found the easiest place to purchase from is Allergy Buyer's Club. 

Did you notice that I did not list mold as something air purifiers fix? That's because they don't. Many people ask me what filter to get for mold. While air purifiers can get out some of the toxic gas that mold emits, it will not fix the problem. For more information on this, be sure to listen to this podcast.

Lastly, I do not recommend that you purchase a $50 HEPA filter housed in plastic. This will probably not help and could actually release the chemicals the plastic off gasses. I also do not recommend UV light filters. As previously mentioned, UV light bulbs typically release ozone. You may also notice that I did not recommend any ozone machines in this list. I find these are kind of fading out of favor in the marketplace and for good reason. I have also used these and was once a die hard ozone fan. I no longer hold this view point. Ozone can be extremely harmful to the body when overused. I no longer endorse this type of filter. I believe that ozone has its place, but not in an air filter that runs 24/7. 

I truly believe that for the chemically sensitive, the carbon block is where it's at. 

Hidden Dangers in Your Home

You already know about the dangerous chemicals that you can bring in your home in the form of cleaners, air fresheners, candles and more. If not, you can learn about that here

BUT! Did you know that your house itself can be extremely harmful to your health? Most building materials contain Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC's), which wreak havoc on our insides as the materials "off-gas" these chemicals for up to a decade! VOC's can cause nose, throat, or lung irritation, and can cause damage to the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system. I know this first hand. My health has forever been changed (and not for the better) after moving into a home full of toxic, new construction. You can find out more about that here, if you are interested. 

 If you live in a newer home, or have remodeled, you are constantly breathing in these dangerous chemicals. There are healthier ways to remodel or to resolve the chemical off-gassing.  So, I'm here to help and give real life solutions that I used in my own home. 

Let's Break It Down. 

1. Carpet. It can take carpet up to 10 years to completely off-gas. Not only the carpet you step on, your babies crawl on (think how close their little faces are to those chemicals!), but also the carpet padding and the carpet adhesive are full of formaldyhyde, toluene, benzene, xylene and styrene. 

 

Solution: Replace the carpet with hard wood (do not let them varnish it inside your house), or tile, NOT pressed wood. Or consider trying the Safe Coat Carpet Sealing System if you cannot replace the flooring.  I have used the Safe Coat Carpet Sealing System before. It does work, but it isn't a dramatic improvement. However, if you do not have the option to replace carpet, this might be a great solution for you. 

 

2. DryWall. Drywall has its own problems. It has a very unique odor, and is often chemically treated to resist mold growth with harmful chemicals. It also off-gasses acetaldehyde and sulphurous gas. 

 

Solution: Seal any drywall with the Safe Coat Non-Toxic Sealants that is exposed - Especially in your basement. 

 

3. Pressed Wood. Those beautiful cabinets in your new apartment? Yep, those are pressed wood. Pressed wood is made by taking wood or other substances like cardboard to create a single sheet of a material that looks like wood but is held together with chemicals. It's like the home version of a McDonald's chicken nugget. Guess what, these also off-gas VOC's.  

 

Solution: Seal these babies. If these are your floors - you may also want to consider replacing them.  The beams that make up your basement ceiling are often made of pressed wood, as well. 

 

4. Sealants and Varnish. Your floors, the cabinets, the counter tops all have some sort of glue, seal or varnish holding them together or giving them the finish you see. 

 

Solution: Choose non-toxic, no VOC versions, if you have the option. Again, Safe Coat has a lot of these products. 

 

5. Paint. Some Paints Off Gas for 7 years! 

 

Solution: Paint over the paint with a new paint that will seal in those chemicals. I like Sherwin Wiliams No VOC Per Mar line. 

 

6. Air Ducts. If you've ever had your air ducts cleaned chances are you were given before and after pictures. They were totally gross, right? Dust, pollen and yes, even garbage can be housed in the ducts. Combine that with a mold ridden heating & cooling system- this can spell disaster. 

Before we move on from chemicals, it is important to consider purchasing one or more air purifiers that will help to remove the toxic gasses from your home. I like Austin, Foust Co.IQ Air, and Air Pura brands. 

 

7. Mycotoxins. Mycotoxins are biotoxins that molds produce. Biotxoins are dangerous toxins created by living things. Let me guess, you've assumed that since you can't see any mold in your home that you don't have any. Mold can be invisible. Also, simply "killing" the mold isn't good enough. Even dead mold can produce mycotoxins. 

 

You can help to prevent mold growth by always keeping your home's temperature and humidity controlled. Run your air in the summer and use a de-humidifier. Clean up any leaks IMMEDIATELY. Mold can grow in less than 24 hours on a damp surface.

Let in light! Open those windows! Mold loves a dark room. If you suspect you have a mold issue, hire a reputable air inspector and remediator. Mold must be removed very properly to ensure it is not spread throughout the rest of your home. If you have mold for sure and plan to move due to it, please read Mold Warriors to help you determine which items you own are safe to be cleaned and can be brought into a fresh environment without contaminating your new home with mycotixins. Those buggers will live on anything porous- they love paper products like books.

To learn more about mold and mold illness, click here. 

 For any building or remodeling needs, I suggest checking out Green Building Supply and The Green Design Center. Both of these companies have painstakingly combing through which products are hype and which are truly safe to use. They have an amazing selection of flooring and materials. They are both willing to give helpful guidance over the phone, too. 

This post is not sponsored by Safe Coat. Their unique, safe home products (especially formulated for the chemically sensitive person) have helped me immensely.  Best of luck on your healthy, home journey! Feel free to contact me at any time if this is something you are struggling with.