How Effective Are HVAC Air Scrubbers?
Contrary to popular belief, standard HVAC air filters aren’t really designed to protect human health. Instead, air filters are primarily intended to prevent dirt, pollen, dust, and other airborne particulates from coating internal HVAC components and affecting overall system functioning. Although investing in an HVAC air filter with a high maximum efficiency reporting value (MERV) rating can improve the indoor air quality (IAQ) in your Houston, Texas home, it isn’t guaranteed to create the cleanest and safest indoor air possible. Having an HVAC air scrubber installed is a far more effective way to limit the presence of harmful pathogens, chemical contaminants, and unpleasant odors. Read on to find out why.
What Is an HVAC Air Scrubber?
An HVAC air scrubber is an optional addition to HVAC ducting that can seamlessly support a standard or upgraded HVAC air filter. Unlike even some of the most advanced HVAC air filters, air scrubbers are capable of removing ultra-fine particulates. These are airborne contaminants that normally pass through HVAC filters and get circulated throughout general living spaces.
Although air scrubbers are often considered a second and more effective form of air filtration, they’re actually designed to do far more than simply sift contaminants out. In addition to collecting particles, these units kill harmful microorganisms on contact. They also release ionized oxidizers that essentially “scrub” the indoor air to leave it fresh-smelling. Their multi-stage filtration and purification process can significantly improve your home’s IAQ. This is especially true if your household has multiple risk factors for unhealthy air quality levels.
Portable Air Scrubbers vs. Integrated Air Scrubbers
Air scrubbers are relatively new additions to residential HVAC systems. However, these units have been around for quite some time. They’ve long been used in laboratories, healthcare settings, manufacturing facilities, and countless other environments that consistently have high levels of indoor contaminants or that require a higher quality of indoor air.
If you’ve had a major flood event in your home before, your water damage restoration company may have brought a portable air scrubber in. Portable air scrubbers clean the air independently of HVAC systems and can run whether or not the heater or air conditioner is. Portable air scrubbers are incredibly handy in mold-infested environments in which HVAC use is temporarily unsafe.
In general residential applications, integrated air scrubbers are used. An integrated air scrubber is what you might have installed if you and other building residents are constantly dealing with coughing, wheezing, watery eyes, or other signs of a low IAQ. These units are placed directly in HVAC ducting by qualified technicians and then calibrated to constantly purify the indoor air without affecting air pressure levels in the ductwork, and without negatively impacting the efficiency and overall performance of heating and cooling systems.
How Do HVAC Air Scrubbers Work?
Integrated air scrubbers are designed to draw air from the building interior. This air is then passed through a network of filters. This network includes:
- Pre-filters that capture large-sized particulates
- Optional carbon filters that capture gas and carbon molecules
- Primary filters that remove particulates as small as 0.3 microns
The primary filter in an HVAC air scrubber is capable of capturing 99.7 percent of all airborne particulates measuring 0.3 microns or greater. Air scrubbers also have PCO photocatalytic purifiers among their components that zap living microorganisms. These purifiers eradicate illness-causing pathogens on contact. For further purification, the ionized oxidizers that air scrubbers release attract positive ions such as smoke, smoke odors, pet odors, cooking odors, and more to leave the living environment smelling fresher.
The actions of air scrubbers are driven blowers. These blowers draw unfiltered air in and exhaust it after it’s been cleaned. It is this component that must be carefully calibrated to match the operations of all other HVAC features. Too much power can decrease the efficiency of air HVAC system and too little can render the filtration processes of the air scrubber ineffective.
Air Scrubbers Can Extend the Lifespan of Your Heating and Cooling Equipment
Just as HVAC air filters are designed to protect heating and cooling equipment from heavy accumulations of airborne particulates, air scrubbers do the same. Although most consumers purchase and install air scrubbers with the sole intention of improving their IAQs and resident health, these additions are known for benefiting HVAC systems too. If you install an air scrubber early in your heater or air conditioner’s lifespan, you’ll likely find that this unit lasts longer than initially anticipated. Having yet another way to remove airborne particulates, and more of them, is also a great way to limit the amount of maintenance work that you have to do. Air scrubbers can reduce the need for rapid HVAC air filter changes and prevent build-ups of dirt and other debris on HVAC air vents and grilles, and in HVAC ducting.
When Is Having an HVAC Air Scrubber Installed a Good Idea?
Air scrubbers are frequently in used in medical, commercial, and industrial environments where multiple or serious indoor air hazards exist. However, they are also recommended for use in homes in which one or more residents suffer from:
- Congestive heart failure
- Chronic pulmonary obstructive disease (COPD)
These HVAC system additions can be beneficial for anyone with a chronic respiratory health issue whose symptoms are exacerbated by either airborne contaminants or strong, pervasive odors. For instance, even when smoke is not present in the home, intense smoke odors may be a trigger for allergic reactions or asthmatic episodes if left unmitigated.
However, even if no one in your home has been diagnosed with a chronic respiratory illness, having an air scrubber installed can still be a good idea if:
- You have multiple indoor pets
- Your home is near a busy freeway or road
- You live on or near unlandscaped grounds
- Solvents or other harmful chemicals are regularly disbursed in or near your home
- Household residents are regularly exposed to communicable illnesses
Air scrubbers have been shown to be effective at eradicating:
- E. coli
- Influenza virus
- Hepatitis A
- C. albicans
These units can also limit the spread of common colds. In instances in which air scrubbers do not prevent illness entirely, they’ve had marked success in commercial and industrial applications in reducing sick days and limiting outbreaks.
Air Scrubbers and Mold
Given their ability to kill mold spores, integrated air scrubbers are also considered a solid preventative measure against mold infestation. However, air scrubbers are not an effective standalone solution for existing and widespread mold problems. If mold issues already exist in a home, it’s important to first identify and correct their underlying cause. In most instances, this means taking steps to regulate excessively high indoor humidity.
At Custom Comfort Air, indoor air quality ranks among our top priorities. We know that having a high IAQ is important for ensuring the health of your loved ones and maintaining a comfortable, enjoyable living environment. That’s why in addition to cooling and heating system installation, maintenance, and repairs, we also provide air purification and air filtration services. To find out more about air scrubbers or to have one installed in your Houston home, call us today.