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How to Compare Room Air Cleaners: Look for Quality Construction

by Guest on Mar 2, 2010

Would you like to know how to expertly identify the best room air cleaners with little more than a glance?

The key is to look for high quality construction because quality construction is directly linked to air cleaning performance.

How so?

The single greatest thief of particle capturing efficiency in room air cleaners is called “bypassing”. Bypassing occurs when air fails to pass through the filter. Instead, it finds another way out of the air cleaner and returns unfiltered back into the room.

There are two basic reasons this happens: On purpose as a matter of design and “accidentally” as a result of material limitations and poor workmanship.

Whether by design or an accident of manufacturing, both are indications of poor quality room air cleaners that you should avoid.

Inefficient by Design

Why would a manufacturer deliberately design room air cleaners to allow air to pass around the filter?

In a word, “Money.”

The single most expensive component in room air cleaners is the motor. Forcing air through the filter creates backpressure and a heavy load on the motor.

Motors can overheat under this stress and fail prematurely. The expensive solution is to use a higher quality motor designed to handle the demand without failing. The cheap solution is to reduce the load by letting air bypass the filter. This bypassing air can also help cool the motor as it flows past.

While this helps their room air cleaners last a little longer it certainly doesn’t help air-cleaning performance.

Dead Giveaways of Poor Quality

While peeking inside to see if cheap motors and bypassing are part of the design may not be possible, all the evidence you need is likely right in front of you.

Examine the case. Is it made of soft plastic? If the plastic visibly deflects under thumb pressure then it will certainly deflect under air pressure generated by the motor. The gaps created will allow air to escape unfiltered.

Another drawback of soft plastic is that it can outgas volatile organic compounds. How ironic that consumers purchase room air cleaners that are themselves a source of irritating pollutants!

How well do the parts fit together? Do you see precision fitting with no gaps? Does the unit creak as you handle it? This is a telltale sign of poor fit when parts move under the moderate stress of their own weight as you shift the unit around.

How tightly are the filters mounted? Room air cleaners with filters that practically fall out may loudly proclaim, “Easy, no tools filter changes” but at what cost in lost efficiency?

Quick Tips to Quality Construction in Room Air Cleaners

So what obvious outward features should be a clue that you’ll find high quality on further inspection?

For starters, metal cases go hand in hand with the top room air cleaners. The rigidity, durability and tight fit of metal components ensure high efficiency and long life. Manufacturers that go the extra mile with all-metal cases are unlikely to skimp on the motor or rely on the “engineering cheat” of deliberate bypassing.

Plastic is an acceptable alternative but must be of the heavy, hard type commonly known as ABS plastic. It should also be thick enough to support filters under pressure. The most notable example of high quality room air cleaners employing plastic is the IQAir product line.

Another noteworthy point about hard ABS plastic is that it’s not prone to outgas VOCs the way soft plastics do.

Whether metal or plastic, all components should fit together precisely. Filter housings should be rigid and the filter element should be seated firmly without cracks or gaps.

Typically, manufacturers that build to these specifications will spare no effort pointing it out on their features list.

Would you like to know more about quality room air cleaners? Please allow me to share with you ten top air purifiers highly regarded by consumers.

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