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Air purifiers: Breathe easy at home

The basic task of an air purifier is to kill bacteria and harmful particles in the air, making the atmosphere healthy and partly risk-free.

The basic task of an air purifier is to kill bacteria and harmful particles in the air, making the atmosphere healthy and partly risk-free.

While we may not be able to control the outdoor air quality, we can surely make things better inside our homes.

We may not be smoking, or have ever been diagnosed with any lung problems, but that does not mean that we aren’t inhaling poison. Some of the world’s most polluted cities are in India, according to the World Health Organization. The air we breathe is high in the deadly PM 2.5 particulate matter, as well as airborne bacteria, pollen, viruses and particles which are responsible for various health problems, including reduced blood supply, lung inflammation, eye infections and blood clots.

“With the increase in the air pollution, it makes sense to invest in an air purifier that removes harmful elements in the air,” says Ashish Jain, senior consultant, pulmonology, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Saket, New Delhi.

But does it make sense to invest in an air purifier for home? Yes, of course. “The basic task of an air purifier is to kill bacteria and harmful particles in the air, making the atmosphere healthy and partly risk-free,” says Dr Jain. He suggests opting for a mechanical air purifier instead of a chemical purifier; the former filters air through a special screen that traps particles, including allergens like pollen, pet dander and dust mites, instead of using harmful chemicals. “They also capture irritant particles such as tobacco smoke,” adds Dr Jain. Chemical air purifiers use adsorbents to capture pollutants and non-particulates such as cooking gas, paint fumes and building material vapours. Mechanical purifiers, on the other hand, run the polluted air through a set of filters and use charged ions to capture polluting particles.

Take your pick from among these mechanical air purifiers:

Philips AC4014/00

Rs.26,095

It has a compact design—350x196x623mm dimensions. The white ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) plastic has a smooth enamel finish. Unlike many purifiers that have the control panel on the top, all the controls and indicators in the AC4014 are placed on a slick round dial at the front.

Most purifiers in this price range cover 20-40 sq. m areas, which is ideal for bedrooms and study rooms in most modern-day apartments. This 30-watt AC4014 can clean an astonishing 50 sq. m area, like a large-sized living room in a luxury penthouse or a bungalow. We tested the purifier in a 32.5 sq. m living room, and the 237 cubic metres per hour (cu.m/h) Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) cleaned up the air in less than 15 minutes. The CADR indicates the capacity of filtered air that the purifier can produce in an hour. Usually, air purifiers have multiple CADR ratings—tobacco smoke, pollen and dust numbers. But the latest trend is to have a combined rating, so that it is easier for the consumer to understand: The higher the CADR number, the better the purifier.

There are three auto shut-off timers, for 1, 4 and 8 hours. The built-in smart-air sensor constantly measures the quality of the indoor air: blue means good, purple is average and red suggests poor air quality. The fan isn’t noisy, even at the highest speed. But there is no “health air protect lock” feature, which would lock the device if any filter is clogged and the user has not replaced it.

The Philips AC4014/00 is versatile for use in big-sized rooms.

Blueair Classic

Rs.49,900 (270E); Rs.94,900 (650E)

The 270E and the 650E have a solid steel structure, a rarity in the midst of plastic-bodied purifiers. Both use the HEPASilent filter—a thick filter that can do what multiple individual filter layers do in other purifiers. The fan draws air into the purifier, and sends it through a particle-charging chamber. All airborne particles become electrically charged. It then flows through the gradient-structure filter with polypropylene fibres, where the pollutant particles are captured with opposite charge.

The 270E is meant for 22.2 sq. m room sizes, ideally bedrooms. At 263 cu.m CADR, the fan isn’t noisy even at the highest speeds, and it cleans the air in the same room quicker than similar-priced rivals, even though the CADR isn’t very high. Interestingly, it is able to maintain the quality without the fan having to kick in at the highest speed. We would recommend this for the fast-cleaning speed, and the minimalistic design that allows it to blend in easily.

The very advanced 650E is designed for massive 64 sq. m rooms, perhaps a living-cum-dining hall, for example. The device comes with casters (wheels), making it easier to shift around the room. The tiny wireless remote has magnets, and can be attached to the 650E’s metal body. It has a monster 765 cu.m CADR rating. The small LCD screen on the side shows the air-quality rating and uses emoticons for dust and smell levels— “sad” means bad, and a “smiley”, good. At the highest speed, the fan can be a bit loud. The 650E takes in air from inlets under the base, and on the sides—a matter of concern is that it could suck in dust from the floor, reducing the filter life. At the moment, it has no competition for the kind of cleaning power it has.

Sharp FP-E50E-W

Rs.32,990

Beneath the curvaceous design are a bunch of interesting features. None more so than the Plasmacluster ions—a version of this technology is used in Sharp refrigerators as well. While these Plasmacluster ions also use the standard positive and negative ions, they also pick static air, such as under the sofa or behind the TV, and clean polluting particles. This Plasmacluster feature can be turned off as well. There is also the Haze mode—highest airflow for 10 minutes, and slightly lesser airflow for the next 50 minutes. While most purifiers have three fan-speed settings, the FP-E50E-W has a five-speed setting, including one specifically for attacking pollens. No matter what the speed, the fan doesn’t make any noise. There are dual indicators for dust and odour in the room—red means bad, green means cleaner, and blue means perfectly clean.

While the active air purification will work well in a 39 sq. m room, the Plasmacluster feature works best in rooms up to 23 sq.m.

We tested this in a 32.5 sq. m room with the Plasmacluster feature active, and it worked satisfactorily—it cleaned the air in 10 minutes. It removed odour better than the rivals, and the air felt lighter. The maximum 306 cu.m CADR is quite high, considering the small size of the purifier itself.