Timberline Blog

What’s an Air Scrubber? Do I Need One?

June 27, 2022 by Timberline

There are several tasks that people typically complete when cleaning their homes or businesses: vacuuming carpets and rugs, sweeping or mopping floors, dusting, wiping countertops, etc. All of them are essential to maintaining a clean living or working area. It’s much less common for people to consider cleaning the air where they live or work.

Air purifier in modern office

That’s unfortunate since indoor air quality is vital to your health and well-being. And it surprises many people to learn that the air inside your home may be much dirtier than the outside air! That’s due, in part, to the fact that outdoor air is continually being circulated and refreshed by changing temperatures and weather patterns. Indoor air does get moved by your HVAC unit, but not as much or as often as outdoor air.

One newer device that can clean indoor air is what’s called an air scrubber. As the name implies, these systems vigorously sanitize the air, removing airborne contaminants, germs, viruses, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and odors.

The Inner Workings of Air Scrubbers

There are whole-house and portable versions of air scrubbers. They accomplish the same task, but with differences in the technology.

Whole-house air scrubbers attach to the duct work of your HVAC system. They contain titanium-oxide-coated rods surrounding an ultraviolet (UV) light. These two components combine to alter the DNA of germs, viruses, and similar particles, rendering them harmless.

Some air scrubbers create negatively charged ions that attract positively charged particles. This actually enables them to pull harmful particles off surfaces and into the device, thereby helping to decontaminate those surfaces along with your indoor air.

Portable air scrubbers use a series of three or four filters to remove particles and odors from the air in the room where you place them. The first filter removes larger particles like lint and animal hair as air passes through the device. Next comes a HEPA filter (high-efficiency particulate air filter). It removes smaller airborne particulate matter like germs, viruses, and mold spores. Finally, a carbon filter eliminates odors caused by things like mildew and smoke.

This set of filters can remove more than 99.9% of pollutants from the air.

Air Scrubber Installation and Maintenance

Timberline Mechanical can easily install a whole-house air scrubber on an existing HVAC system—or install the entire system, including the air scrubber, for that matter! Portable air scrubbers require no installation. You simply position the unit in the desired location, plug it in and turn it on.

Regarding maintenance, you must replace the UV light bulb in whole-house air scrubbers roughly every 12 months. With portable units, you must change the filters periodically following the manufacturer’s guidance.

Whole-House and Portable Air Scrubber Features

If you decide you need an air scrubber, which type is best for you? That depends on several factors, including your goals, budget, and others. But these general characteristics about the two types of systems can help inform your decision:

Whole-house air scrubbers

  • Require professional installation
  • Use UV light and titanium oxide rods
  • Attach permanently to existing HVAC system ductwork
  • Can serve approximately 3,000 sq. ft.
  • Disinfect air and many surfaces
  • Good choice for homeowners who want continuous air cleaning
  • Germicidal UV light bulbs must be replaced annually

Portable air scrubbers

  • No professional installation required
  • Uses a series of filters
  • Can be moved to desired locations
  • Can serve 500-900 sq. ft. on average
  • Disinfect air only
  • Effective for construction sites, offices, homes, and other buildings where filtration needs vary
  • HEPA filters typically must be changed annually; other filters may have to be changed more frequently, up to monthly

Air Scrubbers vs. Air Purifiers

Air scrubbers are more effective at removing particles from the air than air purifiers. Air purifiers use a set of filters similar to how portable air scrubbers work. However, purifiers aren’t designed to produce the degree of sanitization that scrubbers provide.

Air Quality Monitors

When running a whole-house or portable air scrubber, you’re likely to detect positive changes in your indoor air quality. The “cleaner” scent may be most noticeable, but many people say the air even feels different.

However, you might wonder how much cleaner the air is and want some way to objectively measure the change. You can do that with devices called air quality monitors. They sample the air and provide results on the amount of particulate matter that is circulating. Having one or more in air quality monitors in your home or business helps ensure that your air scrubber is doing its job as expected. That knowledge can be critical to people with asthma or other respiratory conditions who need the air to be as clean as possible.

Air quality monitors typically start at around $150 and go up from there, depending on their features and other factors. But if you’ve invested in an air scrubber system or your health is significantly affected by the air you breathe, that’s a small price to pay for accurate information about your indoor air quality.

Your Clean-Air Oasis

Whether you spend most of your day at home or simply want to return to fresh, sanitized air after being at work, an air scrubber is something you may want to consider for your home. The same is true of your business.

Cleaner inside air can also provide several health benefits, including a reduction in asthma and allergy symptoms.

And while having an air scrubber working in your home or business doesn’t guarantee that people won’t get sick, having fewer germs and virus particles circulating in the air certainly can’t hurt! Plus, if you become ill with a respiratory condition, the significant reduction in particulate matter in the air can reduce airway irritation, thereby reducing your symptoms.

Expert Insights on Air Scrubbers and Other HVAC Technology

Every home and business has different air filtration and sanitization needs. However, many home and business owners aren’t exactly sure what their needs are.

Our skilled technicians at Timberline Mechanical can talk with you about your specific situation and provide recommendations on how best to achieve the air quality you require. And if you need modifications or additions to your HVAC system, they can also perform that work.

Contact Timberline Mechanical at your convenience to learn more.

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