It’s a seemingly simple question: Why is air purification so important? The answer, unsurprisingly, may be a bit more complex.
“It affects our health and environments while at home, work, school, day care, the hospital, and even when vacationing, as we spend 90 percent of our time indoors,” said Ron Fink, CEO and president of RGF Environmental Group Inc.
Patrick Holleran, president of Field Controls LLC, said air purification is essential as homes are being built tighter, which reduces the number of air changes a home endures.
“Without purification, germs, bacteria, viruses, mold, and fungi multiply and can impact the health of the home and those who live in it,” he said.
“The obvious answer is: Cleaner air is better than dirtier air,” said Larry Sunshine, principal and vice president of sales, Plasma Air Intl. “The not-so-obvious answer is that improving the quality of the air we breathe increases health and well-being. In a business setting, increasing worker productivity and reducing sick days have been studied by the Harvard School of Public Health and result in billions of dollars per year in increased productivity for our economy.”
DEFINING AIR PURIFICATION
“Air purification can be defined in many ways, depending on the application, but a general definition can be the removal or reduction of contaminants in the air we breathe,” said Sunshine.
Manufacturers have slightly differing viewpoints on the exact definition of air purification, but all pointed to its inherent advantages.
Fink said air purification consists of three different categories: Microbial (bacteria, viruses, mold) gases and odors, and particulates (dust, dander, pollen, and smoke).
“These contaminants can be found in the air and on surfaces,” he said. “The traditional method of air purification has been filtration for particulates. Modern air purification systems cover microbial, gases, and odors and can encourage particulates to clump together and be easily captured by the filter.”
Holleran echoed Sunshine’s sentiment that air purification is first and foremost the removal or destruction of organic invaders — germs, bacteria, viruses, airborne mold, fungi, smoke, odors, and volatile organic compound (VOCs).
“Another aspect often overlooked is the purification of the air conditioning coil,” he said. “The coil and drain pan are breeding grounds for mold that can affect the quality as well as the performance of the HVAC system. To purify the air, we employ high-output UV-C germicidal lamps and, in addition to our patented PRO-Cell technology, we magnify the process. The UV lamps neutralize airborne microbes and PRO-Cell technology deconstructs airborne toxic chemical bonds resulting in complete purification performance.”
Air purification is a highly competitive, emerging space in HVAC, and manufacturers are constantly trying to innovate and stay ahead of the curve in relation to the needs of customers.
“Plasma Air recently developed a software package that supports the use of ASHRAE’s IAQ Procedure,” said Sunshine. “This procedure provides building engineers and owners the ability to reduce the amount of outside air they are required to bring in to the building. This saves money by reducing equipment and ongoing energy usage costs while improving air quality in the space. Incidentally, Plasma Air won the 2016 Innovation Award in the software category at the AHR Expo in Orlando.”
Coway USA Inc. developed the Airmega, a smart air purifier that allows users to observe pollution levels, gather a collection of pollution levels from a 24 hour cross-section to a year’s worth of data, and monitor current filter consumption levels in a home.
“As the issue of air quality becomes more apparent in the U.S., we took a look at the marketplace and identified a gap,” said Ryan Lee, manager, North America, Coway. “We wanted to create a product that doesn’t just monitor the air, but also purifies it by automatically adjusting its settings based on real-time conditions. Something as simple as improving IAQ can vastly improve an individual’s quality of life, but it’s often a forgotten aspect of a happy home.”
According to Holleran, Field Controls is constantly working to develop new solutions to the IAQ problem.
“Our PRO-Cell technology remediates toxic off-gassing from smoke, odors, and VOCs,” he said. “We offer a wide selection of UV-C solutions with models for virtually every application. We are now introducing a UV model that can be easily upgraded to include PRO-Cell technology, giving the contractor ultimate flexibility and options.”
AN EXPANDING MARKET
As consumers become more aware of the harmful effects of polluted air, the market for air purification products is going to grow, and manufacturers are excited about the future.
“Consumers are demanding cleaner, purer air,” said Holleran. “ASHRAE is also in the process of creating more stringent standards for IAQ, in general.”
Sunshine said, 20 years ago, the market for air purification products was almost nonexistent. Clearly, that market has grown significantly. A report from Navigant Research stated that worldwide revenue from IAQ systems will grow from $3.3 billion in 2014 to nearly $5.6 billion by 2020.
“At [the 2016] AHR Expo in Orlando, there were hundreds of companies claiming to be in the air purification space,” said Sunshine. “As society becomes more aware of the polluted air we breathe, the requirement to provide air purification will gain more importance.”
Fink mentioned that poor IAQ has become a huge issue in foreign countries, such as Taiwan, China, and India, and consumer awareness is increasing the need for air purification systems in these markets.
“Buildings — especially air-tight buildings — have more off-gassing and IAQ issues. Many of the new building products used in homes, offices, and hospitals use more artificial plastic and polymers, which cause more off-gassing and the need for air purification to help control these gases.”
Publication date: 2/29/2016