This article discusses whether you can change the air filter of an air purifying device yourself, and under what circumstances should one refrain from doing so.
Can I change my air filter myself?
Yes, you can change the air filter of your air purifying filters yourself. However, there are certain aspects as well as precautions that one should know about before attempting the task.
What are air filters?
Air filters refer to the equipment that are responsible for keeping dust and other undesirable substances that can be present in the indoor ambient air.
Air filters are the structural and the functional unit of an air purifying device. They come in many forms, as different filters cater for different types of pollutants.
The air purifiers that people use in homes and offices, as well as the air scrubbers, come with a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter.
There are also other types of air filters, such as the activated carbon filter, which helps to capture gaseous pollutants as well as odors from the indoor air.
Why do we need an air purifier?
Many people wonder whether an air purifier is the right investment. However, in the current scenario, where air pollution is prevalent and worsening with each passing day, especially in urban areas, air purifiers are very vital.
Air pollution is the presence of undesired substances in the form of solids, liquids, or gases, which are suspended in the ambient air, and can adversely affect human health.
These pollutants can be especially harmful if present in the indoor environment. The average human being spends more than 90% of their total lives in an indoor environment, with more than 80% of it inside a building.
Indoor air, just like outdoor air, is susceptible to pollution. Indoor air can get polluted when pollution from outdoors infiltrates through openings such as doors, windows, cracks, seeps, etc.
Indoor air can also get polluted from indoor sources, which can arise from things such as furniture, household items, solvents and dyes, spores from mold and mildew, combustion of fuels and firewood, and hobbies/activities such as smoking, etc.
The pollutants generated from these sources have been shown to adversely affect human health, and continuous exposure to elevated concentrations can cause many serious issues, such as cancers, respiratory and cardiovascular disorders, and even death.
This is where air purifiers come in. They help to get rid of the pollutants in the indoor air, thereby keeping it clean and fit to breathe.
What are air filters efficient against?
Air filters, especially the HEPA filters, are mainly designed to remove particulate matter, or simply PM, from the indoor air.
PM refers to particles, either solid or liquid, that are mixed and suspended in the air. They are a major part of air pollutants, and have a variety of natural and anthropogenic sources. They usually range between 2.5 to 10 microns (PM10 and PM2.5).
Particulate matter is a major contributor to both long term and short term illnesses. There are many well-documented studies that have shown progression of illnesses with an increase in the concentration of PM.
PM2.5 is of a major concern, as it can easily enter the lower respiratory tract, therefore causing more serious cardiac and respiratory issues.
Moreover, PM is also linked to premature deaths of people who had pre-existing health issues such as people with cardiac or respiratory issues, obesity, asthma, and so on.
They can also act as adsorbents, allowing various elements to be stuck to their surface, which in turn can prove more harmful when inhaled.
Various sources of PM in a house
In a household, PM can arise from many sources. Some of these sources include:
- Spores from mold
- Allergens, such as animal dander, pollens
Let us discuss these in more detail.
Spores from mold
Mold refers to the growth of fungal material on items such as walls, clothes, etc., in places where temperature is low and the relative humidity is high.
These are commonly seen in areas of the house where seepage occurs, or rooms such as the kitchen, bathroom, or the basement, where the ideal conditions exist.
The spores generated from mold have adverse effects on human health, and certain mold species can even prove to be fatal.
Air filters help to remove the spores from the ambient air. Although care should be taken as to not run the device in high humidity levels, as its efficacy gets reduced considerably.
Therefore, it is ideal to pair your air purifier with an air dehumidifier, which first brings down the humidity levels of the room, thereby allowing the air purifier to work efficiently.
Asbestos is a mineral fiber that was used earlier in a variety of construction materials since it acts as an insulator and a flame retardant.
Although it is now banned in 55 countries, it is still used in major countries such as China, India, Russia, Canada, and the United States, although the EPA and CPSC have banned several asbestos products.
Asbestos is purely an indoor air pollutant, as it concentrates in the indoor air due to activities such as remodelling, cutting, and sanding of asbestos-bearing products.
Elevated concentrations of respirable asbestos particles can cause lung cancer, mesothelioma (a cancer of abdominal and respiratory linings), and asbestosis (irreversible scarring of lung tissues).
Air purifiers can pick up asbestos particles from the indoor air, although it would be better to eliminate asbestos particles by repairing old asbestos-bearing materials by sealing or by covering them.
Allergens include substances such as dander from animals, pollen, and dust mites, which cause irritation to the respiratory system, with symptoms such as running nose, irritation in throat and nose, watery eyes, and so on.
These particles are comparatively larger than other types of PM pollutants present in the air, hence get easily entrapped by an air purifier.
Smoke is one of the worst pollutants, in both outdoor air as well as indoor air. It is generated by combustion of fuels such as gasoline, firewood, coal, dried dung, and from other sources such as cigarettes.
Various studies have shown how exposure to smoke can adversely affect human health, and can even cause illnesses related to the cardiovascular and respiratory system.
Cigarette smoke is the most toxic pollutant. Studies have shown that active smokers, as well as people that are subjected to secondhand smoke, are at a much higher risk of developing cancer of the mouth, throat, or lungs.
Smoke particularly affects certain groups of individuals, such as children and older people, people that use solid fuels for their energy needs, and so on. In children, there are higher reported cases of hospitalisation due to illnesses caused from exposure to smoke.
Furthermore, it was also shown that respiratory illnesses such as asthma, emphysema, COPD, etc., were reported in much higher numbers for smokers, secondhand smokers, and people subjected to combustion-based pollution.
Air purifiers serve an important purpose of getting rid of the smoke particles present in the indoor air, and along with it, get rid of the odor associated with smoke.
Things to consider while deciding to change the air filter
It is important to know that in certain situations, it would be safer to let a technician change the air filters. This applies for scenarios when the air filter hasn’t been changed for long, or if the filter itself is delicate, such as the activated carbon filters.
Furthermore, some manufacturers claim that HEPA filters can be washed by vacuuming or by water. However, this is not true at all.
True HEPA filters are composed of many tiny fabrics. When one washes the filter, not only is the dirt present on it removed inefficiently, but the fabric also breaks. Using such filters will result in an inefficient cleaning of the indoor air.
Other FAQs about Air Purifiers and Filters that you may be interested in.
Air filters can be replaced by oneself. It is important to follow the manufacturer’s direction, as well as picking the right filter for the specific air purifier model.
It is important to replace the filters on a regular basis, since the filters contain dust and microorganisms such as mold spores, bacteria, viruses, and so on.
Lastly, it would be better to rely on a trained individual to replace the air filter in certain cases, such as when the filter is delicate, as in the case of the activated carbon filters.
Can air purifiers also cause sinus problems?
Yes, air purifiers which have dirty air filters can also contribute to the exacerbation of sinus problems. This is because overloaded filters cannot get rid of the pollutants present in the indoor air.
Furthermore, if you use your air purifier in high humidity conditions, there is a chance that there is mold colonies present in the filters, which in turn can generate spores, thereby further degrading the air quality.
How often should I replace my air filters?
The frequency of replacing your air filters depends upon the indoor air quality of your house. If you live with a small number of people, have pets, and are near a polluted area, you might need to replace your filters as early as 1-2 months.
However, if you live alone with no pets or other animals, you can replace your filter once every 6-12 months.
How long does it take for an air purifier to clean a room?
This depends mainly on the coverage area of the air purifier, as well as the size of the room. For small rooms, a typical air purifier will clean the air in about 30 minutes.
However, for larger rooms, it can take upto 2 to 3 hours to completely clean the indoor air. But, air purifiers also have an option to vary their flow rates, which could help in getting the job done even faster.
Can air purifiers get rid of odors?
Yes, air purifiers can get rid of odors. Most of the air purifiers, such as the one by Hathaspace, come with an activated carbon filter, which gets rid of unpleasant odors present in the air.
Where do you put an air purifier?
The best suited place for installing your air purifier is on the wall, at a height of about three to five feet above the ground, in a room which receives the highest airflow rate with respect to the other rooms.
Furthermore, care should be taken when placing the air purifier. It is necessary to ensure that there is no obstacle in its path, and it is away from other electronic devices at least by a distance of 5 feet.
However, due to certain circumstances, it would not be ideal to mount the air purifier unit on the wall. However, there are many models available in the market which are designed based on the user’s preference to place the air purifier.
Lastly, it is important to buy an air purifier which has a coverage area suited to the requirements of the user.
- Sylvane. Do I Really Need to Buy New Air Purifier Filters?
- Smart Air. How to Clean and Wash HEPA Filters? Here’s Why You Shouldn’t.
- Philips. How and when should I clean/replace my Air Purifier’s filters and sensor?
- Han, Xu & Li, Yong & Liu, Ying. (2012). Study of Relationship between Air Purifier Efficiency and Placement in Ventilation Environment. Advanced Materials Research. 516-517. 1240-1245. 10.4028/www.scientific.net/AMR.516-517.1240
- Rabbit Air. DO AIR PURIFIERS REMOVE MOLD?