A couple of weeks ago my air filter died, and since then I have gone through unspeakable suffering with my sinuses. This is why I’m going to extol the virtues of good, clean air, and share with you how I’ve been getting it.
Air filters / air purifiers
It all started several years ago when a guy on an Internet forum offered to give away a supposedly dead Honeywell air filter. I nabbed it on a lark, and turns out that it was an American machine designed to run on 120V at 60Hz, and the only thing wrong with it was that it was being fed the wrong kind of power. I swapped a Nintendo DS for a super-heavy brick of a transformer, and the rest is history.
My unit (which is currently sitting in an electronics repair shop with a possible burnt-out motor) is a proper HEPA device, which means that it can filter out particles as small as 0.3 microns from the air – stuff like dust, pollen, smoke, mold, bacteria, and even odours! It is a 2-stage system, with an activated carbon pre-filter stage that prevents the HEPA stage from being wasted on catching the big stuff.
Considering that I’ve had it running 24/7 for around 5 years, and with a total spend on replacement filters of around $100* that’s not too shabby. It’s not as if it made my place completely dust-free, but I’m sure without it the surfaces around the house would have a much heavier coating than they do.
The filter is all very well and good, but of course nothing beats cleanliness. Obviously you’ll want to remove the source of the pathogens: pets, plants, unhygienic personal grooming habits… I digress, but regular cleaning is an unavoidable necessity. Carpets are wonderful and all, but they also harbour dust – and I’m allergic to dust mites. D’oh! That’s why my wife Jenny and I are pretty happy with our Dyson vacuum cleaner, which also includes a washable HEPA filter. Without intending to sound like a Dyson marketing brochure, I must admit it does do a very good job of sucking up stuff, with each vacuuming session invariably resulting in a canister full of gunk. I’m sure any competent brand of vacuum cleaner would do the same, but it’s just so much more satisfying being able to see the dust accumulating in that transparent tube.
Jenny and I first noticed the mould growing in our previous apartment when we were moving out and had to clean it off the walls, curtains and windows. In our current place, it’s a lot worse, and due to much neglect it ended up all over the ceiling in the spare room. Our landlords very kindly offered to buy us a dehumidifier, which we’ve been using ever since.
As far as I can tell (without having really read up on it), dehumidifiers take advantage of the condensation effect by having a bunch of surfaces that are chilled, so that the moisture in the air condenses onto them. It’s amazing how much water can be sucked out of thin air; the machine has a 5 litre tank capacity, which can easily be filled in a single day. Most Web sites that I’ve read recommend a humidity of around 50-60% in order to keep mould under control. The humidity at our place fluctuates throughout the day, but is usually worst at night and especially on cold days, when it can get up to as high as 80%.
Air is the one thing that you will consume most in your lifetime. Now that there are studies which connect air quality with longer life expectancy, why wouldn’t you want better quality air?
* I didn’t replace the filters as often as recommended, largely because of the cost, and not being under any obligation to do so in order to fulfil warranty conditions.