Making Smart Choices in School Air Purifiers

Today’s big question is what air purifier should I have in my school. I field many questions like this every week. Educators and administrators are looking for answers and all they are getting is  a sales pitch. As a manufacturer and seller of air purification equipment it is my duty to educate the visitors of my website first and sell them products 2nd.

We are seeing more and more stories everyday that tell about school districts wasting MILLIONS of dollars on air purifiers that don’t work and may even be dangerous. The Sacramento City Unified School District has Removed 6 million dollars worth of air purifiers to be independently tested. This article seeks to help you make smart school air purifier choices.

Two Big Things to Look for

1: Proven Technology

In early May, 2021 I attended the NAFA Technical Seminar. I went to this event with 1 thing in mind. I wanted to ask the real experts what technologies LakeAir should focus on. I sought out the best in the business and got the same answer again and again. Focus on “Proven Technologies”. What are these proven technologies? I will briefly go through them as this article continues.

 

Ventilation

The simplest thing to do is to dilute the dirty air with clean air. Adding clean air from outside should be strongly considered. This can be done through the central HVAC and Heating systems. If that can’t be done, open the windows. I know this is not possible or even feasible in many cases. However it is a single step. Increased ventilation is not “the” answer, but it is one thing we know works.

Mechanical Filtration (HEPA and High MERV)

Mechanical filtration is to draw air through a filter. ASHRAE, the group that sets the standards for all things HVAC (Heating / Ventilation / Air Conditioning) recommends mechanical filtration at a level of MERV 13 or higher. In many cases upgrading a central system to these standards is impossible. In these cases the use of Portable or Local HEPA air purification is recommended. Just adding an air purifier may not be sufficient to bring the air quality in a classroom where it needs to be. Ventilation and UVC are two other proven technologies that can help improve indoor air quality.

UVGI

Ultra Violet Germicidal Irradiation is a long proven method of helping remove viruses, bacteria, and mold from the air. Like ventilation it is not a standalone technology. UVGI is one of the proven technologies recommended by ASHAE. It is a tool that you can use to help bring the air quality in your school to a level that will keep students and teachers healthy.

Technologies to Avoid

The Technologies listed below are not considered bad. There is not enough independent 3rd party testing to verify if they are entirely safe. There isn’t independent testing to prove their efficacy either. The message I took away from the National Air Filter Association Technical Seminar was to focus on the proven technologies and be very careful before employing any of these Emerging Technologies.

PCO (Photocatalytic Oxidation) and DHP (dry hydrogen peroxide)

• Consists of a pure or doped metal oxide semiconductor material
‒ Most Common Photocatalyst is Ti02 (titanium dioxide)
• Activated by a UV light source
‒ UV-A (400-315nm) / ‒ UV-C (280-200nm /  UV-V (under 200nm) Ozone can be formed at UV-V wavelengths
• Light mediated, redox reaction of gases and biological particles absorbed on the surface
• Some units claim disinfection from gaseous hydrogen peroxide (sometimes called dry peroxide)
• Possible by-products formed by incomplete oxidation, including from gaseous contaminants

PECO is used in the Molkule Brand. They claim great results but there is a lack of 3rd party testing to verify the validity of all claims made under all of these technologies. I am not saying the technology is bad, it simply is not proven.

Bipolar Ionization / Corona Discharge / Needlepoint Ionization

• Air cleaners using reactive ions and/or reactive oxygen species (ROS) have become prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic. New devices that are not mentioned elsewhere in this guidance likely fall into this category.
• High voltage electrodes create reactive ions in air that react with airborne contaminants, including viruses. The design of the systems can be modified to create mixtures of reactive oxygen species (ROS), ozone, hydroxyl radicals and superoxide anions.
• Systems are reported to range from ineffective to very effective in reducing airborne particulates and acute health symptoms.
• Convincing scientifically-rigorous, peer-reviewed studies do not currently exist on this emerging technology; manufacturer data should be carefully considered.
• Systems may emit ozone, some at high levels. Manufacturers are likely to have ozone
generation test data.

In recent months a few 3rd party studies have come out on the practice of Bipolar Ionization. These studies continue to call into question the safety and efficacy of this Technology. Listed below are a few more stories that call into question different emerging technologies and there use in schools

  • https://www.cnn.com/2021/05/03/health/air-filter-covid-scams-khn/index.html
  • https://www.wired.com/story/ionizer-school-not-fight-covid/

My best advice is to be careful which technology you spend the school districts money on. Research the products carefully and always look for third party verification.

2: Products that are Built to Last

Rugged Constuction

When looking at an air purifier for the classroom, remember that it is likely to se a little abuse. Children are inquisitive and are likely to push, pull and otherwise investigate the air purifier. Plastic parts can break easily look for durable construction. 

A sleek design maybe catchy to the eye and gadgets appear to be appealing. But laser particle counters have a limited life span and often have to be replaced or recalibrated in a few years.  

Is the air purifier you are buying for the school repairable? Many of todays new units are meant to be replaced if a major part fails. LakeAir air purifiers for example use no circuit boards, the parts generally plug into place. A screw driver and wrench secure the motor. 

Brand Longevity and Stability

How long has the company that makes your product been in business? Now just because a company is old doesn’t mean the product is good but it is a reasonable gauge of the likeliness they will be around to supply replacement parts and offer warranty service.  I have seen Chinese manufacturers totally change product lines from year to year and no longer offer any support for last years model. Be sure your product has a long warranty, 5 years or better and be certain the company will be around to honor that warranty. LakeAir has been in business since 1968 find a company with similar history to be sure your purchase is protected.

Parts that do the Job

Most air purifiers consist of a fan and filter(s). Is the fan sufficient to do the job. A fan or blower should be robust.  An undersized fan will not pull enough air through a True HEPA filter. They are certainly cheaper but the usefulness of the product is greatly diminished. 

What quality is the filter or filters? Many HEPA filters that are being sold today work quite well for a short time. They make it through tests fine, but what about 6 months after the unit is put into service. To have real longevity a HEPA filter needs to be made of high quality ingredients and a lot of it. If the product you are buying is truly of commercial quality you will do well. But a cheap version that satifys the budget is likely to need replacing in 2-3 years.

Good parts cost a lot of money. The 830 CFM blower and Commercial Grade Mini Pleat HEPA filter in the LakeAir Maxum HEPA costs well over $200.00. That’s more than manufactures cost on an entire air purifier from overseas. 

The Bottom Line

When you are buying air purification for your school, Buy products that use proven technologies. Buy High MERV or HEPA filters. Use fresh air from outside whenever you can. Add UVC when possible to supplement air quality.

Buy products that really work. Buy from companies that have a proven track record. Buy products that have a strong warranty. Avoid gadgets that aren’t likely to last.

Ask Questions. Talk to the manufacturer if you can. Get a good feel for the company you are buying from. Doing a your homework will help you make an informed decision. You expect your students and teachers to study. You owe it to them to do your research

LakeAir Portable and Local HEPA Solutions

Portable HEPA Air Purifiers

4 ACH @ 900 square feet

The Maxum HEPA can be placed on a table top or on the floor. It has variable speed control with operating noise from 42 to 64 dB(A). Average power use of 60 watts. 7 Year warranty, Made in the USA. 830 CFM Blower and 4.375″ commercial grade mini-pleat True HEPA filter. Includes pre-filter and carbon filter to remove odors and VOCs  It has a CADR rating of 1060.

Bulk Pricing $650-725

Call 800-558-9436 for Info

7.5 ACH @ 900 square feet

The LA2-RC2 can be placed on a cart or you can order it on casters. Variable speed control with operating noise from 44 to 65 dB(A). Average power usage 120 watts. 7 Year warranty 1660 CFM blower capacity. 6 x 16 x 20 commercial True HEPA  Filter. Includes pre-filter and 3″ ultra carbon filter for superior odor control. This model has a CADR of 1530. Also Available in HEPA / UVGI filtration package.

Bulk Pricing $1800 and Lower

Call 800-558-9436 for Info

7.5 ACH @ 900 square feet

The LA2-RC2-HUV can be placed on a cart or you can order it on casters. Variable speed control with operating noise from 44 to 65 dB(A). Average power usage 120 watts, 7 Year warranty 1660 CFM blower capacity, 4.5x 16 x 20 commercial True HEPA  Filter, 60 watt UVC filter to sterilize the air stream. HEPA filter and UVC Bulb life of 1 year. EPA Registered UVC Device production facility. 

Bulk Pricing $2400 and Lower

Call 800-558-9436 for Info

Local HEPA Air Purifiers

7.5 ACH @ 900 square feet

The LAFC-RC2 mounts in a 2×4 ceiling grid or to the ceiling.. Variable speed control with operating noise from 43 to 62 dB(A). Average power usage 120 watts. 7 Year warranty 1660 CFM blower capacity. 4.5 x 16 x 20 commercial True HEPA  Filter. Includes pre-filter and carbon filter for odor control. This model has a CADR of 1530.  The Variable speed control mounts in a light switch for easy adjustment. The ceiling mount keeps the unit out of the reach of curious students.

Bulk Pricing $2050 and Lower

Call 800-558-9436 for Info

The LAFC-RC2-HUV mounts in a 2×4 ceiling grid or to the ceiling.. Variable speed control with operating noise from 43 to 62 dB(A). Average power usage 200 watts. 7 Year warranty 1660 CFM blower capacity. 4.5 x 16 x 20 commercial True HEPA  Filter. Includes pre-filter and carbon filter for odor control. The UVC Cell produces 30 watts of UVC and will disable viruses, bacteria and mold. LakeAir is a EPA Registered UVC Device production facility. 

Bulk Pricing $2400 and Lower

Call 800-558-9436 for Info

Resources

  • https://www.nafahq.org/
  • https://www.ashrae.org/about
  • https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/ventilation/uvgi.html
  • https://www.ashrae.org/file%20library/technical%20resources/covid-19/ashrae-filtration_disinfection-c19-guidance.pdf
  • https://www.iit.edu/news/Joint-university-research-finds-some-air-purifiers-may-actually-increase-harmful-airborne-chemicals
  • https://sacramento.cbslocal.com/2021/02/05/sac-city-unified-air-purifiers/
  • https://www.cnn.com/2021/05/03/health/air-filter-covid-scams-khn/index.html
  • https://www.wired.com/story/ionizer-school-not-fight-covid/