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What Makes a Professional-Grade Air Cleaner?
Submitted by Austin Air

Poor air quality can create a host of health problems. Exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) has been linked to respiratory tract irritation; eyes, skin, and lung sensitivity; and may cause suppression of the Central Nervous System. In several studies, elevated levels of respirable particulates have been associated to a higher rate of heart attacks as well as with strokes. Studies have linked infant exposure to dust mite allergens with the onset of asthma. It's not just asthmatics and allergy sufferers who need clean air. Studies show that indoor air quality may be one of today's most common environmental health issues facing doctors and their patients. Because of these factors, air cleaners are no longer the specialty item they were considered 20 years ago. Everyone needs an air cleaner.

Austin Air may not be the only company to provide air cleaners; however, those that they provide are of professional-grade. The Austin Air is the machine that was chosen by the American Red Cross for their air-quality program in New York City after 9/11. And the Healthmate Plus Juniors have been deployed in large numbers to help ease the problem of formaldehyde in mobile homes and trailers used for temporary housing.

The Effectiveness of HEPA Filters
The mechanisms by which the Austin Air machines remove substances from the air are centered around an effective and reliable material to remove particulates: the High Efficiency Particulate Arrestation (HEPA) filter. Properly installed, a true medical-grade HEPA filter is 99.97% effective at removing particles down to 0.3 microns from the air forced through the filter. That is small enough to include cat, dust mite, and cockroach allergens; mold; and most of the particles discussed above that cause respiratory discomfort. More square footage of HEPA allows more air to pass through simultaneously, meaning the machine can process a greater amount of air per hour. Austin's standard-sized machines (the Healthmate, Healthmate Plus, Allergy Machine, and Pet Machine) have 60 square-feet of pleated HEPA medium in each filter, while the smaller machines (the Healthmate Junior, Healthmate Plus Junior, Allergy Machine Junior, and Baby's Breath) use 30 square-feet. The larger machine can clean all the air in a large living room or master bedroom suite three or four times in an hour; and the Junior can process the air in an average-sized child's bedroom approximately four times an hour.

The more Carbon in a Filter the Better
The other component of the filter is activated carbon. Activated carbon is charcoal that has had its pores opened and its interior exposed, usually by the means of high temperatures and steam. The exposed pores of carbon will now adsorb molecules, like those that make up odors, chemicals, and gases, as they pass through, adhering to the inner surfaces of the pores. This enables a carbon filter to remove many different types of chemicals from the air passing through it.

Large amounts of carbon in effect form a maze that air has to wander through, meaning there are more opportunities for the molecules of pollutants to become trapped. Also, more activated carbon means more surface area, so there is more space for molecules to adhere.

Most Austin Air filters use granular carbon, mixed with zeolite, a natural mineral which serves the dual function of acting as a molecular sieve and as a desiccant, attracting water molecules so they do not clog the carbon. In the Healthmate, this mixture is used for the removal of common household contaminants. The carbon in the Healthmate Plus is impregnated with a special compound to attract and trap VOCs, such as formaldehyde.

You do not need a degree in chemical engineering or to have studied filtration technology in any detail to benefit from an Austin Air. But Austin is the brand that educated consumers prefer. The more you know, the easier you can breathe.