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Electronic Air Cleaner: How to Select an Electrostatic Air Cleaner

Most Popular Electronic Air Cleaners:
Friedrich C90B Electronic Air Cleaner
Oreck XL Tower Air Purifier
Oreck ProShield Tabletop Electrostatic Precipitator
Ionic Pro Electronic Air Cleaner
Sharper Image Ionic Breeze

See how the electronic air cleaners compare to the listing of top rated air purifiers.

An electronic air cleaner uses an electrical charge to remove particles from the air.  The most common type is also known as an electrostatic precipitator and has a series of plates that the air is passed through.  The first set of plates in the electronic air cleaner are negatively charged and that negative charge is passed onto the airborne particles that are moving through the electronic air cleaner.  The second set of plates are positively charged so the airborne particles that received a negative charge are attracted to the positive plates.

Electronic Air Cleaner Advantages

The key advantages of an electronic air cleaner are that they use a permanent type filter so there are no filter replacements and similarly no filter replacement costs.  A lesser known advantage is that since there is no thick mechanical filter such as a HEPA filter to push the air through, the energy to move the air through an electronic air cleaner is much less so the electrostatic precipitator is generally quieter than other types of air cleaners.  Also, depending upon the strength of the charge that passes through the plates, the energy consumption can also be lower in an electronic air cleaner.

Electronic Air Cleaner Disadvantages

As the plates on the electrostatic air cleaner become dirty the performance in particle removal will decrease whereas a HEPA filter will improve in filter efficiency over time.  When rated on the MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value)scale for filter ratings, an electronic air cleaner is a MERV 1 which is the lowest rating.  While the cost savings are favorable with a permanent filter, the electronic air cleaner requires frequent cleaning and may not be a good choice for someone who doesn’t like to clean or is pressed for time.  Another factor to consider is ozone generation.  Some electronic air cleaners have received poor third party reviews due to high levels of ozone that is produced during operation of the air cleaner.  The FDA has established 0.05 ppm (parts per million) as the level at which an air cleaner is deemed to produce unsafe levels of ozone.  Furthermore, in 2010 the California Air Resources Board has established an ozone criteria for air cleaners to be sold in the state of California.  Electronic air cleaners that do not meet this criteria are not be authorized for sale to California residents.

History of the electrostatic precipitator.  The patent for an electronic air cleaner type device that uses electrostatic charges was applied for in 1907 by Dr. Frederick Cottrell.  As a chemistry professor at the University of California in Berkeley, Dr Cottrell developed this product to reduce lead emissions that were causing damage to vineyards in northern California.  Who would have thought that there would be a connection between electronic air cleaners and wine?