Electronic Air Cleaner: How to Select an Electrostatic Air Cleaner
How it works
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
- Permanent type filter so there are no filter replacements
- May use less energy
- May be quieter
Electronic (Electrostatic) Air Cleaner Disadvantages
- Poor performance for allergy and asthma sufferers and dust removal
- As plates become dirty the performance will further degrade
- On the filter rating scale it is considered a MERV 1 which is the lowest rating. A high efficiency HEPA filter will be around MERV 16
- Produces secondary pollution such as ozone and other gases
- Requires frequent cleaning. The California Air Resources Board who oversees ozone emissions from air purifiers has stated that most people do not properly maintain electronic or electrostatic air purifiers and as a result they can produce even higher levels of ozone. The interaction of ozone in a home has been shown to produce other gases such as formaldehyde.
Overall, the electrostatic precipitator is not a good solution if you are looking to remove allergens such as dust, pollen, mold, etc or if you are looking for very fine particle removal to address asthma or COPD. While the appeal to have a permanent filter is strong you do not get sufficient performance and introduce safety concerns through the production of secondary pollution such as ozone or formaldehyde. Since the state of California passed a law in 2010 regarding ozone emissions there have been fewer electrostatic air purifiers sold as a result of concern for the emission of secondary pollution.
See how the electronic air cleaners compare to the listing of top rated air purifiers.