January 21, 2021

You’ve likely heard that plants are good for the environment. The green movement has made many people question their approach to indoor living, including how to clean the air. That’s where the debate over air purifiers versus plants comes in. Comparing the different ways in which they treat the air can help you decide if either one or a combination of both is right for you.

Air Quality

There are a variety of indoor pollutants, some being more obvious than others. Not only do people track in pollen, but small particles from pets and contaminants from furniture and chemicals can make their way into your indoor environment and into your body. High enough levels mean poor air quality for you and your family.

VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are organic chemicals with a high vapor pressure at room temperature. They’re present in many household items and products from furniture, flooring and wallpaper to chemical cleaners, detergent, paint and more. Some continue to off-gas periodically, especially during the summer, and may release a noticeable odor.

Some common VOCs are acetone, benzene, formaldehyde, toluene and trichloroethylene. Health issues are more common after prolonged or long-term exposure to VOCs. Symptoms of poor indoor air quality include increased allergies, irritation of the skin and eyes, higher frequency of asthma or respiratory issues and a lack of concentration with dizziness and headaches.

How Air Purifiers Work

Air purifiers, also called air cleaners, can work to clean the air in several different ways. Your choice of air purifier depends on which contaminants you wish to reduce and how to treat them. Many remove small particles and can be size-fitted for a room or a whole house. You can only remove contaminants from the surfaces in your residence, but an air purifier can remove those suspended in the air. Common contaminants air purifiers remove from the indoor air include:

  • Dust
  • Pollen
  • Mites
  • Pet dander
  • Smoke

The mechanism or filter of the air purifier determines what it does. One of the most popular types of air filters is a HEPA filter, which removes all types of allergens, including smoke. It can remove 99.97% of all small particles that are greater than or equal to 0.3 microns in diameter.

Another type of filter is activated carbon or activated charcoal. It absorbs and neutralizes all carbon-based or organic impurities, including VOCs, odors, chemicals, smoke and other gases.

Yet another type of air purifier is UV light. It destroys pathogens and is good for people who are susceptible to respiratory illnesses.

Finally, there’s ionic generation. It works by attaching ions to airborne contaminants to cause them to fall to the ground, allowing you to vacuum them up.

Air purifiers can have one or more types of mechanism or filter. For example, it’s possible to have a HEPA air purifier with an activated carbon filter.

How Plants Work

Air purifiers and plants are basically opposites in their function toward air. While air purifiers take in the existing air and filter it, plants engage in photosynthesis to turn carbon dioxide into oxygen. Plus, they eliminate carbon monoxide.

Plants can store away harmful airborne chemicals, a process known as phytoremediation. They also help to reduce VOCs.

All of this sounds great, but there are some considerations for your living space. Not only do plants work best in smaller spaces, but they also take longer to work. You need to have several of them, too, meaning you’ll have to sacrifice some living space. At least two plants for every 100 square feet is sufficient. Selecting plants with large or long leaves and utilizing an assortment of varietals and sizes is best.

While plants can never replace an air purifier altogether, they can act as a supplement for one. The ones best for the air in your home are easy to take care of and fairly low-maintenance. Some do best as hanging plants, but be aware that a few are toxic to humans and animals. A few examples are Peace Lily, English Ivy, Jade, Bromeliad and Aloe.

Plants cannot do anything for smoke, dust, allergens and pet dander. However, they can help reduce the presence of:

  • VOCs
  • Carbon dioxide
  • Carbon monoxide

Professional Air Purification

It’s not possible to ensure excellent indoor air quality on your own. Whether you’ve just moved into a new home or had remodeling work done, indoor air quality testing is essential for making sure you can breathe easy. Contact Weather Masters Corp. in Frederick, MD, today to learn more about how we can improve the quality of your indoor air. Our team can also help you with heating and cooling repair, installation and maintenance jobs.

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