Save Energy — Air Cleaners

Indoor air quality is important. Especially as you tighten your home by reducing infiltration. You may have or want to buy devices that improve the quality of the air. Most air cleaners use some energy. Paying attention to the energy consumption of air cleaners will help avoid adding back any energy you saved from reducing infiltration.

Your Home Energy Living Plan

  • Use air cleaner only when needed.
  • Change or clean filtering media regularly.
  • Consider energy star qualified air cleaner for next purchase.

Impact of Your Energy Saving Actions

Energy used by air cleaners is typically small when compared to other energy users. If you feel air cleaners are needed, then use them. Be aware of ways that energy use can be minimized.

How Energy is Lost

Air cleaners blow air across a filtering media. Media varies with manufacturer and type. However most all cleaners have at least a prefilter. A fan is used to push air through the filters. While fans are small motors, continuous operation can add up. As the filter collects materials from the air they block air flow. The airflow decrease as filter becomes dirty. This not only reduces the effectiveness of the filter, but for some types of fans energy increases. Propeller type fans will increase in energy use as the airflow becomes blocked.

Electrostatic or ionic type of air cleaners have charged plates. These plates use electricity, but in most cases it is a small amount. Keeping the plates clean helps the filtering process.

Air Cleaner Characteristics

Air cleaners have filters which simply blocks and retains solid particles. The smaller the spaces in the filter, the smaller particle can be held. Initially the held particles helps collect more. A slightly dirty filter is more efficient than a clean filter; reduction in airflow is minimal. However, as the filter gets dirty airflow reduces. Especially on small units, there will not be enough airflow to clean the area.

Central air cleaners are part of the central heating and cooling equipment. They use the same fan that distributes hot or cool air throughout your house. Using the same fan does not increase fan energy. However, the fan only runs when heating or cooling is needed. In the spring and fall, the fan may not operate long enough to clean the air. You thermostat has a fan switch. You can turn on just the fan for air cleaning purposes. Of course the fan will use energy to do so.

Some low cost and low energy air cleaners just ionize the particles in the air. These particles will then collect on your walls, ceiling, and furniture. This increases the need for cleaning and vacuuming, which increases energy.

A new home or taking strong actions to reduce infiltration may intensify indoor air pollutants. The use of an air cleaner should be less energy than the amount saved by reducing infiltration. See the infiltration section for more information.

Energy Solutions Explained

Use air cleaner only when needed. If you have a problem with indoor air quality it is best to address the source of the problem. Materials used within your home and cleaning methods have major impact on indoor air pollutants. Even after doing all you can or if any occupants are particularly sensitive, then air cleaners are needed.

Read manufacturer’s recommendations on replacing or cleaning the air cleaner. Following instructions maintains the effectiveness of the air cleaner and keeps energy use to a minimum.

Manufacturers can obtain Energy Star qualification for their air cleaners. Compare energy information before buying a new air cleaner.

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