Should I Run My Air Purifier All Day?

Some purifier companies recommend running your air purifier all day. But is that really necessary? If so, isn’t running the purifier all the time a big waste of your filters and energy?

Test Method

To get to the bottom of it, I set a Smart Air Cannon on a timer to turn on for two hours everyday in a 13.5m2 Beijing bedroom:

Smart Air Cannon DIY Air Purifier Filter

I put a particle counter in the room to take measurements every minute. I did the test while I was on vacation, so there was no influence of me opening and closing doors.

Results

After six days, I came back and saw how long it took to the Cannon to clean the air each time it came on. Here’s what six days of data looked like for the small .5 micron particles:

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Over the six test days, the air in Beijing became progressively worse. But on each day, it was clear when the Cannon turned on and off. The dropoffs were sharp, showing the Cannon was working quickly.

I averaged over the six test days to find out how long it took the Cannon to clean the air on average.

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Conclusion

On average, the Cannon cut 0.5 micron particulate in half in 10 minutes. By 20 minutes, it removed 80%.

Bottom line: Should I Run My Air Purifier All Day?Powerful purifiers like the Cannon clean the air very quickly, so I see no need to run the purifier while I’m not at home.

Can I turn it off while I sleep?

The data can also answer another question a few people have asked me: “I don’t want to hear the fan while I sleep, so can I run it for an hour and then turn it off while I sleep?

In the tests, the air got dirty very quickly after the Cannon turned off (even though the windows and doors were closed). Dirty air is entering our homes constantly, even though we can’t see it.

 

Purifier closed room air dirty again

 

Bottom line: I do NOT recommend turning the purifier off while you sleep.

Open Data

As always, I’m publishing the raw data and more details on the methods below. I’ll also be publishing data from similar tests in a much larger room (30.5m2) and for tests when I’m at home and moving in the room.

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Chinese New Year fireworks pollution

Do Chinese New Year Fireworks Pollute Indoor Air?

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How Safe Is Indoor Air?

I recently did some research on whether indoor air is as bad as outdoor air. Before that, I had a conversation with a friend in Beijing that went something like this:

Friend: I’m not sure if I can make badminton tomorrow. I have a basketball game in the day.

Me: Oh man, do you play outside?

Friend: Nah, it’s inside.

Me: Oh, phew. Good.

Friend: Wait, why do you say that?

Me: Oh, the air is way worse outside. I used to feel like I had asthma after playing basketball outside.

Friend: Really? No, they’re not that much different. I saw it’s just 20% different.

 

Seeing as how nerds cannot let matters of fact go, I started using my particle counter to take measurements of inside and outside air at different locations around Beijing. This answer is important: it tells you if it’s any safer to exercise indoors and how much damage you’re doing to your lungs by choosing that seat outdoors at your favorite cafe or restaurant.

 

The Test

So I took measurements in six locations around Beijing, in apartments, cafes, and my gym. I only chose bad days (pollution concentration above the WHO standard of 25), and I avoided days where it rained (because rain can cause quick changes in air quality). Here’s what I found:

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On average, indoor air had only 36% of the pollution outdoors.

 

Things were a little worse for the smaller .5 micron particles, but still much better than outside:

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On average, indoor air had only 51% of the .5 micron particulates of outside air. My guess is that the .5 micron data was worse than 2.5 micron data because it’s easier for smaller particles to get into your home and stay suspended in the air.

There is a lot of variation between places. For the 2.5 micron particles, the locations varied from 14% to 58%. Dr. Saint Cyr also found significant variation between two apartments he lived in, 50% to 70%.

 

Conclusion: Indoor air is relatively safer

In terms of particulate pollution, you’re safer snagging an indoor seat and working out indoors, particularly on bad days (I’ve seen some argue that we are particularly vulnerable when we work out because we breathe more deeply than normal).

But remember that doesn’t mean indoor air is safe, just better than outside. For example, if your air at home had 40% of Beijing’s concentration last night at 11pm (8/15), you would’ve had 64 g/m3 in your home, which is more than twice the WHO standard of 25.

 

As usual, I’m posting more on my methods and raw data below.

 

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Smart Air is a social enterprise that creates simple, no-nonsense air purifier and provides free education to protect people’s health from the effects of air pollution. We are proud to be the only certified B-Corp dedicated to fighting air pollution.