A Glossary Of Air Filter Terms
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A Glossary of Air Filter Terms and Definitions – Let’s Clear the Air

If you’re feeling a little confused about all the terms and definitions associated with air filters and air purifiers, don’t sweat it. Help is on the way.

Here are some helpful terms and definitions to help you sort through the haze and “clear the air” about air filters and purifiers. As you can plainly see, there is a lot more to an air filter than simply changing the filter every month!

  • Activated Carbon
    Activated Carbon is a specially treated carbon that has been exposed to heat around 800-900 degrees Celsius. The great thing about activated carbon is that it has a large internal surface area and can trap a lot of impurities inside it. Activated carbon is most commonly seen in simple tap water filters and fish tank filters, but is also used in some small air filters and has even been used in cigarette butts.
  • Aerosol
    Aerosol is the term used to describe the dispersing of tiny particles of liquid in a volume of air. Aerosol sprays tend to be highly flammable and most often come as pressurized canisters.
  • Air Borne
    The term Air Borne is used to describe any particles or substances that float in the air. Air borne particles are the reason that air filters are used to clean air in a given area. In a home or office setting, the bulk of air borne particles are made up of tiny bits of human skin.
  • Air Changes per Hour
    Air Changes per Hour is a term used to describe the amount of times per hour that an air filter can clean and re-circulate all of the air in a room.
  • Allergen
    An allergen is a normal substance that causes an acute defensive reaction in a person’s immune system. Common allergens are pet dander, smoke, and pollen, although the list of possible allergens is long and varied. When a person has a reaction to an allergen that person is said to be allergic to it.
  • Bacteria
    Bacteria are microscopic, single-celled organisms that have a cell wall and a specific shape depending on the type of bacteria. Bacteria have no easily identifiable nucleus. There are many types of bacteria, and although many are harmful to humans there are some that actually help.
  • Biohazard
    The term “Biohazard” is used to describe any time of biological waste. Often, this biological waste is pathogenic in nature or contaminated in some way.
  • Black Wall
    The Black Wall is an occurrence common with ionizing air purifiers. The “Black Wall Effect” happens when the air around an ionizer becomes negatively charged. This negatively charged area causes air borne particles to stick to surrounding surfaces (often the wall behind the device) and cause a build up of dirt and bacteria. Black Wall can be a breeding ground for microscopic organisms.
  • Coronal Discharge
    A type of air purifier that uses ozone to clean the air, a Coronal Discharge device is sometimes referred to as a “thunderstorm in a box”. The air inside a coronal discharge device is charged with between 5,000 and 10,000 volts of electricity. The massive shock causes unstable bonds to form between single atoms of oxygen (O) and Oxygen molecules (O2). Ozone then attacks any air borne particles in the surrounding area (O3).
  • Electret Air Filter
    An Electret Air Filter is a type of electronic air filter. The Filter, known as an Electret, is given a positive charge that causes air borne particles to stick to it as they pass through.
  • Electronic Air Purifier
    Electronic Air Purifiers do not use air filters like conventional air purifiers. Instead, they use electricity to charge the air travelling though them. Electronic air purifiers come in three basic types: Negative Ionizing Purifiers, Electret Air Filters, and Electrostatic Precipitators.
  • Electrostatic Precipitators
    Electrostatic Precipitators are special electronic filters that use a fan to blow air into a cell where it is given a positive electrical charge. The air is then blown through special aluminium plates which carry a negative charge and attract nearly all of the durst and debris. Since they do nothing to destroy viruses, spores, and moulds, however, these plates can become a breeding ground for air born organisms.
  • Filter
    A Filter is any porous device that allows the passage of air but traps air born particles, thus cleaning the air.
  • HEPA Filter
    HEPA stands for High Efficiency Particulate Air. HEPA filters were developed during World War Two as a safety device for the Manhattan Project, the American effort to develop nuclear weapons. HEPA filters use glass fibre as a filter and can clean 99.7 per cent of particles above 0.3 microns in diameter. Though brittle, these filters are now widely used in a variety of filtration devices, and are widely considered to be the best air filter available to the public.
  • Histamine
    Histamine is a substance your body injects into your bloodstream to help you stay alert. However, it is often triggered by allergens. It causes fluid to be released into the skin (which causes swelling and hives), and when released into the sinuses can cause a runny nose and watery eyes.
  • Indoor Air Pollution
    Indoor Air Pollution is the term used to describe the amount of contaminants in the air inside a building. Indoor air pollution can often be worse than outside air pollution due to poor ventilation. Unfortunately, it is often ignored. About 80 per cent of all indoor air pollution is human skin. The remaining 20 per cent is usually made up of dust mites, pet dander, smoke, pollen, sweat, and chemical compounds from various substances.
  • Indoor Air Quality
    Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is a term used to describe how polluted the air inside a confined space is. The IAQ of any building is measured according to guidelines set by the government and is used as a measuring stick for the efficiency of air purification and filtration systems.
  • Mechanical Air Purifier
    The most common air filters available on the market; Mechanical Air Purifiers use a fan to draw air through a filter. Common mechanical air filters are activated carbon filters, high density fibre filters, and HEPA filters.
  • Needlepoint Ionizers
    Needle ionizers use high voltage electricity to create negative electrons. These electrons run up the length of a pointed spike, or needle, where they stream into the air and attract oxygen molecules. At this point, they become negative ions and are attracted to airborne particles. These molecules build up around the particles until they become too heavy to remain air borne and float to the ground. This process is known as agglomeration.
  • Negative Ionizing Filter
    A Negative Ionizing Filter is a device which electrically charges the air inside it and uses a fan to blow it out into the room. This charged air causes particles in it to become attracted to the walls and furniture in the room. This can lead to a process known as the Black Wall Effect.
  • Ozone
    Ozone is a special type of oxygen molecule caused by bonding a third oxygen atom to an oxygen pair. This is most often accomplished using ultraviolet light. Ozone (O3) is highly unstable and reacts with air borne particles by launching the extra oxygen at anything near it. The oxygen atom reacts with the air borne particle, causing a tiny explosion and the destruction of the particle. Ozone purifiers are highly effective against both dust and microscopic organisms, but can be unhealthy if a person is exposed to large quantities.
  • Purifier
    A purifier is a device that cleans the air of viruses and microscopic organisms as well as dust and allergens. Purifiers are especially useful for people who suffer from allergies and wish to live an allergy-free lifestyle.

Hopefully, after looking over these terms and definitions, you should have a good idea about the differences between an air filter and an air purifier. These days, especially, it pays to know a little bit about clean air and how filters and purifiers work properly.

You never know when that information could save your life.

About The Author

Bill Schnarr is a successful freelance copywriter providing valuable tips and advice for consumers purchasing Nikken air filtration systemsozone air purifiers and water filtration systems. His numerous articles offer moneysaving tips and valuable insight on typically confusing topics.

This "Glossary of Air Filter Terms & Definitions" reprinted with permission.

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