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|HVAC & Water
Air Purification > Costs & Considerations
Installation & Service
|Once you have identified the type, brand, and size of air purifier that you would like to purchase, there are still some considerations which remain, including the relative energy efficiency of the unit, its installation requirements, its pricing, and its availability. We provide some general guidelines which address these additional requirements and which seek to make your air purifier purchase experience as painless as possible.|
Any process for generating work – including the work to run an air cleansing process – requires the use of energy, whether in the form of electricity or in the form of fuel. In the case of air purifiers, the energy source is almost always going to be electricity. Energy efficiency refers to how effectively that energy is then converted to the process of air purification by the system.
The energy efficiency associated with an air purifier can vary greatly by type, brand, and model, but the federal government has a program in place to help you identify the most efficient systems. This program is called ENERGY STAR and it has a two-pronged purpose: “(1) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants caused by the inefficient use of energy; and (2) to make it easy for consumers to identify and purchase energy-efficient products that offer savings on energy bills without sacrificing performance, features, and comfort.”
The ENERGY STAR program is run by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The agency identifies specific products that it deems to be energy efficient and then assigns an ENERGY STAR label to those products. In order to qualify for the ENERGY STAR label, a product must be cost-effective, provide significant energy savings, and deliver the features and performance demanded by consumers. Before the label can be assigned, each product is tested to ensure that it not only works as stipulated, but also delivers the requisite level of energy efficiency.
In addition to identifying products which meet ENERGY STAR’s guidelines, the program also provides tax rebates for consumers who purchase energy efficient products. These rebates allow you to recoup a portion of the purchase costs of a new or upgraded product. In order to determine whether a particular product qualifies and also to calculate the amount of the possible rebate, take a look at the ENERGY STAR web site at www.energystar.gov.
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The purchase and installation of an air purifier can represent a significant expense, which is not surprising given the vitally important role that this appliance can play within the home. However, while central air purification systems can be quite expensive, purchasing a basic room air cleaner does not require breaking the bank. A number of excellent units are available at reasonable prices from leading manufacturers.
In general, the purchase price of an air purifier will depend on the quality, type, brand, capacity, and feature set of the particular unit. In addition, as mentioned, there are significant differences in terms of price tag between room units which serve an individual space and whole house systems which provide air cleaning for an entire home. For units which utilize filtration, there is also an on-going upkeep expense associated with replacement filters.
Typically, the price of an air purifier is inversely proportional to its capacity and energy efficiency. As a consequence, selecting a cheaper model may save money today, but result in greater costs over the lifespan of the appliance. Lower energy efficiency means higher utility costs, which can add up since air purification is not seasonal, but necessary year round. Many consumers prefer to pay more upfront in return for lower monthly expenses and a smaller environmental footprint.
The most advanced, energy-efficient, and high-powered models from leading manufacturers such as IQAir, Blueair, AllerAir, Alen, and Austin Air generally fall in the $500 to $1,000 range. Less powerful models from these manufacturers, as well as strong contenders from second tier producers such as Rabbit Air and Sharp fall in the $250 to $450 range. Below $250, in the $100 to $250 range, are the department store brands such as Honeywell, Whirlpool, Holmes, Hamilton Beach, and so forth. These are generally going to be substantially less powerful and less effective than the higher ranked brands, with lower CADR values and a reduced ability to capture all of the different airborne particles.
Central air purification systems are going to be more expensive and, as explained, generally require professional installation. The cost range for both purchase and installation is between $1,000 and $6,000, depending on the system, the size of the home, and the existing ductwork. If there is not existing ductwork, the installation costs may go even higher and in those cases, using several standalone room air purifiers may be a more cost-effective solution than putting in a centralized system.
In case of both central and room units, if filtration is used then an added expense will be the need to replace the filters on a periodic basis. It is important that you determine both the cost and the availability of replacement filters before purchasing a particular air purifier. Filters can cost anywhere from $20 to $200 and their replacement frequency can vary significantly among different models.
An air purifier represents a substantial and, in most cases, on-going investment, so consumers should not rush into a purchase decision. The best way to proceed is to take time to explore different products that are available on the market and consider all of the various issues addressed in this book. The importance of the air one breathes cannot be overstated, so proper due diligence is an absolute must.
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Installation & Service
Air purifiers come in two forms: standalone room units and whole house in-duct systems which are built into the central air supply. The former come ready to use straight out of the box while the latter require a fairly complex installation process that has to be done with absolute precision in order to ensure proper operation. Given the importance of the central air system in both heating and cooling, and the monetary investment associated with an air purification system, it is highly recommended that you utilize a qualified professional to perform the installation.
A number of people like the do-it-yourself approach to home appliances and prefer to do installations such as this on their own. Some like this approach because it saves money, while others actually enjoy the work. While some may indeed possess the necessary know-how to perform the installation, it is still unlikely that they will perform as good a job as a certified professional who has received the requisite training and for whom the installation and servicing of central air systems is a full-time occupation.
Of course, not all service professionals are created equal. There is a broad range of issues that a smart consumer has to consider before awarding the contract. To start, a consumer should identify all the contractors in the area who deal with HVAC systems. There are several sources which may be used. In addition to the yellow pages, there are additional online resources which provide incremental information. Referral services such as “Quality Smith”, “Service Magic”, and “Mi Needs” pair consumers with pre-screened local service providers free of charge. Sites such as “Angie’s List” allow consumers to not only find local contractors, but also to see how other consumers have rated their services.
Most contractors will offer free estimates on prospective jobs. You should look to receive quotes from at least four different contractors before making a final decision. Not only will this allow you to find a competitive price for the job and reduce your expenses, but it will also provide a basis for comparing different contractors as far as customer service, expertise, and professionalism.
A quality service contractor will understand all aspects of central air system operation and the installation of an air purification module, including the auxiliary components associated with ductwork and electrical connections. In addition, a quality contractor will provide warranties on parts and guarantees on work performed.
It is important to also ask about the provision of emergency services in case of an unexpected breakdown or system failure. A good contractor will make available manuals and reference materials for your personal use. Most importantly, it is necessary to ask for a complete breakdown of costs associated with the project. Some contractors will not include certain additional costs, such as the need to hire an electrician or to purchase parts. It is critical to have all of this information upfront, as this will avoid the cost of the project ballooning unexpectedly down the line.
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Air purifiers are more widely available today than they have ever been before. There are multiple purchase options, including department stores, retail outlets, hardware shops, authorized dealers, service professionals, and online sellers. Each has their own advantages and disadvantages, but you should not limit yourself to a single type of seller as you comparison shop for the best deal available.
Various department store air purifier brands are available at hardware retailers such as Sears, Lowes, Home Depot, and Menard's, as well as megastores such as Wal-mart and Costco. The advantage of going to a store is that you can physically look at a range of products and returns are generally more hassle-free. The disadvantages of the large retailers are that their prices are often higher and their selection more limited. As mentioned, generally the department store brand models are not as effective at cleaning the air as the ones from top brand manufacturers. In addition, the sales personnel will likely not be very knowledgeable about specific products.
Another option is authorized dealers which distribute products for a particular brand name manufacturer. If you know that you want an AllerAir air purifier, for example, you should find an authorized AllerAir dealer who will then be able to walk you through the full range of the company's residential air purification products and systems. The advantages of authorized dealers are that they are generally very knowledgeable about different product sold under the brand name they represent and will be able to offer the best possible selection of products for that brand. The disadvantages are that they are not going to provide an unbiased perspective on other brands and may employ pressure sales tactics.
Yet another option is service contractors who can not only provide the air purification unit, but in the case of a central air cleaning system also provide installation and repair services. The advantages of a service contractor are that they have a great deal of expertise in the field of air treatment and can help you to select a system to fit you specific needs. However, the potential disadvantages are that they may have a limited number of brands and products that they sell and that they may try to apply pressure toward buying one of their products rather than giving you a truly objective overview of the options that are out there. In addition, pricing varies greatly among service contractors and finding one that is trustworthy can be a challenge.
It bears reiterating that many service contractors are loyal to a limited number of brands. In some cases, service providers are actually authorized dealers for a single brand. For this reason, it is vitally important for you to do your own homework and develop an idea of the type of air purification system and brand name that you would prefer before you begin to have detailed conversations with local service providers.
Pricing also varies widely among different service providers, not only in terms of the labor and parts for installation, but also in terms of the sticker price for the air purification system itself. Once again, getting at least four quotes should be mandatory. Given the relatively high costs of air purification systems and their corresponding installation, it pays to be picky.
Finally, you can opt to purchase an air purifier online. Generally, this is a more appropriate approach for room units that come ready to use out of the box rather than central systems which require professional installation. The benefit of buying online is that it is easier to find the best available price for a given product and to comparison shop. On the flip side, before buying online, you should really know what you want and be sure that the seller is reputable as issues and returns can be much more challenging with the online option. In addition, you should check to be sure that replacement filters are available and reasonably priced for a particular air purifier before making the purchase.
Be wary of deals that sound much too good to be true. If an online seller is offering a particular brand name air purifier for $500, but it costs $1,000 or more everywhere else, further investigation is necessary before making a purchase commitment. The seller may be trying to substitute a non-brand product for the brand name, or selling a different product than advertised altogether.
On the whole, the extra several hours of due diligence on your part can lead to years of effective, energy-efficient cleaning for the air inside the home. For those suffering from allergies or asthma, as well as everyone else for whom indoor pollution is an on-going health concern, air purification is definitely one area in which putting in a bit of work as a consumer can yield significant long-term benefits.
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