Air Purifier Acronyms – Stripping Out The Tech Jargon

Been looking around to buy an Air Purifier? You’ve no doubt come across a lot of acronyms.

It’s so frustrating. You need to understand what the acronyms stand for and what they mean. So you can compare the competing claims of the manufacturers and websites. And sort out what’s important and what’s marketing fluff.

Here’s where your frustration comes to an end. Listed below is every acronym I’ve found in my research on air purifiers. If it’s not on the list, it’s not relevant to your decision making.

The explanation for each acronym is as simple as possible. So you can get to its essential meaning. Plus, there’s an explanation on why it is or is not significant when narrowing down your choice of unit.

It’s important to know the acronyms only relate to portable Air Purifiers. Those sold to clean air inside a home or small office area. There is different terminology that relates to industrial and office air cleaning. That’s not for us.

When we use the term “Air Purifier” we’re also referring to “Air Cleaners”. Some manufacturers and websites use the term “Air Cleaner” when referring to their product. It’s confusing, isn’t it. Just know the two mean the same thing. The terms are interchangeable.

Here’s the acronym list in alphabetic order. Jump straight to the acronym by clicking in the table.

ACH – Air Changes Per Hour

ACH refers to how many times in an hour that an air purifier exchanges the air in a room.

The rate is relevant only in the context of the size of a room and the fan speed setting. When you see an ACH quoted, you need to know the size of room and fan speed used to make the calculation. Knowing these will help you decide if it’s suited to your situation.

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Some recommendations will tell you to choose a model with a rating of four or more. But this is a generalization. Do your calculations to be sure.

AHAM – Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers

An organization founded in 1901. Its membership includes hardware producers, manufacturers’ agents, and industry trade publications. Headquartered in the US. They’re all about the manufacture of products for related sectors of the economy. Hardware and home improvement, lawn, and garden, paint and decorating.

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BRI – Building Related Illness (Refer also SBS – Sick Building Syndrome)

BRI describes inhabitants of a building (or area of a building) suffering an illness. Caused by airborne contaminants in the building.

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CADR – Clean Air Delivery Rate

Rates how effective an air purifier is in cleaning the air.

AHMA members use it to rate their models. But not all manufacturers are members of this organization. So it becomes difficult when comparing models between AHMA and Non-AHMA manufacturers.

There are concerns about the basis and length of testing applied to calculate the rating. These issues call into question the validity of the rating and how much reliance to place on it.

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CFM – Cubic Feet per Minute

Refers to how many cubic feet per minute flow through the filtering system in the air purifier.

The theory is the higher the CFM of a unit; the better the purification process will be.

But other factors impact the effectiveness of air flow from a unit. Including placement in the room, the positioning of furniture, and insulation. And the quality and speed of purification are more than just a function of air flow. Other key determinants are the volume of pollutants in the air and the type of filtration process.

You shouldn’t just look at CFM when buying an air cleaner. And sometimes you can’t even consider it. Because it’s not always included in the list of specifications.

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dB – Decibel

As used in the context of Air Purifiers, the decibel (dB) is a unit that measures the intensity of sounds. It is an unweighted measure of raw sound pressure.

It makes no reference to how our ears perceive sound. And from this perspective, it’s better to use the weighted measure dBA.

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dBA or dBA or dB(a) – A-weighted decibel

dBA is a particular measurement of sound. dBA levels are “A” weighted. The weighting curves approximate how the human ear hears or perceives sound. The curves attempt to account for how sensitive the ear is to varying frequencies of sound.

Many regulations specify noise limits by dBA levels. Making it a better measure. Because it’s believed dBA correlates closer to the relative risk of noise-inducing hearing loss.

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DOE – United States Department of Energy

DOE the government agency that sets the standards of efficiency for HEPA filters. An air filter has to remove 99.97% of particles with a size of 0.3 microns if it is to qualify as HEPA.

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HEGA – High-Efficiency Gas Assistance or High-Efficiency Gas Absorption or High-Efficiency Gas Adsorption

HEGA refers to a category of filter composed of carbon cloth.

You can see the description for “A” varies from Assistance, Absorption, to Adsorption.

Adsorption is the process where a molecule or atom sits on the surface of a substance. Absorption occurs when a molecule or atom becomes part of another substance.

Adsorption is the correct description. Because molecules of gaseous pollutants adhere to the carbon cloth as air passes through it.

This filter type works to remove gas pollutants, chemicals, and odors.

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HEPA – High-Efficiency Particulate Arrestance or High-Efficiency Particulate Aerosol

This type of filter works to remove particles in the air.

It rates as having a minimum particle collection efficiency of 99.97%. For particles 0.3 microns in diameter. A standard of efficiency set by the United States Department of Energy (DOE).

Certification of meeting the HEPA standard results from testing by independent testing laboratories.

Be careful if you see descriptions “99% HEPA” or “HEPA-type” or “HEPA-like”, or “HEPA-style.” Or something similar. Most likely these products lack independent testing and don’t meet the DOE standard. It means they will not be as effective in filtering air.

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LED – Light-Emitting Diode

LED is an energy efficient light source. It is a semiconductor device. Light results when an electric current passes through the device.

LED’s are often used on the operating panels of air purifiers to show the status of various functions.

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MCS – Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

MCS is a health condition that includes a broad range of symptoms.

The symptoms can include fatigue, dizziness, headache, etc. They are often vague in their description and unverifiable. But are real and can be life-limiting.

Yet MCS is not recognized by medical authorities as an illness. Medico’s may describe the symptoms as “idiopathic environmental intolerance”. “Idiopathic” is another way of saying the cause is unknown. And that the processes little understood.

The symptoms do happen with exposure to high or low levels of chemicals. Hence the inclusion of the word in the phrase. But it’s more than just chemicals. Other causes attributed are tobacco smoke, perfume, and new carpet. And there are much more identified as possible causes yet are not proven.

Air purifiers do remove a range of physical and gaseous pollutants which could cause MCS. But no claim is possible to say they are successful in treating MSC. Not only are there no reliable diagnostic tests, but there are also no proven treatments.

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PSC – Permanent-Split Capacitor

PSC refers to a type of motor with many applications including air purifiers.

They are compact, easy to maintain, high in efficiency and provide a high power factor. All advantages ideal for air purifiers.

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SBS – Sick Building Syndrome (Refer also BRI – Building Related Illness)

Describes occupants of a building or area of a building suffering adverse health effects. The presumption is because of time spent in the building. But the actual cause or specific illness is unidentifiable.

There are umteen factors that can contribute to SBS. Buying an air purifier addresses some of these factors e.g. VOC’s, mold growth, etc. But you need to be sure of the cause before spending your money.

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True HEPA – True High-Efficiency Particulate Arrestance or High-Efficiency Particulate Aerosol

“True HEPA” is a marketing term. Used by manufacturers to highlight their HEPA filter underwent testing by an independent laboratory. And to confirm certification as meeting the DOE standard.

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VOC’s – Volatile Organic Compounds

Wikipedia describes VOC’s. As “organic chemicals that have a high vapor pressure at ordinary room temperature”. And that “their high vapor pressure results from a low boiling point”.

It means at a boiling point many molecules separate from the compound and enter the air. It doesn’t matter whether they’re liquid or solid. And we breathe that air.

But their impact on us depends on how concentrated the VOC’s are in the air.

In typical situations, concentrations are highest indoors. And in the main, man-made. They are covered by regulations. But regulations don’t eradicate them. What complicates the situation is that often they are not immediately toxic or noticeable. There could be low concentrations and symptoms that are slow in developing. And it is the long-term exposure that has adverse impacts on our health.

If you know, VOC’s are a risk then test for them. Remove the source if you can and look for a purifier that removes VOC’s.

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UV – Ultra Violet

Ultra Violet in the air purifier context refers to ultraviolet light.

Ultraviolet light is a type of electromagnetic radiation. It’s invisible to the naked eye. It’ll give you a tan in summer, but prolonged exposure damages your skin and any living tissue. Studies prove UV destroys the DNA of viruses, mold, spores, germs, fungi and bacteria.

There are purifiers with UV light filters installed that claim to clean the air in your home. But air needs trapping and exposure to a concentrated UV light for long enough to destroy the DNA. Many residential purifiers process air much too fast for the UV light to work. Others have a light that is lacking in power. The result is nothing changes. In effect, air draws in and vents out with close to the same level of contamination.

Check out in detail the specifications of a UV purifier before you take this option.

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Any More?

I’ve listed all the acronyms I’ve come across in my research on air purifiers. I don’t think I’ve missed any important ones. But never say never.

Have you come across others you think it should be on the list?

Please don’t hesitate to email me at [email protected]

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