How to Install Air Cleaners & Air Purification Systems In Your Home

Indoor Air Quality in O'Fallon, MO

How Are Air Cleaners and Air Filtration Systems Installed in a Home?

The air quality in your home might not be something you’ve ever thought much about, but the truth is that indoor air generally always has a much higher concentration of pollutants than outdoor air. Air cleaners, air scrubbers, and air purification systems are all great options for improving your home’s air quality and will work to filter out or destroy the vast majority of pollutants and allergens inside your residence. With that in mind, we’ll be taking a look at how these different units are installed so you can know what to expect.

Where Are Air Cleaners, Scrubbers, and Purification Systems Installed?

Air cleaners, air scrubbers and air purification systems are all either installed directly inside a home’s existing ductwork or connected to the ductwork. This makes them far more effective than portable air cleaners, as they work with your HVAC system to remove pollutants and allergens from the entire home instead of just one room or area.

The only real benefit to portable units is that all you need to do for them to work is plug the unit into an outlet. Whole-home air scrubbers, air cleaners, and air purification systems, on the other hand, will always need to be installed by a certified HVAC technician. This is because it is necessary to slightly modify the existing ductwork to accommodate the unit, which is not something you should attempt on your own.

How an Air Scrubber Is Installed

Air scrubbers are mounted directly inside of your ductwork and also need to be wired into the HVAC system so they can receive power. This is definitely something a professional needs to do since it carries a potential risk of electrocution. If not wired correctly, it could also seriously damage your HVAC system or create a fire risk.

Air scrubbers are installed inside the supply plenum. This is the large sheet metal box located next to or on top of the HVAC air handler where the hot and cold air flows out into the rest of the supply ducts. Before the unit can be mounted, it is first necessary to cut a square hole in the side of the plenum. The unit is then mounted in this hole and secured in place with the mounting hardware.

The power cord for the air scrubber is then connected to the HVAC system’s low-voltage (24-volt) power supply. If your home has a smart thermostat or you ever plan on getting one, it will usually be necessary for the technician to install a new low-voltage transformer before wiring the power cord. This is because smart thermostats on their own use quite a bit of low-voltage power. If a new transformer isn’t installed, there often won’t be enough low-voltage power to run both the air scrubber and the thermostat, which can cause either one to turn off randomly.

How Air Cleaners Are Installed

Air cleaners are generally always installed on the opposite side of the air handler where your normal HVAC filter is located, which means they clean the air flowing through the return ducts before it enters the furnace or air handler. Although most of these units don’t need any wiring since they don’t use electricity, the installation is still quite complex. There are also electronic air cleaners that obviously do require electricity, but these are typically always designed so that they can simply be plugged into any normal outlet.

Depending on the specific unit and how your HVAC system is set up, it is usually necessary to partially dismantle and resize or completely rebuild the supply plenum to accommodate the unit. The technician will then need to ensure that everything is tightly sealed, which is important since the ductwork will leak air and make your heating and cooling system far less effective if this isn’t done correctly.

How Air Purification Systems Are Installed

Air purification systems have to be installed differently so that they don’t restrict the air flowing through the duct system. The filters that these systems use are extremely efficient, and residential HVAC blowers aren’t nearly strong enough to pull air through this type of filter. If the unit were connected directly to your ductwork, it would quickly overload the blower and also result in the system producing very little hot or cold air.

The only way an air purification system can work without negatively impacting your HVAC system is to install it as a bypass. This involves cutting two circular holes in the return plenum and then connecting the unit to the plenum using flexible ducting. One of the flex ducts supplies air to the air purification system, while the other brings the clean air back into the return duct.

Whenever your HVAC system is running, the suction created by the blower is sufficient to draw air into the system and through the filter. At the bottom of these systems is a fan that then works to blow the clean air back into the return duct. Although the fan does require electricity, these units also use a basic power cord that can plug into any outlet.

How Air Cleaners and Air Filtration Systems Work

Most air cleaners are essentially just much larger air filters that are far more efficient than a standard HVAC air filter at trapping smaller airborne particles. These units are often referred to as box filters, and inside the box is a large pleated media filter that typically ranges between MERV 10 and MERV 16. A MERV 10 filter will trap around 85% of all airborne particles like dust, mold spores, and pollen, whereas a MERV 16 filter will trap more than 95% of larger particles and over 90% of extremely small particles like bacteria, viruses, and bioaerosols.

Air purification systems typically have a series of different filters that work to trap particles of varying sizes. The air coming into the system first passes through a pre-filter that traps the largest particles like pet hair. Most of these units then have a true HEPA filter that will trap more than 99% of all airborne particles. Some of these systems also come in an optional carbon filter that helps to trap odors and keep your air smelling fresh.

You can also find air filtration systems that include UV light units and a special catalyst to attack and destroy volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other organic pollutants. These work using a process called photocatalytic oxidation, which essentially means that the UV rays and the catalyst cause a chemical reaction that alters organic molecules and renders them harmless.

How Air Scrubbers Work

Air scrubbers also have a photocatalytic air purifier just like many air purification systems. However, these units don’t just oxidize and destroy any organic particles inside of your ductwork. Air scrubbers also release negatively charged ion oxidizers that then travel throughout the entire building. Odor-causing bacteria, viruses, smoke, VOCs and many other pollutants are all positively charged. As such, these particles are attracted to the negatively charged oxidizers and are then destroyed when they come into contact with them. This is how air scrubbers destroy pollutants throughout the entire home, including on all of your surfaces.

Trusted Indoor Air Quality and HVAC Services

If you’re considering any type of indoor air quality unit for your home, our experts at Hoff Heating & AC can help you decide what type of unit you need and ensure it functions as it should. We install and service a wide range of indoor air quality equipment including air scrubbers, air cleaners, air purification systems, UV lights, mechanical ventilation systems and whole-home humidifiers and dehumidifiers. We also offer a full range of heating and cooling services, and we install, repair and maintain furnaces, heat pumps, air conditioners, ductless mini-splits, and geothermal HVAC systems. To learn more or schedule an indoor air quality consultation in O’Fallon or the St. Louis area, give us a call at Hoff Heating & AC today.