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The quality of the air we breathe is essential to our health. While that sounds like a fact we’ve known for centuries, the reality is that only recently have scientists begun to gather hard data on just how seriously contaminated air can impact human health over the long term. As a result, there is increasing concern about outdoor and indoor air quality — especially at home and in the workplace. Even with modern ventilation, harmful compounds and particles can accumulate indoors. New technology has arisen to help improve these conditions, such as air purifiers and scrubbers. What is an air scrubber, though? 


The Difference Between Air Scrubbers and Air Purifiers

To answer that question, we should first look at another similar technology that can confuse the average consumer with its similar name: air purifiers. Although both scrubbers and purifiers seek to improve indoor air quality, purifiers tend to do so on a smaller scale and to a lesser extent than scrubbers.

Most commonly, air purifiers are single room solutions. They typically only use a filtration system, perhaps even a very good one such as HEPA, combined with a fan motor that draws air from the room through the filter before releasing it back into the space. This filter captures some particulates and allergens, such as pet dander, dust, and dust mites, and can appreciably impact the air quality in a small space such as a bedroom or living room. While there are other kinds of air purifiers, these are the most common.

On the other hand, air scrubbers use more active cleaning technologies and target a broader range of airborne contaminants than the typical room-based air purifier. 


What is an Air Scrubber? How They Work

Air scrubbers are typically industrial or commercial-level devices designed to intensively clean the air, either for an entire building or for a dedicated space. Scrubbers are very important in applications such as mold remediation work where airborne spores can pose a health hazard. Instead of relying strictly on filter technologies that only trap contaminants in a local media, scrubbers aim to trap gases, particles, and other targeted contaminants so that they can’t re-enter the airstream within a building.

There are multiple kinds of technology that fall under the “air scrubber” umbrella, and each functions in a slightly different way. Some systems combine these technologies to achieve even higher levels of air purity. What are the terms to know?


Wet scrubbing

Wet scrubbing, like its name implies, involves passing air through a liquid or liquid-soaked medium as a means of extracting VOCs, allergens, and other particles from the circulating air. There are many kinds of media that manufacturers may choose to use. Sometimes, wet scrubbers work in conjunction with equipment that uses negatively ionized air to attract and trap airborne particles so that the wet scrubbing medium works even more effectively. Wet scrubbers can be highly efficient at removing most particles from the air.
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Dry scrubbing

What is an air scrubber that uses a “dry” method? These units work similarly to the methods used by air purifiers in that a “dry” filter traps gases and particles rather than a wet medium. Dry scrubbers usually use materials such as activated carbon, which can attract and permanently trap harmful components of certain gases in the air. Dry scrubbing is primarily an industrial technique used to purify air that may carry highly acidic gas. Still, there are other applications for dry scrubbing techniques using the negative ionization technique.


Ultraviolet Scrubbing

UV scrubbers are a special kind of technology that may be used independently or in conjunction with wet and dry scrubbing. As the air passes through a portion of the ductwork, high-intensity ultraviolet light passes through the air. This has a germicidal effect and can effectively kill bacteria, viruses, and other airborne pathogens that may cause disease. 


Are There Air Scrubbers For Use in the Home?

Some small-scale options for air scrubbing can attach to existing home HVAC systems, but these are not typically the application of choice for this technology. However, with growing concern about IAQ, more manufacturers may soon turn their attention to providing additional solutions for the home. For now, the heaviest duty and high-efficiency scrubbers tend to find a home in places such as industrial factories, hospitals, and other major commercial operations.


Exploring Your Options To Improve Air Quality 

Are you interested in breathing easier at home? Air purifiers and scrubbers might attract your interest when you want to go a step beyond your monthly HVAC filter changes. Connect with a proven HVAC service provider in your area today to investigate questions such as “what is an air scrubber and is one right for my home?” with the professional insight you need to make intelligent buying decisions.

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