Choosing an Air Purifier for Apartments Large and Small

Apartments suffer from many of the same air quality problems as a house, but they also offer some unique challenges. Small size and poor layout can make it difficult to properly ventilate an apartment. Worse, you have no control over what your neighbors do, so their cigarette smoke or moldy bathroom could affect the air quality inside your apartment. You have to depend on your landlord for other aspects of air quality, putting them outside your control. One way you can control the air quality in your apartment is by using an air purifier. An apartment air purifier can remove pollutants from the air when you are not able to control the source of the pollutants.

Air purifiers and the size of your apartment

One consideration when choosing an air purifier for an apartment is the size of the apartment. It can be difficult to determine which air purifiers are able to handle different volumes of space. The only available guideline is the air purifier’s CADR number. CADR stands for Clean Air Delivery Rate, and it roughly translates to the amount of air the purifier can purify. (It is actually more complicated than that, but the intricacies of CADR are beyond the scope of this article).

The problem with basing your purchase of an air purifier on the CADR number is that the CADR number conveys a very limited amount of information. An air purifier should have a separate rating for each type of particle it filters, but you will be filtering multiple particles types when using the purifier, so these numbers individually are not very useful. CADR can also be influenced by the size and speed of the purifier’s fan, which does not tell you anything about the efficiency or efficacy of the purifier.

You should look at CADR as a very rough guideline. If you have a medium to large apartment (700 square feet or more), an air purifier with a very low CADR number will probably not move enough air to effectively filter out particles.

Do you need one for each room in your apartment?

If you are in a small apartment, particularly a loft, multiple air purifier units may not be necessary as most air purifiers on the market can cover rooms up to 600 square feet. But if you are living in a larger apartment with multiple bedrooms, it may be prudent to consider multiple units or a much more portable unit that can be easily relocated from room to room.

Here are some very rough guidelines for size of apartment and the CADR that is usually advertised:

  • Small apartment or lofts (300 to 500 sq. ft.) – 190 ~ 320 CADR
  • Medium apartments (700 to 900 sq. ft.) – 2 purifiers with a total CADR between 450 and 580
  • Larger apartments (more than 1,000 sq. ft.) – 2 or 3 purifiers with a total CADR of 650 or higher

If your budget can only allow for one unit, here are some suggestions below in terms of placement within your apartment.

Air purifier placement

One way you can maximize the effectiveness of an apartment air purifier is by choosing a portable air purifier that can be moved from room to room. This allows you to purify the air where it is needed most. You can run the air purifier in the bedroom during the night, then move it to the living area, office, kitchen or wherever you spend the most time.

The EPA notes several other ways to maximize air purifier performance with careful placement: “Placement of portable air cleaners: Place portable air cleaners where the most vulnerable occupants spend most of their time. Infants, elders, and asthmatics are more vulnerable than healthy adults. A bedroom can be a good place to locate and operate an air cleaner. Also, place any portable air cleaners so that their clean air reaches the breathing zone of occupants as directly as possible, without obstruction from furnishings or addition of fine particles by common sources such as printers. Otherwise, ‘short-circuiting’ could occur, in which the output flow does not reach the intended area.”

Apartment air purifiers and specific pollutants

You may not always have control over what kinds of particles enter your apartment. Your choice of air purifier will depend on which types handle the particles you are most likely to encounter.

  • Smoke. Cigarette smoke from you, a roommate or a neighbor can leave your apartment smelling bad and drastically reduce the indoor air quality. An air purifier will need to be able to deal with smoke particles and the VOCs present in tobacco smoke.
  • Mold. Poor ventilation can make it difficult to remove the moisture from bathrooms, kitchen or laundry areas. Moisture buildup will eventually lead to the development of mold. According to the Centers for Disease Control, exposure to mold and mold spores can cause asthma or trigger reactions in people sensitive to mold. A mechanical filter such as a HEPA filter is good at removing mold spores from the air.
  • Chemical off-gassing. New carpeting or furniture or a fresh coat of paint may make your apartment look good, but they can also release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air. These toxins are harmful when inhaled. Not all air purifiers can remove VOCs. Carbon filtration or another technology that eliminates harmful molecules from the air is necessary. An air purifier that removes VOCs will also help with unpleasant smells coming from other apartments. A HEPA filter will not remove VOCs.
  • Allergens such as dust mites, pollen or pet dander. These pollutants can come from outside, from your own apartment or from a neighbor’s apartment. A HEPA filter is effective against airborne allergens.
  • Carbon monoxide. While some air purifiers may have a limited ability to remove carbon monoxide from the air, you can not depend on an air purifier for this purpose. It is very important to have a working carbon monoxide detector in your apartment at all times.

Other ways to improve air quality in your apartment

All the usual methods of improving indoor air quality are effective in an apartment, to the extent that they are under your control.

  • Open the windows. As a general rule, outdoor air is cleaner than indoor air. Opening the windows is a sure way to improve the indoor air quality. In a small apartment where air flow is a problem, a box fan in the window can make a significant difference.
  • Control pollutant sources. If the source of a pollutant is in your apartment, try to remove or mitigate it. Ask your roommate to only smoke outside. Dust and vacuum often to remove dust mites. Thoroughly wipe down any areas where you see mold.
  • Talk to the landlord. If the source of the problem is a neighbor smoking in a non-smoking building or mold in the HVAC ducts, see if the landlord can help you resolve the problem. The Minnesota Department of Health recommends immediately notifying landlords of any leaks or visible mold problems, and that all such problems should be repaired within 14 days.
  • Talk to a municipal authority. Your city or town may have a housing authority, building inspector or independent apartment renter’s association. They may be able to mediate any conflict with your landlord or other tenants regarding air quality. The EPA offers a list of resources for renters who are dealing with indoor air quality problems.

Although they differ in a few ways, improving the indoor air quality in an apartment is similar to improving the air quality in a house. An air purifier that works well in a house will also be effective in an apartment. For the best results, use a portable air purifier and keep the air in your apartment clean where you need it most.

Our solution

The Molekule air purifier can destroy indoor air pollutants like mold, pollen and airborne chemicals in your apartment and provide clean air for you and your family. The unit is designed to replace the air in a 600 square foot room once an hour.

If you have multiple rooms in your apartment, it is easily portable and can be moved from room to room, depending on where you need it. As with all air purifiers, it is best to regularly run the Molekule air purifier in your bedroom when you sleep at night, as this is often the best way to maximize the performance of the unit in the “sleep breathing zone” as mentioned above.

Improving the indoor air quality of your apartment is important and Molekule can help provide fresh air 24/7 to where you may spend the most time–the place you call home.

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