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Air Scrubbers Guide – What Are They Best For?

A piece of equipment that is utilised within the water damage management industry (including water leak damage) is an air scrubber. We will look in more detail later as to how air scrubbers work, but like many pieces of equipment, they come in various designs, shapes and sizes from different manufacturers.

That said, different air scrubbers generally perform a similar purpose in assisting in improving air quality in an indoor environment, through various stages of air filtration, and will typically look like the one in the image below:

Air Scrubber - HEPA
Air Scrubber – HEPA Filtered

The air scrubber shown above is manufactured by XPower, but similar models are available from companies such as DriEaz, Dantherm and various other manufacturers. This particular model has the capacity to process 550 CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute).

This equivalent to 15.58m³ (Metres Cubed) per minute. That means that if you had a room for example which was 2m x 3m x 2.5m (15m³) this air scrubber would clean and filter the equivalent amount of air in the room (what we call air exchanges) just under every minute or 62.32 times per hour.

HEPA Air Scrubbers Explained

We mentioned above that this particular model of air scrubber, like many others on the market is a HEPA air scrubber. But that obviously begs the question…

What does HEPA stand for?

Leak Detection Logo - Small

HEPA stands for high efficiency particulate air (filtration). There are different standards in various parts of the world but in Europe and the USA it means that ranging around 99.95% to 99.97% of air particles with the diameter of 0.3μm. Where ‘μm’ is a micrometre (or micrometer in the USA) which is one millionth of a metre or one thousandth of a millimetre aka a micron. So as you can imagine, 0.3μm is very small. A human hair is typically be between 30 and 60 microns!

On this image below the HEPA filter is the 3rd and final stage of filtration (the filter at the back):

Air Scrubber - Filters
Air Scrubber – 3 Stage Filters

We mentioned earlier that a human hair is 30-60 microns thick and that this can filter down to 0.3 microns but what size are some of the things that this might filter out? Here are some examples:

  • Most household dust is typically 1 to 100 microns
  • Most mould spores are 1 to 40 microns (often about 10 microns)
  • Cement dust particles are typically 5 to 50 microns
  • Pollen is typically 10 to 200 microns
  • Smoke particles average around 2.5 microns
  • Bacteria generally ranges 0.3 to 5 microns

Clearly these numbers are a guide, like anything sizes can vary but many things in homes or businesses will fall within this range and be filtered out by the air scrubber. Do air scrubbers remove everything? No. But can they greatly remove air quality by removing many contaminants. Yes!

Also, taking something like smoke particles as an example, the size of the particles will depend on what is being burned to cause the smoke. Tobacco smoke is different to wood smoke for example.

How do Air Scrubbers Work?

Most air scrubbers are fairly simple but highly effective mechanical devices to help clean an improve air quality. They generally work by using negative air pressure (suction) via the use of an internal fan. This draws air (and particulates in the air) into the body of the machine.

This can be seen on the diagram below:

What Does an Air Scrubber do
What does an Air Scrubber do?

This first stage of the air scrubber machine is where the filtration occurs. we saw on the image further up the page the filters (typically 3 or 4) which some can generally be cleanable and replaceable when needed. Once the air has been cleaned and filtered by the air scrubber, the cleaner, safer air is output from the system back into the room.

In this particular model there are three stages of filtration:

  1. A washable nylon mesh filter
  2. A ‘standard’ pleated media filter
  3. A thick HEPA filter (for the smallest particles)

Most air scrubbers also include a fan speed dial to change the speed and air-flow of the unit, depending on the situation and application it is being used for.

Air Scrubber - Inlet
Air Scrubber – Inlet / Intake

Air Scrubber Uses

Earlier in this guide we gave some examples of the types of particles that may be found in the air and an air scrubber can help to remove or reduce the number of those present.

On the manufacturers website themselves, they say it “effectively removes contaminants such as bacteria, allergens, mould and sub-micron sized dust with its advanced 3 stage filtration technology”.

As well as helping to improve air quality generally whilst working on site, there are particular applications where on a scrubber can be a very beneficial addition. This includes:

If you need any of these services, please don’t hesitate to contact our local team. We also have ozone air managers available to carry out similar tasks as well as odour control or suppression.

Air Particles - Smoke
Air Particles – Smoke

Air Scrubber vs Air Purifier

Something which is occasionally asked is what is the difference between an air scrubber and an air purifier? To be very honest, there is not a straight-forward answer to this as they are general terms covering a large number of pieces of equipment and applications.

However, typically people referring to air scrubbers (especially in water damage management) are referring to the types of machine demonstrated further up this page. In comparison, air purifiers I more commonly referring to domestic devices founding homes to help improve general air quality.

Clearly both applications carry out similar tasks but we’ll work in different ways and at different capacities. For example, we mentioned that the device shown above filters around 15m³ per minute which is a high CADR (Clean Air Delivery Rate). The higher the number, the more times the air is cleaned for a given period of time.

In comparison a small domestic air purifier might be in the range of 1-5m³ per minute. Although again, this will vary. We use air quality testers and monitors to check the quality of air before, during and after air scrubbing. Such as the one shown below.

Air Quality Tester
Air Quality Testing Device

This particular air quality monitor is a laser particle tester which tests and measures:

  • PM2.5 – small particles in the air
  • PM10 – larger particles in the air
  • HCH0 – formaldehyde particles (from various sources)
  • AQI – an Air Quality Index to show air quality
  • Air Particles per Litre of Air

Air Scrubbers – Mould Remediation

In our article about mould on walls, we mentioned about the potential health risks from mould problems, especially when mould is disturbed, including when cleaning it. Mould spores from the mould can be carried in the air and (a) pose a health and safety risk but also (b) present a risk of spreading the mould to other areas. On the subject of health risks, please see our article on chemical hazard symbols.

In mould remediation work both before and during the mould removal process, having an air scrubber is very beneficial to helping to improve the air quality and reduce some of the risks mentioned earlier for both the home, business but also our staff working onsite and anyone else in the area, including business customers or other tradesmen. This is also the case for some of the other applications we mentioned earlier.

We mention about the role that air scrubbers play in mould remediation in our article about Xmas Mould, which is one of the peak times of year for mould.

Domestic Air Purifier
Domestic Air Purifier for Home

Air Scrubbers – Odour Control

Related to the previous section, as we are sure you will understand, particles in the air can carry a smell as your nose inhales and senses the smell from these particles, such as from a fire smoke or the ‘foisty’ / damp smell from mould or a water leak, including sewage smells in houses. On the subject of fire, related to this, see our article showing fire classification groups and a similarly useful guide to fire triangles.

As you might expect from what we have explained in this useful guide to air scrubbers, they can help to reduce the smells associated with such things and help improve unpleasant smell over time. Sometimes, this will include carbon filtration too.

Interestingly, when testing or demonstrating air scrubbers, people sometimes spray something odorous near the air scrubber inlet filters and test to see if you can smell it a the other side (with something safe of course).

That said, the best and safer way to test them is with air quality monitors.

We provide a number of water damage services, we can help you deal with this.

Air Scrubbers – Top Tip
“Professional industrial air scrubbers can have a variety of applications aimed at improving air quality from damage management incidents including mould problems, fires and a number of cleaning tasks. This helps with both health and safety and the effectiveness of the process – for example, mould removal and removing spores safely.”

Leak Detection Team

Air Scrubbers – Other Useful Information

Here are a few other articles related to this subject which you may find useful to review too:

If you have a water leak contact our friendly and experienced team for help.

Rainbow Restoration Leak Detection
Rainbow Restoration – Leak Detection

Are air scrubbers effective?

Air Scrubber - HEPA

Air scrubbers, used correctly and in the right place, can be highly effective in a number of applications including mould remediation, flood damage management and a number of cleaning applications. They will not only help to filter our particles in the air (to improve air quality) but can also help remove odours and improve health and safety conditions onsite. They are a very useful machine to use.

What does an air scrubber do?

Air Scrubber - Filters

An air scrubber helps to remove and reduce potentially harmful particles from the air in the room they are being used, acting as an air purification system on an industrial scale. They are especially useful in removing dust, microorganisms, mould spores, smoke particles and more. Typically they have several stages of filtration, often including HEPA filtration, to pick up particles of different sizes and remove them from the air. Then outputting the cleaner air back into the room.

How much does an air scrubber cost?

Air Scrubber - Inlet

Like many things, the cost of air scrubbers will vary according to the type of device you use, the size / capacity of it and the specific manufacturer. That said, typically a new industrial air scrubber will cost in the region of £500 to £1500. They generally come with replaceable filters which can also vary in cost but would typically be £25 to £100 each for the ‘standard’ earlier filters but in the region of £100 to £200 for the final stage HEPA filters which are the most expensive.

At Rainbow Restoration – York & Yorkshire Coast we are experts in Leak Detection, including business water leaks, so if you need help finding a water leak or getting your property back to normal after a water damage or a flood, get in touch with our friendly local team who will be happy to help you with this. We are based in York and help with water leak detection in York.

On the topic of flooding, you may like our guide to Christmas Flooding Safety.

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Leak Detection Logo