Do Activated Carbon Air Filters Work?

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Written By Jamila W.

Our health and happiness are directly influenced by the air we breathe. However, indoor air is often more polluted than outdoor air. This is because common activities like cooking and cleaning can produce pollutants. As a result, many people use air purifiers to improve the air quality inside their homes. 

Activated carbon air filters with particle air filtration are among the best because they can remove air pollutants. It uses activated carbon to remove gaseous pollutants from the air.

Do activated carbon air filters work? In this article, we are going to look at the following;

  • The advantages of activated carbon air filters
  • How to activate carbon
  • The limitations of activated carbon
  • Factors to consider when buying an activated carbon air purifier

Keep reading to learn about these and much more.

How is Carbon Activated?

activated carbon

Carbon must go through an activation process to be able to capture pollutants. This process is done using a heated kiln. In this process, carbon is activated by steam or hot air. The steam activates the carbon and increases its surface area by forming tiny holes. 

The carbon is made larger, creating more space for capturing harmful particles. It is the best material for an air purifier because it improves its capacity to filter harmful particles.

What is an Activated Carbon Filter?

Carbon is enclosed in a cloth or mesh-like material to create an activated carbon air filter. These filters get rid of gasses from the air. Pollutants and odor particles are so small that they can easily pass through normal filters. These filters capture these particles and remove them from your indoor air.

Difference Between Hepa Filters and Carbon Filters

 HEPA and carbon filters are used to improve indoor air quality. They are often used in various industries, but they work differently. Since they each remove a different type of pollutant, it is important to use both filters together. Let’s take a look at the difference between the two filters;

HEPA Filters

HEPA filter

HEPA filters are some of the best-known and most widely used filters on the market. They are highly effective at cleaning the air because they remove 99.97 percent of particles. These particles include bacteria, mold, dust mites, and pollen. As a result, HEPA filters are used in various places, including offices, hospitals, and even household vacuums. 

HEPA filters were first used during World War II to get rid of the airborne particles that were harming soldiers’ breathing systems. 

HEPA filters cannot get rid of smells or smoke fumes. It is advised to use both HEPA and carbon filters for effective cleaning.

Activated Carbon Filters

Activated Carbon Filter

Carbon or charcoal filters can remove odors, smoke, fumes, and other chemicals. Since chemicals are often used in commercial buildings, carbon filters are the best option. 

In other words, when charcoal is exposed to oxygen, the pores between the carbon atoms are opened. The filter’s pores chemically react and get rid of impurities as they pass through them. The filter must be replaced once all the pores have been blocked with particles to continue working at its best. Remember that activated carbon filters can also clean liquids; for this reason, they are also used in beverage machines, water treatment, and during the distillation of whisky.

How Do Activated Carbon Filters Work?

Activated carbon is made up of porous material. Why is its surface area so important? Activated carbon is unique because it is highly porous and has a large surface area. This makes it perfect for capturing and getting rid of gaseous pollutants. 

Carbon is made up of a network of connected carbon atoms. The activation process is important because of the increased surface area, which gives gasses more surface to stick to. Pollutants stick to the surface after passing through the carbon. 

Activated Carbon air filters can get rid of pollutants from the air through adsorption. Gas pollutants are drawn to the surface of the activated carbon and then trapped as air passes through the filter. This is because activated carbon attracts odors and gasses when things burn. The filter can no longer capture pollutants once it has been warned out. 

Substances with high chances of sticking to the carbon replace those that cannot stick. This is greatly affected by environmental factors like temperature and humidity.

Different pollutants are released from the filter as conditions change. When worn out, you might notice a strange smell from a carbon air filter. This is a sign that the filters need to be replaced.

Activated carbon air filters get rid of gasses from the atmosphere by trapping pollutants in their carbon molecules. This is done through a process called Adsorption.

What is Adsorption?

All of the molecules in the air pass through a carbon filter with the air as well. The molecules do not block the activated carbon as they pass through the filter. The adsorption process causes some molecules to become trapped in the carbon. 

Adsorption is the process by which a particle sticks to a surface. For carbon filters, it’s important to understand this idea. There is a better chance that a particle will stick to the carbon filter if it has a larger surface area. 

Adsorption is similar to absorption, but there is a difference between the two. When a particle sticks to a  surface, it is said to be adsorbed. When a particle becomes trapped inside a material, absorption takes place.

The Benefits of Using Activated Carbon in Air Purifiers

Activated carbon air purifiers are different from the normal cleaners. Having them in your house gives you the following benefits:

Improve Indoor Air Quality

By removing harmful pollutants and smells, activated carbon filters in air purifiers help to improve indoor air quality. This results in a cleaner and healthier living environment. This is helpful for those with allergies or breathing problems. 

Removes Bad Smells

Activated carbon filters get rid of smells from the air. This includes pet odors, cooking smells, and smoke from cigarettes. 

Removes Chemical Fumes

Activated carbon air purifiers are good at removing smoke and chemical pollutants. This makes them perfect for homes, offices, and other indoor spaces. 

 Long Life Span

Activated carbon air purifier filters last long, so you won’t have to replace them as often as you would with other air purifiers. Do research on when to carry out filter replacement.

Limitations of Activated Carbon Air Filters

Activated carbon air filters are useful in your home. However, they come with some limitations. Let’s take a look at some of them:

Require Filter Replacement

It is difficult and expensive to replace worn-out carbon filters. Ensure you change the filter on a regular basis to get the best performance. The frequency at which you replace the filter depends on the size and thickness of the filter. If you notice any bad smell in your house, it might be a sign the filters need to be replaced.

Cannot Filter Large Particles

Although carbon air filters cannot remove particle pollutants, they get rid of many organic compounds. Pollutants like dust and pollen, and smoke from wildfires, which can be dangerous to people, are among these particles.

How to Effectively Use an Activated Carbon Air Filter

Having an air purifier in your home can help improve your indoor air quality. However, you need to use it correctly to get the best results. Here are some tips to follow;

Use Enough Carbon

Some filters are called activated carbon filters despite using only a small amount of carbon. These will not work well because they quickly wear out. Not all carbon is the same. Some are more capable than others. A good activated carbon air filter usually uses at least five pounds of carbon. This is just a general rule. However, in general, using more carbon can increase functionality because there will be more surface for pollutants to stick.

Improve the Airflow

The air must pass through the carbon for long periods to get rid of most pollutants. This is known as “dwell time” in the air filter industry. According to this statement, a filter with a thick layer of carbon will work better than one with a thin layer of carbon. 

Replace Carbon Filters

You cannot use carbon as an air filter after it has been worn out. When this happens, you must replace it with a new carbon filter. However, there is no good way to know when the carbon filter must be replaced. Sometimes it produces some smell, while other times, it doesn’t. This is a rough estimate, but you can change it often if you follow the manufacturer’s instructions. The carbon wears out depending on how much it is used and how much pollution it is exposed to. A monthly replacement schedule is a good place to start when replacing carbon filters, which is an expensive investment.

What to Look for When Buying a Carbon Air Filter

Not all air filters are the same. This also applies to carbon filters. There are things to consider when getting a carbon filter. Here are some of them:

Amount of Carbon

More carbon is better when it comes to carbon air filters. The effectiveness of the carbon is reduced when it has a lot of airborne pollutants. An air filter with a thin carbon layer will only block odors for a short time. 

Additionally, activated carbon comes in a variety of forms. Activated carbon may have more surface area and binding sites. All this depends on the manufacturing process, making it more effective. However, generally speaking, carbon has more benefits. 

Thickness of Carbon Layers

A carbon filter works differently depending on how thick the carbon layer is. This is because the air pollutants must pass through more carbon layers. A thick carbon filter will increase the likelihood of bad smells and pollutants sticking to the carbon material as they pass through it.

Type of Filter

Some carbon filters are surrounded by a polymer mesh. Such filters are pre-filters. Use them in addition to an air filter with a MERV rating, as they cannot filter out common airborne dust particles. 

Should You Use a Carbon Air Filter?

Use a carbon filter to get rid of bad smells quickly, like during fires or construction. Or you may be worried about the pollutants that certain household items or construction materials release into your home. A carbon filter is a good solution in such cases. 

However, a carbon filter might not be the most cost-effective investment in the long run. You would have to get one with a lot of carbon and replace it when needed. 

You would only address a part of the indoor air pollution issue because it does not remove particles, a common type of indoor air pollution. For these reasons, it might be a good idea to spend money on a more durable solution instead. Hybrid air purifiers have both a mechanical filter, like a HEPA filter, and a carbon filter.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)

Can Activated Carbon Air Filters Remove Carbon Monoxide?

Sadly, a single person cannot clean an activated carbon air filter. A manufacturing facility usually carries out the expensive process of reactivating carbon. Therefore, it is much easier for you to buy a new filter. 

Some cleaning procedures instruct you to vacuum or use water to clean the filter. Nevertheless, those techniques only remove dust. VOCs or odor compounds won’t be eliminated by it. 

Is There a Way to Clean Your Carbon Filter?

Air filters with activated carbon can remove some gaseous pollutants from the air, but not all. A carbon air filter won’t stop carbon monoxide (CO) from passing through. In other words, even if you use a carbon air filter, you still need a CO monitor at home.

Are Air Purifiers With Activated Carbon Filters Noisy?

No, carbon air filtration systems are quiet and they produce little noise. They will not disturb your daily activities with their loud fan noises.

Final Thoughts

Activated carbon air filters are good tools to clean indoor air and reduce pollutants in your home. Doing this prevents you from having health-related problems like difficulty breathing and chronic conditions. 

A purifier with an activated carbon filter works well and reduces air pollution in your home. The filters get rid of bad odors and gaseous pollutants from the air. Get yourself activated carbon air filters to lead a healthy life.