I never thought I’d be reviewing an air purifier but here we are. You can thank Melbourne’s incessant need to plant Plane Trees throughout the CBD and the development of possibly one of the most annoying afflictions at the age 37, hay-fever.
For the past two years I’ve battled this scourge like billions before me. Now heavily embedded amongst the sneezing and itching ranks I will gladly try anything that has the potential for relieving the symptoms, such as an air purifier from Ionmax for example.
Why an air purifier?
In the air floating about the place is a crap tonne of stuff that really doesn’t do us, as humans, any favours. This goes for non hay-fever suffers too. Bad smells, airborne germs, dust mites, there’s a whole bunch of stuff that you’d probably prefer to not smell, let alone breathe.
The idea behind the increasingly popular air purifier is to remove or reduce the number of nasty elements in the air around you. This is generally done via a filtering process that blocks or extracts nasty particles, but in the case of the ION390 adds both a UV light and ioniser to further compliment its features.
Filters, lights & ionisers
The Ionmax ION390 has a five step filtration process that removes and cleans the air in a space up to 60m2.
The first “pre-filter” removes large airborne particles like hair or dust before passing through to a more pedantic HEPA filter. HEPA, which stands for High-efficiency particulate air, is a standardised filtration system. Most of your high-end purifiers will include a HEPA filter, meaning it’s met a certain quality and those saying things like “HEPA-plus” or “HEPA-like” should be given a wide berth.
The HEPA filter can capture microscopic particles as small as 0.3 microns. Fine dust, smoke, bacteria, pollen and mould are extracted by this one before being passed through a carbon filter.
The carbon filter predominately extracts odours from the air. HEPA/Carbon filters are often used in homes after a fire or with smoke damage to help remove the smell for example.
A final TiO2 filter works in conjunction with a UV lamp to break down harmful contaminants. The combination kills some mould, bacteria and viruses, leaving the air, in effect, healthier.
Lastly, as the air is released an ioniser sends out negatively charged ions with it. These attach themselves to pollutants in the air that haven’t yet been cleansed. Combined, they create more dense dirt particles, which in turn fall to the floor.
Setup & operation
If you can open a cardboard box you’re 90% of the way there! The only part of setup that could be a ‘gotcha’ is the fact the filters in the rear of the machine are sealed in plastic.
The only other thing in the box besides the incredibly light (5kg) 65cm tall tower is a small credit card sized IR remote.
Once powered an aircon-like LCD that sits on top of the unit will come to life as will the buttons beneath it. The buttons allow you to control the unit’s power, a power-off timer, fan-speed and whether or not you’d like the UV filter & ioniser to be on.
For the majority of people fan-speed is the only button they’ll press. Pressing it changes it between three speeds and a ‘Auto’ mode, which most will leave it on and then forget about it. Operating in Auto the unit will increase or decrease the speed based on the level of air purity it can sense.
This is represented in two ways, an bar chart on the display labelled as API for Air Pollution Index and the colour of the light on the top of the unit. Blue meaning the air is OK, green that things could be better and red indicating it’s kinda shit-house.
The only other feature some might find useful is the ability to have the unit power off after a certain time. This can be set to anywhere from 1 to 8 hours and is easily done by pressing the timer-off button a bunch of times.
Unfortunately there’s no option for the unit to turn back on when it picks up a dip in air quality or for it to be scheduled to come on at a certain time. It’s my one gripe as I’ve found it doesn’t really need to be on 24/7 but I’d like it to be on during the regular hours that I’m home or asleep.
Running it full time is possible though, and anecdotally that appears to be how many people use them. Thankfully it doesn’t chew an enormous amount of power like your typical A/C unit. The ION390 will draw around 55W, which isn’t exactly your TV on standby but then it’s not your fridge at 150W either.
Get to the point, does it work?
To gauge if the ION390 Air Purifier was working or not my only choice was to go off the drugs. Putting down the Nasanex and hiding the Telfast was a harrowing concept but there’d be no other way of truly testing things if I didn’t.
Thankfully, I can happily say it wasn’t that bad. Even on those crazy, shit-going-everywhere Plane Tree days in Melbourne’s CBD, sleeping with the ION390 running left me feeling refreshed and not at all like years gone by.
Don’t expect it to be a silver bullet for fighting allergies 24/7 though. Devoid of shoving your head in a space helmet and running a portable filtration system I don’t think there ever will be one. It does help though and given the rather gross look of the main filter a month in, I’d say it’s definitely doing its job the best it can!