This article originally appeared in the Jan/Feb 2022 issue of WQP as "Water Meets Air"
In 2019, Chris Tarr decided to add Aerus air purification products into his company’s offerings, which include water services. That move added $2.1 million in revenues, doubling in 2020.
Tarr now owns and operates four Aerus franchises through his company, The Pure Experts, based in southern Maine and New Hampshire.
“We wanted more options than water filtration to offer a healthy home product to our customers,”
“There’s an amazing synergy between water and air,” said Domenico Brunetti, an Aerus management consultant. “Internal studies we’ve done in the past show people who are worried about water quality issues are usually worried about their air quality. For water dealers, selling and marketing air purifiers should be an easy addition as it increases their bottom line.”
The Impact of COVID-19 on the Air Purification Market
Initially, the COVID-19 pandemic was not a driving factor in adding air purification to his services, Tarr said.
“In Maine, we were the last in the country to get COVID cases, so it didn’t help us at all,” Tarr said of sales. “It actually hurt sales because people were very skeptical — they didn’t even believe it was real.”
However, in the fourth quarter of 2020, sales picked up after people started getting sick. While the pandemic made somewhat of an impact, Tarr attributes the overall success of customers’ adaptation of air purification technology to the desire for a more wholistic home health approach.
What is Air Purification?
The U.S. EPA defines air purification (or “treatment” or “cleaning”) as using technologies to remove contaminants from the air, including airborne viruses and other pathogens, which in turn improves indoor air quality.
There are many different types of air cleaning technologies on the market, including mechanical air filters that have long been used and been proven effective when properly used, as well as emerging technologies such as ionization devices, photocatalytic devices, and devices that emit ultraviolet light, said Kacey Fitzpatrick, science communication, EPA Office of Research and Development.
The pandemic has raised awareness and concern about airborne transmission of diseases and about indoor air quality in general, Fitzpatrick said.
“As we repopulate indoor spaces, there is a growing interest in using air purification technologies to reduce the concentrations of airborne pathogens as part of a layered approach for reducing the risk of disease transmission,” Fizpatrick said. “It is also important to follow all relevant public health guidelines, such as mask-wearing and social distancing.”
Aerus cites EPA information that people spend 90% of their time indoors, and indoor pollutant levels may be two to five times — and occasionally more than 100 times — higher than outdoor pollutant levels. Energy-efficient homes trap pollutants.
Sources of indoor air pollution include mold and mildew, ragweed and pollen, tobacco smoke, pets and dander, house dust, outside air and chemicals in products.
Beyond by Aerus products are designed to help create a cleaner, healthier and more comfortable living environment at home, work and in other spaces and are used as a complementary technology to public health guidance.
The products are designed to offer various amounts of square footage of coverage, with many featuring ActivePure Technology, HEPA filtration, activated carbon screen and Photocatalytic Oxidation (PCO) complementary technologies.
Brunetti points out residential air purification technologies have been on the market since the early 1990s, through HVAC and portable units.
“HEPA is a great technology, but it is way too efficient of a filter to just put in front of an HVAC system because it will actually cause the HVAC system to slow down a lot, thus most HEPA units on a HVAC system will be a bypass system,” Brunetti said.
“At Aerus, our engineers and product development team will take a lot of these long-standing technologies such as negative ionization, activated carbon and HEPA and put them into portable units and HVAC units complementing these technologies with our ActivePure Technology.”
ActivePure Technology is designed to produce oxidizing molecules that reduce viruses, bacteria, odors and VOCs in the air and on surfaces. It differentiates itself in its ability to neutralize pathogens, Brunetti said.
Used in conjunction with public health measures, the technology helps mitigate the risks of indoor air pollution, “which is a growing concern considering the impact the SARS-CoV-2 virus has caused on our society,” Brunetti said.
Aerus Pure & Clean has gone through scientific testing in partnership with a Biosafety Level 4 and Biosafety Level 3 combination lab team to prove it reduces airborne SARS-CoV-2 novel coronavirus in the air, Brunetti said.
The technology was tested on live SARS-CoV-2 virus — not proxy or surrogate strains — and demonstrated a proven reduction rate of more than 99.9% of airborne SARS-COV-2 within three minutes, Brunetti said.
Ensuring Air Purification Technologies Are Safe & Effective
In considering air purification technologies, it is important to review any available safety and efficacy data, Fitzpatrick said.
She offers these points for consideration: is the technology safe to use where people are present and is there a risk that people would be exposed to hazardous substances or radiation? Has the technology’s efficacy been tested in a robust fashion with time-matched control conditions that account for natural pathogen decay and in a way that is relatable to real-world conditions?
Brunetti pointed out that as consumer trends demand more air purification, especially in the wake of the pandemic, there will be products flooding the market that have not been subjected to real-world and variable testing.
“There’s so much opportunity in today’s world with the changing consumer shift of how people view their air quality,” Brunetti said. “It’s going to be all about the science and the proof. It’s good that there will be more regulatory oversight in the marketplace. The emerging technologies with substance will prove themselves through more science and data, thus educating the public making these emerging technologies more viable.
“With all of the persistent issues in the water treatment industry from PFAS to lead pipes and the Biden infrastructure plan trying to address these water issues, I think it makes the public more in tune with issues to water infrastructure and a parallel can be drawn to the air industry.”
Water companies have an obligation to their customer base to do right by them by offering them clean safe drinking water that is tested and proven, Brunetti said.
“Water dealers can also do right by their customers by offering them cleaner air inside of their home environments,” he added.
Increased interest in air treatment technologies is driving innovation in the sector, Fitzpatrick said.
“Safe, effective treatment technologies will be a welcomed addition to a holistic approach for improving and maintaining indoor air quality,” she added.