A Letter from Paul:

Bipolar Ionization – Plasma Air Technology

Every so often, we run across a product that looks like a black box. We wonder, “What is inside this box”? and “Why does it cost so much”? The manufacturer tells us that the black box will do all sorts of wonderful things for us. It will make us feel better, sleep better, and cure a whole host of our ailments. We can’t drink what is in the box, nor will it show us a movie or play music. So what exactly does the black box do?

The “black box” technology I am referring to is Bipolar Ionization or Plasma Air Technology. This box will emit positively charged ions that can eliminate (or reduce) airborne contaminants in the air inside a building. This box or bar is installed in the return air path to the HVAC equipment. Unlike a filter that will catch particles in the air stream down to a certain micron (size) level, the box will produce positive and negative ions that seek out atoms and molecules to trade electrons which will kill bacteria and viruses in the air.

The definition of Bipolar Ionization as described on the Plasma Air International website is “Plasma Air products are mounted in the central air conditioning system of any building. As air passes over the products, millions of positively and negatively charged ions are formed – just like in nature. These bipolar ions disperse into the occupied space through the duct system, proactively attacking airborne contaminants where they cause the most problems for occupants. Plasma Air is safe, low maintenance, easy-to-install, energy efficient, and highly effective on pollutants such as particulate matter, bacteria, viruses, mold spores, odors, and VOCs”.

Sound too good to be true? Perhaps a little snake oil-ish? This is a tough one, because we have nothing to measure, or see that proves the validity of these claims. If you choose to drink the snake oil, perhaps the placebo effect will occur, and you will “feel” better. With the recent pandemic related to Covid-19, I think most of us would gladly spend our money on a box if they can kill these invisible viruses that make us

sick and cause important sporting events to be canceled.

Which is better to solve IAQ issues? More outside air (increased tons of A/C and higher installed cost) or less outside air and use bipolar ionization to clean the return air? Professionals are on both sides of this question. Perhaps the answer is a mixture of both. In my opinion, ASHRAE 62 has always erred on the higher side for ventilation. Its not easy to account for how much outside air naturally comes into leaky buildings through cracks and open doors, but we can’t solely rely on plasma when pure wholesome outside air can be a better cure.

While I’m sure the bipolar ionization companies have invested a boat of money in research and testing, it would seem to make sense that independent testing agencies should provide some type of standards that these products would be held to. If only we could see those nasty little virus buggers and watch them get incinerated by some clever electrons fired by AK-ionizer guns.

For now, I am hopeful that this technology works. I’d like to put my faith in something besides hair growing shampoo, muscle building powders, and wrinkle remover gel. After spending hard earned money on pet rocks and mood rings, we don’t need to be conned again.

Stay tuned for the next PM Blog titled, “Sales 101.”

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