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Electronic Air Cleaners: 2 Common Problems

HVAC Technician
Many people make the mistake of assuming that the only important function of an HVAC system is to keep the air in your home at a comfortable temperature. Yet your HVAC system also has a key secondary purpose: ensuring that conditioned air is as clean as possible. Dirty air can lead to a wide range of health ailments, from allergies to asthma.
Electronic air cleaners are one of the most effective ways of removing unwanted particulate matter from the air circulating through your ducts. Yet even these powerful appliances may fail to fulfill their goal if not properly taken care of. If would like to learn more about how an electronic air cleaner works—as well as the problems that can reduce its effectiveness—read on. This article will discuss two commonly encountered issues.
Electronic Air Cleaner Basics
Electronic air cleaners also go by the more scientific sounding name of electrostatic precipitators. They are installed along the duct system, usually in the basement near your furnace. As air flows into the electronic air cleaner, it passes through a special ionizing chamber. This acts to impart an electrical charge to any and all unwanted matter—whether dust, pet dander, or other particulate matter.
The air then continues flowing through a series of flat plates, also sometimes referred to as cells. Known as a collector, this part of the air cleaner possesses an electrical charge that is opposite to that of the ionized particulate matter. In other words, the positive particles are drawn toward the negative plates. There they accumulate, allowing only the cleanest of air to pass into your home.
Dirty Collector Plates
One of the key advantages of an electronic air cleaner is that it’s able to collect and hold a much greater amount of airborne debris than a standard HVAC air filter. Not only that, but it is capable of retaining even the tiniest of particles. Of course, over time, such matter will continue to build up on the collector plates.
Eventually, the collector plates will reach their maximum capacity. Unable to successfully ensnare any of the negatively charged particles, such debris will be able to pass out into your home. For this reason, it is vital to have your collector's plates inspected and cleaned on a regular basis.
Electronic air cleaners vary in terms of how their collector plates can be cleaned. They can often be removed in order to facilitate cleaning, whether in the dishwasher, the bathtub, or outside in your yard. Be sure you have thoroughly read your owner's manual about the correct way to clean your plates, and don't hesitate to contact a professional if you don't feel capable of performing this task on your own.
Damaged Collector
Plates It is important to be aware that, though they may seem durable, the collector plates in an electronic air cleaner are actually quite fragile. They can easily be damaged—whether in inspecting, dismantling, or cleaning the collector. For that reason, it is generally recommended that a professional be allowed to service your cleaner.
If you look closely at the underside of the collector plates, you will see that there are small wires running along them. These wires allow the plates to be given the positive charge that in turn will trap the negative particles. Should the wires become broken, disconnected, or damaged in any other way, the plate in question will cease to take on the appropriate charge.
Bottom Line
When properly cleaned and maintained, an electronic air cleaner can do wonders for the air quality inside of a home. The best thing you can do to ensure years of hassle free use, is hire an experienced company such as Precision Heating & Cooling to oversee the proper functioning of your electronic air cleaner.