Health conscious residents assemble in Shanghai to share ideas for low-cost DIY purifiers

By Wang Han Source:Global Times Published: 2017/1/10 18:13:39

Over the past several weeks, numerous cities across China have been blanketed with severe industrial smog. The year's very first Red Alert for heavy air pollution was issued in Beijing just three days into 2017, followed by a 212-hour Orange Alert. After making domestic and international headlines for its toxic smog, concerned Chinese citizens have been heatedly discussing and debating clean-air alternatives in lieu of any enforcement of government regulations.

For those who can afford costly air purifying machines, which can be as expensive as 10,000 yuan ($1,443), the solution is relatively simple. But is shelling out big bucks the only way to keep our air at home and the workplace fresh? Social enterprise Smart Air Filters recently held a workshop in Shanghai to inform residents with limited budgets about alternative DIY (do it yourself) options.

At the one-hour workshop, Noah Willingham, South China Head of Smart Air Filters, revealed that their company's founder, Thomas Talhelm, figured out that the primary components of a standard air purifier are nothing more than a fan and a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter.

Willingham explained that Talhelm purchased an average HEPA filter on Taobao, and then strapped the filter to a fan. The total cost was less than 300 yuan, and to his surprise this home-made purifier was just as effective in reducing PM (particulate matter) as the most costly machines.

Do it yourself!

At the workshop, Willingham brought the same HEPA filter along with a standard fan and installed the parts together in front of the audience to show how easy it is. He then used a PM counter to test the air quality around the filter, which was dramatically lower than elsewhere in the room.

Willingham pointed out that DIY air purifiers work best within a 15-square-meter room with all doors and windows closed. He added that once a user turns off the filter, the PM level will instantly increase; he suggests keeping filters running round the clock.

Attendee Lily Zhang, 26, said she frequently worries about Shanghai's ever-worsening air quality and is looking for an affordable home filter. Likewise, Chakra Yardlagadda, an Indian restaurant owner in Shanghai, said he is looking for good but affordable filters for his restaurant. "As a restaurant owner, I want to create the best dining experience for my customers. I have never seen any restaurants with an air purifier," he added.

Despite the low-price of a HEPA filter, some audience members pointed out that DIY air purifiers have minor disadvantages. For instance, 40-year-old Peng Peng said that the crude appearance of a DIY air filter doesn't suit her aesthetic tastes and is also quite noisy, which would affect her sleep.

Others pointed out that common houseplants such as the Snake Plant (Mother-in-Law's Tongue), palms, ferns and pothos (Devil's Ivy) are each very helpful in filtering out PM from household air. Indeed, many Shanghai-based consulates and corporations are now installing vertical "green walls" in their offices as natural alternatives to expensive, mechanized air filters.

Not profit-driven

Willingham explained that the primary purpose of his workshop is to make people in every local community more aware about China's worsening air pollution and how they can combat this in an affordable yet socially conscious way.

"Our goal for Smart Air is to spread awareness and knowledge," Willingham told the Global Times. "And we want to make sure people know how air pollution works and how air purifiers work."

He pointed out that, compared with for-profit air purifier brands, Smart Air Filters conducts free educational workshops around China in order to educate citizens who may not be aware of the toll that the country's polluted air is taking on their health. "We are not profit-driven. We just care a lot, and we want as many people as possible to be able to have clean air," Willingham added.

He stressed that while Smart Air Filters does not claim to be better than their pricey competitors, they are certainly more affordable. According to Willingham, Smart Air are not "specialists" in the fields of pollution or purifying, but rather just concerned citizens conducting their own DIY experiments and data-collecting.

"Every single test we've ever done, and every piece of information we've ever put out, is online for everyone to read and use for free. If you are a scientist and think we are doing something wrong, tell us and we'll fix it. We are totally open to criticism," he said.

Noah Willingham gives a talk and demonstration on how to install a DIY air purifier at a workshop in Shanghai. Photos: Courtesy of Su Jie


 
Noah Willingham gives a talk and demonstration on how to install a DIY air purifier at a workshop in Shanghai. Photos: Courtesy of Su Jie


 
Noah Willingham gives a talk and demonstration on how to install a DIY air purifier at a workshop in Shanghai. Photos: Courtesy of Su Jie

Noah Willingham gives a talk and demonstration on how to install a DIY air purifier at a workshop in Shanghai. Photos: Courtesy of Su Jie


Newspaper headline: Air alternatives


Posted in: METRO SHANGHAI

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