As we all know, no one can beat India when it comes to jugaad. Whether it’s a vehicle powered by a water pump or an espresso machine made out of a pressure cooker, the sheer inventiveness of the people means that we’ll find a solution to any problem.
However, it was in China that the jugaad approach was first applied to air filters in September 2013. Thanks to an inventive approach and stripping back of an air filter to its bare essentials, you can now buy an air purifier kit for just Rs 3,399.
Available exclusively on the Smart Air Filters website, the DIY air filters have proven to be so popular, the company is struggling to keep up with demand.
The product was launched around Diwali this year, a time when so many crackers and fireworks are being set off that the air pollution deteriorates quickly.
Back To Basics Approach
An air purifier works by removing tiny particles like PM 2.5 and PM 10 from the air. It does this by pushing air through a HEPA (High-efficiency particulate arrestance) filter. This sounds a lot more complicated than it actually is. It’s just a filter that has been engineered to have a really big surface area in a small space in order to trap as many particles as possible.
At its core then, an air purifier needs a HEPA filter and a means to push air through the filter, ie. a fan.
This is essentially what the DIY Air Purifier gives you. A HEPA filter strapped to a fan.
The ability of the DIY Air Purifier to remove PM 2.5 particles from the room is remarkable to say the least. It’s incredible that two such low cost items can produce results similar to that of branded air purifiers.
The chart below was provided by Smart Air Filters. The data is based on testing done in Beijing but using the same device sold as in India. It shows that yes, the branded units remove more particles from the air but the DIY Air Purifier is not too far off.
When you factor in the cost of the air purifiers that were tested (the Philips AC4072 costs Rs 35,000 in India while the BlueAir unit costs over Rs 47,000), you are paying tens of thousands extra for very little additional benefit.
One point to note in the chart above is the performance of the Smart Air’s Cannon product. This actually performed better than brand air purifiers at removing microscopic particles from the air. The Cannon isn’t available in India just yet although Smart Air India did inform us that they are looking to launch it soon. Given its performance, we can’t wait to review the Smart Air Cannon when it comes out.
The chart below, also provided by Smart Air Filters, shows how quickly the DIY Air Purifier can remove harmful PM2.5 particles from a room.
The effective coverage of the DIY Air Purifier is around 150 sq ft. This is about the size of room in most apartments. Therefore to get the maximum benefit, you’ll need one unit for each room. If you live in a 3BHK, then you’ll probably need three or four units if you want to ensure better quality air through-out the house.
Unfortunately it’s not the case of using an air purifier in one room for a couple of hours and then moving it to another room because the air quality will start deteriorating once you switch the unit off. Unless your home is completely sealed at the doors and windows, the microscopic particles will come back in.
The running costs of an air purifier are very low – comparable to a ceiling fan or a 60 watt bulb. The DIY Air Purifier consumes 65 watts, which given the size of its fan is understandable. Branded air purifiers typically consume less power but the difference to your electricity bill isn’t likely to be significant.
The ongoing costs come from the HEPA filters which need to be replaced periodically. If the ambient air averages 100 µg/m3 (that’s 100 micrograms per cubic meter of air) of a pollutant such as PM10 or PM2.5 particles, the filters are expected to last upto three months. For higher concentrations of pollutants, the filters might need to be replaced as much as once a month.
The table below was taken from the US Consulate website which monitors the air quality in Indian cities. At 9am on 22nd December, Delhi’s air quality index score was 453, which the US says is hazardous and is likely to lead to serious health problems in even a healthy population. The concentration of PM2.5 particles in Delhi is 429.3 µg/m3, which is 17 times higher than the European safety limits.
At these concentrations, the air filter would need to be changed once a month which is also an indication of how important it is for people living in the city to consider an air purifier. For other cities in India, once every three to four months should suffice.
Each filter costs Rs 999 and can be purchased from the Smart Air Filters website. For most cities in India you will need to spend around Rs 3,000 to Rs 4,000 per year on filters. Unfortunately for Delhi residents this can be as much as Rs 12,000 a year due to the high levels of pollution. However, these running costs are comparable to branded air purifiers as well.
The parts for the DIY Air Purifier come with a one year warranty so if something like the motor on the fan burns out, it will be replaced under the warranty.
Although the DIY Air Purifier is an elegant solution to a major problem, the aesthetics of the device are anything but aesthetic. This is where branded goods like Philips win, they look great in the home. Jugaad focuses on making the simplest solution to a problem, not to make the solution look great.
Where to Buy
Currently the DIY Air Purifier is only being sold on the Smart Air Filters India website. You have to be on your toes though because sky-high demand means they are selling out as fast as the units can be produced. At the time of writing, the cost is Rs 3,399.
If you are in Delhi, you can pick up the air purifier directly from the Smart Air Filters office once you’ve got confirmation that it’s available to pick up.
Note that you will have to assemble the filter to the fan yourself using the straps provided.
The folks at Smart Air Filters informed us that they are also working hard to try and get these units in retail outlets nation-wide and figuring out the supply chain to get it listed on popular e-commerce websites in India.
The DIY Air Purifier embraces everything that is good about jugaad. It’s a fantastic, low cost solution to a very serious problem that faces everyone that lives in a city in India.
Yes, it might be a little bit unsightly and ungainly compared to a sleek BlueAir or Philips model, but ultimately what do you want an air purifier to do? Make the air in your home safer to breathe and the DIY Air Purifier does just that at a fraction of the cost of a branded air purifier.