Do-it-yourself projects are great fun, and when you can actually make something that improves the quality of your life, you can definitely take pride in a job well done. Americans now spend about a huge percentage of their lives indoors, and the people who are most vulnerable to air contaminants spend even more time indoors. Indoor pollutants and contaminants are rising, so building an air purifier that really works is a great, relevant, and rewarding DIY project.
Building an Air Purifier
There are many types of worthwhile DIY projects such as learning how to install a wood stove, but few compare to the benefits of building your own air purifier. It’s not a terribly complex process, and there are many different ways to approach the problem. Your results might not look sleek and professional or have all the functionality you’d prefer — such as a dehumidifier with pump functionality, but the system you build will work at cleaning the air for a minimal cost. If it improves air quality, it is definitely worth doing.
Air purifiers include electrical devices and simple charcoal filter bags that filter the air, but the higher capacity air purifiers usually cost a lot of money to buy and operate. The following DIY projects are simple and effective in cleaning your air.
Plastic Bucket Air Purifier
The plastic bucket air filter is cheap to make, and the parts are available at any DIY store. All you need is a 2-gallon plastic container with a lid, a small portable fan, drill, sandpaper, and an air filter.
Choose the type of air filter that you prefer based on which types of molecules you most want to trap. There are fine filters like HEPA filters and MERV.
Basic dust or high-end smoke and fine particle filters can be used. Depending on which debris or molecules you’re planning on blocking, choose the kind that best meets your needs. Make sure that the diameter of the fan is slightly smaller than the bucket lid, and follow these steps:
- Trace around the outline of the fan on the plastic lid.
- Puncture the lid on the line, and cut around the circle to remove it.
- The head of the fan should fit the circle perfectly.
- Drill ½-inch holes all around the plastic bucket, making vertical rows of four drilled holes.
- Sand the roughened edges.
- Cut the filter to fit the height and width of the bucket, and secure it inside.
- Make a small hole in the lid to accommodate the fan’s cord.
- Secure the fan inside the lid, and close the lid.
- Power up your homemade air purifier, and check for air leaks in the lid, which can be sealed with duct tape.
You want all the air to travel through the filter, so it’s important not to let air escape before being filtered. The bucket’s holes serve as conduits of the filtered air.
Bucket Air Purifier Alternative Made of Wood
Some people work diligently to avoid plastic products, and you can make the bucket air purifier out of wood if you’re handy with tools. Take an old piece of wood furniture like a bedside table with sides. Remove three out of the four side panels. Then follow these steps:
- Get three filters that have been cut to a size that covers the empty side panel spaces.
- Screw the filters tightly to the frame.
- Cut an air vent in the remaining panel for delivery of the filtered air back into the room.
- You’ve essentially created a wooden box, into which you place a fan.
- Drill a small hole in the wood panel through which to feed the fan’s cord.
- You can use your own ideas as long as they force the fan’s air through the filter.
Make an Air Purifier that Reduces Allergens
The DIY purifier can be adapted to filter allergens that cause allergy and asthma attacks. Commercial HEPA filters are capable of removing 99.9 percent of allergens, and you can get similar results. Although commercial HEPA filters are expensive, you can save money by building your own version, and it’s relatively easy to do.
If you suffer from allergies or asthma, making this type of air purifier should help significantly. Indeed, HEPA filters are designed to trap up to 99.9 percent of air particles larger than 0.01 microns (2).
Although HEPA filters on their own are more expensive than regular screens, making one at home should feel lighter on your wallet. Besides, this type of air purifier is one of the easiest ones to make — just a few minutes may be all you need. You’ll need the following materials:
- A flat, square-shaped fan like a box fan
- Four strong zip ties
- A HEPA type of filter that fits the fan’s dimensions or can be cut to fit
The procedure couldn’t be simpler. Use the screwdriver to punch four holes in the corners of the HEPA filter covering. Don’t punch through the frame — just the fabric cover. Put the filter in place at the back of the fan, and use the zip ties to lock the filter to the fan tightly. This clever solution draws as much air as possible through the HEPA filter, and the clean air is blasted out the front of the fan. You also ensure that your fan doesn’t get a large buildup of dust on the blades and grille.
Air-filtering Fans: Easy to Make
The same technique described above can work on any air filter, and you can easily make several fans to use in various locations like your basement, garage, an attic bedroom, and workshop. Particles are commonly produced by wildfires, wood smoke, workshop operations, and external pollution sources.
These simple DIY air filter ideas save enough money to fund other DIY projects like planning how to fund and build your own garage.
How to Build Your Own High-capacity DIY HEPA Air Filter
You can build a DIY air filter for about $150 that works almost as well as MERV air filtration or a HEPA filter. MERV stands for Minimal Efficiency Reporting Value and means that the filtering system stops particulate matter of certain sizes from passing through the filter.
The higher the rating, the smaller the particles that the filter captures. MERV filters rated 1-16 are ideal for general household use. You probably won’t choose a MERV air filter rated 17-20 because they’re designed for laboratory and hospital use.
Unfortunately, you can’t attach MERV or HEPA filters to your HVAC system. The blower systems don’t produce enough force for the air to penetrate high-rated filters. Building a DIY HEPA filter is a workable option, however.
All it takes is four 20-inch MERV-13 filters and a piece of cardboard cut in the shape of the 20-inch box fan. Attach the air filters to the four sides of the cardboard, and make sure that the air intake side is on the inside of the air filter box that you’ve created. Use duct tape to attach the filters to the cardboard. Position the fan inside the box, and you have a portable air filter that you can move from room to room to clear the air of allergens, dust, and other contaminants.
How to Make Bamboo Charcoal Air Filter Bags at Home
Bamboo charcoal air filter bags work extremely well at cleaning the air, and you can make your own air filter bags to use anywhere in your home. This air purifying solution doesn’t require any electrical parts, but you might want to place the air filter bags where they receive direct air from an HVAC vent or fan.
Bamboo charcoal is extremely porous on the surface, and it can absorb up to 10 times more contaminants than other bag-style air filters. The bamboo charcoal filters absorb dust, allergens, pathogens, odors, and chemical compounds that pollute the air you breathe at home. The millions of pores trap and store allergens and pathogens and hold them until the organic microbes die. The following steps can produce activated bamboo charcoal to use in air filter bags:
- Place small pieces of bamboo in an unused metal drum or other containers.
- Light a fire to burn the bamboo.
- Cover the container to prevent oxygen from getting inside.
- The lack of oxygen makes everything burn off slowly except the carbon.
- Burn for 2-4 hours.
Activating the charcoal makes it even more absorbent, and you do this by grinding the charcoal into powder using a hammer or other heavy object. Treat the powder in a mixture of 1 cup of zinc chloride with 4 cups of water. Once the water turns clear, you know that the water is ready. Just mix the water with the charcoal powder, and strain the powder through a fine-mesh cloth.
Let the powder dry in the sun for 48 hours, or you can bake it on a cookie sheet for 4 hours at 215-degrees Fahrenheit. Cool and store the powder bags until ready for use. You can put the activated powder into linen bags that you have closed with thread.
FAQs About DIY Air Filters
Frequently asked questions about DIY air purifiers include the following queries.
Is a DIY Air Purifier Effective?
DIY air purifiers can be just as effective as commercial air purifiers, and they usually have fewer potential problems. Making your own HEPA air filter is one of the signature benefits of DIY air purifiers. The air purifiers usually don’t look very sleek or fancy, but they perform the functions that were designed to do.
Do Air Purifiers Make Your House Smell Better?
All air purifiers trap some of the molecules that cause bad odors and activated bamboo charcoal filter bags are some of the most effective purifiers because they trap up to 10 times as many particulates as other purifiers. In essence, it improves air quality.
Some purifiers aren’t considered exceptionally good at removing the causes of odors, but you can choose to use an advanced HEPA filter, MERV filter, or activated bamboo charcoal in your project. Some air freshening relies on 0on masking odors, which seldom lasts or gets rid of the underlying scents. Air purifiers are effective because they remove the particles that cause odors, health problems, allergies, and exposure to toxic chemicals.
How Do You Make an Air Purifier out of a Fan?
This article has covered several ways to make fans out of mobile circular fans and box fans. You can also use fans to force air into bamboo charcoal air filters to increase the filtering efficiency. You can always use your creativity and skills with tools to construct your own air purifier out of a fan. Just enclose the fan’s air output in some sort of box where the only way for the air to escape is to pass through an air filter.
Can Jerry-rigged DIY Air Purifiers Prevent the Spread of Covid-19 Virus?
There’s no reason that homemade air purifiers wouldn’t work. Covid-19 is spread in tiny droplets generated when breathing, and the virus that gets on surfaces and travels short distances through the air. Face masks prevent most but not all droplets from reaching your respiratory system, and air purifiers remove more contaminants than face masks block.
You should have some fun when making your own air purifiers. Making activated bamboo charcoal seems like a fun idea and an excellent way to incorporate scientific skills into your sense of accomplishment. Improve air quality, improve your life!