the IT city, the I.T. Baby


Cleaning the air with the Plant Air Purifier

Plant Air PurifierI’d mentioned the ongoing attempts to expunge my house of the sicks, and I finally broke down and got a Plant Air Purifier.

Should you be unfamiliar with the concept, a NASA Clean Air Study results indicated that common household plants could be used to naturally remove toxic agents such as benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene from the air helping neutralize the effects of sick building syndrome. Push air across them and into the root system and you can multiply the effects significantly while benefitting the plant.

I’d seen similar in action at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Showcase in Las Vegas, well not these exactly but similar from another company that didn’t know they were second to the market. Theirs had all sorts of gadgets to measure the quality of incoming and outgoing air. My guess is they found the patent on this and that’s why I haven’t heard from them.

Plant Air PurifierPlant Air PurifierPlant Air PurifierPlant Air PurifierAbove: washing the dirt off of my plant’s roots.

The idea is simple – plants purify the air we breathe. Not enough air passes the average plant to do a whole lot of good unless you’ve got them located next to an air intake or have a fan blowing across them.

Plant Air Purifier
These three bulbs got replanted in their soil and are doing just fine. There were six in that planter before.

Even then not a whole lot of that air is actually grabbed by the plant and processed. Plants aren’t particularly known for moving large amounts of air and if you think about it the air in your house tends to pretty much hang around where it’s at until a fan kicks on.

That’s where the Plant Air kicks in. It’s two pots that combine to form Plant Voltron, an outer and an inner. In the inner pot goes a clay-like substance that mixes with activated charcoal pellets to form the “soil”. This soil has a lot of breathing room, and it’s absorbent enough to pull water up to where your plant’s root system will be. You’re essentially turning a potted plant into a hydroponic plant at this point.

You pick a plant, any ol’ plant will do but they have some recommendations for the ones that work the best. Looks like according to the study, a Peace Lily and Florist’s chrysanthemum take the most toxins out.

I took a plant I got at Home Depot that was bursting out of its pot and divvied it up (there were six bulbs at this point.) I gently washed the root system clean of all the dirt I could, then let it soak for a while, rinsed off the remaining dirt, and potted the three bulbs.

Plant Air Purifier
Inner pot view of the float control and fan motor. Not shown are the water/air vents on the sides, you can look in the comments for pictures of those.

Potting two bulbs was easy, three had one always deciding to tip. My 3 year old helper couldn’t be trusted at this point, so I was on my own. She was talking something about butts. She’s always talking about butts these days.

I soaked the charcoal and ball mixture for something over an hour. It crackled and sounded like Rice Crispies for the longest time. Still sounds a little like that when I water the plant.

Plant Air Purifier
Plant “soil” looks like hamster food.

Plants in place, I read down to the next item: wait two weeks before turning the fan motor on so the plant can properly acclimate. I waited the full two weeks in my imagination and turned the thing on roughly six hours into the acclimation when I noticed that the plant was unfurling a leaf and looking better than it had when it was planted.

Six hours did wonders for a now uncramped plant. By day two it had grown about an inch. Both potted and Plant Air’d plants were doing great when they had room to move their roots.

I fired the Plant Air up in the kitchen. It made an air purifier noise, the air it blew out smelled vaguely Nashville watery (I’d forgotten to use filtered water,) and overall instantly I could tell nothing much was happening except air was being sucked into the main planter and blown out the exit hole.

Eh, give it time thought I.

Plant Air Purifier
Two days in, happy plant

About 20 minutes later I came in and realized the kitchen didn’t stink. I mean, it didn’t stink before but it didn’t have an odor of kitchen. Could have been imagining it, but who knows. An activated charcoal filter could have done that with proper air circulation.

I placed it upstairs in my bedroom. By two days in the smell of the bedroom doesn’t hit me. It’s not a bad smell mind you, it’s just a converted attic smell. Sort of like the lumber department of a Home Depot but much less noticeable. This is odd because I’ve had two air filters going for several years upstairs, both with activated charcoal prefilters.

Yesterday we decided to place it next to the main air intake for the HVAC and just crank the fan on. I don’t think I noticed anything at first, but this morning kid noses were generally less icky than they’ve been the past 4 weeks 2 days. Could be just everyone getting over the sicks, could be whatever’s in the air being filtered by the Plant Air.

Plant Air Purifier
New leaf up top popped out day 2/3

The thing claims to multiply a plant’s processing power by 60 times due to the multiple levels of filtration – activated charcoal grabs stuff out of the air, plant’s roots then absorb it. I’m guessing the water reservoir does some cursory air filtration also, along with getting absorbed by the root system as plant food matter.

From what I read 60x plant power may be a conservative estimate, but not having particle detection capabilities and a before and after reading, all I can go by is the smells, which are noticeably better.

The only issue I have with this comes from the design side. The inner pot can be rotated, which is nice if you want to hide the water indicator window. Unfortunately the blower motor is in the inner pot, so if you want to rotate the plant so it’s not bending over toward a window, you’re now changing the direction of the air that’s going out / where the power cord is coming out.

OK, one more issue, the instruction manual looks like someone printed it up on grandma’s inkjet and had about 20 minutes to write it up. Instructional, but not particularly laid out well into sections.

Plant Air Purifier
Stirring the media

I may be mistaken but I don’t think there’s any mention that the little line in the plastic window is a “don’t fill above this line or the whole thing stars making a lot of noise and you’ll need to drain the water down” line.

Plant Air in hallway
It is currently sitting above our air intake on the hallway phone caddy. What, you don’t have a 1940’s phone caddy built into the wall? I can’t even…

Were I to be designing this, power cord would go into the bottom center using an L-shaped connector, blower would be attached to the outer pot, then you could rotate the inner pot for plant growth and maintain blower position.

All that said, another company sold me on the product, but Plant Air is what’s at the market and it’s doing what that other company sold me on.

And hopefully this is killing off the germs a tad. It’s at least making the air smell better and seemed to be doing some dusting upstairs.

Things to note – I used a plastic colander and a plastic bowl for mixing and soaking the planting material. Neither cleaned up one bit in the dishwasher. Both cleaned up fine with a little soap and a sponge. Activated charcoal is easy to remove with a sponge (seriously, wiped off like it wasn’t there,) but could not be sprayed off by a dishwasher.

Update at one month: Plants are growing at a rather alarming and too-fast to sustain rate. Not sure if this is the Plant Air, the plant, or just because they’ve got room now. Two inches taller in a month. One of the tiny bulbs did not make it. Others are fine.

Other update at a month: got one of these for my office, significantly smaller place, using a Peace Lily and a Purple Heart plant. Will update on that later but it did take the smell of tech room and get rid of it.

Plant Air Purifier work
Picture of my work Plant Air purifier. Peace Lily and Purple Heart Plant/Wandering Jew. At the moment work plants can only operate about six hours a day or they start to droop. This does good for my needs at the moment. Guessing they’re getting acclimated still.

The Plant Air Purifier is available on Amazon for $99.

4 / 5 stars     

Paul King

Paul King lives in Nashville Tennessee with his wife, two daughters and cats. He writes for Pocketables, theITBaby, and is an IT consultant along with doing tech support for a film production company.