Everything To Know About Electrostatic Precipitators

Air purification systems that rely on air filters are effective, but they are not the only way to remove fine particles from indoor environments. Electrostatic precipitators are an alternative to more traditional air purification systems. Activated carbon, fiberglass, and HEPA filters are among the tools for improving your indoor air quality. Electrostatic precipitators are a lesser-known technology. They are more popular in industrial settings for their ability to remove fumes.

What is an electrostatic precipitator?

Electrostatic precipitators are like ionic air cleaners. Both use an electrical charge to remove air pollutants. The electrostatic precipitator process is simple. Also known as ESP, electrostatic precipitators use a series of plates to trap airborne particles. One of the plates in the ESP has a negative charge and the other plate has a positive charge. The two plates generate an electrical charge that is emitted into the air. That charge grabs and holds on to pollutants, effectively removing them from the circulating air. The plates must be cleaned periodically to remove the collected particles.

Electrostatic precipitators are ideal for an industrial setting but are not suitable for residential properties. They emit ozone, which can be harmful to people with breathing conditions like asthma. Ozone (O3) is a gas molecule made from three oxygen atoms. Sometimes it is referred to as smog. No matter what you call it, ozone is bad for your lungs. It aggressively attacks lung tissue by chemically reacting with it and inflames and damages the airways.

What industries use electrostatic precipitators?

The use of an electrostatic precipitator is common in industries where particulate matter emissions are produced during the manufacturing process. Manufacturing, metals, and mining industries rely on this technology to lower the number of emissions they produce. Electrostatic precipitators are found in:

  • Cement plants
  • Fossil fuel-fired boilers
  • Hazardous waste incinerators
  • Lead/zinc/copper smelters
  • Municipal waste incinerators
  • Petroleum refineries
  • Power-generating stations
  • Pulp and paper mills
  • Steel mills

These industries produce large amounts of airborne liquid droplets and solid particles of varying sizes. Particulate matter is extremely harmful to humans. One of the most effective ways to remove it from an industrial setting is with an electrostatic precipitator.

Different types of electrostatic precipitator

There are two different types of electrostatic precipitators. Each type offers different levels of purification. There are pros and cons to using both.

The first type is a plate precipitator. It is the most common and most basic type of electrostatic precipitator. It is outfitted with a row of vertical wires responsible for generating a charge. The additional plates collect and hold airborne particulate matter. Charging and then collecting particulate matter is a two-stage process. This type of electrostatic precipitator produces less ozone than the second type, called a wet precipitator.

A wet precipitator, sometimes called a wet electrostatic precipitator (WESP), is best for removing airborne liquid droplets produced by industrial steam. They are particularly effective at combating sulfuric acid mist. Wet precipitators are tubular shaped. Their unique design turns collected moisture and particulates into a thick combination called a slurry. Unlike a plate precipitator, a wet precipitator uses water sprays, irrigation, or condensation to pull particulate matter away from the collection plates or wires.

Advantages of smoke precipitators and electrostatic air cleaning

There are many advantages of smoke precipitators and electrostatic air cleaning devices when used in an industrial setting. One of the biggest pros of using these kinds of air purifiers is they are highly effective at providing reliable air filtration that removes oil, grease, and smoke. This helps keep workers in factories safe from the harmful effects of these pollutants when they become airborne and inhaled into the lungs.

Other benefits of smoke precipitators and electrostatic air cleaners include:

  • Efficient removal of dry and wet impurities from the air, even at high temperatures
  • High collection efficiencies for large and small particles
  • Handles large gas volumes and heavy dust loads with low-pressure drop
  • Durability with a long service life that requires minimal maintenance

There are some disadvantages to smoke precipitators and electrostatic air cleaners. They do not control gaseous emissions and are dependent on the electrical resistivity of particulate matter. Smoke precipitators and electrostatic air cleaners also take up a lot of space.

Electrostatic precipitator in air pollution control

Electrostatic precipitators can help in air pollution control. They remove fine particulate matter like ash, dust, and soot from exhaust fumes. This is especially useful for power stations that rely on fossil fuels like coal or oil to generate electricity. When fine particulate matter is suspended in hot, rising air, they have the potential to reach our atmosphere. Pollution control is a vital tool in the fight against global warming.

Aside from their harmful effects on the environment, unreacted carbon in smoke damages buildings and harms the health of people who breathe it in. There are several variations of electrostatic precipitators available. Each type is suited for the removal of different sized particles. When used correctly, electrostatic precipitators are 99 percent effective at removing particulate matter.

Electrostatic precipitator for home use

Oransi does not recommend an electrostatic precipitator for home use. While they can collect dust, mold, and other large particles, they are much less efficient than an air purifier that uses HEPA filtration. For the best air filtration at home, using a HEPA air purifier with a MERV rating of at least 6 to 8 produces the cleanest indoor air.

You will need to choose an air purifier for your home that is suitable for the square footage. Not sure how to determine what size air purifier you need? This guide helps walk you through the process.

FAQs

What is an electrostatic precipitator air purifier?

An electrostatic precipitator air purifier is a type of air filtration device that removes particulate matter from the air. They are ideal for industrial settings where fine particulate matter like ash, dust, and soot from exhaust fumes are produced. Electrostatic precipitator air purifiers are not recommended for home use since they are not as reliable as HEPA filtration at removing the kinds of indoor air pollutants that affect most homes. If you are interested in improving your indoor air quality at home, you are better off buying an air purifier that combines an activated carbon filter and HEPA filtration technology for the best results.

What is the function of an electrostatic precipitator?

The function of an electrostatic precipitator is to remove particulate matter from the air to prevent pollution. Energy companies and other manufacturers use electrostatic precipitators to remove ash, dust, and soot from exhaust fumes they produce. Electrostatic precipitators can remove solid or liquid droplets from the air, making them ideal for use in the energy industry.

Electrostatic precipitators originally were designed to recover valuable industrial-process materials. It was later discovered that they were an efficient air pollution control solution. Air pollution – also known as smog – contributes to climate change and causes serious health issues in humans.

How does an electrostatic precipitator work and what does it remove?

Electrostatic precipitators are extremely efficient at cleaning up flue gases — gases released into the atmosphere via a flue pipe — produced during the combustion exhaust process at power plants and other industrial factories. Particulate matter with sizes of 1 micron (0.00004 inches) in diameter is not a match for a top-quality electrostatic precipitator.

The saying “opposites attract” is a good description of how an electrostatic precipitator works. Available in different sizes and types, electrostatic precipitators electrostatically charge particles in the gas stream either positively or negatively. Two electrodes within the electrostatic precipitator produce the electrostatic charge. They can be bars, metal wires, or plates. Once the charge is produced, particulate matter is attracted to and trapped inside the precipitator.

The plates within an electrostatic precipitator require occasional cleaning to remove the accumulated particulate matter. This must be done in a safe way to prevent the pollutants from becoming airborne again. The collected particulate matter should be disposed of in an environmentally safe way.

How much does an electrostatic smoke precipitator cost?

Electrostatic smoke precipitator cost is based on the size of the unit purchased and the number required for the indoor space. Large manufacturing facilities may need to purchase more than one unit to adequately clean all indoor air. Electronic smoke precipitators can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, depending on the need.