July 13, 2011,
The Honeywell HUT 200 humidifier from Kaz is filled by a water pitcher and cleanable in a dishwasher. kaz.com
By David Gill
If you make air-treatment products, you'd better make sure they work well--but you should also offer features that help with individual air problems, make them convenient to use and make sure they don't use a lot of electricity.
According to vendors in this category, that's what consumers are telling them about what they want from these products. And they are responding with a number of new features and technologies that address these needs, along with making them better at taking care of the air.
One such innovation has come from Jarden Consumer Solutions, parent of the Bionaire and Holmes air-treatment brands, in the form of customized, easily disposable filters. These are individual filters made to handle specific air problems--bacteria, dust, odor, tobacco smoke, pollutants; along with one that handles all of the above--and are manufactured so that they trap each of these problems and keep them from being released into the air when the filter is thrown out. "The pollutants are caught in the filter, not in your lungs," said Vera Bevini, Jarden's vice president of new business development for personal comfort and wellness.
These filters also fit into most Bionaire or Holmes products. "It means you don't have to buy different air purifiers," Bevini said. "We are tailoring these products and the marketing to fit individual consumers' needs." The filters are branded and color-coded in their packaging to identify which specific air problem they handle.
Convenience, for consumers of air-treatment products, can come in the form of ease of use. Kaz's Honeywell brand addresses this with its HUT 200 humidifier, which is filled by a water pitcher and which can be cleaned in a dishwasher. "Consumers hate filling humidifiers and hate cleaning them," said Lara Peterson, vice president of marketing for healthcare at Kaz. "You fill them with a pitcher rather than lugging the tank to the sink, and you put the part that atomizes the water and keeps everything inside in the dishwasher."
Yet another form of convenience is in size--specifically, more compact air-treatment products to fit in smaller rooms. One example is Blueair's Model 103 air purifier, which is designed to work in rooms 150 square feet or smaller, and comes in a cylindrical silver and black mesh look.
Different sizes and styles for different rooms are a trend that may gain even more traction in the years to come. Bevini said Jarden is looking to expand the Bionaire and Holmes lines in terms of their looks. "We're working with European designers for more modern and sophisticated designs, keeping it, again, simple and effective," she said. "These will be designs that are not intrusive, that don't stick out, but we want to offer the consumer whatever style he or she wants. We need to remember that we keep air purifiers out and working 24 hours a day."
To meet consumers' growing desire for energy efficiency in their home appliances, EcoKuhl Technologies has introduced the AirCycle Fan, an alternative to air conditioners that brings in fresh outdoor air and exhausts warm, stale air. According to Michael Geremia, EcoKuhl's founder and CEO, the AirCycle Fan uses less energy than two lightbulbs, or 95 percent less than a typical air conditioner. "With air-treatment products," Geremia said, "American consumers are looking for affordable energy-efficient alternatives that can reduce their dependence on expensive and energy-inefficient air conditioning."
Customization, convenience and energy efficiency are relatively new trends to the air-treatment market. Other vendors continue to tout tried and true technologies in terms of the product's operation.
Blueair is celebrating its 15th anniversary in business this year, and it's a business founded on its patented HEPASilent technology. This is the company's three-stage technology that combines advanced filter media and an encapsulated ion-particle charging chamber, which captures 99.97 percent of particles down to 0.1 micron in size.
Chan Tinkle, Blueair's executive vice president, said the company still sees HEPA technology as the strongest trend in air treatment. "We're in a good position because we've centered our assortment around the HEPA segment," Tinkle said. But that doesn't exclude the company from investigating other ways of improving air quality. "You've also seen the emergence of units with UV light," Tinkle said. "In addition to trapping particles, the UV light shines on the filter. We don't have it in products yet, but we've looked at it."
Whether it's old or new, technologies still motor the air-treatment business. Noting that his company has been active in terms of patents for technologies for portable air conditioners, Francesco De Flaviis, director of marketing for De'Longhi USA, said, "We believe that all categories in air treatment have good potential for growth when the right innovative feature is introduced."