Bi-Polar Ionization (BPI) Air Purification Systems and ASHRAE Standard 241: What You Need to Know

If you’re using a bi-polar ionization (BPI) air purification solution in your facility, you have taken an important step towards ensuring cleaner air. BPI technology, which has been around for many years, excels at doing exactly what it was designed for: Removing dust, mold, dander and other particulates from the air.

Up until the last few years, BPI solutions have been perfectly adequate for most buildings aside from healthcare facilities. Since COVID-19 took center stage in 2020, however, achieving clean air has become less about removing particulates and more about eradicating infectious contaminants.

This shift in focus led the White House to task ASHRAE to create Standard 241. Released in June of this year, the new standard establishes minimum requirements for “reducing the risk of disease transmission by exposure to infectious aerosols in new buildings, existing buildings, and major renovations.”

Achieving compliance with Standard 241—and protecting building occupants from contagious contaminants like COVID-19—takes more than a BPI air cleaning system. Read on to learn why BPI solutions must be enhanced with additional air purification technologies to safeguard occupants and enable compliance with the new standard.

About ASHRAE Standard 241

A major driver for ASHRAE Standard 241 was discussion between ASHRAE and the White House COVID-19 Response Team about the need for new and better IAQ (indoor air quality) standards. Standard 241 includes several requirements designed to fulfill this need including:

  • Requirements for “equivalent clean airflow rate:” This refers to using filtration and/or “air cleaners” to purify recirculating air in order to reduce the burden of outside air, which is very costly and energy inefficient.
  • Testing requirements for air filtration and cleaning technologies: These requirements are designed to establish technology performance and demonstrate that operation doesn’t degrade indoor air quality by methods such as elevating ozone levels. They include subjecting technologies to rigorous testing under conditions similar to where they will be used. They also specify that effectiveness must be tested using single-pass pathogen remediation.

Standard 241 also requires all existing installed air cleaning systems to comply with the testing requirements of the standard after January 1, 2025.

Why BPI air cleaning solutions fall short of the ASHRAE 241 standard

The concept of ionizing the air via artificial methods has been around for over a century. BPI is a newer form of ionization used in many air purification solutions to remove particulate matter. These systems use electric voltage to generate ions that are released into an occupied space or into the HVAC ductwork. These ions bond with airborne contaminants, creating larger particles that either drop out of the air or are captured by an HVAC filter.

BPI air technology excels at removing dust and other particulate matter; however, it was not designed to remove contagious contaminants like COVID-19. Because BPI systems weren’t natively designed to target COVID-19 and other pathogens, they take 30-60 minutes to reduce these pathogens by 99% or more in test chambers. It takes this long because the only way the airborne pathogens are killed is if they accidentally run into the discharged ions.

Test chamber data shows that COVID is reduced by 70% after 60 minutes with no air cleaning solution in use—meaning there isn’t a major difference between using BPI and using nothing.

There is also no published data demonstrating the required “single pass” effectiveness of BPI. Furthermore, some BPI air purification solutions generate ozone and other potentially harmful byproducts.

All of these issues and limitations mean that BPI air cleaning solutions are unable to meet the airflow and testing requirements of ASHRAE Standard 241. The good news is that there are technologies currently available that do meet all of the requirements of Standard 241.

How LifeAire systems ensure Standard 241 compliance

Whether you have an existing BPI system or not, installing the LifeAire air purification system is an easy way to bring your facility into compliance with ASHRAE Standard 241. LifeAire systems meet every single condition of Standard 241 while keeping occupants safe from infectious contaminants.

LifeAire solutions were developed specifically to remove COVID-19 and other infectious pathogens and VOCs in a single pass. Successfully tested in real-world environments, they achieve a 100% single-pass kill rate for Standard 241’s required test organism, MS2 (host Escherichia coli).

LifeAire’s patented technology uses a multi-stage purification approach to clean the air so completely that leading medical facilities including the Mayo Clinic and St. Luke’s University Health Network have chosen it to protect their patients. Systems can be easily retrofitted into existing buildings or installed in new ones. Each solution is customized to work optimally within its environment.

Facilities using LifeAire can also meet International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) standards for indoor air quality and qualify for Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) funding.

Achieving ASHRAE Standard 241 compliance by 2025 should be a goal for all facilities looking to provide maximum protection for occupants and guests. Increasing your existing investment in clean air with LifeAire is an ideal way to achieve complete compliance while ensuring you’re prepared for whatever the future holds.