Testing DIY Air Purifier on a bad air day in Saigon, Vietnam

Clean Tech Jan 4, 2018

On Wednesday, January 3rd, 2018, Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), experienced one of its highest PM 2.5 AQI readings with a reading of 191 early this morning.

Very high PM 2.5 AQI for Saigon, Vietnam
Very high PM 2.5 AQI for Saigon, Vietnam

The smog was noticeable. From Hoang Dieu street in District 4, you could not see the Phu My Bridge in District 8 which was just 5 kilometers away.

A smoggy Saigon morning
A smoggy Saigon morning on Jan. 3, 2018. Phu My Bridge cannot be seen in the distance.

So where is the PM 2.5 coming from? In short, since PM 2.5 tends to rise around 2 am into the early morning, the source can easily be guessed. Vietnamese burn trash at night (since it is not legal) and also start cooking for the day around 4 am. The smoke and cooking oil are playing a big factor in the levels of PM 2.5 experienced in the morning. Last night the incense burning at temples. Hence a really bad morning and early afternoon for the air quality.

DIY Air Purifier Test

When the air is bad, it is actually good for testing SEAACT’s DIY Air Purifiers (AP). Today I wanted to see if one small DIY AP can clean the air of two rooms in my apartment. This would not be an easy test. In my kitchen, there is a windowpane missing to allow the air conditioner to vent any hot air outside. This is the main source of PM 2.5 leakage in my apartment. The testing area is 40 square meters, 20 each for the living room and kitchen.

DIY Vietnam Air Purifier with HEPA filter
DIY Vietnam Air Purifier with HEPA filter

The test will take place over 6 hours. I will keep both bedroom doors closed and I did not allow myself to leave the house during the test.

I will use the AirVisual air quality monitor to monitor the PM 2.5 in the livingroom. It will be located next to the DIY AP. The LaserEgg will monitor the PM 2.5 in the kitchen. I will take photos each hour of the test.

One Hour

At the start of the test, I started to worry that the DIY AP would not work with such a large space. After one hour I got the following results:

Hence, the air was being cleaned but the quality was still unhealthy. Still, I was a bit surprised that the kitchen’s air was being purified as well.

Two hours

The second hour overall improved the air quality to Unhealthy for Sensitive People in the living room. That is acceptable since most people would take their masks off at this AQI level.

Three hours

I can tell the DIY AP was working hard to purify 40 square meters of air.

Four Hours

Definitely noticeable now. Fours hours seems to be where the DIY AP was able to purify the air faster. This is promising since many home sizes will be similar to my 40 square meters area.

Five Hours

The two rooms are getting cleaner.

Six Hours – End of test

For all purposes, it took 6 hours to bring the two areas into safe levels of PM 2.5. I was surprised I must admit. I did not expect this as the final test results. Overall, the DIY AP used about 1 kilowatts of electricity during the 6 hours test. Not bad. For such a small fan, adding a HEPA filter will help many Vietnamese purify the air in the homes at an affordable price.

Final Thoughts

This test was done over 40 square meters with a missing windowpane. This was not an easy test. The DIY Air Purifer did the job. If left on all night, it should be able to maintain a healthy level of air while people slept. Realistically, though, most people would place on DIY AP in the kitchen and another in the living room. Each room would have one as well. As previous tests have shown, the DIY AP can get a 20 square meter room at a healthy AQI level and maintain it over time.


SEAACT (Southeast Asian Action for Clean Technology) is nearly reading to launch its first workshop. We have chosen the the DIY fan that we will use (not the one in the test). We also have chosen vendors for the HEPA filters as well. Stay tuned for an update of when you can attend the workshop and purchase a DIY AP kit.


Kevin Miller

RPCV Kazakhstan and former US Marine. Tech, social media & marketing guy for Baba's Kitchen.

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