Surround Air XJ-3800 Intelli-Pro Air Purifier Review by Garth Wernsman
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Yes, the Surround Air XJ-3800 Intelli-Pro is quite a name for an air purifier. It’s well deserved, though. Its space-age appearance gives it a slightly retro Jetsons look, but the design and performance are completely up to date.
Superb sensors, outstanding indicators and an amazing filter system make this model one heckuva cleaner, especially considering the modest price.
Truly High-Tech, Multi-Stage Filtration System
The XJ-3800 may sound like a 1950s rocket ship design, and there’s probably a good reason for that. It’s definitely space-age technology, only 21st century.
Stage 1. It all starts with the air entering the unit through multiple air inlets enabling maximum air flow through the unit. The air first enters a washable pre-filter, capturing the largest particles.
Stage 2. An electrostatically-charged dust collection grid attracts charged particles & pollutants like a magnet. That component is found in a great many home air purifiers today, and for good reasons. The technology is straightforward, reliable, and low-maintenance… and it really works.
Stage 3. The high-tech continues with an activated carbon filter that performs both a mechanical and a chemical function. Mechanically, charcoal filters act like sieves to continue the particle-removal function for yet smaller pieces.
It adds a chemical action, thanks to carbon’s high propensity for forming loose bonds with so many different molecules. That chemical action brings even more value when the combinations are with gases and odors that occupy many homes. Paint fumes, household cleaning products, cat litter and more are present in many if not most homes. The XJ-3800 Intelli-Pro’s carbon filter gets them all.
Stage 4. Of course, there’s a HEPA filter that captures not only more dust but a wide array of potential allergens, such as most bacteria and some viruses. The XJ-3800 then goes beyond those fairly common abilities to add several more layers of home air purifying technology.
Stage 5. In this stage a process called Photocatalytic Oxidation is taking place. A TiO2-coated filter (TiO2 = Titanium Oxide) in combination with UV rays – coming from the nearby UV lamp – generates ions to produce hydroxyl radicals (=highly reactive electrons) in the air.
These aggressively combine with harmful indoor pollutants such as formaldehyde (a common outgassing of new carpeting), ammonia, and many others. Once bound together, a chemical reaction takes place effectively “oxidizing” (or burning) the pollutant. This breaks the pollutant down into harmless molecules.
Stage 6. A germicidal UV lamp irradiates the air passing nearby. The UV light possesses just the right amount of energy to break organic molecular bonds. Any microorganisms left intact get killed. That germicidal action requires no chemicals to worry those who might be sensitive but still want a hospital-clean environment.
Stage 7. In the final stage the XJ-3800 Intelli-Pro pumps out negative ions that circulate throughout the room. Those ions (charged particles) produce small electrostatic fields in the air similar to the one inside the case.
That increases the size of the particles in the air, which might sound like a bad thing. But that larger size makes them easier to trap. It also makes them heavier, so they tend to float more readily to the floor or carpet, where they can be vacuumed up. They also attach more readily to positively charged surfaces where they stick, harmlessly waiting to be wiped off.
The net result is air cleared of dust, smoke, mold, bacteria and other microorganisms, odors, chemicals… in short, anything and everything airborne that can harm your eyes, nasal passages, and lungs. Even shorter: clean air.
Let me summarize this 7 stage purification process…
- Stage 1: Pre-filter gets largest particles
- Stage 2: Electrostatic precipitator traps more particles
- Stage 3: Carbon filtration removes odors and chemicals
- Stage 4: True HEPA filter traps microorganisms
- Stage 5: Photocatalytic Oxidation further reduces chemicals, bacteria and odors
- Stage 6: Germicidal UV lamp destroys more micro-organisms
- Stage 7: Ionizer produces helpful negative ions
Sensors and Indicators
Purifying all that air is great. It’s the main reason you buy a quality home air purifier. But it’s also really helpful for that process to happen automatically and to be able to see how the unit functions. For that purpose, the Surround Air XJ-3800 Intelli-Pro incorporates a number of sensors and indicators. The sensors detect what is going on in your air, the indicators tell you what the purifier is doing about it.
The XJ-3800 Intelli-Pro has a number of components that can sense the quality of air. Of course, ‘quality’ is a qualitative term. What’s really going on? Well, the answer lies in one of the more interesting facets of chemistry.
Chemical compounds in the air – everything is ultimately a chemical: dust, pollen, smoke, animal dander, as well as what we refer to as chemicals (like cleaning products) – carry electrical and physical ‘signatures’.
If they’re charged, the unit can sense that electrically. But different compounds also react with sensors in other ways, triggering a response. Cat litter odor, for example, has such a signature. The XJ-3800 can sense that. Pollen has another and there’s a sensor for that.
When it senses a quick rise in either of those (or many other possibilities), the unit can increase its air cleansing by speeding up the fan. You’ll hear that as a rise in the white-noise sound as air flows into and out of the unit through its intake and exhaust ducts. The fan components themselves make very little noise.
Open a window on a pollen-laden day and your XJ-3800 may well automatically turn itself on high until the air is cleared. Light up a cigarette and the unit can go into overdrive.
Apart from the sounds you hear, there are a series of indicator lights to show you what is happening. There are ones that tell you when to change any of the filters. There’s an indicator to guide you when to clean the dust collector grid. The UV and Ionizer lights show these components at work.
The downside of that increased operation is, of course, some extra noise. In the XJ-3800 that noise is moderate, but some people are more sensitive to background noises than others.
On low (35dB) or even medium (45dB), almost everyone will be able to sleep soundly without disruption. On high (52dB) there is some noticeable ‘white noise’, with the intensity varying according to distance, room layout, and your furnishings. You would have little trouble hearing the TV, for example, even on high.
Hardwood floors obviously reflect more sound, while carpets absorb them. More closed drapes means less reflected sound off glass. More soft chairs, pillows, and so forth will create a quieter environment.
Maintenance + Costs
Cleaning and maintenance every 2 to 3 months is recommended. The washable pre-filter does not require replacement. You can clean it under flowing water. To remove all the dust from the dust collection grid you can use a dry cloth, warm water and a mild detergent. If the dust is hard to remove, pre-soak it in diluted detergent and then use a toothbrush to clean. Dust can be removed from the Carbon/HEPA filter with a vacuum cleaner. To clean the TiO2 filter use a dry cloth or air to blow away the dust.
When the change filter indicator is glowing it’s time to replace filters. Expect to change filters once a year. A Surround Air XJ-3800 Intelli-Pro Spare Filter is roughly $35. The Surround Air XJ-3800PH Spare TiO2 Filter about $12.
The lifespan of the UV lamp is about 10,000 hrs. When no blue light is observed it’s time to replace the UV lamp. The Surround Air XJ-3800 Intelli-Pro UV Bulb is about $15.
What will this unit add to your electric bill? I know I know… electric rates vary so much, as does the amount of daily usage due to variations in fan speeds. But let me try to give you a rough idea… The specs show that this unit operates on 80 watts on the highest fan speed setting.
Let’s assume the worst case scenario… If the XJ-3800 runs continuously at the highest setting for an entire month (31 days) your consumption would be 59.52 kWh. At average electric utility rates (let’s take 12 cents/kWh) you’ll add about $7 a month to your electric bill – once again that is if the unit would run continuously on the highest fan speed. Even in this worst case scenario that’s pretty good for clean air all year ’round!
The quiet, yet powerful Surround Air XJ-3800 Intelli-Pro is an amazingly effective air purifier, incorporating an unusually large number of in-depth filtration methods. It offers superb sensing and several helpful indicators. It really works for rooms up to 650 ft².
At such a modest price, there may be no better value on the market today. It also looks pretty cool. Just keep in mind that if you’re looking for an air cleaner for a bedroom and hoping to sleep with the unit on the XJ-3800 emits a bright blue UV light which may or may not be what you want.