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All Sharper Image Ionic Breeze products function in the same way: Air is drawn into the unit by electrostatic charge, dust particles are attracted to charged metal plates and stay inside the unit, and cleaner air comes out on the other side.
The Ionic Breeze GP is Sharper Image's top of the line product with a higher dust collection capacity than the smaller Quadra and, as the only unit in the Ionic Breeze product line, includes an integrated Philips UV-lamp that kills airborne germs. The 'GP' stands for 'Germicidal Protection'.
Setup, Functionality and Use
The Ionic Breeze GP needs a standard 110VAC power outlet. Note that you need a grounded (3-pronged) outlet.
After power connection is made, the only thing left is to set the 'air cycle' (=strength) to high/medium/low and to swtich it on. The 'air cycle' is set depending on the room size- in a smaller room you would use a medium- or low- setting. There is also a 'Boost' button that sets the GP into highest air throughput for a couple of minutes. This can be used when there is temporary massive 'air pollution' such as after cooking for example.
You have the option to operate with or without the UV lamp on. Ultraviolet light kills airborne bacteria and germs. This effect is clinically proven and commonly used in hospitals. The lamp will use an additional 15W of power and emit a violet glow visible at night. Expected life time of the lamp is 1-2 years, then you have to replace it (costs about $15).
Most noticable is that the unit operates absoulutely noiseless. You really can't hear it. If it would not be for the slight 'breeze' that you feel if you put your hand in front of the GP, one could think it is not doing anything.
The idea is to leave the GP switched on all the time, ideally at 'high' setting. Power consumption is relatively low (15-30W depending on setting). No batteries are needed, by the way.
The biggest 'aha' probably comes when you pull out the dust collection grid the first time after a week or two. In my case, it was full of grey dust, very similar to what you would find in a vacuum bag. Time after time, I am amazed how much dirt is collected. Cleaning the collection grid is done with a dry or damp tissue or rag, and takes about 2 minutes. The collection grid needs to be completely dry before re-inserting it into the unit. The manual recommends to repeat the cleaning procedure every two weeks, but I have found it depends on the location where the Ionic Breeze is operated and how much particles are in the ambient air. For example, I have to clean the Ionic Breeze in our bedroom more often than the one in our living room.
My experience is that two weeks is the upper limit, and I usually clean it every week. At some point in time, if you don't clean it, it will start making crackling or humming noises and eventually a warning light will come on.
There are basically two points that spark an ongoing controversy about the Ionic Breeze technology (applies to all products of the Sharper Image Ionic Breeze product line):
1 - Efficiency - does it really work, given that it has no fan?
2 - Ozone - The Ionic Breeze emits ozone, a gas that can be harmful if above a certain concentration. Is it safe?
Regarding efficiency, there exists a consumer report (couple of years old) that compares HEPA air filters with the Sharper Image Ionic Breeze. The outcome of this comparison is, that the Ionic Breeze is not effective in cleaning the air due to low air throughput which is attributed to the fact that it does not use a fan.
It is true, that the slight 'breeze' that is generated by electrostatic effect is much less forceful than a 50W fan that you find in a HEPA filter. On the other hand, most people who own a HEPA filter don't let it run 24/7 due to the noise generated by the fan. The idea of the Ionic Breeze is to leave it on all the time, and even though the air throuput is just a 'breeze', over time it will clean the air in your home. Some people (and the consumer report actually, too) go so far to say the Ionic Breeze has no effect at all on cleaning the air.
However, my personal experience is that every week when I remove the collection grid of the Ionic Breeze GP, I pull out a whole lot of dirt, dust, pollen- and that's what would be in the air and my lungs if the GP had not removed it- right? Therefore I can't agree with the statement that the Ionic Breeze is not effective. I do agree a HEPA filter might be more effective, but it is not realistic to leave it on all the time, and of course it is much more expensive (initial cost, filters, power consumption).
What concerns the Ozone- you probably know that smell when you operate a copy machine. Ozone is a gas that can, in high concentrations, cause headache, nausea and even asthma. On the other hand, Ozone is also being used to disinfect and clean houses from smell. For example, in our neighbourhood there was fire in a large building. The fire was contained quickly but there was lots of smoke and I can only imagine how it smelled in there. When I talked to the maintenance person (same guy as for our house) he told me that they had set up ozone generators and let them run for a week, to fight the smell. The same process is used by hotels when they are overbooked to 'convert' a smoker room in to a non-smoker room.
The EPA has defined what constitutes a safe level of ozone, and the Ionic Breeze's manual claims that the amounts emitted stay well below these limits.
The Ionic Breeze GP, by the way, is certified by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (www.aafa.org) as to be '...proven to reduce airborne allergens and irritants.'
My own experience is that when I put the GP in our 20 square ft bedroom and leave it on 'high' setting the ozone smell is noticable (although it did not cause any problems for me), so I put the unit into the living room and purchased a smaller Breeze from Sharper Image for the bedroom. I have not had any problems due to the ozone (like cough, nausea etc.) even though I have a sensitive respiratory system.
Customer service Experience
After about a year of use, my GP stopped working. The switch to set the cleaning 'strength' fell off (might be due to the fact that I had it in the bedroom for a while and changed the setting every day- set it to 'high' during the day and 'low' at night). I did not have the receipt any more. I went to the Sharper Image store, and to my surprise, within few minutes got a brand new GP with brand new 5 year warranty! Like that, I can forgive Sharper Image the shortcoming in durability.
My personal experience is that the Ionic Breeze GP has helped my allergy (pollen/hayfever). It does not make the allergy go away completely, but it definitely helps, and I can sleep through the night without congested nose and without medication. My wife has the same experience although her allergies are different (dust/skin).
Secondly, there is markedly less dust in our home on shelves, table tops etc.
Maintenance is easy, and it is an amazing experience each time you clean the collection grid; it is hard to imagine that all the dirt was in the air of your home. It is a good feeling to know that it is not going to bother your respitory system any more.
The Sharper Image customer service is very courteous and seems to have a generous policy in replacing defective Ionic Breezes during the 5 year warranty period.
Bottom line, the Ionic Breeze is working as advertised, pulling dirt from the air, and maintenance is quite easy.
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Amount Paid (US$): 350
Battery Life: N/A
Noise Level: Almost noiseless