As reports of climate disasters around the world become increasingly common, we couldn’t have picked a better time to speak to Peter Mann, CEO of air purifier company Oransi: We discussed sustainability, climate resilience, and clearing and cleaning the air in more ways than one. (Podcast version of this interview is coming soon!)
What is the Story Behind Oransi? How Did the Company Begin?
Around 20 years ago is when I really became interested in air purifiers. My son really struggled with asthma, and if you’ve ever held a baby that just can’t breathe, for me that left a mark. So I needed to find a solution and I knew that the indoor air was contributing to his asthma attacks. So I started researching the market. 20 years ago there were really only a few brands on the market, and the most popular brand was the ‘ionic breeze’. When I read consumer reports on this, they gave it three black circles, essentially saying ‘do not buy’, so I was like, that’s kind of a problem. It seems like a problem looking for a solution. That’s really kind of how we began our journey at Oransi.
How Have Indoor Air Technologies Changed Since You Started the Oransi Journey?
It’s been pretty interesting. The knowledge has been there but wasn’t commonly known. HVAC systems historically have been designed for temperature and humidity control. The filters that exist on those systems are really designed to keep the HVAC systems functioning efficiently, they’re not really designed for the air quality of the people in the space. The problem is, once it reaches the desired temperature, because HVAC systems use so much power, it just shuts off to conserve energy.
That’s a problem because you need constant ventilation within an indoor space to achieve proper indoor air quality. It’s something that’s always been there, the EPA has been studying it, and they’ve been harping on about how we need to do better, but it’s never been in the forefront. I think part of this is because what we’re removing is invisible to the naked eye. And so if you can’t see it, and it’s a problem that affects you healthwise over a long period of time, it wasn’t something that people have taken action on historically.
How Do You Think Climate Change is Impacting the Industry in Terms of Increased Air Quality Awareness & Demand for Air Cleaning Equipment?
It’s really been interesting. You can really see it in the data. Every year pollen seasons are getting longer and more intense. And wildfire seasons too. 4-5 years ago there were wildfires but they weren’t that notable, but really in the last couple of years, driven by climate change, the numbers and the intensity of wildfires has really grown, and the forecasts project it will continue to increase.
COVID-19 has been a main driver in terms of air quality awareness in the last couple of years. There really weren’t many brands in the air purifier space, and when COVID hit, they really came out of the woodwork. It’s good in a way that these issues are finally being talked about, but it’s a problem in that there’s a big education gap in terms of what the consumer knows, what some of these brands that are selling products even know, and then what some of the technologies that are out there in terms of their general effectiveness, where some work better than others.
Do You Think Legislation is Helping to Bridge the Education Gap?
There is and has been a standard called the CADR, which stands for clean air delivery rate. It’s essentially just the volume of clean air that you can get through an air purifier. The issue for consumers, in my opinion, is that it’s a voluntary program. And so half the brands don’t participate in the program and you don’t know what the true performance of their machines is. What’s happening right now is that there’s legislation taking place through the department of energy, the energy star program, to make minimum standards of performance and energy efficiency a requirement for air purifiers. That should really start to kick in in the next 2-3 years, and that would really be helpful.
Because currently, there’s a lot of slick marketing out there to convince a public that doesn’t really understand what they’re buying. And there are ways of giving that information in simple numbers, but if you don’t publish your numbers nobody really knows how well your product works. The problem we’re trying to solve is invisible, so we need to have some metrics and standards so that people can understand that the equipment they’re using is cleaning the air in a meaningful way.
When it Comes to Sustainability & Resilience, Oransi has set High Standards. Can You Tell Us About Your Pledges & What you think Other Businesses in your Space Could be Doing?
We started an initiative about a year and a half ago to reshore our manufacturing. About a year ago we merged with a motor technology company, so we’re effectively a motor technology company with a sustainable mission. We’re reshoring our manufacturing later this year to Radford, VA. That’s going to allow us to make things in a responsible way, from labor practices and environmental standards standpoints, and really focus on local manufacturing to where we’re either making the parts in-house or we’re sourcing 90%+ locally.
It’s better for the environment. We know climate change is driving a lot of these air quality issues and we’re trying to do our part to produce quality products without creating pollution and things that contribute to climate change ourselves. Most supply chain implications are reduced. We can’t do everything, but we’re trying to get closer to 90%+ locally.
This Creates Benefits For The Local Economy as Well
Yes, it’s very interesting. We’re in Appalachia, which kind of has a stigma to it. So it’s kind of rewarding that we can help rejuvenate this area that’s been not great economically. We can do our part by helping rejuvenate this area like we help rejuvenate the air in people’s homes.
The Final Word – Why Climate Resilience is a Win/Win For Businesses & Consumers
As public awareness of climate change’s impacts grows in tandem with demands for air quality and health, air purifiers, HVAC, and other indoor air businesses must adopt climate resilience to make their offering more appealing to consumers who care about these issues now more than ever before.
Embracing sustainable climate tech trends early enables indoor air companies to add value to their products and provide consumers with personalized experiences and tailored solutions to dynamic environmental hazards inside and outside the home.