Buying an air purifier for recreational vehicles (RVs)

Motorhomes, campervans, and caravans have taken Europe by storm, offering a new way to travel and go camping in the comfort of one’s own home on wheels. According to a survey by Admiral Insurance, 56% of survey respondents claimed that the freedom offered by motorhomes, campervans, and caravans are what make them so appealing1. The presence of so many new recreational vehicles (RVs) on the road means more exposure to air pollutants like fine particulate matter, VOCs, and more by their occupants. How can an air purifier for recreational vehicles (RVs) protect users from the dangers of air pollution? Read on to learn more.

Two people camping with their converted van

RVs: a booming market on the European continent

The demand for motorhomes, campervans, and caravans has exploded since 2014. The year 2021 was the most successful year in the history of the caravanning industry on the European continent. In 2021 alone, 259,393 new caravans and motorhomes were sold, representing a 9.9% increase from the preceding year (2020)2. This is the fifth year in a row that sales records were broken in this industry.

RV popularity by country

The countries representing the highest sales of new motorhomes, caravans, and campervans on the European continent are as follows:

  • Germany: 106,138, 41% of all new motorhomes and caravans sold in Europe
  • United Kingdom: 32,207
  • Switzerland: 10,815
  • Belgium: 8,376
  • Finland: 3,636
  • Austria: 5,851
  • Norway: 5,762

Sales of motorhomes and caravans are also up in the Netherlands (+24.4%), France (+19.4%), Sweden (+17.2%), Denmark (+10.3%), and Italy (+9,3%)2.

Campervan sales are a bit more difficult to track since many users purchase vans second-hand and convert them into campervans, but it is estimated that one in three leisure vehicles sold are campervans.

A motorhome with a table and chairs

Recreational vehicle types

Motorhomes, campers, caravans, campervans, camper trailers, leisure caravans, fifth wheelers: these terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but they are all very different types of camping and leisure vehicles offering different benefits!

Find the most popular types of leisure vehicles and their definitions below.

Recreational vehicles (RVs)

Technically speaking, a vehicle that can be driven and lived in falls into the category of ‘recreational vehicle’ (RV). Motorhomes, caravans, and campervans are all considered to be RVs. They all vary in size, function, and comfort level.

Motorhomes or campers

These are one of the larger types of RVs, though their size varies greatly and can be found in extra large (accommodating up to 8 people) and compact (ideal for a couple). They typically contain all the comforts of home including a kitchen, bedroom, bathroom with shower, and dining/living area or room.

Campervans

One of the smaller-sized types of RVs, these vehicles are compact and custom-fitted to the needs of the user. Vans do not usually have the same level of comfort as motorhomes, but they often contain a cooking space, bedding, and small cooktops, sometimes even bathroom facilities, usually all located in the same 'room'. They are more affordable than motorhomes and are designed for a more rugged camping experience than motorhomes. These may come to mind when you think of the ‘van life’ movement.

Caravans

An unpowered trailer, caravans need to be hitched to a powered vehicle in order to be moved. Since they are trailers, they cannot move on their own. They vary in size and often contain bedding and seating with some models even offering kitchen space, a toilet, and/or a shower3.

Indoor air quality in recreational vehicles (RVs)

As with any inhabited indoor space, each of the above types of RVs put their users at risk of poor indoor air quality in motorhomes and trailers. Travelling, camping, and living in an enclosed space that emits and is exposed to fossil fuel emissions poses health risks.

In such a small space like RVs, pollutants and carbon dioxide levels build up quickly, exposing users to pollutants in high concentrations in the room. Cooking, sleeping, and using the bathroom all release indoor air pollutants. Furthermore, some RVs do not have enough ventilation (especially during times of poor weather or cold temperatures, requiring the windows and doors to be kept shut), causing serious indoor air quality concerns and excessive carbon dioxide levels.

Two people working on their laptops in a motorhome

Chemical pollution (VOCs)

Materials and substances used to build out the inside of a motorhome, campervan, and/or caravan such as panelling, flooring, and furniture may off-gas harmful VOCs like formaldehyde for up to two years. Adhesives, solvents, and other products used also emit chemical pollution when used and for an extended period of time afterwards. VOCs often contribute to odours found in indoor spaces.

  • Note: odour fighters like air fresheners, candles, and aerosol sprays are actually a significant source of VOCs! It is always best to fight odours at the source.

Ozone and VOCs, especially formaldehyde, benzene, and toluene which are carcinogenic to humans, pose dangers to our health in both the short- and long-term. In the short-term, they may cause eye, nose, and throat irritation; nausea; and loss of coordination. In the long-term, they may cause damage to the kidneys, liver, the nervous system, and in some cases, cancer risk and brain damage4.

Allergens

Humans bring allergen particles of all sizes into all of their living spaces. With RV living, doors and windows are often left open whilst camping, making it easy for allergens to make their way indoors and accumulate. The most common allergens found in a motorhome, campervan, or caravan may include:

Allergens may lead to unpleasant allergy symptoms like a runny nose, watery eyes, congestion, sneezing, and coughing. For asthma sufferers, allergens like dust, pollen, mould, and pet dander may trigger asthma attacks.

Fine particle pollution

Perhaps the most concerning of all air pollutants is fine particle pollution, also known as particulate matter or PM. Although we generally associate fine particle pollution with fossil fuel emissions, some allergens like pollen particles and pet dander may also fall under this category.

A 2016 scientific review analysed over 90 relevant studies in over 10 different countries to determine the impact of fine particle pollution in regular, non-inhabited vehicles. The study found that a driver is exposed to many different types of harmful air pollutants (especially fine particles, the smallest of air pollutants) whilst driving, including VOCs, PM, ozone, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, and more5.

Graphic showing air pollutants inside a vehicle

Source 6

Another 2010 study found that PM and ozone concentrations in vehicles exceeded outdoor levels by 3 to 5 times. High PM levels were determined to come from road traffic and construction dust. Particle size varied from fine particles (PM10) to ultrafine particles (PM2.5 and PM1). PM levels were higher in moving vehicles than parked ones (9.2 times higher for PM10, for example). Concentrations of in-cabin PM2.5 measured during the study exceeded the World Health Organization (WHO)’s guidelines for daily exposure of air pollutants in 55% of their trials. Of course, the greater amount of time someone spends driving in their vehicle, the higher the exposure6.

This study was conducted on regular cars, meaning that pollutant sources of every day RV living were not considered. Cooking and fuel combustion are two major sources of fine particle pollution in RVs and other vehicles used for camping. It is estimated that exposure to cooking fuels led to 60 million disability-adjusted life years in the year 2017 alone, including 1.6 million premature deaths7.

Fine particle pollution, air pollution of the smallest size, is a major public health concern and has inspired many scientific studies regarding its impact on health. Some of its health effects include increased cancer risk (especially lung cancer), respiratory disease (like asthma and COPD), heart disease, mental health conditions (like fatigue, anxiety, and depression), and decreased performance and concentration at work and school.

The benefits of air purifiers for recreational vehicles (RVs)

Installing an air purifier in a motorhome, campervan, or caravan is a smart, effective way to capture and control harmful pollutants in your home on wheels. How does an air purifier work? Using a powerful fan, an air purifier quickly pulls in polluted air, treats it using one air purification technology (or multiple technologies for higher-quality devices), then uses its fan once more to recirculate clean, purified air back into your space. A high-quality device is able to combat VOCs, reduce exposure to fine particle pollution, and remove germs (viruses and bacteria).

Neutralise chemical pollution like VOCs and odours

An air purifier for your motorhome, campervan, or caravan effectively removes and controls levels of dangerous, toxic gases and VOCs. Formaldehyde, ammonia, and benzene are three VOCs commonly found in an RV interior. If your device is equipped with such a technology (like an activated carbon filter), it may also help remove unpleasant odours in your recreational vehicle, helping to improve your daily quality of life.

When an air purifier captures these airborne pollutants and replaces them with clean air, it may help you become a more attentive driver. Studies have shown that exposure to air pollution and high levels of carbon dioxide leads to cognitive impairment and lack of focus8.

Fight against particulate matter

Placing an air purifier in your motorhome, campervan, or caravan is an effective way of helping to protect you and your loved ones, cleaning indoor air in recreational vehicles. They help capture and control contaminants and reduce your exposure to particulate matter by renewing stale, polluted air with clean cabin air. An air purifier containing a medical-grade HEPA-certified filter will even protect you from ultrafine particles, microparticles, and nanoparticles. This includes fine particle air pollution in motorhomes like PM10, PM2.5, and PM0.1. HEPA, or ‘high efficiency particulate air’, is a European designation that guarantees the level of filtration of your filter.

  • Note: it is common to see claims of ‘HEPA-type’ filters in certain air purifying products. Unlike HEPA-certified filters, ‘HEPA-type’ filters do not undergo third-party testing. As a result, they are not guaranteed to filter the same amount of pollutants.

This is great news for allergy sufferers! An air purifier for recreational vehicles that removes airborne pollutants of all sizes will also combat dust, pollen, and pet hair and dander from your motorhome, campervan, or caravan. Your newly cleaned air will quickly provide much-needed relief from your allergy symptoms.

Reduce concentrations of viruses and bacteria

An air purifier in your motorhome also works to remove airborne germs (viruses and bacteria) like COVID-19. If you have guests in your motorhome, campervan, or caravan, keep yourself and your loved ones safe from potential contagion by replacing the room's polluted air with clean air. Refer to Eoleaf’s efficiency testing against SARS CoV-2 performed by Octopus Labs for more information.

How to choose an air purifier for a recreational vehicle (RV)?

Consider your vehicle type and space available

Air purifiers are designed to filter the air in a room of a maximum size. Before making your purchase, ensure that your potential device will effectively clean all of the air in the space you have available. For example, Eoleaf’s Pure CAR is built to filter the air in any vehicle up to 13m2 (140 square feet). However, the Pure CAR is easily portable. With its easy-to-use strap system, it can be moved from one headrest to another.

Photo showing how air is purified in a vehicle with the Pure CAR

Consider budget and power consumption

An air purifier’s budget consists of three parts: 1) the initial cost of the air purifier device, 2) maintenance costs like filter replacements, and 3) costs associated with energy consumption. Some low-quality filters require changing every few months whereas higher-quality filters, like those on offer in Eoleaf devices, only need replacements once a year.

Pricing for Eoleaf’s Pure CAR is as follows:

Eoleaf offers remarkably energy-efficient and low-consumption air purifiers for all RVs: motorhomes, campervans, and caravans alike. In order to keep energy consumption low, the Pure CAR is set on Automatic mode by default. This means that the fan speed will remain at its lowest unless it detects new air pollutants. If new air pollutants are detected by the device, the fan speed will automatically increase to remove those pollutants and decrease again once the air is clean and the pollution is under control.

Keep in mind that the Pure CAR plugs in using a 12v cigarette lighter male plug. It is ideal to use this device whilst driving to reduce exposure to fine particle pollution on your journeys. If you would like to use this device whilst cooking or lounging in your motorhome, campervan, or caravan, you will need to purchase a simple car plug to wall adapter (available online for £5).

Consider filter type and smart features

Air purifiers vary dramatically regarding which types of air filtration technologies they offer. Some offer just one technology and others offer many. Eoleaf’s Pure CAR device comes equipped with an impressive 6 different filtration technologies, ensuring purification and cleaning of all types of air pollutants including allergens (pollen, pet dander, dust), VOCs, and fine particle pollution. Our medical-grade HEPA-certified H13 filters guarantee removal of 99.97% of particles down to a size of 0.01 microns in a single pass, protecting your lungs from even the smallest fine particles. When purchasing an air purifier for your vehicle, a medical-grade HEPA filter is crucial.

In the Pure CAR, you will equally find an activated carbon filter. Activated carbon fights against VOCs and unpleasant odours in your motorhome, campervan, or caravan. Not all air purifiers offer odour-fighting technologies, but when living in such a small space, odour control is highly recommended! Activated carbon filters have been used for centuries for odour-fighting capabilities and its purifying power, cleaning pollutants from both air and water.

Smart features are also an added bonus in a high-quality air purifier for motorhomes. An air purifier with smart features simplifies your life and management of your indoor air quality. The Pure CAR is equipped with smartphone app compatibility (connecting to our ‘Eoleaf CAR’ app). This allows you to check your air quality in real-time. You can also control your device directly from your phone using the smart scheduling feature on the Eoleaf CAR app. With smart scheduling, you can decide when it should turn on or off, set the fan speed, or decide when your device turns on the ionisation feature, for example.

Consider noise level

When living in such a small space used for camping, noise level is an important consideration. Ideally, an air purifier should be silent or near-silent as to not disturb your camping experience and every day life. Eoleaf’s Pure CAR has three different speed settings ranging from silent on its lowest fan speed to an average conversation at its highest. When leaving your device running at night, we recommend setting your device on its lowest fan speed setting so as to not cause disruptions to your sleep.

For more information regarding Eoleaf’s air purifiers, do not hesitate to reach out to our team of air purification experts. We have also created an in-depth Buying Guide on all of our devices to help you choose the right device for you.

Eoleaf's Pure CAR air purifier


Resources

1 Reeves, F. (2021, August 5). Campervan warning as more people opt for Motorhomes. Express.co.uk. https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/cars/1472812/campervan-motorhomes-more-popular-uk

2 RV sales in Europe hit record highs in 2021, up 9.9% – the most successful year in the history. Camping Business. (2022, February 1). https://www.campingbusiness.eu/nel-2021-le-vendite-di-rv-in-europa-sono-arrivate-a-livelli-record-con-un-aumento-del-99/?lang=en

3 Difference between leisure vehicles. Aussie Leisure Loans. (2023, June 23). https://www.aussieleisureloans.com.au/caravan-finance/difference-between-rvs-motorhomes-campervans-caravans

4 Wickliffe, J.K., Stock, T.H., Howard, J.L. et al. Increased long-term health risks attributable to select volatile organic compounds in residential indoor air in southeast Louisiana. Sci Rep 10, 21649 (2020). doi:10.1038/s41598-020-78756-7

5 Xu, B., Chen, X., & Xiong, J. (2016). Air Quality Inside Motor Vehicles’ cabins: A Review. Indoor and Built Environment, 27(4), 452–465. doi:10.1177/1420326x16679217

6 Geiss, O., Barrero-Moreno, J., Tirendi, S., & Kotzias, D. (2010). Exposure to particulate matter in vehicle cabins of private cars. Aerosol and Air Quality Research, 10(6), 581–588. doi:10.4209/aaqr.2010.07.0054

7 Lachowicz, J.I.; Milia, S.; Jaremko, M.; Oddone, E.; Cannizzaro, E.; Cirrincione, L.; Malta, G.; Campagna, M.; Lecca, L.I. Cooking Particulate Matter: A Systematic Review on Nanoparticle Exposure in the Indoor Cooking Environment. Atmosphere 2023, 14, 12. doi:10.3390/atmos14010012

8 Chandra M, Rai CB, Kumari N, Sandhu VK, Chandra K, Krishna M, Kota SH, Anand KS, Oudin A. Air Pollution and Cognitive Impairment across the Life Course in Humans: A Systematic Review with Specific Focus on Income Level of Study Area. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 Jan 27;19(3):1405. doi: 10.3390/ijerph19031405. PMID: 35162428; PMCID: PMC8835599.

Eoleaf's CAR air purifier