How to Properly Use a Ozone Generator

Of late, our office has had an increase in calls from consumers who bought an ozone generator on line and have had a problem with the lingering ozone smell.  It is unfortunate that aggressive sales pressure tends to mislead customers and over-sell their promoted system.  It seems the first rule of buying an ozone generator should be to get some advice first before making the critical decision to buy an ozone generator that sounds like it can do everything possible.

For the novice ozone generator owner, know that ozone will work; but knowing how to use it is something that even professionals struggle with in the early stages.  Too little ozone is one problem, but so is too much ozone.  One well-known ozone promoter sold a 100,000 mg/hr ozone generator to an apartment manager with apartments that were 600 or 700 square feet.  This was extreme overkill.  While the goal is to use shorter, ozone shock level treatments, the idea of running a 100,000 machine in a small apartment is like running a speedboat in a small pond.

The general rule of thumbs that we suggest is about 10,000 mg/hr output for every 1000 to 1500 sq ft you wish to treat.  This is a lot of ozone, and should achieve ozone shock level within the hour.  If your ozone generator is too small, the PPM concentration will plateau below ozone shock but will still have an affect on the problem.  So, a 4000-5000 mg ozone generator will require more time to get the same effect as a 20,000 mg/hr generator.  Time and ozone output are our two variables other than the strength and depth of the threat (odor, mold, germs, VOCs, etc).  Too much ozone, however, may cause a strong ozone smell that seems to last for a very long time.

Again, for the novice, cleaning is always jobs number one.  Do not use ozone as your sole effort.  For maximum results clean well, vacuum diligently, and remove built up films.  Ozone is TOPICAL working from the outside in.  So, embedded odors and deposits (like pet urine or years of smoking) do not resolve with ease.  We suggest a layered approach that starts with the very best cleaning you can provide.  If the carpet is a problem, get it cleaned with special attention (spot treatments) of pet urine deposits.  If the walls are dingy with smoke, wash them but DO NOT PAINT OVER smoke odors until they are fully remediated.  Painting over smoke stained walls is a bad idea because that odor will leach out for years.

When you have done a good job cleaning, things will smell better; but you are not done.  Ozone touches every surfaces with enriched oxygen.  This is why ozone always works.  The process is called oxidation where a free oxygen atom drops off and attaches to anything it finds.  Organic elements are the most vulnerable, so cooking odors, bacteria, smoke, and mold will be quickly impacted by the oxidizing process. During this process, a molecular change (oxidation) happens; and the end result is an oxidized form of the threat that doesn't smell.  The best example you might recognize is rust (iron oxide) that has been changed from what is was into something quite different.

Here is another very important suggestion after you know that you have the right size ozone generator.  Apply ozone in stages or increments.  Too much ozone for too long a period may produce some unwanted results.  No, I am not talking about the affect of ozone on plants, which is minimal.  There are numerous VOCs (volatile organic compounds) in the home.  Ozone can neutralize may gaseous threats, but does not correct for the aldehyde family of gases.  This is why the best minds suggest the persistent ozone smell will not pass in 8-24 hours.

Many things in your home used something akin to formaldehyde to cure the product.  It is used in paint, glue, carpeting, stains, drywall, plywood, particle board, and your furniture and cabinets.  If your efforts to treat  with ozone drive the formaldehydes out, the results is another form of aldehyde.  Frankly, formaldehyde in furniture, paint, carpet, and building materials is now roundly criticized as a latent health issue, but is a common and cheap drying agent.  You may even find it in your nail polish.

Reports of "The Ozone Smell" for days, weeks, and months after an ozone treatment means that something else happened during the process.  There are some bad things in the building that already existed that the ozone tried to resolve.  The latent health issue already there presents itself in a more overt manner.  

The solution is to treat ozone with some respect.  You don't go around splashing bleach everywhere.  It is literally more dangerous than ozone.  Ozone is an enriched form of oxygen, and oxygen is a powerful element in our world.  It can be good for us, and bad for us.  When giving oxygen to premature infants, too much can cause blindness.  See link.  So, the foolish or ignorant use of ozone poses some concerns that can easily be avoided.

Use a properly-sized ozone generator in short cycles of 1-4 hours at a time.  Then, evaluate the results.  The variables for application is TIME and OZONE OUTPUT, so a measured approach is highly recommended if you are not well-versed in the use of ozone.  Following the directions for any maintenance project is the best way to avoid complications that no one wants.  

Until you learn the power and impact of ozone, apply it incrementally.  It is better to repeat the process once every three to seven days than to crush it with overpowering ozone for an eight hour period.  It seems that the "Ozone Smell" that lasts for weeks afterward is a problem of bad building or furniture materials that has been revealed in a more obvious manner.  The rare occasion when the ozone smell does not go away as expected means that a factor existed in the home prior to ozone application.  Maybe, this will increase our awareness to the dangerous, hidden VOCs in homes.

So, as a basic bit of advice to the novice ozone user, buy a properly sized ozone generator.  In most cases, a 10,000 mg/hr unit will treat most apartment issue, maybe 20,000 mg/hr if you follow good advice.  For homes, 30,000 to 40,000 mg/hr is plenty.  If the equipment is too small, the treatment time is expanded to 12-24 hours which should be avoided.  If the equipment is too large, you may force out the latent VOCs in the building causing a long-lasting ozone smell.  Again, there is no increased health concern when this happens.  You will certainly be more aware of the invisible threat.  A carbon filter for the furnace can help remove gases from the house.

Last of all for those looking to buy an ozone generator, forget the hype on videos and websites.  The loudest ones are usually the worst ones to choose.  If you need assistance in making the right choice in ozone generators, look for ozone generators with National Ozone Association approval.  Short of that, feel free to call or email our office for guidance.