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Troubleshooting An Electrostatic Cell

If you know what to look for when troubleshooting an electrostatic cell it is a fairly easy process. I will go over the general troubleshooting of an electrostatic cell in this blog, and this covers all electrostatic cells we sell. If your electrostatic cell has not been cleaned for a while, it is important that the electrostatic cell is thoroughly cleaned before troubleshooting. You can find additional information on cleaning an electrostatic cell here.

Notice: When removing the electrostatic cell from the air cleaner make sure to ground out the collector plates by pressing the test button when the air cleaner is off because the plates can hold a residual charge.

The first thing I will go over is the anatomy of our electrostatic cells, and I will refer to the electrostatic cell as a “cell”. The images below show the different cells we offer, and the main thing to notice is each cell has an ionizer contact, a collector contact, an ionizing grid with ionizing wires, and a series of collection plates.

electrostatic cells: commercial, MistBuster and industrial

ionizing wire between ionizing grid

It is important to understand how a cell is energized. There are two high voltage contacts; the ionizer and collector contact that are powered by a high voltage DC power supply. The power from the ionizer contact energizes the wires, and the power from the collector contact energizes half the collector plates. The frame of the cell, every other collector plate, and the ionizing grid are grounded. There is no completed circuit and the high voltage is insulated from the grounded parts of the cell. You can see what is energized, grounded, and insulated by looking at the colored pictures of the MistBuster® cell below.

Collector Side of Cell

(Ionizer: Red, Energized Collector Plates: Yellow, Insulators: Gray, Ground and Grounded Collector Plates: Green)
Collector Side of Cell

Ionizer Side of Cell

(Ionizer: Red, Energized Collector Plates: Yellow, Insulators: Gray, Ground and Grounded Collector Plates: Green)
Ionizer Side of Cell

Step 1: Determine Which Cell is Shorting Out

Depending on which air cleaner you have, the power supply in the air cleaner could be powering two cells. The simplest thing to do is just remove all of the cells from the air cleaner (with the power off), close the cabinet door, and then turn the power on and confirm that the indicator light comes on solid with no cells installed. Note: if there are no cells in the air cleaner, and the light does not come on, that would indicate either a bad power supply, a short in the high voltage circuit, or the air cleaner is not getting power. Then insert one cell at a time to energize each cell individually and when the light does not come on or constantly flashes, there is a short in that cell. Occasional snapping or the light flashing is normal for electrostatic air cleaners and is typical because something bridged the collector fins and then the snap cleared what shorted the cell.

Step 2: Inspect the Cell for Debris

Hold the cell up to a light and see if there is something between the collection plates or on the wires that could be grounding out the cell. An ionizing wire that has partially fallen off or broken and is sitting in the cell can cause a short as well. Clean out or remove anything that could be shorting the cell out and then test the cell to see if the light comes back on.

Buildup or Debris between Plates

Buildup or Debris Between Plates

Loose or Broken Ionizing Wire

Loose or Broken Ionizing Wire

Step 3: Inspect the Cell for Damage

When handling a cell, it is important to handle them carefully to avoid any damage. Make sure none of the insulators are damaged, and none of the plates are touching each other. If there is minor damage or deformation of the collection plates you can easily straighten the plate(s) so the energized plates are isolated from the ground plates. Install the cell back into the air cleaner and see if the light comes back on.

Bent Collector Plate

Bent Collector Plate

Step 4: Check Cell for Short with Multimeter

Now we are getting into something a little more advanced. However, the next step is not very complicated. If you have a multimeter handy take the multimeter and switch it to check continuity, then touch one lead of the multimeter to the outside of the frame and with the other lead touch the ionizer contact or the collector contact to see if you have continuity. If you find continuity the cell will not energize because there is a short in that section of the cell. You will need to go back through the first three steps.

Checking for Short on the Ionizer

Check for Short on the Ionizer

Check for Short on the Collector

Check for Short on the Collector

The basics of troubleshooting a cell are finding out what is causing the short in the cell and removing the short. We carry a tester that can be used to energize a cell outside of the air cleaner to make cell testing even easier. An electrostatic cell that is taken care of can last you for several years.

Air Quality Engineering

Air Quality Engineering