Ecoquest Vollara Air Purifiers

Fresh Air by EcoQuest $550-799

EcoQuest International has been acquired by privately held Aerus Holdings LLC, owned by investment firm Engles Urso Follmer.

The new company is called "Vollara."

CEO Joseph Urso is a direct marketing genius.

Aerus Holdings has built a lucrative portfolio by picking up turnaround opportunities and infusing energy, capital, and skilled management.

Aerus Holdings has relocated the business to Bristol, Va.

Vollara has renamed most products in the EcoQuest line.

Fresh Air by EcoQuest is now FreshAir by Vollara or FreshAir Surround by Vollara.

The name and corporate organization changed, and Vollara canceled warranty coverage on the former company's products.

Former Ecoquest CEO Mike Jackson is not involved in Vollara.

Ecoquest fell from 600 employees to only 200, and the sales network shrank from 100,000-plus to about 15,000 when hard times arrived.

Today Vollara is a much smaller company.

My earlier review predicted the ripoff of thousands of starry-eyed "independent" dealers - they got left high and dry with garages and basements full of depreciating inventory as the company liquidated.

During the last 20 years Alpine Industries, last known as Ecoquest International, marketed numerous air purifiers;

Fresh Air,
Living Air Air Purifier,
Alpine Air Air Purifier,
and Flair Air Purifier.

There was even an "Breeze AT," shamelessly close to infringement of Sharper Image Ionic Breeze's trademark.

Ironically, Sharper Image is now bankrupt and another former market leader, Oreck Air Purifier, has fallen from its former position.

Although often associated with the word "complaint," demand for Ecoquests persists.

Ecoquest air purifier is an ozone generator sold through a multi-level marketing dealer network.

Vollara has continued the trend of adding filters and fans to the basic plate-based ozone machine, even offering HEPA filtered air cleaners in the lineup.

There are many thousands of these machines, and maybe a hundred knockoff imitators, offered through online auctions and websites.

Freshair air purifiers are re-marketed everywhere, often under other names because of arcane marketing agreements and new product look-alike startups. Alpine Living Air Purifier

A number of copycat manufacturers, especially in China, build counterfeit Ecoquests.

There is lots of information available on Ecoquest air purifiers.

Unfortunately, the data quality is extremely low, tainted by constant sunny user reviews from "independent" MLM dealers.

Reviews by 68 Epinions users average 3.5 of 5, but are split between marketing copy and sour grapes.

The company is famous for outrageous marketing claims, "nature" imagery abounds.

The idea that high density indoor ozone has anything "natural" about it is complete nonsense, but millions will continue to believe it.

Ecoquest sold more than $1 billion worth of air purifiers before the buy-out, so there is a thriving spare parts aftermarket.

These products were advertised heavily on talk radio, including Dr. Laura Schlesinger's show.

Dr. Laura is famous for the phrase, loosely translated:

"Buy an air purifier or be the air purifier."

This apt slogan is perhaps the high point of this Ecoquest review.

Ecoquest is Still Multi-Level-Marketed

As for Vollara, the business continues to be MLM-based.

The single biggest problem here is the marketing pyramid - Ecoquest always sold it's MLM dealerships harder than the air purifiers.

Every customer is pitched for the life changing opportunity a dealership offers, right along with the inflated claims for the air purifier.

These dealerships have historically seen a 60% annual turnover, with garages full of unsold product for sale on eBay.

Vollara has followed the MLM path, though perhaps on a higher ethical level than the predecessor company.

CEO Joe Usro is a member of the Direct Selling Association, which has a code of ethics which prescribes truth-in-advertising.

So can we objectively review Eco-quest's physical product, the actual air purifiers, surrounded by controversy and hype?

With the ongoing "recession," these are going as low as $300 on eBay, but still retail from dealers for $725-up.

But, as with former market leaders Ionic Breeze and Oreck, both ozone emitters, millions of customers actually like the Ecoquests and their less-expensive imitators.

In fact, these high ozone air cleaners are known for heavy odor removal: people with multiple pets swear by them.

Just How Much Freshair does $725 Buy?

The Eco Quest has been sold in myriad packages, and the garage factor (old distributor inventory) means older models remain on the market much longer.

Like Sharper Image, the company added components in response to criticism.

This makes it difficult to pin down specifications, what follows is necessarily general.

A 5-speed fan is loud on high where it creates up to 400 cubic feet per minute (CFM) airflow.

This is plenty of volume to distribute ozone, especially if mounted high as recommended.

Airborne impurities enter through a lint-screen prefilter on the back.

This is a coarse filter but will accumulate lots of dust in the typical novice air purifier users dusty home.

No official clean air delivery rates exist.

Air is then passed over an ozone generating purification plate.

This plate is a powerful oxidizer, early versions were known to corrode completely in less than one year.

There is a brisk Fresh Air ozone-plate after-market, with knock-off 4.5 inch square replacement plates made to fit.

These are not expensive, running $15 to $30 on eBay.com.

Two plates are required.

Several ultraviolet (UV) installations have been marketed, with some issues of short bulb life.

Users report some UV radiation leakage from the front grill (never look at blue UV "light") and average $25 bulb life around 6 months.

Ecoquest Air Purifier: Safety

Ecoquest asserts their air purifier is safe, but users should carefully study the product manual for warnings on proper use of ozone.

The Vollara product manual does warn users, in bold italic type, to make sure a room is unoccupied before using the Fresh Air air purifier for "Away Mode" high ozone "sanitizing."

It also suggests airing out the room before reentry.

The highest setting, "away mode", which produces up to 360 mg of ozone per hour, is to be used in unoccupied rooms.

Adjustable ozone output is a big plus, but I doubt if many unsophisticated buyers read the manual.

"CAUTION! - The Away Mode feature of this unit
is to be operated in unoccupied areas only."

Some units, like the Living Air depicted at the bottom of this page, have a warning near the ozone control knob: "DO NOT OPERATE WITHOUT OWNER'S MANUAL".

There is even a note about pet safety and ozone.

12” high by 9” wide by 12” deep, weighing 16 pounds, the Freshair is compact and portable.

The warranty does not cover the plates. Warranty claims are handled by the local distributor, maybe not the same guy who sold the purifier.

Conclusions

DO NOT USE this machine as a constant-on air purifier!

Run it periodically in EMPTY ROOMS and air out before entering.

Ozone is dangerous to those who cannot discipline themselves to use it correctly.

But used as prescribed, the Ecoquest type machine can be very good for odor and mold control, and smoke/water damage remediation.

The government net is closing around the ozone generating air cleaner. Folks who want to use ozone may want to acquire one, and a supply of replacement plates, before a complete ban is legislated.

You can find FreshAir Surround by Vollara at Amazon.com.

Air-Purifier-Power Rating Criteria

Each of ten factors gets up to 10 points, 100 is perfect and very unlikely.

1. First do no harm; minimal out gassing, no ozone.

Score: 0 of 10, the only zero ever awarded here.

2. Serious gas and odor removal is a requirement if health benefits are expected: Units with real carbon VOC capability rank higher.

Score: 10 of 10, these products have a very good reputation for pet and mold odor removal.

3. Quality construction; case, gaskets, seals, and precision fitting eliminate bypassing and assure high efficiency at filtering sub-micron particles.

Score: 5 of 10, short life of plates.

4. The design maximizes the lifespan of each filter stage by allowing independent filter replacement. Ideally this is combined with electronic filter monitoring.

Score: 8 of 10, parts independently replaceable, filter monitor is a 30 day timer.

5. Unit has long filter life, low maintenance requirements, and reasonable operating costs.

Score: 6 of 10, short plate and product life.

6. Purifier produces low noise levels and meaningful air flow rates relative to noise.

Score: 7 of 10, a bit loud on high, low airflow.

7. Manufacturer has a track record, with many units in the field and a reputation for supporting what they sell. Warranty period and average service life are long.

Score: 7 of 10, new owners cleaned up act a bit.

8. Purifier is a value in terms of price/performance ratio. Every price range should be included, “models above $1,200 are best”, while true, is not useful to most consumers.

Score: 5 of 10, not worth anywhere near $700.

9. No dirt; unit and manufacturer should be devoid of class-action suits, high returns, recalls, consumer complaints, and legitimate negative consumer reviews.

Score: 5 of 10, Vollara still has much to prove.

10. Unit is stylish, portable, comfortable, and convenient for consumer use.

Score: 10 of 10, handy remote, easy interface.

Air-Purifier-Power Numeric Rating; 64

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