Reporter Lisabel Ting trying out the Air+ Smart Mask. She wore it for about three hours on a single charge. The mask itself is plush, and the attached micro-ventilator makes it comfortable to wear. Image: Trevor Tan for ST
The Air+ Smart Mask has been one of the most sought-after masks this haze season.
It has garnered numerous mentions on blogs and in the media, and its Facebook page is flooded with customers asking where to buy it.
Trying out the mask, it is easy to see why the set is in such hot demand. The mask itself is plush, and the attached micro-ventilator a simple but effective way of making it very comfortable to wear, even over long periods of time.
On the left side of each disposable mask, there is a one-way valve that allows air out but not in. Users can attach a small fan unit to it, which measures about 4cm by 4cm. This draws air out of the mask, in effect acting like an exhaust system that gets rid of hot exhaled breath and moisture.
According to Innosparks, the Singapore company that created it, temperature inside the ventilated mask can be up to 4 deg lower than a standard mask, and the level of carbon dioxide can be reduced from 5 per cent to 1.5 per cent.
The mask is well-padded, and conformed well to the contours of my face. It comes in three sizes, to fit children as young as seven to adults. I used the medium size.
Price: $29.90 for the micro ventilator, and $7.20 for a pack of three compatible masks
Filter: N95 class filter
Size (Micro ventilator): 44mm by 44mm by 18mm
Weight (Micro ventilator): 19g
It also conforms to the N95 standard, which means it filters at least 95 per cent of airborne particles.
The Air+ Smart Mask feels softer and more cloth-like than the ubiquitous 3M N95 mask, and unlike the latter, it can be folded and flattened to fit easily into a bag.
The nose bridge area is also well-constructed. There are two malleable wires running in parallel at the top of the mask, which can be moulded to fit the bridge, and there is an extra strip of padding there to ensure there are no gaps.
The mask is secured by two elastic bands instead of a single strap, making it more secure. The bands can be tightened by passing them through a plastic clip at the back of the head.
The micro-ventilator unit, the main draw of the mask, is surprisingly light, and it is easy to forget that you are wearing it.
To attach it to the mask, users have to line up the three prongs on the unit and the mask, and turn the ventilator gently clockwise. When attached properly, the air vent should be pointing downwards.
The fan makes a soft whirring noise, and the hum rises and falls with your breathing. Wearing the mask in a quiet environment, this is quite noticeable, but when walking around outside the ambient noise covers it up.
The unit is extremely effective at piping out the hot air. After exhaling, I could feel the moisture being quickly drawn away by the fan.
The unit is rechargeable via a micro USB port located next to the power button – a smart choice, considering most users are likely to have a micro USB cable on hand.
The small fan is also quite child-safe. Although the spinning blades are exposed if you detach the unit, the rotor stopped when I touched it gently.
I wore my mask for about three hours on a single charge, and it took about 11/2 hours to recharge fully. Both times were longer than the stated usage time of 21/2 hours and one hour for charging.
Even after all that time, the mask was still cool and comfortable, and I almost forgot I had it on.
But as I had only one ventilator unit, I was not able to wear it for more than three hours at a stretch without charging it. Users who intend to wear it for longer periods of time might want to consider carrying a spare unit.
Verdict: A fantastically comfortable mask for the haze season, if you can get your hands on it.
A version of this story was originally published in The Straits Times on 14 October 2015. For more stories like this, head to www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle