Hydroponics, Cleaner Air, and Respira

Respira was created because New Earth Solutions wanted to bring the eco-friendly, air-purifying, and aesthetic qualities of commercial-scale living walls into people’s homes. Drawing on our experience with this type of system, we started thinking about how to scale it down.

Black Respira unit with lush foliage hanging on wall

We knew it had to be easy to use. People are busy, so a “set-it-and-forget-it” approach would make it accessible for everyone, not just those with a green thumb. It also needed to be beautiful. But most importantly, it needed to work. Cleaning the air effectively would be its main purpose, not just a happy side effect. We wanted to improve people’s health and quality of life by bringing nature into their houses.

System Overview

1. Our growing medium

We tested numerous media for the plants to grow in. The one we've chosen is a proprietary eco-friendly polymer that’s optimized for root health. It is extremely porous, allowing water to filter through without becoming so soggy that it restricts airflow to the root zone. It resists breakdown and decay, and it did the best job at supporting the air-purifying abilities of the plants.

Woman's hands holding piece of black, porous, growing medium

2. Watering the plants

Respira is a smart system that monitors the needs of the plants to keep them healthy. Watering is automated to keep the plants perfectly hydrated. There’s no guesswork about when they need water, no harming your plants by overwatering, and no forgetting to water them and finding dead plants.

3. Feeding the plants

Have you ever tried to figure out the best schedule and method for feeding your houseplants, and then tried to remember to actually do it? Respira’s smart technology handles that, too. The nutrients are automatically added to the water when the plants need it. Your plants stay green, lush and thriving without your having to worry about it.

4. Choosing the right plants

Many familiar houseplants are suited for use in the Respira system. In fact, we have more than twenty types of bare-root plants for you to choose from. From classics like the pothos ivy and spider plant to trendy favorites like the ZZ plant and “Monstera” philodendron, there’s something to fit everyone's personal aesthetic. 

Lots of leafy foliage from a variety of plants

Why Hydroponics?

There are many different types of living walls, but the ones that are designed to purify indoor air are always planted hydroponically (without the use of soil). Why? You might ask.

The clean air myth

If you said that houseplants help clean the air, most people would agree with you. But it’s only partly true. Research on living wall biofilters and on plants has shown that the real players in air purification are the microbes that live on plants. More specifically, it is the microbiome of the root system where air purification really takes place. That’s because the bacteria on plant roots are naturally geared to extract carbon from any source they can for the benefit of the plant.

The root zone of your typical potted houseplant just doesn’t have access to very much of your indoor air. There are other benefits to having potted plants in your living space, but cleaner air really isn’t one of them.

Taking advantage of the microbiome

Mans hand hold bare rooted plant, about to put it into Respira system

Exposing air to the microbiome of the plant roots allows the removal of contaminants and VOCs (which contain carbon) from the air. In a moist environment, these microbes generate a biofilm in which to live and multiply. Our growing medium allows the biofilm created by microbes to establish itself indefinitely.

A fan actively pulls the contaminated air in your home through the growing medium, plant roots and biofilm. Particles are trapped and gaseous contaminants (VOCs) are broken down. The air is returned to the room clean and fresh, cooled by the water and oxygenated by the leaves of the plants.