If you have been shopping for an air purifier or a related purification device, you have no doubt encountered something called an air ionizer. Are purifiers vs. air ionizers. What’s the difference? How do you find the best air purifiers? We are here to help.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • An air ionizer is simply a subcategory of air purifiers, though the mechanism by which they operate differs drastically from filter-based purifiers.
  • Filter-based purifiers use an air filter to trap particles, whereas ionizers release ions into the air which bond with airborne pollutants.
  • Filter-based purifiers are great for reducing odors and allergens, while ionizers are good for small particles, such as viruses, and eliminating volatile organic compounds.

Air Purifiers and Air Ionizers

Simply put, an air ionizer is a type of air purifier, though they do work quite differently from typical models. Standard filter-based air purifiers operate by pulling in air, running it through some filters, and then pushing it back out. Air ionizers, otherwise known as ionic air purifiers, work by releasing charged ions into the air. These ions bond with harmful impurities that are floating around, weighing them down and forcing them to the floor. To find the most effective air purifier based on a rating system, check out our guide to air purifier CADR comparison.

Insider Tip

Standard filter-based air purifiers operate by pulling in air, running it through some filters, and then pushing it back out. Air ionizers, otherwise known as ionic air purifiers, work by releasing charged ions into the air.

Pros and Cons of Filter-Based Air Purifiers

There are a number of unique pros and cons related to using a filter-based air purifier. Here are some.

Pro: Great for Allergens

Filter-based air purifiers, especially ones equipped with a true HEPA filter, are great at capturing allergens. This can include pet dander, smoke, dust, dust mites, and pollen. If you regularly use an air purifier with a high-grade air filter, you can expect some alleviation of symptoms related to allergies and a host of respiratory ailments.

Pro: Reduces Odors

Filter-based air purifiers, such as HEPA filters or activated carbon filters, do a pretty fantastic job at removing nasty smells from the home. This is due to the fact that the odor-producing particles get trapped in the filter itself and are kept away from breathable air. Please note, an air purifier may have to be going a while before you notice a noticeable reduction in foul odors. While HEPA filters are effective for getting rid of smells, there are other options available. To find the best option, check out our guide on air purifiers:HEPA vs.UV.

Con: Filter Replacement Costs

If you are using a genuine HEPA filter to purify the air in your home, you will have to remove it and replace it every six months to one year. This can get expensive over time. Ionizers, on the other hand, have no filter to replace which can cut down on costs. One option is to go for an electrostatic or activated carbon filter, both of which can be hand-cleaned.

Con: Not That Great for Small Virus or Bacteria Particles

Even the infamous HEPA filter can struggle to capture small particles, such as viruses or bacteria. Your standard HEPA filter will only be able to trap particles above 0.3 microns in diameter. The problem? Many virus particles and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are much smaller than that.

Insider Tip

Filter-based air purifiers, especially ones equipped with a true HEPA filter, are great at capturing allergens.

Pros and Cons of Air Ionizers

You can expect some unique advantages and disadvantages when choosing an air ionizer.

Pro: Attacks Ultra-fine Particles

Air ionizers can successfully neutralize ultra-small particles, making them a great choice for the removal of germs, bacteria, VOCs, viruses, and more. HEPA filters can only trap particles larger than 0.3 microns in diameter, but ionizers can work down to 0.1 microns in diameter. That’s a pretty stark difference

Pro: Covers a Large Area

Filter-based air purifiers will be limited in the area they can successfully cover, with a maximum coverage limit set by the filter itself. Ionizers, on the other hand, works in a completely different way and significantly increases the maximum coverage area. Some air ionizers can cover areas up to 3,500 square feet.

Con: Ozone Generation

Here is the big one. Air ionizers generate ozone and push it into the air as a byproduct of the operation. There are numerous studies suggesting that breathing in ozone can be detrimental to health in the long term.

Con: Particles Simply Fall to Floor

Filter-based air purifiers suck in airborne particles and trap them. Ionizers weigh them down and drop them to the floor. The problem? They are still on the floor and not trapped. The slightest disturbance could send them back into the air. In other words, you should make sure to vacuum regularly if using an air ionizer.

Warning

An air ionizer is a type of air purifier, though they do work quite differently from typical models.

F.A.Q.S

Are ionic air purifiers safe?

Air ionizers are generally considered to be safe, as manufactures have to adhere to federal guidelines regarding how much ozone is allowed to be produced as a byproduct.


How do air purifiers and humidifiers impact your health?

Air purifiers of all stripes can positively benefit your health, as they clean the air and remove impurities. Humidifiers can also benefit your health, as they work to keep your living spaces at the optimum humidity level. Experts agree that a living area should feature a humidity level of 40 to 60 percent.


Can HEPA air purifiers capture the coronavirus?

COVID-19 particles are too small for a HEPA filter to capture on their own. Luckily, they have a tendency to attach themselves to larger airborne particles. These larger particles can be trapped inside of a HEPA filter along with the coronavirus.



STAT: HEPA filters can trap at least 99.97% of all particles down to the size of 0.3 microns. (source)

Lawrence Bonk

Lawrence Bonk is a copywriter with a decade of experience in the tech space, with columns appearing in Engadget, Huffington Post and CBS, among others. He has a cat named Cinnamon.

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