Types of Air Purifiers

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Updated September 16, 2022

If you are new to the world of air cleaning products, you may wonder about the types of air purifiers out there. The best air purifiers, after all, come in a wide array of shapes, sizes, and designs. So what are the different air purifier types, and which is the right fit for you? Keep reading to find out.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • There are all kinds of air purifiers out there to reduce odors, eliminate dust, and even kill nasty germs, mold spores, and HEPA air purifiers are the standard here, as the filters trap 99.7 percent of airborne pollutants.
  • Other air purifier types include activated carbon filters, UV light purifiers, ionic air purifiers, electrostatic purifiers, and more.

Air Purifier Types

Air purifiers can be expensive, so you want to make sure you get the right model for you. There are plenty of types out there if you wonder what is better than a HEPA filter. Beyond that, there are carbon filters if you are comparing the Reme Halo vs Guardian. There are also ionizing models if you are comparing the 2IQAire Machine vs an NK100 tower air purifier.

Insider Tip

Measure your space before buying an air purifier and match the measurements to efficacy stats.

There is an air purifier model for nearly any scenario if you are comparing the Advanced Pure Air Newport 9000 vs the Surround Air XJ-3800 Intelli-Pro. Here is everything you need to know about purifier designs so you can conduct that Advanced Pure Air Newport Ultra vs Advanced Pure Air Shield review.

HEPA Air Purifier

This has grown to become the de facto standard air purifier type in recent years, and with good reason. HEPA filters trap around 99.7 percent of airborne particles, which is a lot. HEPA air purifiers come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, as HEPA merely refers to the internal filter and no other aspect of the design. As a matter of fact, some of the following designs sometimes use HEPA filters as an added bonus.

Here’s how they work. An inner fan pulls in the air where it is run through the HEPA filter, which traps anything icky. This is a simple yet tried-and-true design.

Reasons to Buy

  • HEPA filters are extremely effective at trapping pollen, dust, dander, certain bacteria particles, and more.
  • These filters are fantastic at removing odors, as they also trap smoke particles, mold particles, mildew particles, and more.
  • Available in so many shapes and sizes to suit the specific needs of your space.

Reasons Not to Buy

  • HEPA filters trap and hold onto nasty particles, so the filters have to be replaced and cannot be cleaned. That costs money.
  • HEPA filters are so powerful that the area surrounding the purifier is going to be a dust-filled mess.
  • Some of these machines can be loud during operation unless you are at a very low setting.

Tips for Buying a HEPA Machine

  • If possible, buy a model that comes with more than one filter for later. They only last around three months.
  • Shop for the correct model for your space. Make sure it can adequately clean the air in your space and that it doesn’t take up too much room.
  • Read reviews and look for sales. There are hundreds upon hundreds of HEPA machines out there.

Activated Carbon Air Purifier

This technology has been around for more than 100 years, so you can rest assured that activated carbon is a tried-and-true air purification tool. Carbon filters are ultra-compressed blocks of carbon with thousands upon thousands of molecule-sized pores that draw in all kinds of icky particles.

Carbon filters are especially known for their odor-reducing properties, so you will often find them in kitchens, public bathrooms, and other high-traffic locations.

Reasons to Buy

  • If you have any issues with odor in your home, carbon filters will do the trick.
  • Many, if not most, activated carbon filters can be cleaned instead of replaced, saving you money.
  • Carbon air purifiers tend to be on the cheaper side when compared to HEPA models.

Reasons Not to Buy

  • Carbon filters are not quite as adept at removing certain particles, like bacteria particles, when compared to other types.
  • They are not so great at removing dust and may even struggle with pet dander. In short, this is an odor-removing machine.
  • They can be loud during noise, depending on the type of fan installed.

Tips for Buying a Carbon Air Purifier

  • Some carbon filters must be replaced and not cleaned, so check the instructions.
  • Shop for size and shape that fits your space, as there are many to choose from.
  • Consider using a carbon purifier as a secondary device along with a HEPA machine.

UV Air Purifier

This type of air purifier uses ultraviolet rays to quite literally zap undesirable airborne particles from your space. This ultraviolet light is adept at killing germs, bacteria, viruses, and other things you don’t want floating around in your living room. They work by pulling in biological pollutants and pushing them through a tube where they are hammered with UV radiation.

This priority on sanitization from germs and bacteria means you’ll often find this type of air purifier in hospitals and other medical settings.

Warning

Only purchase and use an ozone generator after conducting copious research on adverse effects

Reasons to Buy

  • Get one if your primary concern is eliminating germs, bacteria, and viruses from the air.
  • They don’t require cleaning, and there are no filters to replace, which could save money in the long run.
  • This is a safe technology, despite the use of UV radiation, thus the common use in hospitals.

Reasons Not to Buy

  • These are fantastic at beating down germs and bacteria but not great at eliminating dust, dander, smoke, and anything else.
  • Though there are no filters to replace, the UV bulbs can short out after a while, requiring replacement.
  • Intensity and efficacy diminish over time, particularly if you are running it 24/7.

Tips for Buying a Carbon Air Purifier

  • Consider using this as an add-on device to a HEPA filter so that you cover both dust and germs.
  • There are many sizes and shapes here, including simple pluggable versions, so shop accordingly.
  • Some of the higher-end medical-grade UV purifiers can get expensive, so look for sales.

Ionic Air Purifier

This air purifier uses a high-voltage generator to charge airborne particles electrically. This causes anything above a certain weight to fall to the ground, which includes many common allergens, dust, and smoke particles.

Believe it or not, many ionic air purifiers are also sold as mood stabilizers, as a natural byproduct of releasing charged negative ions into the air is an increase of the mood chemical serotonin, though the science is still out on this claim.

Reasons to Buy

  • This is a filterless technology with zero maintenance costs. Once you buy the purifier, you are done spending money.
  • Ionic generators are whisper-quiet during operation, so you can run them at night as you sleep.
  • This is a safe technology, with many proponents touting its mood-enhancing benefits, in addition to purifying the air.

Reasons Not to Buy

  • These purifiers do not trap, kill, or otherwise remove airborne particles. They just drop them to the floor.
  • You won’t have to maintain the purifier itself, but you will have to start cleaning your space more often to avoid disturbing the particles.
  • Not so effective against smoke and various odor-causing particles, as they are all still in the room (on the ground.)

Tips for Buying an Ionic Air Purifier

  • These can produce ozone at a low level, so read the fine print before making a purchase.
  • Look for models that are large enough to adequately service your space.
  • Some high-end ionic purifiers can get expensive, so shop for sales.

Ozone Generator

This is the most controversial item on this list due to the potential health risks of pushing a whole bunch of ozone into your living space. Still, they are effective at certain things, as ozone particles attach to other airborne particles, changing their very properties. This makes them handy for removing some odors and for getting rid of certain potentially dangerous particles, such as germs and bacteria.

Still, the tradeoff is you get a bunch of ozone in the home, so many manufacturers recommend leaving the room while these units are in operation.

Reasons to Buy

  • Despite being controversial, the technology is highly effective at its intended purpose.
  • Super quiet during operation, as there are not many loud fans involved with these designs.
  • Excels at removing ultra-strong odors through a masking process.

STAT: Air purifiers are used to remove contaminants from the air. They can be manufactured as small, stand-alone units or larger units that can be attached to your HVAC. (source)

Reasons Not to Buy

  • Uh, well, perform a Google search. Ozone is bad for you.
  • Most models necessitate that you leave the room as it works, which could take hours.
  • Ineffective against dust, mold, and pollen, among other larger particles. Best for smaller airborne particles.

Tips for Buying an Ozone Generator

  • Safety should be your first priority here. Look for models by reputable brands that adhere to strict safety standards.
  • Many models integrate ozone technology with other forms of purification, which could be your best bet for a comprehensive solution.
  • Read everything and anything about the potential ill effects of ozone exposure before making a purchase.

Air Purifier Type FAQs

What are air purifiers?

Air purifiers eliminate unwanted airborne particles from a certain number of square feet in an indoor space. These purifiers use an array of technologies like electrostatic precipitators, varying amounts of ozone, an electrical charge, a UV lamp, and more.

When to get a HEPA air purifier?

Get a HEPA purifier to reduce dust mites and other nasty elements from the air. You can choose from portable air purifiers equipped with HEPA filters or larger ones that boast a high clean air delivery rate (CADR.)

How to get the most out of your air purifier?

Whether you are using a UV light or a HEPA filter to trap mold spores, get the most out of your purchase by making sure the square feet total matches the system's efficacy metrics and by cleaning and maintaining the unit to ensure decent indoor air quality.
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