The 5 Most Common Types Of Air Purifiers

Because of the pandemic, most of us have been spending more time at home to keep our families healthy.  But, did you know that clean air is a major part of good health?  And that, while being at home may be the best way to reduce your risk of contracting COVID, the air in your home is filled with pollutants and can actually lower your life expectancy?

That doesn’t mean that you should spend less time at home, but it does mean that this is a good time to consider purchasing an air purifier to keep your indoor air clean and your immune system strong.

But, what type of air purifier should you buy?  There are 5 main types of air purifiers to compare.


How it works:

Ionizers, also known as negative ion generators, work by using high voltages to give an electrical charge (usually negative) to molecules in the air. These charged molecules are called ions. The ions are attracted to particles or surfaces with the opposite charge, causing them to clump together into larger heavier particles that fall out of the air or get stuck to charged surfaces like curtains.

The Cons: While your air may feel fresh when using an ionizer, the pollutants are not gone.  They’re just stuck to surfaces around the room where they can then be recirculated into the air.

Ozone Purifiers

How it works:

Ozone purifiers work by taking in oxygen from the air (O2) and giving it a strong electrical charge. This electrical charge allows the oxygen molecules to rearrange themselves and form O3, also known as ozone.

The ozone is then released into the air where it collides with pollutants like mold and smoke. The extra oxygen molecule attaches itself to the pollutants and changes their chemical composition, effectively destroying them.

The Cons: Just as the third molecule of oxygen can interact with organic material outside of the body, it can also interact with substances inside the body. Even very small amounts of ozone in the air may result in chest pain, coughing, shortness of breath, and throat irritation.

UV purifiers

How it works: 

UV purifiers use short wave ultraviolet light (UV-C) to destroy airborne pollutants by breaking down their DNA or RNA, so that they’re unable to perform vital functions or reproduce.

The Cons:  First of all, they’re not very effective. Microbes have to spend some time in front of the UV light before they’re destroyed.  The EPA explains that microbes must be exposed to the light “on the order of minutes and hours rather than the few seconds typical of most UVGI air cleaners.”

Air takes less than a second to filter through purifiers, not nearly enough time to destroy contaminants such as the coronavirus.

Another concern is, while they’re not nearly as dangerous as ozone purifiers, UV purifiers also emit varying levels of ozone, which, again, may result in respiratory issues.

Activated charcoal filters

How it works:

Activated charcoal filters work by using charcoal that has been heated to very high temperatures to trap pollutants. When the temperature of the charcoal is raised, the elements and compounds that were bound with the carbon atoms are removed and all the binding sites for carbon become “free” for binding with other molecules and atoms These open pores between carbon atoms are useful in trapping odors and volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) in the air.

The Cons: While activated charcoal filters work great in trapping gases and odors, they don’t do anything to remove particles such as smoke, mold, dust, or viruses in the air.  Typically, activated carbon filters are paired with HEPA filters for complete protection.

HEPA filters

How it works:

HEPA filters trap particles in different ways depending on their size.

Particles larger than 1 microns: As air flows through the filter, the larger particles are heavy enough that the airflow from the filter propels them forward into the fibers of the filter where they get stuck.

Particles that are .3  to 1 micron: Particles this size can fit between the gaps in the filter. But, they are too heavy and slow to follow the air flow around the HEPA filter and end up getting stuck in the fibers.

Particles smaller than .3 microns: While HEPA filters only need to filter particles of .3 microns, the truth is that they are also very effective at filtering out smaller ones. Because of a phenomena known as Brownian Motion, tiny particles bounce wildly off of other larger particles in the air in random patterns that send them careening off into different directions. It’s these zigzag patterns that cause them to hit the fibers of the HEPA filter and get stuck.

This means that although HEPA filters only need to be able to filter out 99.95% or more of all particles which are 0.3 microns in diameter to meet the standard, they are actually capable of filtering out particles of almost any size.

The Cons: While air purifiers that use True HEPA filters are the safest and most effective option for removing particles in your air, they can’t remove gas or odors.  For the cleanest indoor air, look for a high-quality air purifier that uses a combination of HEPA and activated carbon filters.

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