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Air ionizers vs. air purifiers – which is better?

In the battle to find a device that can provide clean, breathable air, many have come across two main contenders; air ionizers and HEPA air purifiers. Both pack a punch, but which takes the title of air-cleaning champion? Dive in as we unpack the pros and cons of these heavyweights in the world of air purification. 

In the red corner: What is an air ionizer?

Let’s start with what air ionizers do. In a nutshell, they are devices that release charged ions into the air; these ions bind with airborne particles, causing them to become heavy and either fall to the ground or get trapped by a plate in the ionizer. But are air ionizers safe, and is ionized air good for you? It’s worth noting that there are some concerns, and even question marks over whether air ionizers actually work. 

Pros of air ionizers:

  1. Low maintenance:
    Air ionizers don’t have any replaceable elements or moving parts that require regular maintenance. 
  2. Odor neutralization:
    Negative ions created by air ionizers can break down odor-causing particles to leave a room smelling fresher. 

Cons of air ionizers:

  1. Effectiveness is dependent on conditions:
    Although air ionizers might be effective in removing airborne particles in laboratory conditions, studies have also found that ionizers’ efficiency diminishes in settings that see daily activity. [1]
  2. Ozone production:
    A significant concern with air ionizers is that they create ozone, a respiratory irritant, with levels reaching up to 77 ppb; this is above the level that is widely considered harmful, especially with prolonged exposure. 
  3. Low Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR):
    When tested in real-world settings, ionic air cleaners didn’t match up to their claimed results – in one study, an air ionizer only delivered around 13 ft3/min of clean air despite displaying a potential CADR of 53.4 ft3/min.
  4. Limited virus control:
    According to a review by the Institute of Clinical Epidemiology, National Institutes of Health, University of the Philippines Manila, there’s no direct evidence suggesting ionizing air purifiers reduce transmission of SARS-CoV-2. In fact, this study recommend against their use due to a lack of evidence of the benefits and potential harm from ozone. [2]

In the blue corner: Enter the air purifiers 

There are various kinds of air purifiers that employ different technologies to clean the air. The most renowned of these is the HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filter. HEPA filters are known to remove 99.97% of particulates from the air, making them a go-to standard in the industry. 

Pros of HEPA air purifiers:

  1. Proven filtering efficiency:
    Air purifiers are known for their ability to trap tiny pollutant particles, ensuring cleaner air. This has been backed up by scientific studies.
  2. No ozone production: Unlike some ionizers, HEPA purifiers don’t produce ozone during operation, meaning there are no concerns over this substance that can be harmful to health. 

Cons of HEPA air purifiers:

  1. Maintenance:
    HEPA filters need to be replaced regularly in order for an air purifier to maintain its efficiency. 
  2. Acoustic challenges:
    HEPA filters can be a bit noisy at times. 

The final round: Which device is for you? 

When it comes to choosing between air ionizers and air purifiers, consider both your needs and the environment. If you’re seeking a solution with proven efficacy and minimal health concerns, a HEPA air purifier is hard to beat. Air ionizers might also offer value, particularly in still environments, but their efficiency in real-life scenarios is questionable and there are potential health concerns to consider. In a world where indoor air quality is of paramount importance, knowledge is your best weapon – so if you want to breathe easy, make sure you’re armed with all the facts. 

Photo of a HEPA Filter - the winner of air ionizers vs. air purifiers is AIR PURIFIER

Get the best of both: Air ionizers and air purifiers

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