What Are the Different Types of Air Purifiers?

When most people think of air pollution, they automatically assume it’s in connection with outdoor air.

However, indoor air that’s found within most of our homes is not as clean as you’d think and can in some cases, be just as harmful to your health.

Indoor air contains a variety of contaminants including pollen, pet hair, mold spores, dust, and viruses. Long-term exposure to any of these things can play a significant role in the damaging of your health, particularly if you already suffer from any pre-existing respiratory problems.

Using a good quality air filtration system within the home can help protect your health significantly by ensuring you always have a fresh and clean supply of air to breathe. These devices come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. In addition to that, they also differ in the way in which they clean the air. In this review, we’ll go through some of the different types of air purifiers available to buy. We’ll also give you some idea as to how each of the work, why they’re so effective, so you can decide which is the best air purifier for you.


HEPA Filter Air Purifiers

HEPA stands for High Efficiency Particulate Air and air purifiers fitted with these kinds of filters are some of the most popular and commonly used on the market today. One of the reasons why they’re so widely used is that they’re so effective. True HEPA filters are capable of capturing up to 99.97% of air particles and contaminants that are 0.3 microns and larger. They create no harmful byproducts or ozone and are highly reliable.

To give you a brief idea of how they work, HEPA filter air purifiers draw air into the machine via a fan. The air is then passed through a kind of pre-filter in which to trap any airborne contaminants and larger particles. Then, the HEPA filter sets to work removing all that remains. For more detailed information on how HEPA filters work click here.

While HEPA filters themselves are very effective when it comes to sanitizing the air, they do not have the ability to destroy chemical fumes, tobacco smoke, odors, or gases. So, to combat this issue, most decent HEPA air purifiers will also include some kind of activated charcoal filter alongside it.


Activated Carbon Air Purifiers

If you live in an environment with pets and small people frequently roaming around, you’ll be grateful for one of these. An activated carbon air purifier uses a filter with lots of tiny absorbent pores. As air flows through the filter it reacts with the activated carbon and all those harmful irritants and other air pollutants bond permanently. While this type of filter isn’t capable of removing allergens or micro-organisms from the air, it does capture smoke, odors, mold spore, gases, and volatile organic compounds (VOC).

As a rough guide, these filters need changing around every three to six months, depending on usage, which is about average for any air purification system. The ultimate benefit of having clean filters is that your machine will work more effectively, helping to reduce any allergic or asthmatic reactions.


Ionic Air Purifiers

Ionic air purifiers are often referred to as ionizers or negative ion generators and they work a little different to the likes of a HEPA air purifying system. Instead of trapping pollutants and other airborne particles in a filter, these machines work by producing and releasing negative ions into the air. These electrically charged ions react with positively charged pollutants in the air, causing them to neutralize and fall to the ground.

Negative ion generators are very good at dealing with pollen, dust, viruses, and other airborne particles and they’re also very low maintenance. However, on their own, they don’t remove odors. Another downside is that they also create a small amount of ozone into the air which may cause irritation to the lungs, especially in those suffering from any respiratory conditions such as asthma. They also take a little longer to work than most other types of air purifiers.


Ionizer air purifier


Spray Air Purifiers 

While this kind of air purifier isn’t really recommended for long term use, it is an effective temporary solution. Spray air purifiers are sometimes referred to as air sanitizers. These devices contain cleaning agents in which to attack microorganisms and neutralize odors and gases in the air.

They are highly effective at tackling bad odors fast, making them a favorite among those with pets or really active kids and make a great addition to the kitchen, living room, or bedroom. Or, some people use them in the bathroom as a really cool air freshener alternative.


Photocatalytic Oxidation (PCO) Air Purifiers

These purifiers take the processes of cleaning indoor air to a whole new level. You won’t find a filter in these machines. Instead, they use a broad-spectrum UV light, water moisture, and a thin sheet of metal in which to create a chemical reaction that breaks down allergens and other airborne particles. All of this takes place inside a reaction chamber so is perfectly safe.

As the air gets purified it flows back out of the device through the reaction chamber core with the help of an integrated fan. These air purifiers are extremely effective as they literally exterminate every air contaminant it comes across from gases, to viruses, to pet dander, to microscopic particles up to 100 times smaller than what a HEPA filter can capture.

Because there’s no filter, PCO air purifiers are very easy to maintain. All they need is a little wipe down every now and then to get of rid of any surface dust and a replacement reaction chamber every 2-3 years.


Photo Electrochemical Oxidation (PECO) Air Purifiers 

Essentially, PECO air purifiers are an upgraded version of the PCO models. They work in exactly the same way, but instead of using a thin sheet of metal to create a reaction, they have a built-in filter membrane that’s coated with nanoparticles. This causes a much stronger and much faster reaction when exposed to UV light compared to that of the PCO air purifier.

As with PCO air purifiers, these devices destroy every type of contaminant they come in contact with. The only real drawback with PECO air purifiers is that they tend to need their filters replacing around once a year on average.


Ultraviolet (UV) Light Air Purifiers

According the United States Environmental Protection Agency, there are three bands of UV light – UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C. The band used in air purifiers is UV-C light. When this light comes into contact with the air, it disrupts the DNA of bacteria, germs, mold, and viruses, rendering them ineffective.

How well this type of air purifier performs depends on the light’s wattage and the amount of time the air is exposed to the light. Make sure to replace the lamp as per the manufacturer’s recommendation. Just be aware that a UV light air purifier won’t remove any harmful chemicals, allergens, odors, smoke, or airborne particles from the air.


Ozone Air Purifiers

Ozone air purifiers, otherwise known as ozone generators, use oxidant ozone in which to eliminate various contaminants from the air including bad odors, bacteria, dust mites, and more. While ozone does have somewhat of a bad reputation for the harmful effects it has on humans, it’s actually a really good air cleaner. The way the work is by releasing a small amount of ozone into the air in the room. As it spreads it reacts with chemically with the air’s pollutants and breaks them down into water and carbon dioxide mostly.

While these air purifiers are effective, they can be dangerous if not used correctly. Ideally, you don’t want to be in the same room as it while it’s on either. So, the best course of action when using one of these air devices is to turn it on high and leave the room. When it’s finished doing what it needs to do, turn the device off and air out the room before reentering. Just be careful if you suffer with any respiratory conditions such as asthma as long-term exposure to ozone could aggravate the symptoms.


Electronic Air Cleaners

With an electronic air cleaner – the sky’s the limit (or maybe the ceiling in this case)! These devices are well-known for being extremely effective. In fact, they can remove as much 99.98% of allergens, dust, pet dander, viruses, smoke, and fumes within the home.

The way in which these air cleaners work is in quite clever. As air passes through the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning or HVAC system, it first gets filtered through a HEPA-type filter where most of the contaminated particles are removed. Next, the air gets treated with positively charged ions that are generated within the electronic air cleaner. These ions destroy any remaining odors and contaminants, ensuring you get a constant supply of clean air.

Because they’re used in conjunction with your home air conditioning unit and furnace, these air filters must be professionally installed. You also need to ensure the filters are replaced regularly and that the ionizing wires or collector cells are kept clean by giving them a quick hose down once a month or so.


Why Invest in an Air Purifier?

The type of air purifier that’s best for you will depend on various factors and is not a decision that should be taken lightly. The following are a few tips which should help you decide:

  1. Think about what contaminants, in particular, you are looking to remove from the air. It may be that you have a house full of pets and so you’ll probably want an air purifier that’s going to banish pet hair and dander, as well as bad odors. In which case you should look for models that include activated carbon filters
  2. Check out the machine’s capacity and make sure it’s compatible with the surface area of the room you want to use it in. Buying an air purifier that’s not powerful enough for the space it’s going in will have a minimal effect. While buying one that’s too big for the room will work, it’s a waste of energy and money.
  3. Consider the noise level. All air purifiers operate at different noise levels. While some offer a wide range of fan speeds and therefore quieter modes, others are a little limited in that department. So, if you are looking to place the air purifier in the bedroom at all, and don’t want to be kept awake all night by the sound of a roaring machine, be sure to opt for one of the quieter models out there.
  4. Calculate your long-term costs. Owning an air purifier is not just about the initial investment. You need to consider the machine’s running costs too, and that includes power usage, filter replacement, and overall maintenance costs.
  5. Read independent review to reveal both the pros and cons of the various types of air purifiers available, we have many here on Skyonic!

You deserve to have the best air quality within your home. And with the help of a good air purifier, that’s highly achievable. They come in all kinds of shapes and sizes so finding one to fit your free space shouldn’t be an issue.

So, what are you waiting for? Improve your indoor air quality today.

Chad Hill

Hey, I'm Chad. I started Skyonic because I genuinely believe air quality is one of the most important contributors to the overall quality of our health. When I'm not blogging about air purifiers, you can catch me traveling and exploring some of...

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