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You are here: Home > Air Purifier Test Results > What's Better? Ionic Air Purifiers or HEPA Air Purifiers?

What Works Better: Ionic Air Purifiers or HEPA Air Purifiers?


ionic or HEPA air purifiers?

While ionic and HEPA air purifiers are designed to improve indoor air quality, they are very different in their effectiveness. Below we give some history and break down the differences between the two types of air purifiers and explain why HEPA air purifiers are ideal for you in almost every instance.

Which Air Purifier is Most Popular?

In the 1990's, ionic air purifiers were very popular and in particular the Sharper Image Ionic Breeze. In the early 2000's this air purifier received unfavorable reviews through improved testing standards for air purifiers, HEPA air purifiers have become much more popular and today are the most common type of air purifier purchased.

How Ionic Air Purifiers Work

There are actually two types of ionic air purifiers – electrostatic precipitators and air ionizers. In both cases these are “filter-less” air cleaners and can be quite appealing since there is no filter to replace. Electrostatic precipitators use positive and negatively charged plates to collect particulates as they pass through the air purifier. Rather than having to replace the filter, you must wash or clean the plates. While it is beneficial from a cost standpoint, you give up a lot in performance compared to a HEPA filter. The filterless air purifiers simply do not remove the particulates effectively.

An electrostatic precipitators' performance is best when the plates are clean. However, even at that point, it performs much worse when compared to a HEPA filter. To make matters worse, when the plates become dirty, the performance degrades further.

It is common for ozone to be produced as a by-product of the charged plates. For someone with a sensitive system such as COPD, emphysema or asthma, ozone can be a huge problem. Room air purifiers now have to be tested to meet the minimum ozone requirements in California and as a result there has been a large shift away from ionic air purifiers to HEPA. In our opinion, the last thing you want an air purifier to do is introduce a pollutant into your home.

The other type of ionic air cleaner is an air ionizer. These air purifiers don’t actually have a filter (and in some cases no motor) but rather send out a charge that attaches to the airborne particulates that then attach to something else and therefore are removed from the air. A problem with this that it attaches to something - could be the carpeting, walls, your clothes and worst case - your lungs.

While inexpensive, an air ionizer is not generally recommended for relief from allergies air purifiers, asthma, or any other respiratory condition.

HEPA Air Purifiers

HEPA filters were developed by the US military during World War II as a way to create an effective gas mask. The technology has not changed significantly since then. In terms of air cleaning performance, HEPA air filters are the best technology available since they remove the most particles as well as the most dangerous particulates. In addition, HEPA filters become more efficient over time, removing a higher percentage of particles as they become dirty.

While HEPA air filters require replacement at some point, it is for the sake of ensuring you are getting a high level of air cleaning. As the filters collect particulates, the airflow resistance will increase and that will result in less airflow through the filter and lower overall air cleaning performance.

From a safety standpoint HEPA filters cannot be matched. HEPA filters only utilize mechanical filtration and therefore do not generate any unwanted pollutants such as ozone. If you are looking for a recommendation consider the Oransi Max HEPA air purifier since it is ranked #1 air purifier by an independent study at Clemson University.

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