How Do air purifiers work?

Over 50 million Americans suffer from some sort of allergies or asthma, which is about 55% of the U.S. More than ever, safe indoor air quality is becoming a primary health issue and air purification is listed as one of the best solutions for cleaner air quality.

Allergens like smoke, mold, pollen, bacteria, viruses, and pet dander can cause damage to the lungs and the immune system. These contaminants cannot be seen by the naked eye but can be filtered out by air purifiers. These purifiers typically use filters, electrical attraction, or ozone purification.

Air filters use fine sieves that filter particles with air circulation. This filter exchanges the air in the room by using a fan to draw the air through the purifier. The impurities remain on the filter leaving pure air to continue on through the machine and re-enter the room. As air flows into the purifier, the finer the sieve is, the smaller the particles it can trap onto the filter. HEPA air filters are made from very tiny glass fibers that are made into a tightly woven paper. They are guaranteed to trap 99.97% of airborne particles above 0.3 microns. The more times the air passes through the HEPA filter the cleaner the air will be.

Some brands offer an optional UV light system used to quickly kill bacteria and viruses. When used in addition to the HEPA filter it can protect the HEPA from biological and viral contamination. Ultraviolet light uses electromagnetic radiation instead of filtration to destroy bacteria and other pathogens by breaking the molecular bonds in their DNA. This bond breakage damages micro-organisms such as germs, viruses, bacteria, mold, etc. After being treated with the UV light, micro-organisms are no longer able to reproduce and grow. UV air purifiers do not work against smoke, odors, allergens, or chemicals.

Another type of air purifier is an air ionizer. This purifier works by sending out a stream of negative ions that are attracted to positive airborne dust and allergen particles in the air. Ionizers are an inexpensive way to clear smoke and odors, but do not work to remove dust, pollen or allergens. Ozone air purifiers use high voltage electrical currents to convert oxygen to ozone, which breaks down molecules and micro-organisms in the air. Ozone purifiers work very well to rid of odors, but do not work against allergens or most chemicals. Ozone and Ionic purifiers both emit ozone which can be hazardous to your health. The Environmental Protection Agency and the American Lung Association advise against using ozone emitting generators.

Choosing the right air purifier is difficult, but by understanding their main differences it will allow for an educated decision based on an individual or families health needs.

Read Next: Learn The History of Air Purifiers

Reading next