The different types of air purifiers
The first thing to note about air purifiers is how many different types they come in:
HEPA air purifiers
HEPA filters are a popular filtration method in many devices and are one of the preferred filtration methods for most air purifiers. HEPA stands for “High-efficiency particulate air”. These filters work by simply creating a fine physical barrier which traps 99.7% of all air particles larger than 0.2 microns. Depending on how often you use them, these filters need to be changed once every several months but they are great at improving the overall air quality in your home.
Activated carbon air purifiers
Another fan-favorite, activated carbon filters and air purifiers are better than HEPA filters in dealing with smoke, fumes, odors, and gasses that can pass through the HEPA filter. The two work best together, however – first a HEPA filter to trap the bigger particles, and then an activated carbon filter to deal with odors and gasses. Any good all-purpose air purifier should have both systems.
Ultraviolet light air purifiers
UV filters sound like something that shouldn’t work and is a scam but UV light does actually kill harmful pathogens, bacteria, and viruses from the air. These filters work by sucking and filtering your home’s air through a small chamber filled with UV light which eliminates harmful organisms from the air before releasing it back into your home. UV light filters work best in conjunction with HEPA and activated carbon filters. That’s because if dust and other large inorganic particles aren’t cleaned from the air first, they can provide “cover” for the bacteria and viruses from the UV light.
Ionic air purifiers
Ionic air purifiers work on an even more bizarre principle – instead of filtering the air, they emit negative ions into the air which force dust, mold, and other air particles to bond together into clusters. This makes them too heavy to stay airborne and eventually they fall to the floor or walls where they can be more easily cleaned. Alternatively, if they get sucked into a HEPA filter, they will be big enough to get trapped in it.
The obvious problem with ionic purifiers is that they don’t actually “purify” the air but simply modify the composition of its particles. This can still be useful, however, with the right combination of filters.
Electronic air cleaners
Now that we covered the four main filtration methods, let’s go over some other air purifier types. Electronic air cleaners are whole-home solutions that are designed to work with your AC or furnace systems. They utilize both ionic purifiers and HEPA filters and work by charging and then trapping air pollutants.
Central air cleaners
Similar to electronic cleaners, central air systems also connect to your home’s ductwork. They don’t use ionic purifiers, however, but focus mostly on a combination of HEPA and activated carbon filters.
Stand-alone air purifiers
If you don’t want to connect anything to your furnace or AC systems you can get a stand-alone device too. These can come in all shapes and sizes and use different combinations of filters. The most common and effective types will use HEPA, activated carbon, and UV light filters (in that order).
What should I look for when buying an air purifier?
With so many different types of air purifiers, it’s important to know what you’re looking for when buying one for your home. Here are the main factors to keep in mind:
What type do you need?
As you saw above, every different purifying and/or filtration method is specialized toward different air contaminants. So, your best bet is to either pick a device that utilizes several different filtration methods or to identify your exact problem and find something that deals with it.
Volume, capacity, and power
The next step is to make sure your preferred type is able to comprehensively filter the air in your home. This means that it should have the capacity and power to deal with the air volume in your home. Depending on your home’s layout, getting multiple devices will likely be a good idea.
The next highly important factor is to choose something of quality. There are an awful lot of sub-par air purifier models and brands out there and it’s easy to get tricked.
Extra features that might be useful
Now that you’ve chosen a high-quality product of the right type for your needs, it’s time to choose your preferred features.
- Different programmable speeds, mode settings, timers, remote control, and others.
- App compatibility to help you keep an eye on things more easily.
- Quiet operation that doesn’t disturb your day-to-day life.
- A nice design that’s pleasant to the eye and fits with your home’s interior.
As you can see, there are plenty of different types of air purifiers to choose from even without accounting for the thousands of different models per type. Some are better than others in one area or another and many are quite specialized. Choosing the right type for your depends on identifying the type of problem you have first. After that – it’s all about finding a high-quality model with the features you’d like.