Contrary to the idea of air pollution being restricted to outdoor sites like industrial outskirts, commercialized cities and smoggy forest fires; indoor air isn’t any better! It’s contaminated with pollutants such as pollen, dust mites, allergens, chemical toxins, and combustion gases. As a matter of fact, studies have revealed that air pollution is often worse indoors than outdoors. According to the EPA, the levels of indoor air pollutants are often 2 to 5 times higher than outdoor levels. However, Indoor air being confined, can be treated corresponding to the type of pollution with the help of customized air purifiers.
As awareness about breathing pure and healthy “indoor” air increases, so does the demand for air purifiers that contribute towards improving your home air quality. While particle filter based air purifiers stay the most renowned for their effective performance, air ionizers (also known as ion generators) are often seen complementing them as an additional stage of filtration. In the recent past, you could’ve even found standalone air ionizers without any physical filter to aid in the air purification.
In this write-up, we’ll learn about what exactly an air ionizer is, what it really does, is it effective at what it does, and how it ends up improving the quality of the air we breathe in our homes.
What is an Air Ionizer?
Air ionizers or ion generators are one of the many fundamental types of air purifiers. True to their name, these produce ions (Charged atoms) and release them into the breathable air around you. These ions then work their part through specific pathways (discussed below) and remove certain types of pollutants out of the airflow.
How does an Ionizer Work?
Unlike traditional HEPA filters that mechanically trap suspended pollutants, an ionizer uses electricity to emit negatively charged ions into the air. The negative ions adhere to neutral airborne particles thereby charging them. Once charged, these pollutants tend to coagulate and are attracted to the oppositely charged collector plate. Alternatively, if the design of the air cleaner includes a physical filter, the charged particles are trapped in the filter leaving the airflow clean.
Air ionizers are evidently different from other conventional air purifiers available in the market, that make use of fans and filters to remove air pollutants. From the working principle of Ionizers, it can be deduced that these work best for fine airborne particles including some species of bacteria and viruses. However, as opposed to popular belief, these do not help with gaseous pollutants and odors. The small amount of ozone produced in the process may mask the odor but it does’t eliminate it like activated carbon filters do.
One superior benefit of using an ion generator is that these can take out even the finest of viruses that would otherwise pass through particle filters. And, in fact, it is these tiny microbes that cause the most trouble to people with a sensitive immune system or having an existing smooth tissue disorder. It is hence, wise to buy a true HEPA based air purifier that is complemented by an ion generator. While the HEPA filter takes out considerably fine particles, the ionizer accounts for even finer species of bacteria and viruses. To further augment the functionality, you could find one that has a built-in carbon filter too. We’ve reviewed some of the best HEPA air purifiers for large rooms in the market; that come with a customisable ionizer and a carbon filter for all-round air cleaning.
Do Ionizers Emit Ozone?
You might find people that swear by the their previously owned ionizers and people that would want to keep a safe distance from these. This contrast in popularity and opinion is majorly because of the contradictory literature in the scientific community. As we’ve discussed, ionizers do remove/deviate suspended particles out of the air flow but these are also known to generate some amount of ozone in the process.
‘Ozone’ is believed to cause a variety of respiratory ailments and is even associated with further aggravating existing conditions. This is the very reason why ozone generators have been receiving backlash from health professionals and medical experts and consequently have become obsolete.
Are Ion Generators Effective?
They might be a great solution for people sensitive to bacterial microbes and other allergens. Yet, most of us are often confronted with this question – “Do ionisers work?” Science says, yes they do! But, as discussed, these can only take out suspended particulate and not gaseous irritants and odors. So, these can be considered a rather incomplete air cleaning apparatus on their own.
Additionally, there are secondary benefits of using ionizers that are often overlooked. One of these is how ionizers nullify the effects of positive ions around that linger around us. Our breathable air is often polluted with large concentrations of positive ions. One way to ensure that your indoor air is on par with safe pollution levels is conducting a home air quality test. Contrary to their name, positive ions, when inhaled, can have pretty negative effects on the human body. Positive ions are associated with higher inflammation levels, bad mood and worsened allergies.
In simple words, having your indoor air filled with positive ions isn’t very healthy because the positive ions in the atmosphere are a common cause of feelings of tiredness, hypertension, mood swings, and similar negativity. This where an air ionizer steps in to reverse the effects of positive ions by creating and releasing more of negative ones. Again, unlike their name, negative ions work just the opposite to their counterparts – they recharge and refresh the body and mind by instilling a feeling of freshness within you, thereby helping you relax, become less irritable, and even improve the quality of sleep. And, all this becomes possible as they help get rid of air allergens such as pollen, bacteria, or viruses.
Now, ionizers generate more of negative ions indoors with the help of electricity. They charge air molecules, thereby sending ions indoors. These ions then attract those which are positively charged and solid particulate such as dust and bacteria. The positively charged molecules and the negative ions then bind together and produce thick dirt particles that cannot float in air, thereby lending an air that’s pure and healthy to breathe too only with a concern of ozone production in trace amounts.
Are Ionizers Safe to Use?
Air ionizers have been acclaimed bu users and often described as really effective giving that “fresh” ambiance. However, the fresh sensation is a byproduct of the negative ions and the clean smell is often the smell of ozone masking other odors indoor. Although most manufacturers claim that their ionizers include a trigger that enables the ion generator to produce ozone within the safe thresholds, it is wise to avoid them if you’re someone with an existing respiratory problem. if not, you may use them in conjunction with a physical HEPA filter to create more positive air filtration effects. For best results, you’re advised to find a device that pairs them with a true HEPA filter rather than a HEPA type filter. You may read the differences between the two in this article: True HEPA vs. HEPA type air purifiers.
This said, it cannot be completely denied here that an air ionizer may actually prove to be harmful to health at times. The primary reason is that the device generates ionized air in an effort to purify the air inside homes. Human lungs aren’t accustomed to breathing this kind of air. Besides, the electrically charged ions tend to produce a certain amount of unsolicited ozone.
Now, the effects of ozone in the atmosphere aren’t unknown; an unwanted amount of ozone generated from air ionizers may sometimes tend to aggravate asthma problems or other respiratory disorders, if already present in the house. This in no way implies that air ionizers shouldn’t be used at all. However, it’d be best to first check if the device qualifies the specified standard as per the California Air Resources Board (CARB).
According to the specifications mentioned therein, air ionizers are permitted to only have an ozone emission concentration which is lower than 0.05 parts per million (ppm). Any air ionizer that emits ozone concentration higher than this level is deemed to be dangerous to your respiratory health.
Benefits of Using Air Ionizers
Though conventional air purifiers have always been doing their job of filtering our home air of all the unnecessary pollutants and making the air fresh, pure, and healthy to breathe, air ionizers still stepped in. This only goes on to prove that they’re indeed capable of lending additional benefits which perhaps are deemed better than other air purifiers. Let’s take a look at some of the key air ionizer benefits on offer:
- Does not involve too much of maintenance, for instance annual replacement of filters as in conventional air purifiers
- Works great at removing such bacteria and viruses from the air which are extremely small and can’t normally be filtered out by conventional air purifiers
- Extremely useful for people with dust or pollen allergies, asthma, and sensitivity to chemicals because they can get rid of all types of bacteria and viruses in the household, including pollen, mould, dust, pet dander, smoke, odours, and chemical toxins
- Help reduce static electricity by correcting the imbalance between positive and negative ions in the atmosphere
- Helps trigger positive mood, reduces stress levels, and lowers chances of hypertension, owing to productionof more negative ions in the surrounding
- Helps fight fatigue and keeps you recharged, again due to the presence of more negative ions around
- Helps improve the quality of sleep by purifying the air of all unwanted pollutants while sleeping at night
- Boosts immunity to fight infections
- Reduces episodes of perpetual headaches in people regularly exposed to computer screens for work (by filtering out pollutants that otherwise settle down on TV and computer screens)
- Help improve overall well-being – physical, mental, emotional, and psychological
Popular Fresh Air Ionizer Brands
To help make things more convenient for you, we’ve enlisted here some of the top choices in the market as far as choosing an air ionizer is concerned. These are some of the most reliable ones that have scored excellent reviews too. Do check them out.
1. Blueair Air Purifiers
The company offers a large line-up of air purifiers, most of which come with ionizers. They are designed to appeal to contemporary tastes both in terms of design and utility. Thisionizing air purifierhas been crafted in such a manner that it can comfortably clean indoor spaces of up to 775 sq. ft. Best for those looking for an easy, affordable, and instant solution to get rid of allergies. Can be operated by remote and is Wi-Fi integrated too.
2. Winix Air Purifiers
Another great brand for the product that comes with the revolutionary PlasmaWave technology, which is currently the talk of the town. Excellent performance at high-quality air purification at extremely pocket-friendly prices.
3. Supentown Ionizer
The company is a renowned and trusted name in the market for its range of ionizer-fitted home appliances which go beyond only air purifiers. Their ionizers can now be found on heaters, fans, and evaporative coolers too. Its tower heater comes with an ionic filter that helps keep indoor air warm as well as pure and healthy to inhale. The evaporative air cooler features an ionizer on its oxygen bar to emit cool and purified air, while the ionizer fan is fitted with an ionic air purifier to help you relax and refresh with cool and healthy air.
Air ionizers may be a relatively newer concept in purifying the air we breathe in our homes but they sure have gained rapid popularity in a short span. This is clear from the extent of their use in not just homes but also hospitals and schools to improve the quality of health of patients and students, respectively.
The concept that air ionizers work on – generation of negative ions – is what has garnered appreciation all over and this is what brings these devices in huge demand. And the effects they have so created also indicate their maximum potential. It’s perhaps time we install them in our households and avail the benefits of breathing healthy air and staying fit and happy.