The best ionic air purifiers may be those where the production of negative ions is only one part of the air cleaning process. One thing is certain – homeowners like the fresh scent the best ionic air purifiers spread throughout the room.
The basis for this air cleaner is a negative ion generator (also referred to as an air ionizer). This generator uses high voltage to negatively charge air molecules. A negative ion (anions) is a particle with extra electrons which provide the negative charge to that particle.
For commercial use, the best ionic air purifier may generate negative ions or might be focused on neutralizing static charge in the establishment. Thus, for business and production plants a balanced ion generator may be necessary.
In your home, particulates in the air are attracted to the plates in the air purifier. The ions lose the negative charge when they come into contact with a conductor such as the plate or a wall or ceiling. Negative ions have a sterilizing effect on the air processed with this method.
The popularity of the best ionic air purifiers was given a huge boost during the SARS epidemic. British hospital studies proved the sanitation effects of using ionization to purify the air in a room.
In Japan, ionization was added to many common household appliances such as air conditioners, washing machines and even toothbrushes. Some producers of electronic notebooks now add air ionizers in their computers.
No standards have been established for the use of ionic air purifiers. There is no argument of the usefulness of the process but the safety of using negative ion generators in your home is still in question.
The concerns focus on ozone. Ionizers are not the same thing as ozone generators though they operate in a similar way. With the best ionic air purifier, plates are charged electrostatically and produce negatively charges ions that attract and stick to particulates. The process is similar to what happens with static electricity.
If the air in your home is dry you can walk across the carpeting and provide a slight shock when you touch another person in the room. We are accustomed to static electricity and we know to touch a conducting service to release the static charge.
Ozone can be a byproduct when using ion generators. To treat bacteria in the air requires a high level of ion production and this is often referred to as “ozone therapy”.
The FDA prohibits using high concentrations of ozone as a medical treatment. Ozone is a reactive gas that is highly toxic in concentrations higher than 0.1 parts per million. There is potential for lung damage in high concentrations.
The best ionic air purifiers do not produce ozone in measurable quantities. For home use, the air cleaners are considered safe to use.
However, until the standard are established and result in measurable numbers to be used for comparison of air cleaning systems, buying cheap ionic air purifiers will leave you with an air cleaner that accomplishes little but may post some risk to your health.
Air Cleaning Capability
Clean air is a hot commodity in homes today. The biggest problem with ionic air purifiers is they don’t work well to remove dander and dust from the air in your home. The theory is that negatively charge particles will be attracted to the collection plates inside the unit and thus be removed from the room.
The problem is those ions will also be attracted to walls, TV screens and tabletops in your room. An ionic air purifier is silent and the lack of motors and moving parts (which could require maintenance) is a big selling point.
Ads focus on never needing to buy filters but except for the high end units that add fans for circulation, most ionic air purifiers are inefficient in cleaning the air.
Higher priced ionization products may add a second component of UV lights meant to kill bacteria. With this function added, companies advertise the health benefits of their air cleaning units and some even claim the ozone produced by ionization is pure and germicidal.
The over-hyped claims have increased as the public demand for air purifiers has grown. These claims of health benefits and the lack of measurements supplied of the amount of ozone produced as a byproduct only increase the need for safety standards to be established.
Combination Air Cleaners
The best ionic air purifiers use ion generators in combination with HEPA filtration systems that use a fan to move the air through the ionizer. When ionic cleaners were tested by Consumer Reports they were given a fail rating. This was due to application of the Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) which is an established standard for air purifiers.
The CADR was developed to rate air cleaners that are attached to heating and air conditioning systems. It measures the amount of cleaned air circulated during a specific period of time.
When the review was released by the consumer protection organization, one producer of this type of air treatment system sued Consumer Reports.
Sharper Image sold a highly promoted Ionic Breeze air purifier and claimed the test failed to recognize the ease of use, the continuous cleaning and the maintenance free aspect of its product. The court case was dismissed when Sharper Image was unable to prove the effectiveness of its air cleaning product.
The best ionic air purifiers work but have the problem of limited air movement if ionization is the only component. The addition of filtration with HEPA or other methods adds a fan that circulates the air. It is easy to see how a combination product would produce the best results. The more air that passes through the charging plates, the more effective the unit will be.
At the same time, adding ion generators to HEPA air purifiers provide the homeowner with that fresh, crisp air that makes the room smell cleaner. It’s the smell of outdoor air after a thunderstorm has passed. Lightning adds a negative charge to ions outdoors and the result is the freshness you notice just after a good storm.
Choosing the best ionic air purifier can be accomplished if you first choose a good quality filter-type air cleaner. Many of the popular brands have an optional ionizer that can be added as a part of the unit.
Some of the higher priced and most effective air cleaners on the market include an ion generator as part of the air cleaning process.
These use a HEPA filter to remove particles of dust, pollen, dander and bacteria from the air and use activated carbon filters to remove odors. When an ion generator is added to provide the clean air scent, you have located the best ionic air purifiers.