Air Purifiers 101: Do You Really Need an Air Purifier

Background on air purifiers

If you are looking to get cleaner air in your home or work environment, get ready for some confusion! There are a lot of different ways of cleaning air, and a lot of air purifiers on the market today (new technologies are coming soon, too).

The good news is that for just a couple hundred dollars or less, you’re like to find an air purifier for smaller jobs; larger air purification systems can run into the thousands. This site was designed as an independent guide to help you understand the types of air purifiers and help find the right air purifier for you.

Features and services to look for in air purifiers

There are two main types of air purifiers; portable and central filtration systems. Portable air purifiers are usually smaller, less expensive, and generally designed to handle one or two rooms. Central air purifiers are more expensive and are typically installed in heating or air conditioning systems and tied to the duct work throughout the home or office.

As mentioned above, there are many different ways of cleaning the air inside a building. Here are the major air purifying technologies:


By drawing air through filters, many of the larger particulates in the air are trapped on the filter and removed from circulation.

Air coming through the outside of the filter is now cleaner than it was going in, and the cycle continues. Filters are designed to be either disposable or washable, and you should change/wash your filter as recommended to ensure that it works at the optimal level.

There are also filter free air purifier available in the market today.

HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) Filters

HEPA is a special designation for filters that are able to filter out over 97% of all particles of 0.3 microns in diameter. Do not be fooled by advertisements for ‘HEPA-type’ filters as this is basically a meaningless claim. Since the HEPA filters are so ‘tight’, it takes a significant amount of force to push air through them. This can result in relatively large electric bills. When searching for an air purifier with HEPA filters, pay attention to the air displacement effectiveness as the key measurement of comparison. There are even ultra-HEPA filters, which are designed to trap 99.999% of all particles of 0.3 microns in diameter.


this technology uses an electrical field to trap airborne particles. Electronic air purifiers either draw air in with an electrode or wire and collect the particles on plates, or create static charges to make the particles attracted to all surfaces (walls, floors, etc.) to take them out of the air. Electronic air purification generally requires less electricity than HEPA by comparison.

Air ionizers

This technology works by replenishing the supply of negative ions in a given area. These negative ions then attach themselves to the particles in the air, and then become too heavy to remain airborne and end up on the floor. Like electronic air purifiers, air ionizers typically draw less electricity than HEPA systems.

Ozone generator units

This technology works by introducing small quantities of actual ozone into the air to reduce other airborne pollutants. The FDA has established that any device that puts out more than .05 ppm (parts per million) of ozone is not safe in any inhabited structure, like a home. Some air purifier makers will substitute terms like ‘saturated’ or ‘trivalent’ oxygen for the word ‘ozone’, but they mean the same thing.

Ultraviolet light

This technology uses ultraviolet light waves that can actually kill bacteria, mold, fungus, yeast and other organic pollutants. UV air purifiers helps clean and sterilize the entire environment, yet produces not odors, ozone emissions, visible light, or other by-product. Ultraviolet light technology can be cost-effective over the long term because there are no filters to replace, and the ultraviolet light bulbs typically last several years.


The best air purifier for wildfire smoke typically utilizes both ultraviolet and electronic purification methods to clean the air. While the ultraviolet light kills the bacteria and other pollutants, including smoke, the electronic component produces negative ions that attach themselves to the particles and takes them out of the air. Many smoke-eaters also incorporate ozone generation to add to the purification effectiveness.

Gas phase filters

This air purification technology is relatively new, and it works by filtering out various solvent vapors and odors from manufactured goods like rugs, cleaning solutions, or other volatile organic compounds. The actual filtering process can be done with charcoal or a silica gel and by converting other gasses into benign byproducts.

How to find the best air purifier for you

Naturally, the choice of the best air purifier for you will be based on your particular situation, budget, and needs. If you have particular concerns or allergies, you will want an air purifier designed to tackle your specific concern. Many air purifiers use multiple cleaning technologies in the same unit, offering unique combinations of the particles that are taken out of the air.

Once you know what specifically you want to filter out of your air and understand the technologies involved, you will just need to find some or all of the air purifiers that match your needs and begin comparing them by other factors:


don’t be fooled into thinking just about the cost of the unit itself. Most air purifiers will have some sort of ongoing costs, like filter and light bulb replacement. Air purifiers can be priced somewhat like printers or razors- a good deal for the unit, but they’ll get you on the replacement parts. Regular filters will cost less than HEPA filters, and take into account electric usage when looking at any air purifier.


This can be measured in two ways- how small the particles that are removed from the air are (0.3 microns or smaller is considered excellent), and the amount of cubic air that can be cleaned per minute. This is known as the Clean Air Delivery Rate, and a comparison among competing models is the best measurement.


Air purifiers vary in the amount of noise they put out, so make sure you understand where the unit will be placed and how it will affect the ambient noise. Feel free to get a demo of the prospective air purifiers to hear for yourself what to expect.


When comparing air purifiers, check the expected lifespan of the most important components, as well as any of the expendable parts like filters. Try to get the best warranty you can among competing air purifiers.

Once you have narrowed down the type of air purification technologies you want, have compared among competing models, and found the model you’d like to purchase, it’s just a matter of finding it for the best possible price. Make sure to search online for the best deal and also visit some retail stores near you to see if they have it for a better deal or can match your online price.