Ionizer Buying Guide
Air cleaners and air purifiers are a fast-growing market, with ionizers, or ionizing air cleaners making up about 25% of all sales. Since each method of air purification has advantages and disadvantages, an air cleaner with multiple forms of technology usually performs best.
Air ionizers work by creating negative ions, which change the polarity of particles in the air, making them magnetically attract each other. The particles then become too large to stay in the air, and fall to the ground. Once particles are on the ground, they are less likely to be breathed in.
Effective ionizers are able to remove particles as small as 0.01 microns across from the air. In addition, manufacturers claim that ionizers can neutralize bacteria, viruses, chemicals in the air, and cigarette smoke. They are designed to let ions circulate throughout the whole room, purifying the air across the room as well as the air right next to the ionizer.
As with all air purifying technology, however, air ionizers have some drawbacks. They do not remove odors, and are unable to collect many of the particles removed from the air. They are also unable to kill fungi, many viruses, and some germs, and can't remove all chemicals from the air. Because of these disadvantages, consumers should look for an air purifier which pairs ionizer technology along with at least one more form of air purification.
One widely recommended air purification method that works well with ionization is a purifier with a HEPA air filter. This will collect the ionized particles, ensuring that they are not released back into the air. Activated carbon air filters trap and eliminate chemical fumes, and germicidal UV lamps kill fungi, germs and viruses. An ozone generator is able to remove odors, but should be able to be turned on and off completely.
Ionizers with high ozone generation are not recommended by Consumer Reports®, as they can create dangerously high levels of indoor ozone. As sales of ionizing air cleaners increases, ozone levels become more of a worry, especially for people with allergies or asthma. Ozone can make asthma worse, increase mold and pollen allergies, and actually cause irreversible lung damage.
When preparing to purchase an ionizer, it is a good idea to do your research and find out if the ionizer model creates more than the industry standard of 50 parts per billion (ppb) increase in ozone. Some consumer groups warn that this industry standard may still harm consumers, but all agree that more than 80 ppb of ozone for 8 hours or longer can cause chest pain, asthma, coughing, and deaden sense of smell.
If the ionizer that you choose creates under the recommended 50 ppb of ozone when tested, keep in mind that the ozone levels may rise if the ionizer is located close to your head. Manufacturers of air purifiers often recommend placing the purifier near your head while sleeping, which could cause you to breathe higher amounts of ozone than recommended all night.
Written by Bronwyn Harris