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Difference between HEPA filters and ionizers
April 30, 2020 Lin

Difference between HEPA filters and ionizers

Posted in Clean Air

Air ionizers and HEPA filters are two of the most common solutions we use for air cleaning in our homes. They are both designed to effectively clean air but the method that they use is quite different. Do you know the difference between HEPA filters and ionizers? If not, no worries – in this article we will present the pros on cons of both devices. You will get all the information that will help you decide which is best suited for you.

Air ionizers

Air ionizers are devices that work by releasing a huge amount of negative ions into the air. These negative ions then attach themselves to (any) harmful particles in the air. In this process, the newly formed mass of a harmful particle and negative ions becomes heavy enough so that gravity can pull them on the ground. Once on the ground, they can not rise back up in the air as the mass is too heavy to lift up again. Due to the size of this combined mass, we can also see it with our own eyes as a sort of silver/black dust (harmful particles on their own are too small to be seen with the naked eye).

Why choose an air ionizer?

Even tho the whole process of “cleaning the air with negative ions” sounds complicated, it is actually quite simple in practice. Because (true) air ionizers don’t use any kind of filters or ventilators, therefore they are completely silent. The device itself releases negative ions with a simple press of a button (sometimes not even that is necessary – you just plug them into electricity).

But the biggest reason to use them is their efficiency. Out of all types of air purifiers, air ionizers are the best at removing harmful particles in the air. They remove even the smallest ones, which other air purifiers can not (due to their small size). And it is usually exactly these smallest particles, such as bacteria, viruses, VOCs and allergens that are the most harmful to us people.

Cons of air ionizers

While air ionizers have many great perks, they are however not without cons. The biggest downside of the vast majority of air ionizers is that they produce ozone. Ozone is great when it is way above us in the atmosphere, as it protects us from harmful UV rays. But when it is in our proximity, ozone becomes very harmful as it irritates our lungs, among other negative effects.

The other downside is that they are generally limited to smaller spaces. This means that a single unit is very effective in a room or smaller apartment, but not very effective in big, open spaces such as a warehouse or a big house. In such cases, you would need multiple units to effectively cover the whole area.

HEPA filters

Air purifiers that use HEPA filters work on a different principle than air ionizers. They use powerful ventilators to suck the air inside the device. Once inside the device, the air travels through a complex filtering system that captures harmful particles such as dust, pollen, allergens, etc… So these contaminants get caught and stay inside of filters, which we then have to change – usually 1-2x annually.

Some HEPA filters also come with an antimicrobial coating which prevents mold from accumulating in the filter. This is very important otherwise the filter would become a real breeding ground for bacteria, which would further contaminate your home.

HEPA filters with carbon also help remove smaller pollutants such as vapors, smoke, and other odors. So, as you can imagine, air purifiers with HEPA filters can be very effective. They are also great for removing bacteria and allergens (pollen, pollen, mold). Powerful HEPA filters remove up to 85% of air pollutants and the most powerful house filtration systems up to 98%.

HEPA filter cleaning process

 HEPA filter cons

One of the big downsides of HEPA filters is the filters themselves. They can contain bacteria and mold if they are not using the antimicrobial coating. So without this coating, we have an additional basis for further contaminants.

They also cannot efficiently filter pollutants below 0.3 microns, including viruses, smoke, and vapors. We can fix this by integrating/adding carbon and microbial filters, but this can be very costly.

It is also important to keep in mind that maintaining an air purifier with a HEPA filter can also be expensive. Most filters need to be replaced 1x – 2x per year and the more expensive ones can cost up to 200€. Energy consumption is also much higher compared to ionizers.

Comparison of pros and cons

In conclusion, the table below lists the difference between HEPA filters and air ionizers. These are:

Air ionizers

➤Most effective type of air purifier. Removes even the smallest harmful particles. ➤A single unit is not effective for bigger spaces. On average, anything over 600 square feet requires more than 1 unit
➤Completely silent ➤Emits ozone which is not good for health
➤Negative ions are very beneficial for our health. They remove asthma, allergies and high blood pressure, among other things
➤Cost-effective. Ionizers do not use filters or any other parts which would require yearly replacement


HEPA filters

➤On average they remove around 85% of all harmful particles in the air. This number goes up to 98% for the most efficient systems – they can remove particles from size 0.3 microns and above ➤You have to change filters once or twice a year, which adds to the costs

➤Some HEPA filters do not have antimicrobial coating

➤Can prevent allergy and asthma symptoms at home ➤High energy consumption


➤The antimicrobial coating prevents the growth of bacteria ➤Usually not a silent device
➤Can not remove the smallest harmful particles (which are also the most dangerous ones) as they can pass through the filters

“I found some information that is quite different from what you provide in this article. Why?”

If you spent some time browsing this topic on the internet you definitely found some products that do not fit the statements written above, especially for air ionizers. The explanation for this is very simple – many air ionizers on the market are actually a type of hybrid of both ionizers and HEPA filters. They have “air ionizer” written in the product name, but these are not true air ionizers. Any time you combine two devices into one, one of them will likely be quite inferior. In this case, HEPA filters have the primary role, and the ionizer function is a secondary one. Consequently, the “ionizer” part of these devices is quite weak (low negative ion emission). So instead of getting the best of both worlds, you get a device that is not optimal for cleaning the air, yet you still have the weakness of both combined.

In this article we compared only pure air ionizers with pure air purifiers that use HEPA filters.

The advantage of IONEX ionizers over other ionizers – carbon brush

The carbon brush of IONEX ionizers eliminates the main disadvantage of ionizers – ozone. By using the carbon brush we completely remove any ozone, which is a typical byproduct in other air ionizers. This means that there is no proximity limit on the inhalation of negative ions – it is completely safe to even inhale them directly right next to the ionizer.

You can read more about the benefits of the IONEX ionizer and carbon brush system by clicking here.

Ionex Air Ionizer

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