Filter vs. Filterless Air Purifier

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Written By Jamila W.

Have you ever planned to buy an air purifier? If you have, it is hard to choose one since there are so many models in the market. You will also end up in the filter vs filterless air purifier debate. Which of the two should you use? Do air purifiers work? This article will answer all these questions. Keep reading to find out more. 

What Are Filter Air Purifiers?

Filter air purifiers work more easily compared to filterless ones. They have a fan that pulls air into the gadget. The drawn air is then passed through one or more filters where any present airborne contaminants are removed. The remaining clean air is then pumped back into your living area. There are four main types of filter air purifiers. Let us look at them. 

HEPA air purifiers

There are two types of HEPA air purifiers, HEPA-Type, and true HEPA purifiers. HEPA-Type purifiers are not as good as true HEPA purifiers. As a result, consider buying an air purifier with a true HEPA filter to get the best results. A HEPA filter is made of paper material with a zig-zag design meant to increase its surface area. 

A fan is used to collect air and direct it towards this true HEPA filter which traps almost all pollutants from the air. The more the air is pushed through these filters, the cleaner the air gets. HEPA air purifiers can remove both small and large particles from the air. They, however, struggle with removing gasses, chemicals, and odors from the air.

Activated carbon air purifiers

Unlike HEPA purifiers, this type of air purifier removes pollutants from the air through adsorption. Activated carbon can adsorb various types of gasses and VOCs on a molecular level. These purifiers also work well with odors. The only downside of activated carbon filters is that it fails to remove larger particles like dust and pollen.

Biotech air purifiers

Biotech air purifiers are not as common as the other three. The purifier collects air from the living area using a fan directing it into the filtration area. In this area, the purifier uses microorganisms to clean the air by turning pollutants into water and carbon dioxide. 

The microorganisms oxidize the air pollutants, making it a more helpful method as it solves the problem of getting rid of waste. The technology is helpful in removing air contaminants of any type or size. A biotech air purifier can remove tiny particles, VOCs, odors, and other pollutants from the air. The disadvantage of this technology is that it is expensive, making the price of the purifier high. 

Electret air purifiers

Electret purifiers clean the air using almost the same way as ionic air purifiers. The purifier collects air and attracts pollutants from the air using ions. However, the purifier is categorized as a filter since a fiber creates the charge. This synthetic fiber acts as a filter as it can also trap airborne particles from the air. 

What Are Filterless Air Purifiers?

Filterless air purifiers come in different shapes and sizes. However, they all share one thing: they do not use filters to remove contaminants. Let us look at the three main types of filterless purifiers.

Ionic Air Purifiers

There are two types of filterless ionic air purifiers; ionizers and electrostatic precipitators. Electrostatic precipitators use electrically charged metal plates and wire pins to clean the air. A fan collects air and directs it inside the air purifier. The plates are placed within the air purifier. As air passes through, particles are trapped by the electrostatic filters. The purifier ensures no particles escape back to your living area. 

Air Ionizers also use the same electrostatics concept to remove pollutants from the air. However, compared to using charged plates to trap these contaminants, an ionic purifier uses an open system. Negative ions are emitted into the air, and they attract all the positively charged contaminants in your home. These contaminants then become too heavy to float around the air and will end up settling and sticking to the surface of your home. This method is highly effective for dust particles, bacteria, and other pollutants. 

Photocatalytic Oxidation (PCO) Air Purifiers

PCO technology was first invented by NASA, who initially used it to clean the air for astronauts in space. The purifier collects air from the living area using a fan. The device then concentrates light toward the metal surface. This process oxidizes the pollutants in the air that the fan has sucked into the air purifier. 

UV light is used in the air purification process, while the metal surface is made of titanium dioxide. The reaction of these two elements with water creates hydroxyl radicals and super-oxide ions that destroy pollutants. 

Ultraviolet Light (UV) Air Purifiers

Ultraviolet air purifiers use Ultraviolet light technology to capture pollutants from the air. A fan captures air from the living area and passes it through an internal chamber. In the chamber, the air is exposed to Ultraviolet Light which cleans the air through germicidal irradiation. The air is now clean air, and it is directed back to the living area.  

However, Ultraviolet light air purifiers have their disadvantages. They fail to capture some contaminants, such as especially volatile organic compounds. Some models have also been reported for releasing ozone gas as they operate. We do not recommend these air purifiers to people with breathing conditions like Asthma.

Which Is More Effective On Airborne Contaminants?

When it comes to removing harmful particles from the air, each of the two air purifiers shines. A true HEPA filter air purifier is good for capturing small particles. With this type of air purifier, you can easily remove mold, dust mites, pollen, pet dander, viruses, germs, and bacteria from the air.

An activated carbon filter air purifier is good at removing gaseous contaminants. With such an air purifier, cooking smells, cigarette smoke, VOCs, and radon will not affect your home. On the filterless side, the purifiers are good for bacteria and pathogens. However, they work slower. If your indoor space is full of pollutants like dust and you wish to remove it quickly, you should go for a filter air purifier. 

Which Costs More To Acquire and Maintain?

Cost is among the main factors one considers when buying an air purifier. Filterless air purifiers are more affordable in the long term since you spend nothing on filter replacements. Filter air purifiers require regular filter replacements, which are costly. However, you can reduce this cost by choosing washable filters. HEPA and carbon filters are also a good option since they last longer, with some models requiring a replacement after a year. However, these filters are very expensive since they last long, and washable filters are cheaper. As a result, the overall cost of having a filterless air purifier will always be cheaper. 

Do They Pose Any Health and Environmental Risks?

As much as air purifiers are meant to improve our lives, some have health and environmental risks. HEPA filter air purifiers with mechanical filters do not produce ozone and are safe for use. Generally, filter air purifiers are safe since most of them are ozone free. 

With Filterless air purifiers, there are some models that you should avoid. Ozone generators produce ozone gas as a cleaning agent, harming your health and the environment. These gases can cause respiratory conditions in people who are exposed. It is important to always check the user manual ozone air purifiers before buying one. However, not all models are dangerous, as some are perfectly safe for use. Ionic and UV light air purifiers produce ozone in low concentrations that have no risks to users. 

What Are The Pros and Cons?

To help you choose the filter vs. filterless air purifier debate, let’s look at the pros and cons of the two air purifiers.

Filterless Air Purifiers Pros

  • They work without producing noise since most models do not rely on a fan to collect air.
  • They require less maintenance and no filter replacements. 
  • The technology is reliable for use in home conditions. 
  • UV light and PCO air purifiers can effectively kill microorganisms rather than trapping them within the gadget.
  • Models that have no fans are highly energy efficient. 
  • They come in a sleek design since they do not have any filters. This makes it easier to fit the air purifier in your interior space.
  • They have simpler controls. 
  • They have a better coverage area.

Filterless Air Purifiers Cons

  • Filter-based air purifiers give buyers few options to choose from.
  • The technology only cleans the air once compared to filter air purifiers that pass the air through several filters.
  • Filterless air purifiers are generally less effective when compared to filter air purifiers.
  • They can produce ozone which is dangerous. 

Filter Air Purifiers Pros

  • They produce no ozone making them safe for home use. 
  • The pollutants are trapped inside the purifier rather than being on your home surface as ionizers do.
  • Filter purifiers are more effective on pollutants of all sizes, including odors, dust, allergens, and microorganisms.
  • They can have more than one filter for better filtration.
  • Buyers have more options to choose from since many configurations of the air purifier are available.

Filter Air Purifiers Cons

  • The purifiers are less effective at getting rid of germs, bacteria, and viruses since they store pollutants rather than destroy them.
  • Filter purifiers have a limited coverage area compared to filterless air purifiers.
  • The purifier has higher energy consumption since the fan runs throughout its operation. 
  • Filter air purifiers produce noise when operating due to the fan running.
  • Filter air purifiers are expensive to buy and maintain since they require filter replacement after a while.

What Factors Should You Consider Before Buying A Filter or Filterless Air Purifier?

HEPA air purifiers compare perfectly with a filter-based air purifier. Knowing the factors to consider will help you avoid making mistakes as you plan to buy a new air purifier. Let us look at these factors:

  • Type of contaminants present: Filterless and filter air purifiers perform differently when cleaning different contaminants. If you want to remove airborne pollutants like pet dander, dust, and other odors, a HEPA filter air purifier will work best. However, if you are concerned about bacteria and germs, you should get an ionic air purifier. PCO and Biotech air purifiers will suit you best if you want to remove all pollutants.
  • Room Size: The size of your room matters with air purifiers. An ionic purifier will be good for you if you have large rooms. Ionic purifiers are effective on up to 3500 sq. ft, which very few filter air purifiers can cover. If you want to clean a small room or office, a filter air purifier will do the job. 
  • Maintenance: If you are busy, regular maintenance may be a problem. A filterless air purifier requires less maintenance and is easy to live with. If you have no problem with changing filters occasionally, a filter air purifier will be best for you.
  • Noise Level: Most filter air purifiers produce a lot of noise when operating. Some advanced models have a night mode that lowers the noise levels but is not as quiet as the filterless air purifiers. 
  • Energy Consumption: Most filterless air purifiers have no fans and thus require less energy to run. If you care about saving energy consumed, filterless is the way.
  • Style and Design: Filterless air purifiers have fewer styles and designs. Filter air purifiers come in different shapes, colors, and sizes. You, therefore, have more options with a filter air purifier when it comes to style and design. 
  • Price: Regarding price, Filterless air purifiers are cheaper in the long term since they don’t require changing filters. However, filter air purifiers offer value for money with their great performance. 

Final Thoughts – Filter or Filterless Air Purifiers?

The cost, performance, safety, and air cleaning technology heavily influence the choice of which type of air purifier to buy. A filter air purifier will always shine if we base it on performance. If you want a quick solution for indoor air quality, go for a filter air purifier. We do not mean that filterless air purifiers do not work. Filterless air purifiers also get the job done, and they are getting more popular by the day, even though they have disadvantages. Each of the two choices will improve your indoor air quality.