Furnace Ionizer | Do They Work?

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Written By Jamila W.

Our indoor needs make up a list of things that need to be addressed so we feel comfortable. These could be things like temperature, ventilation, and air purification. Now, there are whole systems of advanced machine units that can take care of all these at once, and one component of such units is:

HVAC ionizer models are new air purifier technology in the market that are meant for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. Furnace ionizers are standalone models of the same technology that can be used as just air purifiers. This new technology is called bipolar ionization.

In this article, I will cover the topic of HVAC systems and integrate them with a new air purification technology, the furnace ionizer models of air purifiers.     

What’s a Furnace Ionizer?

Let’s separate these two terms because they can lead to major confusion down the line: “furnace” and “ionizer.” And here is the order of things that you should be aware of: 

1. Furnace

It’s easy to deduce from the name what this means. Yes, it’s just a furnace; its job is to generate heat. They can produce this heat using many energy sources, such as natural gas and solid or even liquid fuels. Electricity works as well. 

But this definition, for the sake of this article, is not true; I will explain it soon.     

2. Ionizer

Ionizer is a device capable of generating electrical charges. The purpose of these charges is to find their opposite charge and latch on to them. For our sake, this could be airborne particles inside your house. 

When the two charges come together, this increases weight, and they become heavy, and once heavy, they can no longer float in the air and settle down on the floor.    

3. Combine the Term — Furnace Ionizer

You can guess where this is going: a furnace ionizer is just a device capable of heating and air purification. This idea seems like a logical conclusion, but what the term means when it comes to the air purification industry is something else. Let me explain:

Since they combine two aspects of thermodynamic science: heating and air purification, these types of systems fall under the category of Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) units. 

Their main purpose is, as you can know from the acronym, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. Not air purification. But it’s rather easy to incorporate a powerful air filter across the high-speed jets of air these systems pump inside and out so they act as purifiers. 

It’s a mechanical way of purifying the air; hence when filters are added, the HVAC system can function as an air purifier as well. This part leads us directly to this section:   

4. Furnace Filters

HVAC systems can also utilize furnace filters that go inside their units and hence not be confused with the heating components of the overall HVAC units.

Thought I would mention this here as they seem to be important to this core subject of the article. And to the topic: currently, there are models of air purifier units that smoothly integrate inside your traditional HVAC systems called HVAC ionizers. 

5. HVAC Ionizers 

As the name suggests, these are air purification systems that utilize ionizers and usually furnace filters that are meant for HVAC systems. Hence can be termed furnace ionizers. 

One of the more popular models that are currently available in the market for these types of units is the iWave-R.       

So, in the end, the furnace refers to the filters, and the ionizers refer to the ion generators. Hence when combining these two, air purification and maintaining indoor air quality is the final goal.

Bipolar Ionization — HVAC Ionizers

Ions

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If you’re new to the world of ionizers and furnace filters, this might be of your interest: bipolar ionization is the new emerging technology with ionizer models. It’s particularly geared towards the HVAC system that also requires air purification. 

At the beginning of this article, I discussed how ionizers work, in general, without delving too deep into the science behind them, but to understand bipolar ionization, some details are crucial, hence here we go:

The charges a typical ionizer produces are negative ions, and the pollutants that are positively charged are attracted toward them. As conventional science would have it, like charges repel, and opposite charges attract each other. 

Working Principle and Uniqueness

But these new bipolar ionization models are unique in that they generate both positive and negative charges and aim to collect the contaminants inside their filters.

This new function is different from a regular ionizer, where once the charges between volatile organic compounds in your rooms and the ions created by the air purifier combine, they settle on the floor to be removed later by vacuuming. 

This development is great! Since it eliminates one of the key disadvantages of owning an ionizer, which is the feeling of not being able to permanently remove harmful pollutants on its own, but merely transferring them from air to floor. It’s well-known; something that we have discussed on our blog before.

One big caveat, it’s an emerging technology. And its effectiveness in dealing with poor indoor air quality is yet to be put under intense scrutiny (1).       

Integration Into the HVAC System

These new models of furnace ionizers can be standalone models, or they can be meant for integration. 

Standalone models are just air purifiers with the added benefit of bipolar ionization and in essence, are just ionizers. And on the sales page, they have the tagline of just “air purifiers.” 

If you’re looking to successfully integrate these into HVAC systems, you should go for models that bill with the tagine “HVAC ionizers.” It’s something to keep in mind if you’re going to make a purchase. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Here are some frequently asked questions on the main topic of our article: furnace ionizer.

Are Furnace Ionizers Worth It?

In my personal opinion, it depends. But are air ionizers worth it? Yes, they are (2). If your room is filled with particles of all kinds, an air ionizer is surely worth it. I’m not as convinced with furnace models that use bipolar ionization as the data on their effectiveness just isn’t there.
Yet, from their advantages, and the limited data we have, it does seem like a good deal, so the choice is up to you.  

Are Ionizers Safe?

Given you go for good brands that have proper FDA clearance. They are safe. Now, many reports say they produce ozone. A harmful pollutant when inhaled. 
And there was some controversy over health hazards following earlier models, lawsuits were filed, and regulations were put in place to settle the issue when it comes to ozone.
But, the amount generated is so small, and multiple government agencies have come forth claiming ionizer models are safe. Hence, overall, yes, they are safe.  

What Is the Difference Between HEPA and Air Ionizer?

When browsing for air purifier models to buy, it’s almost impossible to miss the widely popular HEPA filter purifiers. Hence this question was not a surprise. The core difference lies in how they perform purification. 
HEPA models rely upon mechanical ways of purifying air. Jets of high-speed air are passed into a filter, and things like bacteria, odors, viruses, and mold are filtered just as regular kitchen filters and separate solid food from liquid stuff.
The concept is the same, but things are happening at a microscopic level inside the HEPA air filter. Ionizers work on a completely different principle of charges and attraction. So, one is mechanical, the other is more of a chemical process.

Wrapping Up   

Furnace ionizers are standalone models of air purifiers that use bipolar ionization technology to filter out dust particles from the air in your room. An offshoot of this technology is the HVAC ionizer fittings that can integrate into an HVAC system.   

These new models build upon the excellent capabilities of ionizer models, and their major advantage is that they come with filters that can arrest airborne particles inside the machine, as opposed to settling them on your floor. 

Despite what the sales pages might say, there is not enough concrete evidence to strongly support their health benefits. On paper, they seem like a good deal if you’re looking to purchase one. Best!  

Further reading   

1.Evaluating a commercially available in-duct bipolar ionization device for pollutant removal and potential byproduct formation. Building and Environment [Internet]. 2021 May 15;195:107750. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S036013232100158X

2.Hartmann A, Kriegel M. The influence of air ions on the particle concentration in indoor environments – A systematic literature review. Results in Engineering. 2022 Sep;15:100528.