Ionizer vs Ozone Generator | What’s The Difference

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Written By Jamila W.

t’s easy to be confused when you’re browsing for air purifiers, as there are so many models and technologies that manufacturers use to purify and deliver fresh air to your room. But when it comes to these two models, ionizers and ozone generators, they are easy. Kind of: 

The core difference between these models is their working principle: how do they purify the indoor air? Ionizers use electrical charges to target dust particles in your room; ozone generators use ozone gas to filter out gaseous pollutants from a designated space (1). 

In this article, I will go through some of the key differences between the ionizer and ozone generator air purifier; and talk about why there is no clear winner when comparing these models, as they both have their uses.  

Pros and Cons Comparison: Ionizer Versus Ozone Generator

Alright. Let’s compare and contrast to see which one of these models fares better or maybe suits your needs. Before we start, here are some fundamental differences between an ionizer and an ozone generator that you must understand to grasp the main topic of the article; it will be a short section.

The Core Difference Between Ionizer and an Ozone Generator

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Let’s start with ionizers and jump next to ozone generators. 

Ionizers 

Ionizers are models that utilize charges to collect allergens and other air pollutants in your room. By charges, I mean they generate electrical currents that are capable of attracting particles. 

Think of it like a magnet that has north and south poles; the north and south poles attract each other because their charges are different. These “charges” are named negative and positive. And in short, negative ions and negative ions repel each other, and positive ions and negative ions attract each other.   

In our case, the small particles suspended in the indoor air that cause the grief are “positive” and are attracted to the ions generated by the ionizer, which are “negative.” 

Once there are two charges, one from the ionizer and the other from the particles suspended in the air, latch on to each other, it adds to their weight, and they become heavy.

These heavy airborne contaminants no longer can float in the air and hence settle down to the floor or collect themselves inside the ionizer based on the model in use. This explanation is a condensed version of how ionizer air purifier works but should be enough to grasp the main points of this article. 

Ozone Generators 

The primary purpose of ozone generators is, well, you guessed it, to generate ozone molecules. Don’t be intimidated by the name “ozone.” It’s just oxygen, although not the same that we breathe in but the ones we find in the upper atmosphere of our planet that protects us from harmful solar radiation.

What the generator does is, first; it sucks indoor air from the room and pushes it hard against a device that is capable of generating ozone from the oxygen present in the air that is being pushed. Usually, a high electric discharge (sparks) is used for this process. 

Oxygen, when struck with these high-energy electric charges, tends to break down and then come back together to form ozone. The result: ozone being ejected out of the device.

Ozone is unnatural on the surface of our planet and immediately goes on to react with particles and air pollutants present in its surroundings. At the end of this process, the stuff that was causing bad odors, smoke, and other harmful particles just got broken down at a molecular level.  

Okay, since now you understand their core difference and how they function, it is time to get to the point of which one might suit you better.       

Pros of Ionizer Models

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In case you’re stuck with your purchase decision, these might tip the scales in favor of ionizer models:

1. They Generate Very Little Harmful Ozone

Hey! I just read through your section on how ionizers work, and you never mentioned anything about ozone. Yeah, fair enough, but I did mention electrical charges are capable of breaking down oxygen, and when they come back together, they generate ozone.        

Ionizer models are just devices that generate electrical charges. Hence they are capable of generating small amounts of ozone as a byproduct when the oxygen from your room comes into contact with them. Although the tiny ozone produced falls totally within the safety standards, hence nothing to be concerned about (1, 2).

So, of the two ozone and ionizer models, the ionizer generates the least amount of ozone. Hence, if you’re particular about the health effects of ozone, ionizers might be a better option out of the two.   

2. Cheap and Low Maintenance

Since these models just generate electrical charges and pump them out inside your room, there is not any expensive stuff that requires constant maintenance or fixed periodic swapping that can break the bank. 

You switch on the device, and dust accumulates at the bottom of the floor; you vacuum as usual, and you’re set. These two qualities of being a cost-effective and reliable long-term solution for allergens and pollutants that mean harm make this ionizer model an attractive choice for many.

3. It’s Quiet and Does Its Job Fairly Well

Although an ozone generator is a much more powerful device for purification, it can be loud due to the amount of indoor air it needs to pump through its filters before the ozone generation phase. 

Ionizers, on the other hand, can be used 24/7 without any trouble or noise and does their job well. Capable of targeting both dust particles and airborne viruses without the massive cons that just come with some air purifiers (3). Note: you will understand this point better once we discuss the cons of ozone generators.        

Cons of Ionizer Model Air Purifiers 

Now with the pros aside, here are some points that can flip the scales to “nope not for me.”

1. Can Struggle With Clearing Large Particles and Odors

This con is a big one for many, as ionizers have been known to not be able to get rid of larger harmful particles, they have great sensitivity with small ones, but they start to struggle with stuff like pollen and tiny skin flakes that can be a cause for asthma or allergy down the line.

As for odors, the ozone generator is just better.   

2. Your Vacuuming and Cleaning Regime Might Change  

Unlike the ozone generator models that disintegrate dust and bacteria at a molecular level, the ions generated from the ionizer models do linger around the floor along with the dust particles they latch onto. 

Although their chances of ever floating back into the air and causing discomfort are slim, even if you disturb them, they will naturally start setting back to the ground because they are just that heavy. 

Yet, sometimes it’s uncomfortable to know that you’ve not really cleared the dust from the room but merely moved them to the ground from the air. 

And in this case, you might have to increase your vacuuming frequency to permanently remove those ground-bound allergens and pollutants. Not a big concern for many, but it’s something that should be mentioned.

3. Health Effects of Ozone

Yes, as I mentioned, it does generate very little amount of ozone, but there are other models that don’t generate ozone at all and instead rely on powerful filters to get the job done, such as the HEPA air purifier models.   

Now, there has been a bit of a divide in the community on whether the tiny amounts of ozone generated in the ionizer models are harmful in the long run, but the general scientific consensus is that these models are safe to use and hence have been cleared by FDA for sale (3).

And it should be mentioned that ozone exposure has awful health effects when inhaled. Hence if you want to stay away from models that generate even tiny amounts of ozone, perhaps go for other models that generate no ozone, such as the HEPA or PECO models.    

Pros of Ozone Generator Air purifier

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Their working principles are different, yet, as far as pros and cons are concerned, you will find similar themes between the two models and yet here are things where the ozone generators score more points:

1. Excellent at Clearing Smoke and Odor

Because of how the ozone works, ozone generators can attack the source of these foul odors and clear the menace once it is for all. Provided they are not reintroduced, this can leave your room with a feeling of freshness for a long time to come. 

2. Can Target Mold and Other Biological Pollutants

Ozone generators are particularly effective at targeting dangerous molds. Their action on molds and other biological pollutants, such as bacteria and viruses, is lethal for those in contact.

3. Deals With Chemical Pollutants 

There are several chemicals, such as benzene and chlorides, that immediately react with ozone and are destroyed in the process. Hence, a better choice for chemical pollutants. 

Cons of Ozone Generators 

Yes, ozone generators are great at niche tasks and are essential in places where sanitation is crucial, but they do have drawbacks, and here are some:  

They Can Only Be Used in Empty Spaces 

Yep, you heard that right. They cannot be used in the presence of humans or animals; they are only allowed to operate in empty spaces. The amount of ozone gas generated by these machines can easily lead to serious complications for human health when inhaled.  

They Are Not Suited for Dealing With Dust Particles

There are many types of pollutants; depending on your surroundings, you might need an air purifier tailored to those needs. But it’s generally agreed that ozone generators do a terrible job clearing solid large dust particles such as dander.

They have a very niche application in that they fit very well. But if it’s dust that you want to get rid of, what you need is a HEPA or ionizer model.

Wrapping up  

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Ionizers use electrical charges to attract dust particles, removing them from the air and settling them on the bottom of the floor. Ozone generators produce ozone; this ozone gas is effective at removing odors and smog from extreme chemical contaminations. 

They both have their uses: ionizers are cheap and cost-effective solutions for air purification. While ozone generators are usually by contractors to clear out pollutants and remove odors left behind after things such as natural disasters and biological decay.   

Extra caution is advised when using ozone purifiers, as ozone is harmful and a health risk. Ionizers do generate small amounts of ozone, but it’s negligible to be of concern. Best!        

Further reading

1.Kim HJ, Han B, Woo CG, Kim YJ, Park SJ, Yoon JP. Ozone emission and electrical characteristics of ionizers with different electrode materials, numbers, and diameters [Internet]. IEEE Xplore. 2015 [cited 2023 Jun 3]. p. 1–5. Available from: https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/7356750

2.Shi S, Zhu S, Lee ES, Zhao B, Zhu Y. Performance of wearable ionization air cleaners: Ozone emission and particle removal. Aerosol Science and Technology. 2016 Jan 13;50(3):211–21.

3.Pushpawela B, Jayaratne R, Nguy A, Morawska L. Efficiency of ionizers in removing airborne particles in indoor environments. Journal of Electrostatics. 2017 Dec;90:79–84.