Is It Safe To Use A Filterless Air Purifier?

ionic-air-purifierA filterless air purifier seems like an easy solution to the problem of poor indoor air quality. In certain situations, they can be. But they can be dangerous if you don’t have all the facts. In this article, I will help you to understand how a filterless air purifier will affect your home environment.

You may have read about a certain type of air purifier that doesn’t use a filter. They are sometimes called ionizers or ozone generators. This seems like a great idea! No need to worry about the hassle and cost of replacing expensive filters… They are generally cheaper as well which helps a lot!

Before you rush to buy this product, there are a few things you need to understand.

Firstly, that there are certain health risks associated with filterless of air purifiers. Not all of them are a health risk. But you need to know what to look for…

People generally buy an air purifier to help improve their health. But if you are not careful, a filterless air purifier can have the opposite effect. If you would like to know more about air purifiers in general, please read my Guide To Air Purifiers.

Click on the chart below to skip ahead to read an individual question, or continue on to read the whole review.

What Is A Filterless Air Purifier?

ionizerA filterless air purifier is exactly what it sounds like. It is an air purifier that does not use a filter to trap particles and decontaminate the air of an area. They are aimed at the cheaper side of the market.

They were more popular in the 90’s when air purification was a relatively new technology. But since then they received some bad publicity and fell out of favor.

You may hear filterless air purifiers called “Ionizers” or “Ozone Generators”.

How Do Filterless Air Purifiers work?

With the main type of filterless air purifier, the ionizer, the process is very different to a filtered system. They create an electric charge to attract particles to an electrode. This works in a similar way to static electricity.

As a result of this process, the particles will then stick to the walls or floors, instead of staying airborne. So the particles are not eliminated or captured, just kept from staying in the air. Or they are said to stick to the metal plates inside the machine.

Keep in mind that these plates would need to be cleaned weekly. So if you had the idea that you would just leave this thing on and it would clean the air hassle free, this is simply not correct. I have also read that it can be a difficult process to clean them.

There is no question that they are not as effective as a regular air purifier. You may hear language that hints that filterless air purifiers are superior products. But it is never expressly stated.

Is A Filterless Air Purifier Safe?

caution-signThis all depends on the specific machine you are talking about. Some people have heard about potential health hazards from air purifiers. This only refers to filterless air purifiers. Normal air purifiers that use a standard HEPA filter have ZERO harmful side effects!

But the other side of the coin is, not all filterless air purifiers are bad for you… Some machines will have negative side effects and others won’t. This is why it is so important for you to understand WHY filterless air purifiers CAN be bad for your health.

I could not tell you a percentage number of how many are unsafe. But the majority of filterless air purifiers will produce harmful side effects because of the way they work.

Once you understand how this process works, you can choose a safe and healthy air purifier. Keep in mind that the marketing surrounding filterless air purifiers can be very deceptive. I have seen many advertisements that deliberately leave out crucial information. Especially information that relates to the harmful side effects of filterless air purifiers.

So if you are looking at a filterless air purifier that does not mention ozone at all, this should be a huge red flag! Ozone is the reason that some of these machines can be harmful. So if they were not producing it, they would definitely be advertising this…

How Can They Be Bad For You?

living-roomFilterless Air Purifiers can be bad for your health if they produce more ozone than is natural in the air. We consume ozone naturally as part of our daily lives. But too much of it in the air can cause a number of health problems. 

When you inhale too much ozone, you will be damaging your lungs. This is a scientific fact! The American Lung Association says:

Ozone is a potent lung irritant and exposure to elevated levels is a contributor to the exacerbation of lung disease; it is especially dangerous for persons with asthma and other chronic lung diseases, children and the elderly.

So many of us are looking to buy an air purifier to help with asthma, for our children, and it does the opposite. It will make these problems worse or create problems where there were none…

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has also reported on the negative effects of filterless air purifiers. In their article on ozone generating air purifiers they say:

Relatively low amount (of ozone) can cause chest pain, coughing, shortness of breath and throat irritation. Ozone may also worsen chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma and compromise the ability of the body to fight respiratory infections.

Whether you have asthma, are a child, elderly or a completely healthy Olympic athlete, ozone will damage your lungs! So these facts should not be taken as just something the vulnerable should be worried about. An ozone producing air purifier will harm ALL of us!

Are They As Good As Filtered Air Purifiers?

austin-hm400-air-purifierThe simple answer to this is a very firm NO!!! These air purifiers are not nearly as effective as one that uses a HEPA filter. Filterless air purifiers do not have to go through the same strict testing as HEPA filtered air purifiers.

Many of the things that they claim to do are fairly abstract. Again, this is why you need to pay very close attention to the language used

An air purifier with a HEPA filter must be able to remove 99.97% of particles passing through it. These can be as small as 0.3 microns. To give you an idea of how big this is, a smoke particle is 1.0 microns. So                                                                                    it is safe to say that they are fairly effective!

If you would like to know more about air purifiers with a HEPA filter, please read my article HEPA Air Purifiers: Everything You Need To Know.

Why Would Someone Buy A Filterless Air Purifier?

A filterless air purifier can be an attractive purchase if you don’t know about the dangers to your health. This is one of the reasons why they are still on the market.

quietThey do not make as much noise as an air purifier that uses a filter. This is simply because these filters must do a lot more work. They use HEPA filters in vacuum cleaners and airplanes.

Filterless air purifiers will be generally cheaper than those with a HEPA filter. You can see them advertised from a little over $30 to $300. If you are on a bit of a budget this can seem attractive! Another benefit is the fact that you don’t have to change filters. This saves on both cost and energy.

Another feature that makes them seem attractive is the size. Some of them can be made to be smaller than a regular air purifier. This way you can take it with you if you travel a lot. Or if you just don’t want to use up a lot of space in your living area.

You may be feeling slightly seduced by these features. But just remember that the purpose of an air purifier is the improve the quality of your indoor air. Buying a machine that causes health problems is not achieving this goal!

Is A Normal Air Purifier Much More Expensive?

Honeywell 50250-SYes and no… You can buy them starting from around $90 ranging up to $900. The fact of the matter is that if you want to effectively decontaminate an area, you need an air purifier with a HEPA filter.

If you cannot afford this then there are other ways to decontaminate your living area. Check out my article how to Remove Dust From The Air Without An Air Purifier. Here you will find some tips on basic things you can do to improve the air quality of your home.

Do not be misled by product that state they are “HEPA-Type” or “99%-HEPA”. This is just a marketing used to deceive people who don’t really understand the technology. Make sure that the machine states that it is True-HEPA.

If you are looking for a good quality cheap air purifier, the Honeywell 50250-S is a great option. It is one of the most popular air purifiers on the market. Otherwise, Winix Air Purifiers have a great range of lower end air purifiers.

If price is no object then have a look at Austin Air Purifiers. They are made in the United States and cover a HUGE area. Or Blueair Air Purifiers, which are made with HEPASilent filter technology. They do make some noise but are designed to make minimal sound.

Final Thoughts?

So now you know why and how filterless air purifiers can be bad for your health. Just remember if you do choose to buy one to look for statements saying that it does not produce excess ozone. Stay completely clear if ozone is not mentioned at all!! This will generally mean that it is an ozone producing machine and will be bad for you.

Personally, I would not buy a filterless air purifier even if they claim to produce not excess ozone. They are simply not very effective, and I do not trust the ways that marketing language is manipulated with these products.

The best thing you can do is buy an air purifier with a HEPA filter. This technology has been around for more than 50 years and is scientifically proven… On the bottom end of the market, they are really not that expensive. If you want to know more check out my guide to air purifiers. Or if you would like to check out some air purifiers with HEPA filters, click this link to amazon.

Whatever you choose just remember to do your research! Get all the information you can on the products and don’t make rash decisions. This can be a misleading market if you don’t understand the basics.