Those who suffer from respiratory conditions, asthma, or allergies are extremely sensitive to environments with polluted air. However, the quality of air we breathe in is a main factor in our overall health and wellness. Unfortunately, normal fans don’t have the ability to clean our air, so we need to use other means instead. One popular option that can help clear the air includes ionizers.
In this article, we will cover the specifics of air ionizers, discuss how they work, the benefits of using them, and also discuss whether they are safe.
Table of Contents
- What is an Ionizer?
- The Difference Between Air Purifiers and Ionizers
- How an Ionizer Helps Clean the Air
- The Benefits of Using an Ionizer
- Is Using an Air Ionizer Safe?
- Pros & Cons of Using an Ionizer
- How to Clean Your Ionizer
- Ionizers Are Economical and Effective
What is an Ionizer?
Ionizers purify the air by charging particles in the air with a negative electrostatic charge. This transference makes it easier for incoming particulates to be attracted to the fibers within. Many ionizers are free-standing models or attached to an air handler unit, and some high-quality air purifier fans include ionizers inside the unit for additional air cleansing.
Ionizers feature additional layers of antimicrobial fibers that prevent viruses, bacteria, and allergen buildup on the filter to further improve the device’s effectiveness. While ionizers emit small amounts of ozone, choosing a model with a germicidal chamber you can neutralize ozone along with mold spores, as well.
The Difference Between Air Purifiers and Ionizers
When considering buying any device for cleaning your home’s air, it’s important to make the best choice for your family. Many shoppers find themselves debating between using an air purifying system or an ionizer. So what is the difference between the two and is one more effective than the other?
The US Department of Energy recommends the use of high efficiency particulate air filters (HEPA) in air circulation systems, air purifiers, and air scrubbers. They are documented as the most effective filter choice and strict guidelines exist to ensure this is accurate.
Ionizers do not use filters, so this is a key difference in the two options. Yet both basically serve the same purpose–to purify air. The method in which these devices work is substantially different. Recent EPA data suggests that HEPA air purifiers can reduce airborne particles, bacteria, mold and pollen with a size of .3 microns by 99.97%. These air purifier filters utilize a web of tightly woven fibers that trap large, medium and small particles.
Ionizers are distinct from air purifiers because they don’t use web filtering, which means that no filter changes are necessary to maintain its effectiveness. Instead, they utilize electrostatic charge to transfer positive ions into soothing negative ions that cause pollutants to collect and cycle through the ionizer for cleansing. The EPA estimates that ionizers are 99.6% effective with particulates as small as 2.5 microns.
One quality that both of these devices share is that where you place them matters. If you put your air purifier or ionizer next to an open window, it isn’t going to clean the air nearly as effectively. When choosing where to place your air purifier or ionizer, try to put it as close to the source of the contaminated air as possible.
How an Ionizer Helps Clean the Air
Air ionizers simplify the process of cleaning the air by employing a filterless system. Rather than using a fan to draw in air pollutants into a filter, ionizers use electricity. They emit a cloud of negative ions that charge and attract particulates, which neutralizes potential harmful positive ions. They then fall into a collector plate, walls and ceilings or into a separate mechanical air filter system.
The Benefits of Using an Ionizer
The presence of positive ions is greater in today’s environment than ever before due to technological advances and increased pollution levels. Excessive positive ions produce an array of health concerns ranging from poor sleep, fatigue, moodiness and increases in the presence of harmful bacteria. These are alleviated with the presence of an air ionizer.
Improved Air Quality
The removal of positive ions and replacement with negative ions are invigorating rather than health draining. This processes is what gives ionizers the ability to remove dust, pollen, smoke, pet dander, mold spores and other allergens in the air.
Improving air quality should be a priority for those who live in highly polluted areas. Big cities, industrialized communities, and even agricultural zones can reduce air quality. Getting an ionizer should greatly improve indoor air comfort and breatheability.
Decreased Exposure to Respiratory Bacteria
According to the National Institute of Health, studies show that ionizing air can effectively prevent a number of viruses by more than 97%. A few of these include influenza, calcivirus and rotavirus. Models with germicidal chambers offer even more protection against harmful respiratory bacteria.
Ionizers expel the negative ions attach to the harmful positive ones and they drop into a positively charged collection plate quickly. Not only does this help infection, but it helps reduce the chances of the transmission of airborne viruses to others. Those with families might find this benefit to be extremely helpful to keep everyone safe throughout the year.
Improved Sleep & Overall Mood
Numerous reputable studies have indicated that test subjects sleeping in the presence of more negative oxygen ions enjoy better sleep. They fall asleep faster and sleep deeper, which improves sleep quality. And a lack of sleep can certainly affect overall mood and health. More on that note, several scientific publications have offered evidence that ion concentrations in the air can result in mood disorders and increased stress levels.
Relief from Seasonal or Chronic Depression
Do you get seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or suffer from chronic depression? An ionizer might be an ideal solution to alleviate those woes. A Columbia University study indicates that the presence of negative ions can be just as effective as prescribed antidepressants for depressive states.
The effect is the result of negative ions ability to produce biochemical reactions that elevate mood inducing serotonin levels. This chemical helps alleviate both stress and depression.
Is Using an Air Ionizer Safe?
There is no definitive yes or no answer concerning the safety of using air ionizers, as it depends on whether the device meets the California Air Resources Board guidelines. This means having ozone emission concentrations lower than .05 parts per million. Otherwise, the presence of excessive ozone might put users at risk.
Do Air Ionizers Emit Ozone?
One of the biggest concerns of consumers and highly controversial aspects of air ionizers is that they do typically emit small amounts of ozone. However, many early studies such as those from Consumer Reports apparently confused ionizers with ozone generators. In reality, today’s ionizers are highly regulated by FDA restrictions concerning the amount of ozone they can emit.
While the FDA has one set of standards, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health recommends that ozone levels indoors not exceed levels greater than 100 parts per million. Modern ionizers don’t typically expel levels of ozone anywhere near that. While ozone is a genuine health threat at high levels, whatever ozone comes from ionizers is minute compared to ozone generators or the environment itself.
The Impact of Ozone on Your Health
The ozone was not much of a concern to humans whatsoever until recent decades. It is then when the potential risks of exposure to ozone at high levels even began being researched. Indeed it was discovered over time and numerous studies that breathing in ozone and long time exposure can certainly harm health.
According to the EPA, those at greatest risk to suffer from negative side effects are children, seniors, those with breathing conditions such as asthma and COPD. Ozone can especially impact individuals with poor nutrient levels and those with certain genetic conditions. Risks are also elevated for outdoor workers and those who spend a lot of time outside. The same EPA research states that side effects can include wheezing, coughing, bronchial and respiratory infections, emphysema, exacerbate asthma and can even result in death.
How to Safely Use an Ionizer
There are many ways to protect yourself and your family when using an air ionizer. For starters, be sure to choose a model that meets the FDA’s guidelines of ozone emissions less than .05 parts per million to reduce risks of overexposure. Be sure to routinely clean the unit, taking care to unplug the device from the electric source. You will want to avoid complete water immersion, and be sure to discharge the unit before cleaning.
Keep in mind that routine cleaning has a profound effect on the quality of air that the ionizer will steadily produce in addition to increasing the unit’s lifespan and integrity. Also, note that it may take some adjustment time to get used to breathing in ionized air, as the lungs might not be accustomed to it. If at any time there are symptoms or side effects, discontinue use immediately.
Pros & Cons of Using an Ionizer
Now that you know a good deal about air ionizers, we should explore in brief the potential pros and possible drawbacks of using them in your home. Here is what you should know.
- Ionizers are easy to clean
- No filter replacements are necessary
- With a germicidal chamber viruses, bacteria and mold spores can be removed
- They don’t remove smells or odors
- Ionizers can consumer more power
- There is a small amount of ozone byproduct that can worsen certain respiratory conditions
As you can see, they are balance amid the potential pros and cons, so you will need to give thought to whether they are right for your family.
How to Clean Your Ionizer
It would not make much sense to have a dirty ionizer cleaning the air in your home. This is why regular cleaning of ionizers is essential, and most models recommend a daily cleanup to ensure maximum efficiency and optimal operation.
First you will want to unplug the unit from its electrical grid source. Then discharge the unit, and speaking of discharging, this should be done daily even if you skip a cleaning. Discharging is the process of placing a plug onto the device’s carbon brush for a short moment. This procedure releases any static electricity to prevent injury and essentially ‘reset’ the machine for the next use.
During cleanings, never place the ionizer on metal surfaces (and ideally you never should in order to prevent electrical shock.) Take time daily to clean the ionic collection pan with soft cloth. During daily cleanings, should you notice that the carbon brush is sticky, clean it gently with a dab of mild soap to remove dirt. After dirt has dissolved, wipe off the soap and allow it to dry before plugging the ionizer back in.
At least once a month, use a soft microfiber cloth and wipe the exterior of the ionizer, paying special attention to the carbon brush.
Ionizers Are Economical and Effective
When it comes to choosing a method of cleansing the air in the home, ionizers are an economical choice. They typically aren’t as expensive as some air purifiers are, and they don’t require expensive filter replacements. Furthermore, ionizers can be just as effective as a purifier when it comes to removing airborne particulates, respiratory bacteria, and mold. Ultimately, eradicating these through ionization further offers health benefits ranging from better breathing and sleep to healthier emotions.