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An air ionizer cleans the air through the use of ions.  These devices are ideal for removing dust.  The charged particles combine with dust and other pollutants, forming larger particles.  The larger and heavier particles then sink to the floor and other surfaces, freeing the air from potential pollutants.  Ionizers typically produce ozone as a by-product.

The Effect of Ions on Your Health

Ions are charged particles, commonly found in the air.  The level of their concentration varies.  While there is a large amount of negative ions outdoors, the concentration of ions indoors is merely a fraction of that.  The difference between the air quality indoors and the fresh air outdoors is affected by the fact that indoor air is limited, contained, and constantly consumed. 

Indoor vs Outdoor Ion Concentration

The concentration of ions in different locations and spaces fluctuates.  To give you a rough idea, the typical ion concentration out in a metropolitan city would be 500 ions per cm³, out in the wild, it ranges between 1,000 to 3,000 ions per cm³.  This number may increase up to 10,000 ions per cm³ in waterfalls.  Inside your home, the ion concentration generally drops below 100 ions per cm³.

The above numbers signify the total concentration of negative and positive ions.  Outdoors, the ratio of negative ions against positive ions is significantly higher than that of indoors.  Evolutionally, humans are more comfortable in spaces with higher concentration of ions, and particularly of negative ones.

Purifying Indoor Air Through Ions

The effect of ion concentration in air purification is indirect.  Opposing charges attract each other.  So, charged particles attract other particles such as pollen or dust in the air.  The electrostatic interaction leads the two particles to form a cluster together.  The newly formed cluster is larger and heavier.  Due to increased weight, the dust and pollen clusters sink to the ground and other surfaces.  Thus, the air is cleansed from these particles.

Ion Concentration Effect on Your Well-Being

More and more studies indicate the positive effects of increased ion concentrations on human health.  Although a biological explanation still lacks, some of the positive effects of increased negative ions include improved performance and less depressive indlinations in humans.

The studies also emphasize that there are no direct correlations between the concentration of ions and the proper functioning of the human respiratory system.  The influence of ion concentration on human health is therefore still partly ambiguous.

How Does an Air Ionizer Work?

The air ionizer technology focuses on mimicking the ion concentration present in nature outdoors.  Thus, it increases the concentration of negative ions in the indoor air to match it with the outdoors.  Accordingly, the ‘fresh’ air found in forests and mountains can be imitated indoors at the comfort of your living room.

Artificial Ion Generation

At the core of an air ionizer, there are metal plates.  A high voltage of electricity is applied between these metal plates.  Once air flows between these electrodes, individual particles are electrically charged by the strong field.  As ionized particles and molecules get out of the device, they can collide and exchange charges with other particles.

Ions of different charges are attracted to each other.  As a result, they come together and form clusters of increased size.  The newly formed dust cluster has a decreased mobility.  These heavier particles then either fall on the floor or get caught by an electrically charged metal plate in the air ionizer.

Ozone Generation Against Odors

Ozone is a by-product of ionization.  It also contributes to the cleaning of the air.  Ozone has an unstable molecular structure, making it highly reactive, causing it to split other molecules around it.  This feature is very effective in removing unpleasant odor molecules and getting rid of unwanted smells.

Most air ionizers arbitrarily produce ozone.  It is trapped inside the device and only reacts with the air inside the air ionizer.  Ozone generators on the other hand, specialize in the release of ozone in significant quantities.  They focus on distributing this reactive gas throughout a closed space, in order to use it as a disinfectant and odor eradication.  The health hazards of ozone make this process rather controversial.  We will touch base on that subject later on in the article.

What You Need to Know Before Buying an Air Ionizer

If you seriously consider buying an air ionizer for your home, you should be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of the technology.

Advantage: Easy Cleaning & No Filter Change

Ionizers do not require any filter replacement.  This saves both time and money, as replacement filters can get rather pricey.  Contrary to other devices like air washers, air ionizers actually require little cleaning effort.  Depending on your device, you just need to dust off its metal plates or collection container every once in a while.

Some other advantages to air ionizers include their compact size and their relatively inexpensive price.  You can even find mini devices focusing on your specific problem such as devices suited for in-car cigarette lighters or for office desks.

Disadvantage: Ozone Generation & Its Health Hazard

Ionizers typically generate a small amount of ozone.  Although ozone helps split other molecules, leading to the neutralization of odors, it may have a negative impact on human health.  

The decomposition of some pollutants may lead to the resulting particles to be hazardous.  This particularly applies to cigarette smoke.  Ionizers and ozone generators should never be used to remove smoke odors, particularly when people are in the room.

Additionally, ozone is not healthy for the respiratory systems of humans.  It can cause irritation, respiratory diseases, and headache.  

Therefore, make sure your air ionizer has extremely low levels of ozone emissions.  Air ionizers with timers are also helpful, allowing you to set them to operate when you are not in the designated room.

Ionizer Sufficiency for Air Purification

Air ionizers alone are not the most effective solution to clean your indoor air.  They do, however, make a great additional feature.  If you would like to use one air purifier to clean your indoor air, make sure you use a combination device that includes an ionizer, as well as other filters.  HEPA filters and activated carbon filters are especially effective towards smaller particles like fine dust and viruses.  Ultraviolet lamps on the other hand are good for disinfestation.

To get the best effect out of your air purifier, you need to place it well.  There are two ways to approach the optimal placement.  You can either place it in the area with the most number of pollutants or in the room where you spend the most amount of time.  The office generally has electrical equipment, releasing the most dust and chemical pollutants into the air.  As for an apartment, people tend to spend the most number of hours in their bedrooms.  For overnight use, make sure the device has a quiet operating mode and an extremely low ozone extraction level.  Also make sure the indicator lights can be switched off, as they may be annoying to sleep with.

Essential Tips

The fact that ionizers generate ozone is not a deal breaker.  Most modern ionizers are able to keep the ozone within the device, and not released into the room.  Accordingly, these devices do not hold threat to your health.

Do not use an air ionizer in the below scenarios:

  • To remove cigarette smoke,
  • To help with allergies; the heavier particles that settle on your surfaces may cause allergic reactions,
  • If they extract excessive ozone.

Many air ionizers have other air purification filters integrated into the device as an additional function.  This may be practical as it would lead to more effective air purification.  These devices typically make the ionizer function optional through a switch.