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Ionic Air Purifier VS UV Air Purifier: Which Is Better?

Many people are looking for an air purifier during these unprecedented times. To help you choose the model that suits your needs, we will extensively compare an ionizer VS a UV air purifier. Find out the key differences, disinfection technology, cost, and ultimately, the pros/ cons. At the end of the post, you will have a clear mindset about which type of device to purchase to protect you from airborne allergens moving forward. Let's begin.
Short answer
Go UV!

 

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What Is Ionizer?

Bipolar ionization (BPI) or ionic air purifier is a popular air treatment technology integrated into many HVAC systems. Using electric current generates safe positive/ negative charged ions that attach to other pollutants in the air, including dust, hair, lint, fiber, pet dander, mold, mildew, bacteria, and viruses. The enlarged particulates will fall due to the increased weight, and the air purifier will draw the particles into its multi-stage filtration for capturing. Otherwise, the fallen particulates will adhere to a surface area like a wall, ceiling, sofa, bed, or floor. You will have to perform vacuuming and cleaning to remove the contaminants.

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What Is UV Air Purifier?

UVGI or UV air purifier is a type of air purification system that uses 254nm short-wavelength ultraviolet light to break down biological contaminants in the air, including mold, germ, bacteria, and viruses. By destroying the nucleic acids cell and altering the pathogen’s DNA/ RNA, the pathogen loses the ability to reproduce and spread. Without the allergens triggering allergies, you will breathe better and enjoy a better sleep quality. Given its efficiency against pathogens, you can find UV technology in hospitals, medical facilities, laboratories, meat processing, HVAC system, and manufacturing factories.

There are 2 main varieties of UV disinfection:

  • Upper-room UVGI air disinfection – Irradiate the upper portion of the room without affecting the occupants. An excellent option for continuous disinfection.
  • Surface/ In-room air disinfection – The less common type due to its hazardous nature. Often used to disinfect unoccupied spaces, and building occupants require UV protective gear.

In short, the shorter bands, the higher the frequency of UV light and the stronger energetic UV radiation. There are 3 types of UV lights classified ranging from 10nm to 400nm:

  • UVA – Slow vibration and long-wavelength 315–400 nanometers photons. Commonly used in tanning booths or disinfection tools due to its mild nature.
  • UVB – Normal vibration with medium-wavelength 280–315 nanometers photons. Often used in plant development to alter plant hormones.
  • UVC – Fast vibration with short-wavelength 100–280 nanometers photons. The most popular UV-C lights are due to the UV radiation effectiveness in killing pathogens.

As we briefly introduce how ionic and UV air purifier works, let’s now look into the differences between them and compare the specification.

Safety Concern

Ionizer or bipolar ionization may not have the long history (1970s) and in-depth research as UV, it is also a safe technology found in many air purifying devices. Unfortunately, it is plagued by many falsified claims associated with an ozone generator. To avoid purchasing a fake ionizer, AHAM and CARB recommend purchasing a multi filtration air purifier over a dedicated ionic device.

UV light has been around since 1908 and backed by many scientific studies. It is a safe technology found in the army, CDC, and health care centers as bio-defense systems to isolate the spread of disease. Furthermore, the FDA regulates companies that manufacture, repackage, All import UV medical devices in the United States. Always choose a model from a reputable manufacturer, like Honeywell, Alen, or Blueair.

However, UV can be dangerous if misused. Direct exposure can lead to sunburn, skin wrinkles, and premature aging. There is also the hazardous mercury risk from a broken UV lamp.

In short: UV air purifier is better recognized and validated.

Ozone Emission

BPI or ionic air purifiers release ozone byproducts during ionization by splitting oxygen molecules (O2) split and reform into ozone (O3). It is under EPA 0.05 ppm limitation; therefore, it will not have any adverse health effects. As the technology matures, newer Ion products are certified as ozone-free by UL 2998 standard certification (Environmental Claim Validation Procedure (ECVP) for Zero Ozone Emissions from Air Cleaners). Still, you should inspect the ozone emission data report from the manufacturer before investing in one.

UVGI or UVC air purifiers will release a low level of ozone byproducts during photolysis. The ozone emission level is insignificant to cause any harm thanks to the 254 nm short-wavelength and coated lamp. You can safely use it indoors as long as you are not directly exposed to it.

Ozone is an unstable colorless gas that can cause coughing, chest pain, sore throat, inflammation, headache, and breathing issues. Prolonged exposure can aggravate asthma, scar lung cell tissues, and damage the lining of the respiratory system. Ozone can also lead to hazardous chemical reactions with foreign substances found in paint strippers, aerosol sprays, asbestos, radon, and pesticides.

In short: Both will generate ozone byproducts no more than the 0.05 ppm limit. Still, UV technology produces far less.

Effectiveness

UVC light is very effective at destroying biological pollutants, including mold, germ, bacteria, and viruses. It is ineffective against large particles like dust, hair, lint, pet dander, and even less effective against smoke, odor, and chemicals like VOCs.

While, BPI/ Ionizer does not actually eliminate airborne pollutants, it is a tremendous assisting tool for air filtration like HEPA and activated carbon.

In short: Different functionality, different purpose.

Maintenance

Both devices require minimal maintenance and care compared with a filter-based air purifier. Ionization technology is filterless, reusable, and ever-green. As a trade-off, you will have to clean up the room regularly to remove the fallen particulates. A UV air purifier does not require vacuuming or house cleaning to get rid of the pollutants. However, the UV lightbulb needs replacing every 5,000-20,000 hours, depending on the size and usage time. As such, there will be recurring maintenance costs to incur.

In short: Tied. Pick the one that is best suited to your need.

Against COVID

Ionization can help reduce COVID-19 in the air, as stated by EPA. Still, limited scientific studies and research are conducted considering BPI an emerging technology.

UVC light can effectively disinfect COVID-19 particles and viruses, according to CDC. American Journal of Infection Control (AJIC) confirms that a high load of SARS-CoV-2 was destroyed after nine minutes of UVC exposure. Nature also researched that far-UVC light kills 99.9% of Coronaviruses in 25 minutes.

In short: UV-C light is the better choice against COVID-19, but there’s no harm in having both. Either way, UV and ions cannot prevent COVID-19 infection. It will only reduce the risk of catching one. Personal hygiene, face mask, practice social distancing are still the way to go.

Which Is Better: Ionizer Or UV Air Purifier?

While both have their pluses and minuses, UV is the better option when compared to ionic. UV-C air purifiers inactivate and disinfect mold, germs, bacteria, and viruses to prevent pathogens from growing. UV technology also has a long history of scientific backing and research since the 1908s. Bipolar ionization is less effective as it does not completely remove the airborne pollutants in the room. It also lacks quality research, and the technology is often subject to false claims due to its correlation with an ozone generator. Regardless of which type you choose, both can be used safely for residential and commercial purposes. An ionizer or UV air purifier will help remove biological pollutants from the air. We highly recommend purchasing a genuine, multi-stage HEPA air cleaner comprised of either/ both technologies approved by AHAM, CARB, and the FDA. You can go to our best air purifier for UV or the best ionic air purifier to get started on your buying journey.

Max Fernandez

A loving father and a dedicated reviewer for airfuji.com with more than 1000 air purifiers under his belt. Max Fernandez is also one of the million patients currently suffering from asthma. Feel free to nudge him if you have any questions.
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