Ozone produced by ozone generators and purifiers is a huge health concern. If you have respiratory issues, like COPD or Asthma, Ozone will ruin your day. Even if you don’t have a respiratory condition Ozone can irritate your eyes, throat, and lungs. However, not all ionic air purifiers produce Ozone. So we embarked on a journey to find the best ionizer equipped purifier. One that won’t produce dangerous levels of Ozone.
Before we move forward, let’s lay out what is acceptable when it comes to Ozone production. After all, many common household electronics produce Ozone, and from completely natural sources. The key is avoiding levels that could result in permanent lung damage or short term irritation. Both the EPA and California Air Resource board set levels for acceptable Ozone exposure. For our ionic purifier recommendations, we’ll use the 8-hour standard accepted by both agencies. Both organizations agree that levels below .070 parts per million (ppm) is acceptable.
You may also see this figure expressed in parts per billion (ppb). For reference, .070 ppm is the same as 70 ppb. Various studies point to increased health risks even at 50 ppb, so we will recommend air ionic purifiers that allow you to deactivate the built-in ionizer. That way if CARB and the EPA adjust their guidelines…or more studies show that <50ppb is dangerous you can eliminate exposure altogether.
When it comes to ionizer-equipped purifiers we think Alen’s Breathesmart line offers the best bang for your buck. For a reasonable price, the Fit50 version offers great looks (13 front panel designs), solid performance (900 Square Feet), and an optional filter gives is outstanding odor and gas fighting abilities (3 lbs of activated carbon).
It’s also well built, and just in case we’re wrong in that assertion Alen offers a lifetime warranty. Filters used by the Fit50 typically last 10-12 months. And, while they don’t overtly boast about how quiet it is… the Fit50 is pretty quiet. On low, its noise output measures a scant 32.4 dB. On its fourth and most vigorous setting it’s still pumping out fewer than 48dB (about the same as a box fan on low). It also moves a good amount of air. CFM ratings range between 110 and 231 cubic feet per minute.
We discuss it’s merits and why we selected it in greater detail below. We discuss the entire Alen lineup in one of our purifier company profiles. If you look at the price and don’t have the cash or square footage to justify the expense check out Alen’s newest addition to the Breathesmart line; the Flex.
Alen Air Purifiers with built-in Ionizers
Alen’s purifiers are all ozone-safe and carry CARB certification. But, what’s more, surprising is that their purifiers exceed the .070 ppm standard. In fact, Alen units produce ozone emission concentrations below .050 parts per million.
Every Alen purifier currently available is equipped with an Ozone-safe ionizer. The ionizer is activated by a button on the various control panels. But, what we really like about Alen units is their performance and design.
When it comes to looks, we think every model across the Breathesmart line looks great. They’re sleek and come with a ton of options to swap out the front panel to fit into your decor. Behind the stylish panel, Alen’s Breathesmart offers a variety of customized HEPA filters. Their standard offering, HEPA-Pure, is a solid performer but you can upgrade to their HEPA-Silver filter which adds an antimicrobial coating to the standard version. Alen’s next two filters address tackle tougher air problems like odor and chemicals. There are a lot of technical variances between the two options that we discuss in other articles. But, the takeaway here is that they provide 3 pounds of odor killing activated carbon.
These features and tech trickle down to their tower purifiers; the Paralda and T-500. But, for this guide, we chose to recommend a Breathesmart model because they have much better performance for the price. Plus they look great… and we’re suckers for a sleek design.
Blueair Purifiers featuring Ionizers
Blueair purifiers aren’t quite as attractive as those in Alen’s Breathesmart line. But, they are solid performers. And, to be honest we do like the way the look. They aren’t sleek or beautiful, but their appearance does exude quality and hints at the performance within.
One if the biggest contributors to their impressive performance are the three filter setup you’ll find in their larger units. For this guide, we chose their 600 Series because it competes well against Alen’s Breathesmart Fit50. The 600 Series’ filters are available in two flavors… standard and extra carbon. Or as Blueair calls them Particle and Smokestop, respectively. Combines the three filters measurements add up to more than 350 square inches. And that’s just the external frame dimensions; the pleated material surface area is much much larger. But we’re most impressed with the Smokestop’s 4 pounds of activated carbon.
Beyond the filters, the 500/600 Series purifiers feature Blueair’s HEPASilent technology. Which amounts to a combination of a powerful fan, electrostatic filtration, and mechanical filtration. Mechanical filtration is obviously handled by the actual filters. And, as you may have guessed electrostatic filtration is where the ionizers come into play. Like most purifier manufacturers the tech specs of the ion engines themselves are unavailable. But, we do know that there are multiple engines in the 600 Series. We also know that Blueair purifiers are Ozone safe.
If odor, smoke, or gas is your key concern we’d lean toward the 600 Series from Blueair. Four pounds of activated carbon is pretty impressive. And, if you’re using CARD ratings to make your decision the new 605 is off the charts. It’s smoke and dust ratings are 500 and pollen removal comes in at a staggering 650. If you’re looking for a purifier that offers that best bang for your buck or need to purify the air in a large space you might look elsewhere. This unit is pretty pricey and is sized for rooms in the 700 square foot range.
We’re big Coway fans. The Coway AP-1512HH Mighty is a solid performer at a great price wrapped in a small package. Unfortunately, none of Coway models are comparable to the Alen or Blueair models above. Coway focuses its effort in the smaller room niche, topping out at about 300 square feet.
However, if you’re looking for an ionizer-equipped purifier for a smaller space a Coway should be at the top of your list. Their AP-1512HH is a favorite among reviewers and consumer guides for good reason. It outperforms similarly sized purifiers that demand two times the price. Filters seem to last forever. It has a great HEPA filter and just enough activated carbon to help with gas and odor. And, best of all it’s well built and doesn’t look like a value priced purifier.
If you’re looking for a powerhouse, without an ionizer, Coway’s Airmega brand is sure to impress. They look great and perform even better than they look. But, since an ionizer is omitted from the spec sheet that’s a model for another guide or review.
If you’re on a tight budget and like the specs of the Coway mentioned above the Winix 5500-2 is for you. It doesn’t cover large areas like the first to recommendations. Nor does it boast the activated carbon content, measured in pounds. It does, however, measure up nicely to the Coway… and costs about $70 less. Granted, it’s looks aren’t that impressive, but if the AP-1512 is out of your price range… who cares what it looks like.
Another win for the Winix is how well it performs initially. Compared side by side against the Coway the 5500-2 will clean a room faster than the AP-1512. But, that performance edge wanes as the filters age. From there the figures get worse. It uses more energy than the Coway, and filters are more expensive. Another thing to mention is that the Winix ionizer is pretty similar to Sharp’s popular Plasmawave technology.
The price point is really where this ionizer-equipped purifier rules the roost. For the low cost of entry, you get way more performance than similarly priced units. We even prefer this model to our go to budget purifier the Germguardian 4825. If you’re strapped for cash, want clean air, and need an ionizer this is your purifier.
What you should look for before buying
So this might come as a disappointment, but we value your trust. You probably arrived on this page by Googling “best ionizer” or “what does an air ionizer do.” Unfortunately, an air ionizer is not the first thing you should look for in a purifier. In fact, it’s not even the second… or third for that matter. We like to think of an ionizer as a nice feature, but not a deal breaker. So here are the things you should consider first.
First, you need a HEPA filter…
First and foremost get a purifier with a true HEPA filter. It’s one of the few air purifier features regulated by the US government. But more importantly, a HEPA filter will do almost all of the heavy lifting when it comes to removing crud from the air. They are able to remove 99.7 percent of airborne particulate matter .3 microns and larger. As a point of reference, the visible particles in smoke are about one micron in diameter. And a single pet dander, if that’s a word, measures about 90 microns from one side to the other. And pollen averages about 30 microns. So when you think about it most of the stuff you really want to eliminate is well within a HEPA filter’s capabilities.
Next up… Activated Carbon
So what is smaller than .3 microns? Actually some pretty nasty stuff. But most of it is in the form of a gas. Things like VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), PCBs, and Ozone are adsorbed by the porous compound. Here’s a huge list of things adsorbed by activated carbon. It’s also great at separating odor from the air you breathe. It’s pretty amazing stuff, really. We wouldn’t buy an air purifier without it. When HEPA and carbon team up there isn’t much left to filter out of the air in your home.
Third, quality and positive reviews
Face it an effective purifier will cost well over a hundred dollars, and some break the thousand dollar mark. Since this will be a long-term investment, you’ll want a quality product. And, as you know quality doesn’t come cheap. We won’t recommend a purifier that isn’t well built but to further ensure that your money is well spent we recommend looking at reviews on Amazon.com as well. It’s a huge part of our research process, and think it’s a good way for you to get a large sampling of anecdotal experiences. We could spend thousands buying a single model to test and never get a lemon. However, if someone buys a lemon on Amazon chances are there will be a review. The only trick is that you have to filter out unrealistic expectations and irrelevant influencers (like packaging, shipping, and overly positive reviews).
Finally, the ionizer…
So if a HEPA filter does the heavy lifting and activated carbon takes care of gasses and odor; why would you need an ionizer? To be blunt… you don’t. At least that’s our opinion. We think ionizers are more of a performance enhancer than anything else. Clumped particles will be easier for a HEPA filter (or prefilter) to capture. Plus some of the clumps will fall to the floor, or other surfaces, without ever touching the filter. We’re definitely not saying that an ionizer is pointless… just that they’re more “icing on the cake” than a must have.
Also, look for is an ionizer that you can turn off. Science and medicine are always evolving and the option to turn off the ionizer is a key feature. Especially if safe Ozone concentration levels fall below .050 ppm in the future.
Look for is an ionizer that you can turn off. Science and medicine are always evolving and the option to turn off the ionizer is a key feature. Especially if safe Ozone concentration levels fall below .050 ppm in the future.
What exactly is an Ionizer?
An Ionizer is an electrical device. When activated it emits positive and/or negative charges into the air. And, that causes particles to clump together making them easier for a purifier to capture. Once a group of particles grows to larger than .3 microns it’s easy prey for a HEPA filter’s fibers.
So how is an ionizer different from an Ozone generator? That’s easy. An ionizer creates electrical charges that attach to existing molecules. When a positive charge encounters a negative one they stick together. Ozone generators purposefully create large quantities of O3, a highly reactive form of Oxygen (O2). O3 (Ozone) is great at addressing mold or smoke damage, but should only be used by professionals. The danger is that some built-in ionizers produce Ozone while they operate. Even worse, some Ozone generators are misleadingly labeled as ionic purifiers.
To sum that up… good ionizers don’t produce ozone. But, they do cause particles to stick together and get trapped in a HEPA filter. Bad ionizers inadvertently produce Ozone (greater than .070 ppm) while charging particles. You don’t want those, and you won’t find one in this guide. Finally, Ozone generators are powerful tools that should be used in rare and extreme cases. Probably by professionals, but definitely not in the presence of people or pets.
How did we pick the best ionizer equipped purifier?
When searching for the best ionizer equipped purifier we only considered portable nonpermanent units. We also made sure each recommendation has both a quality HEPA filter and enough activated carbon to effectively remove things like VOCs and odor. We also skipped smaller capacity units designed to work in spaces smaller than 250 square feet. Beyond that, our process is as follows…
First, all of the purifiers we recommend or mention in this guide are certified safe by the California EPA Air Resource Board. Which means they fall below the 8 hour .070 ppm threshold for safe ozone concentrations.
Second, we focused on manufacturers we hold in high regard. There are a ton of lesser known ionizer air purifiers out there, but we wanted to provide options from top-rated air purifier companies that we trust.
Third, we looked for the ability to turn off the ionizer function. That way it’s up to you to decide when to harness the power of positively and negatively charged ions.
Finally, we looked at reviews around the web to see if there were any negative complaints or reports. We were mainly searching for accounts of malfunctioning ionizers or understated Ozone production.
We did not consider CFM ratings or CADR in this guide because they don’t really relate to the ionic function itself. But, with that said all of the purifiers in this guide have solid statistics when it comes to airflow. Most high-quality units do.