Filterless air purifiers are a good choice for some. Not most… but some. Basically, anyone who needs a purifier without the small hassle and added expense of replacing dirty filters. Overall… most are pretty unimpressive though there are a few that will meet your basic needs.
We’re just always skeptical of products that claim to remove dust, debris, dander, etc. without trapping it. Zapping, ionizing, and other magical approaches are a little hard for us to wrap our heads around.
First and foremost understand that filterless machines operate very differently than filtered machines. Second, there are not as many quality options available.
More often than not we recommend that you choose a HEPA filter equipped unit, but understand that some people prefer a filterless air purifier. As is the case with our other guides… we just want to help you make an educated decision. We’re not here to tell you that these are the best thing since sliced bread. But, we’re also not going to leave you to the “recommendations” of sketchy “review sites.”
The Difference Between Filter and Filterless
We really feel like this should be obvious… but we’re pretty deep into the purifier world. So for those of you who don’t get on a soap box to dispute CADR testing methods – here’s the basics.
The vast majority of air purifiers on the market utilize a filter (or series of filters) to trap airborne pollutants. Dirty air is pulled into the machine by a fan, filter media removes particles, and exits the machine. Filtered machines are safe, effective and easy to operate.
However, because they trap contaminants in a filter – performance will gradually diminish. And, since the majority of filters are not washable; you’ll need to order replacement filters. Intervals vary, but most will need to be swapped out every six months (although some will last a few years).
Filterless air purifiers “avoid this extra expense” by offering different types of reusable “filtration technology.” So, bottom line… the difference in purifiers is simple. Some use filters; others do not.
Filterless Air Purifier Technology
In the world of filtered machines, the HEPA filter is the industry’s most effective technology. However, filterless machines have their own gold standard of technology.
Air Ionizers are to filterless machines what HEPA filters are too filtered machines. There is no better option that will provide the same level of effectiveness in this category of the purifier. The have pros and cons, but at the end of the day, they provide an effective way to remove pollutants from the air.
Air ionizers take advantage of an electronic filtration system. Ionizers work by drawing air into the machine where it is then electrically charged with negative ions.
Particles like dust and dander carry a neutral charge naturally, but when they pass through an ionizer they gain an stick together like magnets. Earlier air ionizers relied on this technology to make particles heavier and fall to the ground, producing a mess around the air purifier. However, more modern machines solve that problem by adding collector plates to their purifier. These plates are also electronically charged, causing the particles to stick to them instead of falling to the floor.
This technology makes machines filterless because the collector plates do not need to be replaced. And, they are less of a traditional filter since they require electricity to attract particles instead of a “net.” When a collector plate becomes full of dust it is simply removed from the machine and washed with a sponge or cloth. Since there’s no filter, per se, you can use it over and over again with no costly replacement expense.
Ionizers and Health
Unlike standard filtered machines, filterless ionizers have some different effects on our health beyond just clean air. Some of them are beneficial and some can be dangerous.
One of the added benefits to ionizers is the production of negative ions themselves. The same negative ions that are produced by filterless purifiers are also produced in nature by things like rain, waves, and waterfalls.
The release of negative ions is what often gives these natural occurrences a calming effect. Negative ions find their way into our bodies and increase serotonin levels. Some say that this can help relieve stress and even reduce depression.
Ozone is a byproduct of many electronic appliances in our homes like televisions. However, some air purifiers that use this technology emit levels of ozone that are dangerous to people with health conditions like asthma, COPD, or other respiratory ailments. Luckily, some ionizing air purifiers produce only trace amounts of Ozone, making them much safer to operate.
While Ozone gets a bad rap for its ability to irritate those nearby, it does have benefits. Ozone major benefit is that it quickly neutralizes odors. Commercial Ozone machines are frequently used by specialists after a house fire or flood. However, it is safer to run air purifiers that produce high levels of ozone when we are not in the same room – or home. Our recommendation… take the family and pets on a short trip if you need a little help from an Ozone producing machine.
What About Air Purifiers with Washable Filters?
Washable filters can be a permanent filter on a smaller air purifier or it can be pre-filter that can be washed and vacuumed. Keep in mind that if it’s a washable pre-filter, the other filters in the unit will have to be replaced from time to time.
The cost to replace HEPA filters can be quite costly. However, we think a HEPA filter is always your best bet.
Although each of these air purifiers will serve you well in a variety of applications, the best general-purpose machine is the Oreck Dual Max. And, that’s the one with the largest number of positive reviews elsewhere (including on Amazon.com). This machine features higher quality and does not produce significant levels of ozone. However, if you are looking for a machine specifically for odors, the Living Fresh Air Purifier is a better choice. But, we think that a activated carbon equipped filter model,like Austin Air’s Healthmate, would be even better at removing odor.
We hope this guide on the best filterless air purifier helped educate you on the different models available today. However, if you still prefer to own a machine with a filter there are a variety of other options available. We really think you should check out a HEPA filter model with activated carbon before you buy, but also hope we’ve been helpful.