How Does An Air Ionizer Work?

How Does An Air Ionizer Work

Welcome to our article answering the common question, “How does an air ionizer work?”

Did you know that one of the top five risks to public health today is poor quality of indoor air? This is according to research that has been done by the NIEHS (National Institute of Environmental Health Science). Thanks to the lifestyles of today, the average person will spend up to 90 percent of their day indoors. This means that promoting better air quality in your home is key to promoting your own health, both in the short and long term.

This is where tools such as air purifiers come in. Among the different types are air ionizers. However, you might be wondering what exactly are air ionizers, how they work, or what they even do. If this sounds like you, you are in the right place – take a read, as we discuss it below.

What Are Air Ionizers?

Also known as negative ion generators, they are devices that use very high voltages to pass electrically charge air molecules (in other words, ionizing).

You can place them at different points in your indoor spaces or home, and they will do the rest of the work for you. They also use the principle of attraction that happens between two or more particles of different polarities.

How Does An Air Ionizer Work?

When you switch the product on, the ionizer also comes on. It will then direct the voltage towards a set of needles within the system, which then create electrons. These will be discharged into the air. When the electrons attach to air molecules, this will form negatively-charged air ions.

When they emit these ionized molecules (which are negatively charged), they will attract the positively charged ions. This will include anything from bacteria, allergens, cigarette smoke and dust. The reaction leads to a strong ionic bond forming between them, which make the particles heavier than normal. This will then force the particles to fall to the ground, or they are trapped in the electrostatic collection plate in the filter system.

If the plate is present in the air ionizer, you can remove it and wash it clean, which helps the device maintain a longer life.

They are very important because they can actually help you eliminate particles that are even 0.01 microns in their size. This means that you can use them to deal with most allergens, pollen, dust particles and bacteria. These factors play a role in reducing your health and increase breathing problems. Ionizers are different from HEPA filters, though. They will not use a physical paper filter to remove these contaminants.

They are quite popular because they do not need very expensive filter changes, as might be the case in other systems. However, they are not a safe option if you happen to have pets. There are other, safer alternatives you can use in this case.

In addition, research from sites such as WebMD show that they have negative side effects on certain people, such as if you are suffering from asthma.

Types Of Ionizers

There are two kinds of these purifiers: fan base ionizers and fan-less ones. Both of these will give you some relief from the pollutants present in the air, though they will do so in different ways.

For the fan-based ionizer, it will rely on a fan in the system that will spread the ions into the air. The drawback is that they will produce a lot of noise, as well as consuming more energy (since the fan is rotating at a high speed).

In contrast, the fan-less model will spread out the ions at a slower pace, and this will lead to them cleaning the air more slowly. However, they will not produce as much noise, and they will consume less energy.

How Are They Rated?

Basically, air ionizers use the MERV system, which classifies filters into four groups depending on their efficiency levels. The higher you go, the more effective the filter is at removing pollutants from the air.

These ratings are in 4 groups, which are:

  • MERV 1 to 4 – these are the most common filters. They have a standard structure, and will give you basic protection and air filtration, at a low cost on your end.
  • MERV 6 to 8 – the level of filtration is good, and you will likely find them in a residential area. They have a better surface area for capturing contaminants, due to the filter being comprised of paper or pleated cloth.
  • MERV 9 to 12 – relatively high quality filters, and are considered as mid-range. They can also trap very small contaminants of at least 1 micron in diameter.
  • MERV 13 to 16 – these are the best standard filters you can get, and are very high in efficiency ratings. They are also capable of trapping very small particulate matter, at least 0.3 microns in diameter.

Other filters also use this system, although many will have a rating that is higher than 16. You do not need them, though, as those with higher than 16 can lead to restriction of air flow in your home.


  • They are much cheaper compared to some other air purifying systems – although the cost will also depend on the specific model you go for
  • Since they are compact, it is easy to move them from one room to another when you need to (in fact, some are very small, and can fit even in cars)
  • They are easy to maintain
  • You do not need to replace or clean the filters regularly, depending on the frequency of use


  • They work better when dealing with small particles in the air, rather than bigger particles, which can be a problem at times
  • They do produce small amounts of ozone as a by-product, which can negatively affect people with respiratory system issues as well as pets

Final Thoughts

Air ionizers are effective at removing pollutants from the air circulating in your indoor spaces – as long as you are careful with how you use them. Keep in mind that they can pose dangers to your health as well.

About Rita McMahon 32 Articles
Rita McMahon is a Master of Science degree holder in Electrical Engineering and has done many reviews on various electrical gadgets. She currently works as a lecturer and is passionate about everything electrical. Apart from her teaching job she loves reading and traveling. In a recent conference, she encouraged ladies to join the field of Electrical Engineering because there is a huge gap that needs to be filled by specialists in this field in around the globe, especially in the third world countries that heavily rely on foreign technology and expertise. The field according to her is not saturated and if people continue to shy away, then the development of sustainable and relevant technical solutions will stall, given the pace of technological advancements.