What Is Ionizer in Air Conditioner?

You might have noticed that nowadays you can buy air conditioners with built-in ionizers in them. What are these things and are they really worth trying out?

The air conditioners with built-in ion generators are devices that not only use a filter to clean the air in the room but also emit ions that bond with different particles and reduce the number of pollutants in the air.

Is the air that has ions in it good for you? Or can some ionizers become a health hazard? How do air ionizers work and, finally, is such a device better than a regular air purifier?

Here are the answers you’ve been looking for.

Is Ionized Air Good for You?

The negative ions that occur naturally are extremely beneficial for your health. In fact, green areas, oceans, and the air around waterfalls are full of ions.

Such air has quite a few benefits:

  • It has higher quality. Ions help remove dust, pollen, mold spores, and airborne bacteria, so the actual air becomes purer and, as a result, better for your health.
  • The number of harmful bacteria in such air is much lower, which means lower risks of catching a cold or flu, for example.
  • Studies show that negative ions that are present in the air that you breathe help improve your mood and sleep quality.
  • Negative ions can even act as antidepressants.

Bonus: the majority of air ionizers don’t have fans or motors which means that they are quiet and you wouldn’t have to deal with any excess noise.

Related Post: How do I get rid of the smell in Air Conditioner?

How Do Air Ionizers Work?

Above we have listed the benefits of naturally occurring negative ions. Ideally, a high-quality air ionizer would be able to do the same thing.

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The device releases negatively charged ions that bond with positively charged particles that are ‘flying’ around the room (dust, microbes, smoke, various allergens…). The joint union of an ion and the particle is too heavy, so they fall to the ground.

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You can then use a vacuum cleaner to get rid of the tiny bad guys.

An ionic air purifier works in a different way and instead of emitting ions draws air into the system and collects the pollutants on collection rods or metal plates.

Unfortunately, in the case of air ionizers, not everything is rainbows and butterflies.

Are Air Ionizers Harmful?

Of course, such a device won’t be able to produce ions naturally. The negative ions in an air ionizer are created with the help of a method called ‘electric discharge.

During this process, ozone can be produced as a side product. The dangers and health risks of inhaling ozone include throat irritation, chest pain, shortness of breath, coughing, and increased risk of respiratory infections (quite the opposite of why you would want to get an air ionizer in the first place).

Thankfully, not all ionizing devices pose such a risk. When choosing your gadget, make sure to go for one that is not an ozone generator or for one that lets you fully control the level of ozone production.

Other Disadvantages of an Air Ionizer

  • Some ionizers are too weak

There are devices that are useless as they fail to have a noticeable effect on particulate levels. Nowadays, you can find strong ionizers that are able to purify the air.

But that leads to our next point…

  • Ionizers make things dirty

A lot of air ionizers don’t actually filter the air. The ions just produce a bond with the positive particles which, in their turn, fall on the floor and furniture and stick to the walls.

You would have to still vacuum the room to ensure that it is clean. If you don’t – as soon as you sit on the furniture or even simply walk over the floor, the particles will be stirred back up into the air.

  • Ionizers can create harmful VOC gases and particulate matter

Some air ionizers might create a variety of volatile organic compounds, such as acetone, ethanol, formaldehyde, and others.

Moreover, ions can initiate different chemical reactions in the air which might lead to an increase in dangerous small-particulate levels.

Which Is Better Air Purifier or Ionizer?

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Air IonizerAir Purifier
Method descriptionAn air ionizer sends out negatively charged ions that bond in the air with various harmful impurities. The ‘new’ particles are too heavy to stay in the air, so they end up sticking to the surfaces or falling onto the floor.An air purifier usually has a fan that helps draw air into the actual device. Then, a dense filter traps the particles inside, and clean air is released back into the room.
Area coverageThere are extremely powerful ionizers that can purify an air space that is up to 3.500 square feet large.Typically, the area that an air purifier can cover is a bit smaller than that of an ionizer as a purifier uses a physical filter. You can find devices that will be able to cover around 1.560 square feet.
Initial costIn general, air ionizers are cheaper than air purifiers. You can find a device that costs as little as $50, but, of course, such an ionizer is not going to be incredibly effective.Air purifiers are usually more on the pricier side. The ones that are worth investing in start at around $200.
Maintenance costsYou would have to pay for the cost of the electricity that an air ionizer is going to require. Other than that, the maintenance of such a device is practically free of cost.In the absolute majority of cases, an air purifier has a filter that needs to be replaced every 6-12 months. These things can cost up to $200 but are usually around $80 per filter. Of course, you would also have to pay for the electric energy consumption.
EffectivenessAir ionizers don’t really get rid of pollutants as they will still be present in the room until you vacuum, for example.Not all purifiers are designed equal and some devices are certainly better than others. But all-in-all the efficiency of an air purifier is close to 80% (that means that the device is able to remove 80% of particles from the air).

Related Post: Which is better an air purifier or an air scrubber?

How Long Do You Run an Ionizer?

It is advised that you run an air ionizer only when there is no one in the room. In such a case, it can be turned on 24/7.

If the ionizer generates ozone, it is not a great idea to leave it on in an enclosed space when there are people present. In case you have to be in the room, make sure to open the window.

Ideally, you would want to turn the device off whenever there is someone in the room.

Do Air Conditioners Create Positive Ions?

Ordinary air conditioners have filters that clean the room from dust, microorganisms, odors, and so on. But no so long ago manufacturers started creating air conditioners with built-in ionizers so that you wouldn’t have to buy a stand-alone device.

Some conditioners are able to emit plasma ions. That means that they have both polarities (positive and negative).

This ionizing method is more efficient than that of the typical negative ion generators. Such models do not create detectable ozone and are able to reduce a wider range of air pollutants.

For example, ions with both polarities can surround viruses and damage their cells. As a result, the airborne contaminants become inactive.

How Do I Know If My Ionizer Is Working?

  • You can use an air ion counter to measure the number of ions per cubic centimeter.

For accurate low concertation ion measurement, you might want to go for a counter that uses a dual cylindrical detector or a parallel flat plate detector.

Some tests are very expensive but that, unfortunately, does not mean that they are going to be effective for your particular case. Make sure to consult a specialist before buying an ion counter.

  • An ordinary voltage tester can also help you find out if the ionizer is working or not. 

Simply place the tester right in front of the device. If you hear a noise (it sounds a little like thousands of flying insects), then the ionizer is working.

To Sum Up

What is an ionizer in air conditioner?

Some air conditioners come with built-in ionizers that help purify the air. By the way, there are models that are able to emit both positive and negative ions.

Unfortunately, not all air ionizers are equally good for you.

Some generate ozone which can harm your health. There are also devices that create particulate matter and harmful gases.

However, if you manage to find a reliable manufacturer with a high-quality product, you wouldn’t have to deal with these disadvantages.

A great air conditioner with an ionizer can become an amazing investment as the best models out there are actually able to get rid of viruses by damaging their cells.

We hope this article has helped you make up your mind. Good luck and stay safe!