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What Is the Difference Between Air Purifiers and Air Scrubbers?

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Indoor Air Quality in Columbus, OH

Air purifiers and air scrubbers are two types of devices for cleaning indoor air. Although they are similar, they have important differences to know before buying one. Air purifiers are best for everyday use at home, whereas air scrubbers temporarily remove chemicals, gases, and other toxic particles from the air.

Technology Used in Air Purifiers vs. Air Scrubbers

An air purifier relies on air filters and/or ionization to remove particulates from the air. The type of technology that an air scrubber uses for cleaning air involves wet or dry scrubbing.

Air purifiers come in small to large sizes. They can be over 2 feet high or fit in the palm of your hand. The size, location, and strength of the air purifier are all factors that determine how large of an area they can clean. You can check the square footage capacity of the model before buying it to ensure it can handle cleaning the air in your space. Large air purifiers can improve the air quality in spaces of 700 square feet and larger, depending on the model. Keep in mind that this number is based on an open area, so it does not account for things that can block airflow like walls and furnishings.

Depending on the model of your HVAC system, we may be able to attach an air purifier to it for whole-home air cleaning. To give the system a boost in air purification, we can install UV lights in or around the HVAC system. UV lights alter viruses, bacteria, mold, and mildew so that they cannot reproduce.

Most air purifiers use HEPA air filters, which are high-quality filters that trap up to 99.97% of pollutants down to 0.3 microns in size. Some air purifiers have carbon filters in addition to the HEPA filter. Carbon filters remove odors to keep your home smelling fresh.

An air scrubber uses either web scrubbing or dry scrubbing technology. Wet scrubbing relies on a damp pad or filter to capture airborne contaminants. Dry scrubbing uses dry filters.

Purposes of an Air Purifier vs. an Air Scrubber

Types of contaminants that an air purifier removes include:

  • Pet dander
  • Dust
  • Allergens
  • Mold spores
  • Bacteria
  • VOCs
  • Smoke
  • Odors

You must check the specific model to know what types of contaminants it can remove. Low-quality air purifiers may not be able to filter out all of these pollutants. Most models, however, are able to capture most of these particles. Portable air purifiers also have a sleek, aesthetic design that can blend in well with your home.

Air scrubbers are typically used to clean the air during household projects and commercial work that creates toxic fumes. Because commercial buyers are the primary customers of air scrubbers, some of these machines can handle spaces of over 1,000 square feet. Some air scrubbers are portable, and you can install others in line with a compatible HVAC system.

Air scrubbers have been used to remove:

  • Black mold spores
  • Bacteria
  • VOCs
  • Odors

Because an air scrubber is usually for household projects, mold remediation, and commercial use, they tend to have a heavy-duty design. If you are looking for an everyday air scrubber for your home, then you might want to opt for a model that is designed to work with a residential HVAC system.

How Does an Air Purifier Work?

Air purifiers use a fan to pull air inside of the system. It will trap larger particles like hair and dust in a pre-filter. If it has an activated carbon filter, then the air passes through that next to remove odors and VOCs. Finally, the air is filtered through a fine-mesh filter.

If the air purifier relies on ionization technology, then it releases negative ions into the air. Negative ions attach to positive ions, creating an electric charge that makes the particles drop out of the air. They may land on floors, tables, curtains, walls, and ceilings. You can clean them by dusting or vacuuming.

The downside of ionizers is they cannot remove large particles, such as pollen, dander, and dust, from the air. Thus, they are not suitable for people who have allergies or asthma, unless they also have a fine-mesh filter to target these larger particles. Some air purifiers incorporate both technologies.

Ionizers also are not effective against gasses and VOCs. A lot of cleaning supplies, adhesives, paint, and other commonly used household products release VOCs. You can obtain an indoor air quality assessment to measure the levels of each type of air pollutant in your house. There are indoor air quality monitors that you can install, too.

Another drawback of ionizers is they create ozone, which can irritate your lungs and throat. Having good ventilation in your home can help to prevent problems.

How Does an Air Scrubber Work?

An air scrubber sucks air into the device and actively kills harmful pathogens instead of just trapping them in the filter. Similar to an air purifier, the air is usually passed through a series of filters. Air scrubbers release negative ions to take down more of the air pollutants as well. There is usually an exhaust tube for directing the polluted air outside. Most air scrubbers are designed to not release ozone into your house.

Are Air Scrubbers Louder Than Air Purifiers?

Because air scrubbers are intended for heavy-duty cleaning during projects, you may be wondering if that means they are louder. Your guess is correct. Air scrubbers are typically louder than air purifiers.

Reasons to Choose an Air Purifier or an Air Scrubber

If you want to maintain a healthier environment in your home, then an air purifier is usually the right choice for you. They operate quietly throughout the day to clean your air and protect you from allergens. If you are planning a home renovation project or cleaning up from a home disaster like a flood or fire, then the extra power of an air scrubber may be more suitable to set up in the room that you are working in. Air scrubbers are able to remove gases and other toxic substances from your air. Business owners of hair salons, welding companies, and industrial applications commonly choose air scrubbers to handle the higher demands of cleaning the air.

Your Dependable Air Quality Company

Apex Plumbing, Heating, and Air Pros has a highly skilled team to address various needs you may have when it comes to maintaining your Columbus, OH home. We provide comprehensive HVAC and plumbing services. In addition to air purifier installations, we offer HVAC maintenance, repairs, and installations. We also provide free, no-obligation estimates on our services. Customer satisfaction is our priority, and we'll make things right in the unlikely event that you are not completely satisfied. We accept emergency repair requests 24/7 for plumbing and HVAC systems. Contact Apex Plumbing, Heating, and Air Pros today to discover your options for improving your home's indoor air quality.