Many asthma and allergy sufferers swear by ionizers in their homes and vehicles. But did you know that ionizers can also reduce odors associated with smoking and indoor pets? Or that some ionizers can even protect you from many airborne viruses? It’s true! To understand how ionizers work, let’s discuss the two main types of ionizers.
The first and more expensive type of ionizer is one that produces ozone. Most people have heard of the ozone layer in the earth’s atmosphere, but don’t realize that ozone is common even closer to the ground. Think of that odd smell during a lightning storm–that’s ozone! What happens is that the electricity in the air splits oxygen into two molecules, each of which swims through the air looking for a new partner.
Sometimes the single-molecule will bump into another single molecule, thus forming O2, which is normal breathing oxygen. But at other times, the single-molecule bumps into normal oxygen still containing both of its molecules, and this new attachment creates O3, which is commonly known as ozone.
Ionizers that introduce a small amount of ozone into the air attack the root of bacteria-related illnesses by actually destroying airborne germs. The reason is that ozone is highly toxic to many air-borne types of bacteria like pneumonia and strep throat, and it even kills such viruses as warts, chicken pox, herpes, and SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome).
In addition, since these types of ionizer manufacturers recognize that high amounts of ozone do pose a threat to humans, their ionizer products only produce very small releases of the ozone gas. That gas has a mere twenty minutes of life, so if some of it does not attach to airborne bacteria in that time span, it will then degenerate into normal breathing oxygen with no harmful effects to anyone in the room.
The second and less expensive type of ionizer is one that generates negative ions. These ionizers use a special electric process to release ions, or molecular fragments, into the surrounding air. The ions then attach to oxygen and other gases in the air to create a negative charge, something that particles in the air, such as dust, pollen, or smoke, find very attractive.
These air particles swarm the negatively charged molecules until a heavier-than-air cluster is formed. Because this cluster is heavy, it either falls to the ground and can then be vacuumed or swept up or else it is pulled into the ionizer through an intake vent.
If the cluster is sucked into the ionizer, it is then captured via HEPA filters (specifically manufactured to capture tiny particles) or magnetic bars until the filter is changed or the bars are wiped clean. The unaffected air is released out of the mechanism and circulated back into the room again.
The ozone-producing ionizers effectively reduce the count of airborne bacteria in a room, and the negative ion ionizers effectively reduce the count of airborne particles in a room, including pet dander, dust mites, etc. In addition, negative ions also destroy odors, including smoke particles.
The good news is that, while some ionizers only produce negative ions, all ozone-producing ionizers also happen to produce negative ions as a byproduct of the electronic process. Perhaps this helps to explain why they cost a little more.