Air Purifier vs Air Conditioner Filter | Top Reasons You May Need Both

Indoor Air Quality

Many people are already satisfied with having a cool dry home brought by a good brand of air conditioning system. Since most air conditioner units already have built-in air filters, several sources would tell you it is a waste of money and energy to install an air purifier, too. 

Meanwhile, some homeowners put more emphasis on making sure that their family’s breathing air is clean and free from impurities. So they prefer a basic air purifier to an air conditioner.

But as for your home, you want BOTH the cool comfort of an air conditioner and the purifying power of an air filter. Do you really have to choose? 

So, you ask yourself, “Air purifier vs air conditioner filter, can I use use them both?”

DP air purifier vs air conditioner filter

Should I Use An Air Purifier With My Air Conditioner Filter?

Absolutely, yes, you can use an air purifier and an air conditioner filter at the same time. It is actually best to use both if you want to achieve and maintain a low temperature in your home but with purified air for your family. 

Even the most basic types of air conditioners have air filters built in them to trap bigger and solid contaminants such as dust, dirt, and pet dander. The filters prevent these particles to damage the internal mechanism of the unit but at the same time keep these potential allergy triggers to recirculate in your breathing space. But air purification is not the air conditioner’s principal function. 

The air purifier can help you make your home pollutant-free but it cannot cool a room or lower its humidity. Air purifiers combine the features of two or more different kinds of air filters such as HEPA filters, ionizers, ozone generators, electrostatic filters, activated carbon filters, and UV lights to have better indoor air quality. 

For these two home appliances to work effectively and in harmony with one another, they need adequate and regular cleaning and maintenance. 

If the air conditioner filters are left without service and upkeep for too long, the build-up of dust particles can be a source of allergens and also obstruct the efficiency of the unit. Air purifiers should also be regularly cleaned and maintained to preserve their efficiency. 

Why Air Purification is a Must

As the air pollution outdoors persistently worsens, it has become more crucial to keep the harmful contaminants from ever entering our breathing space at home.

The Lancet, an international medical journal that aims to make information about science and medicine widely available, published the “Systematic Analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017,” which revealed that 1 of every 25 deaths in America is caused prematurely by exposure to outdoor air pollution.

The American Lung Association also reported that an estimated 140 million Americans, or 43% of the population, reside in an area with unhealthy or filthy air. 

You have a legitimate cause of concern if you live in one of these particular areas. It is a huge relief that we could minimize the damage air pollution can do to our bodies by just staying home.

But the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) dropped a big bomb on us when it states that “the air within homes and other buildings can be more seriously polluted than the outdoor air in even the largest and most industrialized cities.” 

A medical source even disclosed that, in some cases, air toxins inside the home are 2 to 5 times higher than that outdoors.

So the challenge now is to keep your home’s air clean and free from contamination. The good news is that the inside of your house is more of a realistic space to control the temperature and the purification of air than the rest of the country. With the help of technology, you have more than one device to choose from in your pursuit of cleaner breathing space. 

Let’s now study what tools you can have to keep the air in your living space cool and clean.

How Air Conditioners Cool Your Air

Air conditioners have become a constant part of many households. As the earth we live in gets warmer and warmer, more and more people indulge themselves with this understandably expensive but necessary home device to keep the temperature indoors cool and comfortable.

The ingenuity of air conditioners has helped to solve several medical problems such as heat-induced asthma, respiratory problems due to heightened humidity, and not to mention, heat-related deaths.

The Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine discusses the role of air conditioning prevalence and how it impacts heat-related mortality. The study shows that for each 10% increase in the central AC system’s frequency of use, heat-associated mortality in participant cities dropped by 1.4%. While the overall effect of heat in a city with a 0% prevalence of central air conditioners was a whopping 10.2% increase.

It is also noteworthy how it benefits our health when air conditioners regularly remove excess humidity. High levels of humidity can encourage the growth of mold and mildew in your living space, which can trigger mild to extreme allergies.

Excessive humidity can also be a source of hyperthermia or overheating because of your body’s inability to effectively release heat, according to NBC News. It also suggested that high humidity can indirectly put you in a bad mood due to dehydration, not getting enough sleep, or simply being extremely uncomfortable.

Your air conditioner puts a stop to all of these humidity-related problems by keeping it within the ideal humidity level of 30 to 50%.

How Air Conditioner Filters Purify the Air

Besides the benefits of lowering the temperature and reducing the humidity, the air conditioner is also beneficial to our health in another way. 

Allergens are consistently moving around the air inside your home. These include dust, dirt, pollen, mold and mold spores, fibers and lint, metal plaster or wood particles, hair and animal fur, bacteria, and other microorganisms. If ignored, immediate symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, headaches, and allergic reactions will ensue. Long-term problems such as asthma and other respiratory problems can occur because of these air toxins.

What the air conditioner does as part of its cooling process is filter these allergy triggers as the air circulates between the room and inside of the mechanism. The built-in air filters of the air conditioners trap the dirt for two reasons: 1) to prevent particles from getting into the inner workings of the unit and reduce its efficiency, and 2) to filtrate particulates that can impact your health if inhaled.

Truth be told, between these two functions of the air conditioner filters, manufacturers put primary importance on the first one. HVAC systems are complex and typically made up of big and small components, some moving, others stationary. If one of these essential elements get damaged because of a dirt or debris that escapes through, it may ruin its process and reduce its effectiveness in cooling your home.

This is where the AC filters come into the picture. As the air conditioner sucks in the warm air from the room, air filters act as bouncers screening what comes into the unit. Any sizeable dirt, dust, animal hairs, or insects that try to invade gets trapped in the filter ready to be tossed come cleaning time. 

It may sound like the air conditioner is the dream device that lets you enjoy a cold cozy environment and also protects you from harmful impurities in the air. But let’s be honest: One machine cannot do it all.

How an Air Purifier Cleans Your Air

One common misconception that most people have is that if you already have an air conditioner system in place, you no longer need an air purifier. However, although air conditioners have basic filtering functions, the density of their air filters is not sufficient to catch microscopic particles such as bacteria, finer dust, and allergens.

An air purifier, on the other hand, specializes in eliminating harmful particles and unpleasant smells from the indoor air.

There are various types of air purifiers available in the market, each uniquely purifies the air.

1. HEPA Filter. High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters are very dense materials such as foam, fiberglass, cotton, or other types of particle-trapping fabric. This type of air purifier can catch 99.97% of dirt particles larger than 0.3 microns. HEPA-based air purifiers are effective at filtrating airborne particles.

2. Ionizers and Ozone Generators. This kind of air purifier releases ions or charged particles in the air, where the neutral particles of dust, pollen, or bacteria will latch on to and also get charged. It will result in the dirt particles stopping floating around and instead sticking to surfaces around the room where they can be wiped away.

3. Electrostatic Filter. Similar to ionizers, this type of air purifier charges the contaminants but also collects them inside the device instead of sticking to walls or surfaces in the house. The plates where the particles are trapped can be washed and reused.

4. Activated Carbon Filter. The extremely porous carbon in this type of air purifier makes it an excellent surface area for the absorption of pollutants like chemical emissions, gases, tobacco smoke, and odors. People with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity or MCS will benefit from this type of purifier as it can also protect them from volatile organic compounds.

5. UV Lights. Air purifiers with this technology have an ultraviolet lamp inside that kills germs such as bacteria and viruses. When microorganisms pass through the UV rays, it destroys them on a cellular or genetic level and turns them into less harmful components such as water and carbon dioxide.

Some air purifiers combine two or more of these features to guarantee a pollutant-free environment for you and your family.

Do Air Purifiers Filter Better Than Air Conditioner Air Filters?

As discussed above, air purifiers and air conditioners with their built-in air filters distinct functions. But somehow, many constantly pit them against each other as to which is a better home device that contributes more to the indoor air quality.

To settle the score, here is a side-by-side comparison of the benefits and limitations of an air purifier versus the perks and what is lacking from an air conditioner air filter:

Air Purifier

  • Main function is to purify the indoor air from small toxins, pollutants, and impurities.
  • Has a filter or, more often, combination of multiple filters that can trap air contaminants and particles as they pass through the filters.
  • Also remove smoke and unpleasant smells from the room.
  • Best for people with asthma and respiratory illnesses caused by airborne toxins.
  • Cannot lower the temperature or decrease the humidity level.

Air Conditioner with filter

  • Main function is to lower the ambient temperature and reduce humidity to a healthy level.
  • Has a built-in filter that catches slightly larger particles of dust, dirt, and animal dander.
  • Cannot catch minute particles unless equipped with UV or special filters
  • The major role of the filter is to prevent them from damaging the internal components of the air conditioning unit. As a side effect, impurities do not get circulated back to the breathing space.
  • Because it removes excess moisture besides cooling the space, it is best for people who suffer breathing problems in hot and humid places.
  • Filters can be upgraded for better purification without hampering its cooling process.

Why You Don’t Have to Choose

An air conditioner is designed for cooling and dehumidifying your breathing space, and on some levels, prevent bigger dirt particles to recirculate around the house. But it cannot purify the air as efficiently as an air purifier does.

Conversely, an air purifier can exterminate finer dust, harmful particles, microorganisms, and certain viruses, but it cannot lower the room’s temperature nor can it remove the excess humidity.

It can be quite unnerving to purchase and operate two devices than just one, especially in this economy. But as strong pieces of evidence above reveal, cool and clean indoor air is one of the best ways to ensure your family’s health.

Of course, if neither of these devices is properly cleaned and maintained, you are still posing hazards to your family’s breathing space. The air conditioner air filters could develop a build-up of dirt over time and can even recirculate the contaminants back to your home. While air purifiers are responsible for cleaning the air, you are the one responsible for cleaning your air cleaner at least every 30 days or more. Follow the steps for cleaning and maintenance found in the user’s manual for safety.

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