The differences between an air purifier and an air conditioner

You are likely familiar with both of these devices. You may be wondering – can I use an air purifier to cool the air in my home or vice versa? How do these two devices compare? What about 2-in-1 devices? Let’s delve into the similarities and differences of air purifiers and air conditioners and learn about which situations are appropriate for each device.

A block of flats with window-mounted air conditioning units

What is an air purifier?

How do they work?

An air purifier is a device that pulls in contaminated air using a fan, treats the air inside the device using one or more filtration technologies (which vary depending upon the device), then releases the newly purified air back into your space. Air purifiers can be used to remove pollutants from the air ranging from coarse particles (pet hair and dander, pollen) to fine particles and chemical pollutants. They are great for protecting you from allergies, respiratory disease symptoms, epidemics or pandemics like COVID-19, and the dangers of indoor and outdoor air pollution.

Can air purifier filters trap pollutants?

Again, an air purifier’s filtration capabilities depend upon the model purchased. Models equipped with a HEPA filter are guaranteed to filter at least 99.97% of particles of a size greater than or equal to a diameter of 0.01 µm in a single pass. Some models also come equipped with other complementary technologies including activated carbon filters, photocatalysis, UVC sterilisation, and/or ionisation. Eoleaf’s air purifier models, for example, come equipped with all of the above! Read more about our 8 multi-layer filtration technologies here.

How can air purifiers impact indoor air quality?

As we have seen, air purifiers can drastically improve your indoor air quality. That is their aim, after all! Specifically, air purifiers can help in the following ways:

  • Air purification devices with multiple layers of filtration can remove more contaminants and air pollutants
  • They can capture MPPS (the most penetrating particle size, particles that are notoriously the most difficult to eliminate from your breathing air)
  • They can capture particles down to a size of 0.01 microns (μm)
  • They can remove allergens pet dander and hair, dust and dust mites, and pollen
  • They can combat unpleasant odours
  • They can improve your health over time by

Eoleaf's AEROPRO 100 air purifier next to a chair

What is an air conditioner or air cooler?

How do they work?

The purpose of an air conditioner is to cool down your indoor air. This starts with pulling in warmer air from inside your space, exhausting it and/or cooling it, and pushing cooled air back out into your space. The process repeats itself until all of your indoor air has been sufficiently cooled. Air conditioners usually control both temperature and humidity levels in your space.

Typically, air conditioners are offered in three different varieties: whole house central A/C systems, portable units, and window-mounted units. Most air conditioning units contain filters that will block larger particles (like large dust particles) from entering inside and damaging the unit, but air purification is not their main task. That is why they cannot catch smaller particles like pathogens, allergens, or fine particle pollution1.

Can air conditioner filters trap air pollutants?

An air conditioner can increase air circulation and make your indoor air feel fresh by cooling it down and decreasing humidity levels. They are not made to be a catch-all for the airborne pollutants in your home.

All air conditioners, whether they are a part of your HVAC system or installed separately, should and often do include some form of filtration technology. This filter usually traps the larger airborne pollutants, such as dust and pet hair. The percentage and type of pollutants trapped by the filter will depend on its MERV rating. MERV stands for minimum efficiency reporting value, and a MERV rating is a measure of a filter’s ability to capture larger particles between 0.3 and 10 microns.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends upgrading the filter in your HVAC system to one with a MERV 13 rating, or as high as your system’s fan and filter slot will allow. A filter with this rating will be able to trap some, but not all, finer particles.

How can air conditioners impact air quality?

Certain types of air conditioners are able to filter larger particles from the air in your home, but they can also negatively impact your indoor air quality over time. If you do not regularly clean and perform maintenance on your air conditioner, dirty units can start releasing pollutants into the air, thus becoming a source of indoor air pollution. There are two major reasons why this can occur:

  1. A clogged filter. If the filter becomes dirty, it will block the airflow of your unit. This reduces your air conditioner’s ability to pump cool air into your home. It also increases the likelihood that pollutants may become dislodged from the filter and be reintroduced into your indoor air.

  2. Poor moisture control. Moisture control is also an important part of maintaining the air conditioning unit in your home. By keeping humidity levels low, it can prevent mould growth in your unit. Moisture harbours mould proliferation, and when that mould growth is left to grow, it can ultimately cause irritation, allergic reactions, asthma attacks, and other respiratory symptoms upon breathing in mould spores. It is always recommended to keep mould growth at bay and reduce the presence of spores in your indoor air. Some of the following tips may help keep your air conditioner clean:
  • Check your air conditioner’s drainage system regularly to ensure that you do not see any clogs or flooding;
  • Fit portable air conditioning exhaust hoses securely to your window to avoid any excess moisture from entering;
  • Clean your air conditioning unit thoroughly with a dry, not damp, cloth or with a hoover;
  • Regularly clean your unit’s grates and air inlets and oulets2.

Which device should I buy?

This question really depends upon your needs, the design of your home, and the climate in which you live.

What’s the real difference between an air conditioner and an air purifier?

Though air purifiers and air conditioners have some components in common, such as fans, filters and vents, their core purposes are different. Air conditioners are designed to cool the air in your home and help you maintain a specific indoor temperature. They only use a filter to prevent damage to their engines over time. On the other hand, air purifiers are made to improve indoor air quality — they have no control over the temperature in your home.

Are you simply looking to control temperature and humidity levels in your space? If so, then an air conditioner should do the job. It will help you reduce the presence of warm air in your home or office while simultaneously reducing the level of humidity. However, an air conditioner will not properly filter your air, nor will it guarantee you to breathe healthy air.

Are you looking to protect yourself from the harms of indoor and outdoor air pollution and allergens like dust or pet dander, rid your indoor space of odours, and/or protect yourself and your loved ones from bacteria and viruses? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the above, an air purifier is your best bet. An air purifier, however, will not cool your indoor air.

NOTE: If you need all of the above needs met, you can purchase and use both devices! You can absolutely use these two devices together, and you can even use them in the same room without fear of their functionalities impacting one another. Used together, your air purifier and air conditioner can help make your home a clean and comfortable place even during the hottest months of the year.1

Be wary of 2-in-1 devices (purifier/air conditioner) or 3-in-1 (purifier/air conditioner/heater)! We sometimes find these types of devices (especially at Dyson) that are, unfortunately, ill advised. The fine particle filters used in air purifiers are not designed to handle sudden changes in atmospheric conditions (like cold and dry air from the air conditioning function, for example). This rapidly degrades the filters. Even if the idea seems interesting and, above all, economical, it ultimately means purchasing a device that will poorly perform one or all of its claimed functions.

If you are in the market for an air purifier, Eoleaf is here for you

Our air purifiers are designed to protect you from indoor pollutants. We have air purifiers for spaces of all sizes, even your car! Take a look at our website to read more about our product range to find the perfect device for you here.

A man resting and breathing fresh air in his home


References

1 Morrison, D. (2022, January 17). Air Purifier vs air conditioner: What's the difference?: Home Air Guides. Home Air Guides. Retrieved April 13, 2023, from https://homeairguides.com/air-purifier-vs-air-conditioner/

2 Graham, V. (2021, September 2). Air Conditioner vs. Air Purifiers: How They differ and how they can work together. Molekule. https://molekule.com/blogs/all/air-conditioner-vs-air-purifiers-how-they-differ-and-how-they-can-work-together

Eoleaf's range of air purifiers

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