Graphic of air purifier vs air conditioner

Almost everyone has some type of air conditioner in their home.

Whether it be a whole house system or a portable or window-mounted air conditioning unit.

A large number of people also have an air purifier.

But, do you know how air purifiers and air coolers really compare?

For example, can they both cool the air and clean it at the same time?

Or is that just a myth?

In this post, we’re going to explore the air purifier vs air conditioner question so you can get a clear understanding of how each device works.

You’ll also come away knowing which product is best suited for your needs.

Simply put, an air conditioner draws the hot air out of your room and pumps cold air back in to cool it down.

These machines are able to control your indoor temperature, humidity, and to an extent, the air quality.

An air purifier cycles your home’s air through a series of filters or neutralizes them through a process called ionization.

These systems remove particles and contaminants that are known for lowering the quality of your indoor air. They don’t control the temperature or humidity.

Air Purifier vs Air Conditioner

The difference between an air purifier vs air conditioner is that air purifiers eliminate particles while air conditioners cool the air. AC units are not designed for air purification and air purifiers are not made for cooling the air. An air purifier and air conditioner have distinct uses in the home.

Comparison Chart

Here are a quick overview and side-by-side comparison between air purifiers and air conditioners (coolers). If you’re looking for something more in-depth, read on.

CriteriaAir PurifierAir Conditioner
ApplicationCleans indoor air by removing airborne contaminants, allergens, germs, smoke, and odorsCools indoor temperature and helps reduce humidity
BenefitsImproves overall air quality and leads to better health for everyone. However, they’re especially useful for asthmatics and allergy sufferers.Creates a comfortable indoor environment and has a low level of air purification. Good for people with respiratory issues that can’t handle high humidity levels.
Removes or ReducesDust, Allergens, Smoke, Mold Spores, Bacteria, Pet Dander, and some VirusesTemperature, and Humidity

Note: Our site is full of free resources to help you find the best air purifiers and affordable air conditioners for your home. After you decide on which product you need, take a look at these guides to get some free advice:

Basic Functions of Air Purifiers and Air Conditioners

One of the easiest ways to tell the difference between air purifiers vs air conditioning is by understanding their basic functions.

We’ll go over what these are next.

Air Purifier

An air purifier’s main function is to remove airborne particles and contaminants that cause respiratory issues and illnesses.

This includes common things like pollen, dust, pet dander, bacteria, mold spores, smoke, viruses, and all kinds of odors.

Air purifiers come in two major types: HEPA filter and Ionizer.

An air purifier with a HEPA filter cycles indoor air through a filtration system that traps and collects airborne pollutants inside the filter.

The process for how does an ionizer work is different as these devices emit negatively charged ions out into the air that latch onto contaminants and caused them to fall to the ground or stick to surrounding surfaces.

Some air purifiers also include an Activated Carbon filter, which is designed to remove unpleasant odors from smoke, cooking, mold, and pets.

Air purifiers don’t remove humidity from the air. They simply filter your existing air so that it’s cleaner and healthier for you to breathe.

Additionally, you can use a portable air purifier to clean the air in one single room in the home or get a whole home air purifier system to clean every room at once. The best whole house air purifier for furnace attaches to the HVAC system and filters all incoming air that’s being heated and cooled.

See all of Amazon's Best Selling Air Purifiers

Air Conditioner

Air conditioners (or air coolers) are used to cool down indoor environments.

These devices work by drawing a room’s warmer air in and exhausting it outside. It then pumps colder air back into the space.

The air conditioning process helps to regulate the temperature as well as the humidity levels inside your home.

Air coolers come in three main types: whole house central AC systems, portable units, and window-mounted setups.

All air conditioners come equipped with a slight capability to purify the air, but this isn’t their main function.

Portable air conditioners and window AC units have front grilles with a filter that draws warm air in from a room. And these are good air conditioners for small spaces.

A central AC system filter is often located in a ceiling of your home.

This AC filter traps larger airborne particles so they don’t end up inside the air cooler and damage the unit. 

However, these filters are not dense enough to catch the microscopic particles that an air purifier can catch such as bacteria, finer dust, and allergens.

See all of Amazon's Best Selling Portable AC Units

Which is a Better Choice: An Air Purifier or Air Conditioner?

An air purifier may be the better option for you if:

  • You need cleaner air because you have a respiratory condition like asthma, COPD, or allergies.
  • You want to lower the amount of dust, pollen, or pet dander inside your home.
  • You want to get rid of indoor odors from cooking, smoke, pets, mold, or mildew.
  • You want a healthier environment for your family that has fewer bacteria and virus particles floating around.

An air conditioner might be the better choice if:

  • You want to have better control over your indoor temperature.
  • You want to reduce the humidity levels inside your home.
  • You have a respiratory condition like asthma or COPD that flares up when you’re exposed to high humidity levels.

Common Questions Regarding Air Purifier vs Air Conditioning

Can I use air purifier with air conditioner?

Yes. You can use an air purifier and an air conditioner at the same time, and even in the same room without an issue.

The air purifier will clean the air around you while the air conditioner will cool it down.

Some air conditioners even have an ionizer function that can work to purify the air. However, it’s always best to get a dedicated ionic air purifier for this purpose as you can get it into a better position for cleaning the air.

Check out our ionic air purifier reviews for more details on these inexpensive units.

Do air purifiers cool the air?

No. An air purifier simply cycles your home’s air through a filtration system in order to clean it.

It pushes out the same temperature of the air as it pulls in.

However, a slight breeze may be felt from a HEPA air purifier as it pushes clean air back into the room (similar to a rotary fan).

Do air conditioners purify the air?

To a small extent, yes. However, purifying the air is not the main purpose of an air conditioner.

The filters on these machines won’t catch the smaller particles that pollute the air around you like an air purifier will.

Do air conditioners bring in air from the outside?

No. An air conditioner recycles the existing air inside a room.

Some air conditioners like window mounted AC units exhaust hot air outside during the process of cooling it but the outdoor air is never blown back into a room.

You should now have a good grasp on the air purifier vs air conditioner topic.

We hope that this guide has given you everything you need to make the right decision on which product to choose for your home, if not both.

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About David Morrison

David is an Air Quality & Comfort Technician. He has expert knowledge on the technology and design of air purification, air conditioning, and heating systems. His main role is to write content that helps people get the most value out of their air purifiers, air conditioners, and heating units. (See Full Bio)