Photo of a HEPA Air Purifier and an Ionizer (Ionic Air Purifier)

Are you trying to find out what the difference is between a HEPA air purifier vs Ionizer (or Ionic air purifier)?

While both products clean the air from impurities, they operate in two completely different ways.

Depending on why you want to get a home air cleaner in the first place, will determine if you should get a HEPA air purifying device or Ionizer.

So keep reading to find out what each type of product does and how it purifies the air.

Filter vs No Filter

The major difference between an Ionic air purifier vs HEPA air purifier is how each product removes impurities from the air.

A HEPA air purifier operates by sucking air into the device through a dense, physical filter that traps airborne contaminants like dust, allergens, mold spores, bacteria, and smoke.

It then pushes out clean, fresh air into the room.

This process continually repeats while the product is turned on and keeps the room free from contaminants.

If new impurities enter into the room, like smoke or dust, the device will eventually pull these particles into the filter and prevent them from returning to the room.

That’s what makes a HEPA filter the best air filter for allergies and the best air filter for mold. In fact, the highest-grade HEPA filter can trap 99.97% of particles down to 0.3 microns in size, giving you the peace of mind that the most harmful contaminants are being removed from the air you breathe.

An Ionizer operates by sending out electrically charged ions into the air that bond with harmful impurities.

Once a bond is made, these particles become too heavy to stay in the air.

This results in the contaminants falling onto the floor, or if it is equipped with a collection plate, being attracted to this element and later being cleaned off by the homeowner.

Ionizers can attack finer particles than HEPA filters; down to 0.1 microns. But keep in mind that there is always a chance that the particles can be stirred back up into the air again when people or pets walk through the room.

This results in a never-ending cycle of impurities being removed from the air and returning.

Products that include a collection plate are better at ending this cycle but are not perfect.

As you can see, the major advantage that a HEPA air purifier vs Ionizer has is that the HEPA unit actually traps the airborne contaminants and stops them from reentering the air you breathe.

>> See all of Amazon's Best Selling Air Purifiers <<

Difference in Maximum Area Coverage

Because a HEPA air purifier uses a physical filter, the maximum area it can cover is not as wide as an Ionizer.

In fact, the largest space an air purifier with a HEPA filter can effectively purify that we’ve seen for sale is 1,560 sq. ft., called the AIRMEGA 400.

This is fine for most home applications, but for a large business space this may not be sufficient.

To find out if this device will work for you, visit our top 10 air purifiers page to read more about it.

As a comparison, we’ve seen some Ionizers that purify an air space up to 3,500 sq. ft.

That’s a huge space and can clean the air of even the largest home or business. The Ivation Air Ionizer falls into this category.

You can find out if this is a better choice for you by visiting our best ionic air purifier reviews page to see all the details on this product.

Initial Cost vs Annual Maintenance Costs

In many ways, a HEPA air purifier is a more advanced technology, but it does come with a cost.

In fact, good HEPA air purifiers are almost always more expensive than Ionizers.

For example, there are some ionizer air purifiers for sale that cost as little as $50. The cheapest HEPA air purifier we’ve ever found that’s worth the investment is around $100.

So, you’re going to have to spend a more money to get a HEPA device.

That being said, a HEPA device also costs more to maintain unless you get an air purifier with a washable filter.

Because HEPA air purifiers use a physical filter, it needs to be replaced on an annual basis, if not before. As the filter collects contaminants, it gets dirty and clogged up. And the more pollutants it traps, the less efficient it is at cleaning the air.

Ionizers don’t use physical filters, except for ones that include a collection plate. Therefore, you don’t have any yearly maintenance costs in regards to filter replacements.

If the ionizer includes a collection plate, then this part is washable and reusable for the lifetime of the product—saving you a substantial amount of money over the long-term.

Design and Style Options

Finally, the design and style options are very limited in Ionizers.

What you’ll find most are thin, vertical units that can be placed in a corner or small, compact square units that can be placed practically anywhere.

Most Ionizers have a modern design and some are futuristic looking.

And, all of the ones we have seen must sit on the ground or on a table. We have never seen a wall-mountable product.

HEPA air purifiers, on the other hand, come in all shapes and sizes.

You can find a product that matches the decor of your room if you look hard enough.

Some products are wall mountable too, which means you can place it practically anywhere inside your home or business.

You’ll also find a variety of colors and styles with HEPA air purifiers. They just have so many more options available to you as a consumer than compared to Ionizers.

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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)