Woman turns on modern ultrasonic ionizer humidifier

Have you ever gone to turn on your fan and realize there’s a little “Ion” button that you’ve never pressed? Or maybe it says ION in big, bold letters on the box of your new fan — but you don’t actually know what that means? You’re in the company of many asking what does ion mean on a fan? But luckily, you’re in the right place. 

So, if you’re wondering what that ion setting means, or thinking of investing in an ion fan, then this is the guide for you.

What Is the “Ion” Setting on a Fan?

At a very basic level, the ion setting makes your fan kind of work like an air purifier, while also doing the basic job of a fan. But what does it actually do? Well, this is where it gets a little more complicated.

When you turn on your fan’s  Ion setting, it releases negative ions into the surrounding area. Those negative ions attract positive ions and become one. When those ions become one, they “trap” all sorts of bad impurities out of the air within your household. Stuff like mold, dust, pollen and other nasty things are clustered together inside those ions and become too heavy to float in the air. Instead, they fall to the surface and out of the ambient air that you breathe in.

Do Ion Fans Actually Work?

There’s a lot up for debate as to whether, or not, ion fans actually do anything or if they’re just another “too good to be true” type of situation. According to the Los Angeles Times, we all might be better off using high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters in our heating and cooling systems instead.

What’s the Difference Between an Air Purifier and an Ionizer?

A lot of us might not even realize what kind of air purifier we have in our own homes. Is it a HEPA air purifier or is it an ionic air purifier? Because whatever option you have, they work a bit differently while also basically claiming to do the exact same thing.

An ionic purifier uses an internal fan to draw air into the purification chamber, which is filled with electrically charged plates. The plates attract pollutants out of the air using electrostatics. When the plates become dirty, they can be taken out and washed. This is the main difference between the two types of purifiers.

With a HEPA air purifier, the air particles are trapped in a mesh filter that needs to be regularly replaced throughout the year when it gets too dirty or clogged. HEPA air purifiers are more efficient at capturing pollutants, even as they’re getting dirty. That’s because the material is a collection of interwoven fibers that are thicker, denser and better at capturing airborne particles.

What are the Benefits of an Air Ionizer?

As you already learned, fans with an ion setting work by negatively charging air molecules. But negative ions are already present and exist naturally in the world, including in places like:

  • Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun
  • Discharges of electricity in the air after a thunderclap or lightning strike
  • Wherever water collides with itself like a waterfall or the ocean shore
  • Produced as part of the normal growth process for many plants

Therefore, it can be argued that being exposed to negative ions — like all of the situations above — can have some surprisingly positive effects on the human body and our moods, including:

  • Improved relaxation
  • Improved mood
  • Reduced fatigue
  • More controlled allergies
  • Decreased irritability

If you’d like to learn more on this topic, we’ve written extensively on the pros and cons of an ionizer air purifier.

What’s the Best Ionic Air Purifier?

If you’ve made it this far, then you’re clearly interested in what an ionic air purifier can do for you and your household — and with good reason! They’re an extremely popular choice and fairly budget-friendly. Here are a few of the best ionic air purifiers that we recommend:

Ivation Ionic Air Cleaner

  • Best overall ionic air purifier
  • Filters: Ionizer, Ozone Generator
  • Coverage: 3,500 sq. ft.

OION Ionizer Air Cleaner

  • Good value and performance
  • Filters: Ionizer, Activated Carbon, UV Light
  • Coverage: 300 sq. ft.

Envion Pro Ionic Air Cleaner

  • Most popular air ionizer
  • Filters: Ionizer
  • Coverage: 500 sq. ft.

Bottom Line

If you came here wondering “what does ion mean on a fan?”, know that you’re in good company. It’s a common question that we get asked about all the time, and it can be confusing.

But now that you’re armed with all of this information, we hope that you can take what you’ve learned here and apply it to your next purchasing decision — whether that be a new ionic air purifier, or a new fan with an ion setting. Whatever it may be, we’re sure you will make the right choice for you and your household.