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The Pros and Cons of Air Scrubbers vs. Air Purifiers: An in-depth comparison

In HVAC, there are various IAQ (indoor air quality) solutions. This can make it hard to understand the differences. You may have heard of an air scrubber and thought, what is it, what does it do, and how is it different from an air purifier?


This guide covers everything you need to know about air scrubbers. Such as, what is the difference between an air scrubber and an air purifier? How does an air scrubber work? What are the benefits of an air scrubber? Where to buy an air scrubber? And what brands make air scrubbers?


By the end of this guide, you should have a clear understanding of the differences. And you can use this information to make an informed decision when buying a system. Or educate the people around you about these two indoor air quality systems.


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How does an air scrubber work?

An air scrubber for an AC unit uses technology developed for space. Initially designed to improve the air quality of spacecraft's living spaces. Engineered to destroy harmful viruses, bacteria, VOCs, and other pathogens.


In HVAC, an air scrubber is placed within an HVAC system's ductwork. This allows air to flow through it, which is essential for it to work.


An air scrubber consists of a honeycomb-looking matrix. The matrix is coated with a catalyst, usually titanium dioxide, that the air flows through. It also has a UV light.


As the air (and water molecules) flow through the matrix, it reacts with the UV light. And a process called photocatalytic oxidation happens. It is a reaction that creates hydroxy radicals and super-oxide ions. These radicals and ions attach themselves to harmful bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens. When they attach, it breaks their cellular structure and destroys them.


In effect, air scrubbers create an army of killer molecules and release them into the air. These molecules flow through the home with the help of the blower fan and the law of gases. And destroy harmful pathogens they come in contact with.


An air scrubber can destroy both airborne and surface pathogens. And it is important to note that an air scrubber kills and destroys pathogens. But, it does not remove the particles from the air. To remove the particles from the air, they need to be filtered. We will expand on this later in the air scrubber vs. air purification section.

Air scrubber benefits

An air scrubber has benefits that improve the indoor air quality in your home. An air scrubber works by distributing pathogen-fighting molecules throughout the home.


Most HVAC systems can move upwards of 800 to 1600 CFM (cubic feet per minute) of air. The air scrubber is located in the ductwork, and these molecules move with the air in the system. Because of this, the molecules can distribute throughout the home effectively.

It is important to note that the HVAC system fan must be "ON" for the air scrubber to work.


Below there are links to research studies conducted by independent and educational institutions. They show how effective air scrubbers are. Specifically in reducing allergens, various viruses, and bacteria, as well as VOCs.


Ozone vs. ozone free Air scrubber

Ozone is a known lung irritant. Many indoor air quality products produce ozone as a byproduct of the solution. An air scrubber has two different models, one of them that produces ozone and the other that does not.


The sale of ozone-producing products is regulated differently in every state. Some states allow manufacturers to market and sell products as "no-ozone" products. As long as the ozone generated doesn't cross a threshold.


We recommend consulting with an HVAC pro. They will help you discuss options before buying and installing an air scrubber.


Air scrubber vs. air purification

Air scrubber vs Air Purifier visual

Air scrubbers and air purification are often compared. However, it is important to note that they are different and can work hand in hand.


For example, Lennox Pure Air uses air scrubber technology (PCO - photocatalytic oxidation). Along with efficient filtration for purification.


An air scrubber works by actively creating molecules that attack pathogens. And the primary methods for air purification are filtration and UV light purification. This is different from how an air scrubber works.


Filtration is pretty straightforward. When the HVAC fan is on, air passes through the filter and removes particles from the air. Learn more about filtration and the various filter types and efficiency ratings. It is the most common method for improving IAQ.


UV light purification work differently. It kills bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens with exposure to UV rays. UV purification helps prevent microbial growth on the HVAC coils. Microbial growth on the HVAC coils is bad for IAQ and can cause dirty sock syndrome.


So how are air scrubbers different than air purification systems, and which is better?


Air scrubbers and air purification are different. Air scrubbers kill pathogens throughout the home by releasing molecules into the air. And UV light purification destroys molecules as they come in contact with the UV rays. And filters the particles out of the air.


UV light purification can help prevent microbial growth on the indoor (evaporator) coil. And an air scrubber destroys pathogens throughout the home. A UV light can prevent dirty sock syndrome and high static pressure. This can cause various problems with the HVAC system, such as a faulty capacitor. And an air scrubber can reduce viruses and bacteria throughout the house.


Filtration is essential for every home and HVAC system. It helps keep the HVAC system clean and running efficiently. And helps improve the air quality in the house.


Can you have both an air scrubber and air purification?

Yes, you can have an air scrubber and an air purification system. They can work individually or hand in hand. Because of how each system is designed, they complement each other. An air scrubber is better at removing poor IAQ in the home. And an air purifier is better at keeping your AC system clean. And an effective air filter will remove airborne particles from the airflow.


It is possible to start with one or the other and upgrade you as you see fit. Another option would be to opt for an all-in-one solution, such as a Lennox Pure Air system.


An Air Pro can help you determine what is best for you.


Where to buy an air scrubber?

Air scrubbers are sold through authorized dealers. And must be installed by an HVAC professional. You can buy an air scrubber online. But we recommend purchasing one directly from an HVAC pro.


Air scrubbers use patented technology. Various manufacturers use the technology. so the quality and longevity can vary between air scrubber manufacturers. Purchasing an air scrubber with an HVAC pro gives peace of mind. And someone to contact if the system stops working.


Most HVAC pros will provide a warranty or guarantee to back up their work.


Who makes the air scrubber?

The best HVAC air scrubber is Active Pure. The pioneer of air scrubber technology. They produce and sell various products using the technology. Many products claim to be air scrubbers. But in residential HVAC, the official air scrubber is made by Aerus.

Other brands make products using the same PCO technology, such as a Lennox Pure Air system. The Lennox Pure Air system uses the air scrubber PCO technology. Combined with high-efficiency filtration. The result is an efficient, effective indoor air quality solution.

Conclusion

The difference between an air scrubber and an air purifier can be confusing. And with various indoor air quality on the market, it is easy to get lost.


In this guide, we covered what an air scrubber is. How it works? How an air scrubber differs from an air purifier? What are the main benefits of each? And what to consider when buying one.

If you are considering buying an air scrubber, you can buy one online or through an HVAC pro. We recommend talking to an HVAC professional. An HVAC pro can guide you when purchasing an air scrubber. Answer your questions. And will install it professionally.


Contact us or comment below if you have any questions.

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