Don’t Waste Your Money on the Wrong Type of Whole-Home Air Cleaner

Don’t Waste Your Money on the Wrong Type of Whole-Home Air Cleaner

whole-home air filter or cleanerIf you’re an asthma or allergy sufferer, you’ve probably heard about how whole-home air cleaners can ease your pain.

And they can…if you buy the right type, that is.

You see, different whole-home air cleaners use different methods to eliminate different types of contaminants.

So to start your hunt for a whole-home air cleaner, ask yourself “What kind of contaminant am I trying to eliminate?” Then the type of air cleaner you need will become obvious.

In this blog you’ll learn:

  • The 3 main types of whole-home air cleaners
  • The type of pollutant they remove
  • How they work
  • Their limitations

Air filter whole-home air cleaner

Pollutants addressed: Particles (includes dust, dust mites, smoke, pollen, animal dander, tobacco smoke.) Can catch some molds, bacteria and viruses.

How it works: There are actually a few types of whole-home air cleaners that fit under this category. Here are the main two:

  • Mechanical air filters: Draws air through a fibrous or metal filter with different sized pores that trap particles (think of it as a super air filter that can trap tiny particles that your normal air filter can’t).
  • Electronic air filters: Uses electrostatic attraction to give particles a charge and then uses a collector plate of an opposite charge to attract and trap the particles. Since there’s no physical filter, there’s no air pressure decrease, but the plates do need to be changed/cleaned often to remain effective.

Limitations: Normally can’t remove larger particles from the air because most settle quickly and never reach filters.

Gas-phase filter whole-home air cleaner

Pollutants addressed: Gases

How it works: Removes gases and odor from your air with a sorbent (a material used to absorb water or gas) that absorbs the pollutants. The kind of sorbents in these filters are also used in gas masks to protect people from harmful gases.


  • The lifetime for removing pollutants may be short.
  • Limited in the types of pollutants they can catch.

Ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) whole-home air cleaners

Pollutants addressed: Biologicals (includes viruses, mold, bacteria)

How it works: Uses ultraviolet radiation from UV lamps to destroy viruses, bacteria, allergens, and molds that are airborne or growing on HVAC surfaces ( e.g., cooling coils, drain pans, or ductwork).


  • Can’t kill biologicals that pass through your system; only ones that settle inside your system.
  • Does not make a good replacement for an air filter whole-home air cleaner, but complements it well.

Are there any air cleaners that can eliminate particles, gases and biologicals?

Yes, there are ozone generators. However, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), ozone generators use a method that intentionally produces ozone. And ozone is a “lung irritant that can cause adverse health effects.”

So we don’t recommend them.


As you can see, it’s important to pick a whole-home air cleaner based on the pollutant you’re concerned about.

Our suggestion: Get an air filter whole-home air cleaner to catch 99% of particulate pollutants in your home, and then complement it with a UVGI if you’re concerned about mold or other biologicals spreading throughout your home.

If you still have questions about the whole-home air cleaner that’s right for you, ask one of our experts. They’ll be happy to help!