Air Conditioner vs Air Purifier: How are They Different?

Humidifiers. Dehumidifiers. Air conditioners. Air purifiers. What’s the big difference? Each one offers its own unique benefits, so let’s break it down. In this blog, we’re going to focus on air conditioners vs. air purifiers and how they compare to each other.

An Air Conditioner vs. Air Purifier: How are They Unique?

To better understand the difference, let’s talk about the purpose that each one serves.

Air Conditioners

You probably don’t need us to tell you what air conditioners do! They make the indoor air cooler. But how?

Let’s keep this simple. In a nutshell, air conditioners do two things at once that make a room cooler.

  • Warm air is cooled down while it blows across a coil that is full of refrigerant. The refrigerant absorbs the heat from the air. And the refrigerant transforms from a liquid to a gas. This process is happening inside your home/office.
  • The refrigerant that’s now in gas form is compressed and then enters another coil. The heat is released, and the refrigerant once again returns to a liquid state. A fan helps to get rid of the heat that originally came from the house. This process happens outside your home. (You know that big outdoor unit that kicks on whenever the AC turns on? That’s it!)

Air Purifiers

Air purifiers serve a completely different purpose. When placed indoors, they remove all sorts of dangerous particles from the air you breathe.

In the case of Sans, as an example, the device uses a four-stage process of filtration. Here’s how it works.

  1. First comes the pre-filter. The pre-filter captures bigger pollutants, like hair and dust. This allows the next layers to do their jobs more efficiently.
  2. Next up is the HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) 13 filter. The medical-grade HEPA 13 filter will remove at least 99.97% of particles as small as 0.3 microns, and 99.95% of particles as small as 0.1 microns. (For reference, the average human hair is roughly 90 microns thick.) The HEPA 13 filter works its magic, capturing viruses, bacteria, and allergens like pollen, dander, dust mites, and mold spores.
  3. The first two layers capture solid pollutants — but what about gasses? That’s where the activated carbon filter comes in. It neutralizes volatile organic compounds that come from common household items like your cleaning products, personal care products, and fabric.
  4. Last but not least is the UV-C light. Why is UV-C light important? Well, by this point, your air purifier has trapped all sorts of nasty stuff. We don’t want these particles growing on the filters. And we definitely don’t want them released back into the air you breathe. Pulses of UV-C light neutralize them so that they can’t come back and make you sick.

So, you can probably see that air conditioners and air purifiers are two very different things. However, is there any overlap at all?

Air Conditioners Might Contribute to Cleaner Indoor Air

The important word here is “might.” Remember that the primary function of air conditioners is to cool down the temperature of the air. This will depend on what kind of AC unit you have and what type of filter it’s using.

Because of the cyclical nature of air conditioners, cold air is entering your home while warm air is ejected. Before the air comes back inside, it travels through a filter. Depending on the type of filter, your AC might be removing larger particles, like dust and hair.

You can determine how powerful this filter is by its minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV). The MERV scale goes from 1 to 20, 20 indicating the highest efficiency. The most efficient type of filter you can get is the HEPA filter — the one that the Sans air purifier uses.

You might be thinking, “Wait a minute. If my air conditioner is already filtering the air I breathe, why do I need an air purifier at all?” Great question!

Yes, your AC is providing some purification. But it’s more than likely that it’s nowhere near as powerful as an actual air purification system. Most residential air conditioners use filters with a MERV rating of roughly five to eight, and this is considered acceptable for AC.

So, you can see that while your AC unit might be somewhat cleaning the air in your home, it doesn’t hold a candle to an actual air purifier.

How Can You Maximize the Cleanliness of Your Indoor Air?

To help your AC do its job efficiently, the general rule of thumb is to change the filter every 90 days. If you suffer from at-home allergies, you might consider doing it more frequently.

For your air purifier, if you have a Sans unit, you can get the replacement filter delivered to you automatically every three months. On a related note, you might be considering a unit that allows you to use a washable HEPA 13 filter. We do not recommend these! They’re not nearly as good at trapping smaller contaminants, viruses, and bacteria. Safely and properly washing them is difficult and can easily lead to mold and mildew growth. And importantly, washing and returning the filter to the unit can expose you to the dangerous toxins that it trapped.

Lastly, you can improve the air you breathe by cleaning your home often and regularly. Disinfect or replace your sponge every few days. Swap out towels once a week, or immediately, if you’ve just handled raw meat. Disinfect the kitchen sink daily. In your bathrooms, get into the habit of closing the toilet lid before you flush. Clean the toilets at least once a week. Baths and showers can go every two weeks. Take care of vacuuming, sweeping, and mopping your floors once a week. However, if you have pets, you might consider doing it more frequently. Also, high-traffic areas might need more love. And lastly, disinfect high-touch areas — doorknobs, handles, etc. — once a day.

We know it sounds like a lot of work, but there’s one simple step you can take to massively improve your indoor air quality. With the right technology, you and your family can breathe easier. Shop with Sans today.