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A Look at Bipolar Ionization’s Drawbacks and Benefits

A rundown of bipolar ionization's pros and cons for homeowners looking to invest in the latest indoor air quality technology.

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bipolar ionization pros and cons

Many homeowners are wondering if bipolar ionization is right for their home. How does this technology work? What are the pros and cons? Well, let’s dive in. 

Bipolar Ionization: How It Works

Bipolar ionization sounds like a complicated process. But it’s not! This technology generates positive and negative ions. Ions are charged atoms or molecules. A positively charged ion has more protons than electrons. A negatively charged ion has more electrons than protons. 

Purification solutions utilize bipolar ionization in order to deactivate bacteria and viruses and reduce other air pollutant levels. When positively and negatively charged ions are released into the air they cling to contaminants, weighing them down. Then, the contaminants fall to the ground and are more easily captured by an air filter. 

Air Purification: If you’d like to learn more about the history of ionization, if it’s safe and how bipolar ionization purifies the air, check out this article →

Bipolar ionization is an active air purification process. When used in a whole-home device, it can effectively purify the air throughout your whole home.

Pros and Cons of Bipolar Ionization

There are a number of pros and cons to bipolar ionization. Here are a few of the most notable ones:

Pro: Significant Reduction in Pollutant Concentrations

As air pollution becomes a more significant issue, the search for powerful solutions continues. For indoor air pollution, bipolar ionization is just that. As aforementioned, bipolar ionization weighs air pollutants down, making them easy to capture. These air pollutants include bacteria, viruses, dust, dander, mold, aerosols and so on. 

Pro: Effectively Reduces Airborne Pathogens

Originally, bipolar ionization was used in America to control pathogens in food manufacturing spaces during the 1970s. Today, bipolar ionization reduces airborne pathogens. This technology benefited Americans during the 2004 SARS outbreak and recent outbreaks of MERS, norovirus and the flu. Furthermore, bipolar ionization can reduce the transmission of COVID-19. How is this possible? Well, the positively and negatively charged ions create a chemical reaction on the cell membrane surface, weakening the virus. Then, the ions surround the virus and destroy the spike proteins, thus neutralizing the virus. 

Pro: Proven Experience in Healthcare Settings

The HVAC industry may consider bipolar ionization in residential settings a new technology, but it’s been on the healthcare scene for decades. Today, the Wray Community District Hospital and Clinic, Johns Hopkins, Children’s Hospital Boston, the University of Maryland Medical Center, Hamilton Medical Center and other healthcare buildings use bipolar ionization. 

Con: Emerging Technology

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, bipolar ionization is an “emerging technology” with little research to support its safety and effectiveness outside of lab conditions. This is standard for newer technologies as opposed to established technologies. However, the lack of evidence leaves the public wary of this innovative technology. Thus, homeowners are encouraged to research the technology and request testing data. 

We strongly recommend that you work with a local HVAC professional and choose a solution for your home that has been proven to work.

Purifier Testing Data: The best solution to this con? Third-party verification. A process of independent testing and data verification, a product with third-party certification ensures accurate and authentic device data. Read more →

Con: Can Emit High Ozone Levels

Certain indoor air quality solutions that utilize bipolar ionization have the potential to produce ozone, a harmful air pollutant. Also known as ground-level ozone, ozone increases the risk of respiratory infections, asthma attacks and premature death. However, not every purifier with bipolar ionization emits ozone at a dangerous level.

At a minimum, when considering the acquisition and use of products with technology that may generate ozone, verify that the equipment meets UL 867 standard certification (Standard for Electrostatic Air Cleaners) for production of acceptable levels of ozone, or preferably UL 2998 standard certification (Environmental Claim Validation Procedure (ECVP) for Zero Ozone Emissions from Air Cleaners) which is intended to validate that no ozone is produced.

American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers

As ASHRAE suggests, look for purifiers that meet UL 867 or UL 2998 which ensures minimal to no ozone emissions. Dust Free® announced that all of their duct-mounted air purification products are now UL 2998 listed and publicly display all of their test results published here.

The Verdict on Bipolar Ionization 

Trying to categorize bipolar ionization’s pros and cons is tough. There is a lot of information out there for homeowners to review at their leisure. The most important thing is to decide whether or not bipolar ionization is right for your home. Our verdict? The pros outweigh the cons. It’s fairly easy to find an IAQ solution that utilizes bipolar ionization without producing ozone. And despite limited data and peer-reviewed claims, the healthcare industry has used this technology for decades. That says something! If you’re still on the fence, talk to an expert today.

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