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The Difference Between Carbon Filters and HEPA Filters

There are many different air purifiers on the market today. It can be a bit intimidating with how many there are, but each one has its own function. Some of them are better at doing things specifically as opposed to everything. The best thing to do is to read up on which filter does best to what is ailing you. Some of them filter microbes, some of them remove smells, and some of them sterilize the air.

A few of the air purifiers are more dangerous than others, too. Some of them produce ozone and ultraviolet light to kill bacteria and microbes in the air. These things can be harmful to humans, so handling them with care is necessary. However, there are some that are completely safe to use around the house and around your family. These are HEPA filters and carbon filters.

What Are HEPA Filters?

Let’s first define HEPA.

HEPA stands for high-efficiency particulate air. It’s defined as a “mechanical” filter because air must be forced through it for it to work. It’s not like an ozone generator where it produces ozone or an ionizer, which is a completely different system.

These filters in air purifiers pull air through them and trap the microbes on randomly woven fiberglass. The four different mechanisms that are used to contain these particles trap and destroy the airborne microbes. They stick there until removed or cleaned, which should be done outside if you want to keep these microbes outside.

HEPA filters will last a long time, depending on how well you take care of them. There are washable ones and permanent ones. Both sets need to be cleaned to be maintained every two to three months. Occasional cleaning will be required, of course; it will break down or get damaged otherwise. It can even build up allergens and mold and make air quality even worse.

What Are Carbon Filters?

Carbon filters use activated carbon to remove microbes and other impurities in the air. Unlike HEPA filters, carbon uses absorption, taking the contaminants into its porous surface. It is used in water purification as well as air filtering, among other things like gas processing. It is effective in processing microbes, but can’t be used for hospitals or clean rooms.

They are a bit less effective than HEPA filters. In order for carbon to be effective, there has to be a lot of it. The more carbon there is, the more it will absorb microbes from the air or from the water that runs through it. However, it is more useful for things like gasses and smells rather than physical microbes. These carbon filters can last over a few years, but need to be replaced eventually.

Which Is Better, Carbon or HEPA Filters?

Both HEPA filters and carbon filters do things that each other can’t. HEPA filters are better at removing bigger, physical particles like pollen, dust mites, mold, and other allergens. Carbon filters are better at removing odors, smoke, and other gaseous particles. Fortunately, quite a few brands of air purifiers employ both HEPA and carbon filters, but they can be a bit more expensive.


Whether you want to remove odors or allergens, using either can make your life a bit easier. The quality of your air will improve, but using both will be even better. Never underestimate how healthy it is when breathing quality air. Even if you don’t have allergies, it’s a good idea to get an air purifier for a better, healthier life.

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