When most people think about air pollution, they think about smog, pollen, and other outdoor air quality problems.
The next thing that probably comes to mind is indoor air quality, which usually becomes a bigger problem during especially hot or cold weather, when dust and other allergens are allowed to collect inside homes and businesses that are sealed up against the elements.
The fact is that indoor air pollution is also a problem inside cars, so the idea of car portable air purifiers actually has a lot of merit. All of the same pollutants and allergens you find outside are present inside your car as well, in addition to chemicals and particulates that come from the car itself.
For instance, an analysis performed by the National Institute of Health found that particulate matter from brakes, and aromatic hydrocarbons that come from various interior components, can cause health problems. One solution is to simply roll down a window, but that just allows all of the pollution from outside the car to get inside.
Another air quality issue that a lot of people have to deal with involves lingering smells from tobacco and other sources. Portable air purifiers and ionizers usually won’t help with this type of problem, but you may have luck with adsorbents or ozonators.
Types of Car Air Filters, Purifiers and Ionizers
There are a few different types of air filters and purifiers that you can get for a car, including:
- Engine air filters
- Cabin air filters
- Air ionizers
- Ozone generators
Each of these filters uses a specific method to perform a different function.
Engine air filters use a filtration media that is typically paper or cloth based to trap particles and debris and prevent them from entering your engine’s intake system. Unlike cabin air filters, engine air filters have absolutely nothing to do with the air inside the passenger compartment of your car.
Cabin air filters are an important part of maintaining an allergen and odor free passenger compartment. Whereas older vehicles simply drew in fresh air through unobstructed exterior vents, newer vehicles use cabin air filters to trap particles and debris.
There are two kinds of cabin air filters that may help reduce the allergens and odors in your car:
- HEPA cabin air filters
- Cabin air filters with activated carbon-impregnated filtration media
Do Car Ionizers Work?
Air ionizers that are designed for automotive use are typically compact units that you can plug directly into your cigarette lighter socket. Instead of filtering the air, these devices emit ions, which are essentially just molecules that have a positive or negative charge instead of the normal neutral charge.
The basic idea behind a car air ionizer is that ionized particles of various allergens and odorous materials will either stick to surfaces or each other, at which point they won’t be floating air anymore.
Although a good air ionizer should do what it is designed to, it won’t actually filter anything, and you may find yourself dealing with a dark coat of dust, pollen, and whatever else clinging to every surface inside your vehicle.
The other issue to look out for is that a lot of the small, weak ionizers that plug into a cigarette lighter are too anemic to even accomplish that much.