Tips & Resources

What is the Difference Between an Air Cleaner, an Air Purifier, and an Air Filter?

Air filters, air cleaners and air purifiers can all help reduce the amount of dirt and contaminants in your home, but they each work differently and to different degrees toward that purpose. To better understand and determine the best solution to improve and maintain indoor air quality in your home, read the descriptions provided below.

Air filters

The air filter is a component of your HVAC system. Its main purpose is to keep dust, dirt and debris out of the system, so that your furnace and air conditioner maintain their efficiency and performance. Standard air filters trap larger particles that can damage the system’s components. Air filters also contribute to cleaner air throughout your home.

The air filter needs to be replaced regularly, depending on how quickly it gets clogged with dust and other debris. This is a simple, inexpensive maintenance task that should not be ignored in order to protect your HVAC system. Check the manufacturer’s guidelines for recommendations on how often to replace the filter and what type and size of filter to use.

Every air filter has a MERV rating to indicate its effectiveness. The higher the rating, the more particles are captured. Some air filters can trap the tiny particles that affect health, but those are generally too restrictive, preventing sufficient airflow which can damage the system.

Air cleaners

Air cleaners work with filtration to reduce up to 99% of particles in the air, both the large particles that can interfere with your HVAC system’s performance and the microscopic particles that impact the health of the home’s occupants. Air cleaners can trap those tiny particles without compromising the performance of your HVAC.

Air cleaners are built into your HVAC system and are installed between the air return duct and the furnace or air conditioner. Air passes through a built-in filter and, in this way, all the air that flows through your home’s ductwork is cleaned of dust, mold, pet dander, tobacco smoke, pollen and more.

Air purifiers

Like air cleaners, air purifiers address indoor air quality by removing impurities such as those indicated above. Air purifiers work with filtration. Some incorporate hydrogen-peroxide or UV germicidal lamps to neutralize and sanitize the air.

Some additional options…

Air Scrubber

The Air Scrubber works with your existing HVAC system. It attaches directly to the ductwork and cleans the air in your home using light waves and a catalytic process to remove a number of contaminants such as air pollution, VOCs, surface contaminants, pet dander, odors and dust. The proprietary ActivePure technology reduces as much as 90% of airborne contaminants and destroys up to 99% of surface contaminants to purify and clean the air. Studies have shown the technology is effective against a number of viruses and illnesses caused by bacteria. The Air Scrubber also reduces lingering odors, such as from cooking. Because of the amount of dirt that it traps, it can extend the life of your HVAC system as well.


The iWave uses patented needle-point bi-polar ionization to create positive and negative ions in equal amounts. Once injected into the air stream, the ions break down pollutants and gases they encounter, transforming them into harmless compounds like oxygen, carbon dioxide, nitrogen and water vapor. The iWave neutralizes viruses, bacteria and mold by removing the hydrogen molecules (the pathogens’ energy source). The ions attach to pollen and other allergens until they are large enough to get trapped by the air filter in your ventilation system. The iWave installs in your duct air conditioning system.


The REME Halo is another whole-home air purifier that uses state-of-the-art ionization technology based on the air purification process found in nature. REME stands for Reflective Electro Magnetic Energy.

The REME Halo produces ionized hydrogen-peroxide molecules that sweep through the air, instantly destroying a variety of contaminants. The system also creates a charge that causes tiny particles, such as dust and dander, to clump together so they can be captured by the air filter in your AC or furnace.

Ask your HVAC professional which device is best for your home.

For more assistance with indoor air quality or other HVAC questions, contact Rheem Pro Partners today. Serving homes throughout Colorado and Wyoming.