Air Purifier vs Air Conditioner: Differences & How They Work together

Josh Mitchell

Written By

Josh Mitchell

Expert Reviewed By

Holly Curell

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Key Takeaways

  • Air purifiers clean the air thoroughly using their specialized filters. They impact the AQI of the air. They do not impact the temperature or humidity.
  • Air conditioners impact the air temperature by cooling it. In doing so, they can also dehumidify. They are not designed to clean the air.
  • You can use both of these devices together in the same room. 

Air conditioners and air purifiers both help you to control the air in your home, but in very different ways – one controls temperature, and the other controls air quality.

You shouldn’t use one instead of the other, but you can run an air purifier and air conditioner together to completely control the environment in your home. 

In this guide, I’ll give you the complete air purifier vs air conditioner breakdown and show you how to use both appliances together to improve indoor air quality in your home.

Air Purifier Vs Air Conditioner: Key Differences Explained

An air conditioner is used to regulate the temperature of the air in your home, whereas an air purifier is used to regulate the quality of the air in your home.

Both appliances are useful for improving your indoor air quality, but they shouldn’t be used interchangeably. 

They may seem similar, but there are some key differences in terms of how they function. Here’s an air purifier vs air conditioner breakdown and when to use each one:

Cooling The Air/Heat Removal

One of the key differences between an air purifier vs air conditioner is the impact it has on air temperature. If you want to cool a room then you need an air conditioner, not an air purifier. 

Air conditioners are specifically designed to cool the air in your home, and in doing so they reduce the overall temperature. An average portable AC can cool an area of 100-300 feet and produces about 8000 BTUs.

An air purifier won’t make the room cooler because it isn’t designed to, though air purifiers often have a fan which can have a very mild cooling effect. 

Humidity Removal

If you have humid conditions then you’ll benefit more from an air conditioner than an air purifier. However, a dehumidifier is best. 

An air conditioner will remove some humidity from the air, though it isn’t the primary function of the appliance. As warm air is cooled over the air conditioner condenser coils some moisture can be removed from humid air. However, to properly dehumidify your indoor air then you need a dehumidifier, and these are often built into an air conditioner or HVAC system. 

Air purifiers don’t remove any humidity. They only filter the air so they won’t change the humidity levels at all.

Air Purification

If you want to improve indoor air quality then you need an air purifier, not an air conditioner. 

An air conditioner will often have a built-in filter to remove some impurities, dust, pollutants, and dirt. This can offer some benefits, but it won’t properly filter your air. 

An air purifier is specifically designed to remove all contaminants from the air and uses a set of fans to remove almost all bacteria, pollen, dust, and other pollutants which can negatively impact your health and well-being. 

For Allergies

If you suffer from allergies then an air purifier will provide much more protection than an air conditioner. 

Air purifiers have air filters or a HEPA filter which will remove a lot of contaminants that trigger allergies. This includes dust mites from pets and harmful mold and mildew spores which can trigger allergies.

An air conditioner has air filters that can remove allergy-triggering pollutants, but it can also draw in some contaminants from the outside air. If you do have allergies then you need an air conditioning unit with very good-quality air filters. 

For Asthma

Asthma is often triggered by poor air quality. Air purifiers are much more effective than air conditioners at removing these pollutants and preventing your asthma from being triggered.  

Air purifiers use a series of air filters/HEPA filters/carbon filters to improve indoor air quality. By removing dust mites, mold spores, and smoke, air purifiers make it less likely that your allergies will be triggered indoors. 

Air conditioners and portable air conditioners usually have an air filter to remove some pollutants, but without proper air purification, it won’t protect you from allergy triggers. 

For COPD

COPD is short for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, which is a condition that limits the amount of air flowing into your lungs and can lead to fatigue, wheeziness, coughing, and shortness of breath. The best way to regulate this condition is to control the air quality and humidity. 

An air purifier can make it easier to breathe by removing impurities (like dust and pet dander), but it won’t let you control the air temperature or humidity. 

An air conditioning system is more beneficial for COPD sufferers as it lets you control the air temperature. However, you’re best with an HVAC system that includes a dehumidifier so you can keep the humidity level around 40-50%. 

For Dust & Pollen Reduction

Dust, pollen, and pet dander can cause a lot of irritation. If you have hay fever and want to reduce these pollutants from the air then an air purifier is much more effective than an air conditioner. 

Air conditioners or portable air conditioners will usually have a filter to remove some dust and pollen, but they won’t remove the smaller particles. 

An air purifier is specifically designed to remove contaminants, and the carbon filters will remove even the smallest particles, helping to alleviate the symptoms. 

For Removal Of Airborne Contaminants

If you’re worried about bacteria or other germs in the air then you should use an air purifier rather than an air conditioner. 

An air purifier should remove the majority of bacteria and micro-organisms from the air and some air purifier models even use UV light to deactivate harmful germs. This leaves you with clean and fresh air that’s safe to breathe.

An air conditioner will filter some contaminants out, but not to the same extent so it’s no replacement for an air purifier. 

Safety In Bedrooms

Modern air purifiers and air conditioners can be used safely in your bedroom and left running overnight. 

Both air purifiers and air conditioners are electrical, but they have modern technology and safety precautions that make the risk of electrical fires breaking out very low. Just make sure you’re using modern models. 

If you are using an air conditioner overnight then you just want to keep the room at an ambient temperature so it doesn’t become uncomfortable and impact your sleep. 

Upfront Costs

An air conditioner will typically be more expensive than an air purifier. 

When it comes to the cost of an air conditioner vs air purifier, there can be a lot of variation. It all comes down to the features and functionality. However, an air conditioner will generally cover a larger area and cost more. 

An air conditioner can cost anywhere from $100-$5000. Portable models are usually available for under $200, but whole-home HVAC systems will generally cost over $2000. In comparison, an air purifier will usually cost $100-$300 depending on the size. 

Running Costs

The exact cost of an air purifier vs air conditioner can vary, but an air conditioner will typically cost more to run. 

Both air conditioners and air purifiers typically run from your mains electricity, but it takes more power to make an air conditioner work. This can vary depending on the make and model of your air conditioner. 

Air purifiers are usually smaller and cheaper to run, though you may have to buy replacement air purifier filters. 

Overview Of Air Purifiers

Air purifiers filter out bacteria, pollutants, and impurities from the air in your home, leaving you with cleaner air. Air purifiers have been shown to prevent illness, but they are particularly useful for those who suffer from allergies, asthma attacks, or other respiratory problems. 

The first air purifier was created in 1963 by a German couple, Manfred and Klaus Hammes, and used a High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) Filter to remove bacteria and other harmful particles. Later in 1963, the clean air act was passed in the US, which led to a huge rise in the creation of air purifiers. 

The principle hasn’t really changed and today most air purifiers still just use a fan and filters. They provide you with clean air in 3 simple steps: 

  1. Air is drawn into the air purifier by the fan.
  2. The air is directed over the filters which remove dust, dirt, bacteria, pet dander, and other impurities.
  3. Clean air is then blown back into your home.

Some air purifiers also use UV light to purify the air. This concentration of UV light deactivates certain mites and impurities and can leave you with even cleaner air. 

Pros & Cons Of Air Purifiers In The Home

Pros
  • Removes Harmful Bacteria
  • Relieves Symptoms Of Asthma
  • Relieves Allergies Caused By Pets
  • Can Kill Airborne Diseases
  • Can Help Improve Quality Of Sleep
CONS
  • Needs Windows Closed To Work
  • Purely Maintained Air Purifiers Can Make Air Quality Worse
  • They Won’t Normally Remove Bad Odors

Overview Of Air Conditioners

Air Conditioners are used to reduce the temperature in your home by controlling the air temperature. They are used in over 70% of homes across the USA but are particularly useful for those who live in hot areas. 

The first AC was invented by Willis Carrier in 1902 but it wasn’t until later in the 20th Century that commercial air conditioners were adopted, and not until the 1960s that home ACs became popular.

There are several different types of modern air conditioners, but they generally all contain a fan, coolant, and condenser coils. They also all tend to operate in the same way: 

  1. Warm air is drawn into the device using the fans. 
  2. The air is directed over the condenser coils which are filled with coolant.
  3. Heat is drawn out of the air as it passes over the cold coils. This can also extract some moisture to give you humidity benefits.
  4. Cooler air is then blown black into the room.

You can buy a portable air conditioner or a whole home air conditioner. A portable air conditioner is useful if you only need it at certain times of the year or in certain parts of your home. They’re affordable and there’s no complicated installation.

Whole-home air conditioners are best for those who have high temperatures year-round and will regulate the air temperature in several rooms at once. They’re usually connected to heating systems throughout your home. 

Pros & Cons Of Portable ACs In The Home

Pros
  • Keeps You Cool
  • Easy To Move And Store
  • No Installation Costs
  • Perfect For Cooling A Single Area
  • Low Maintenance
CONS
  • Won’t Cool Your Whole Home
  • Can Be Noisy
  • Expensive Running Costs

Can Air Purifiers Be Used As Air Conditioners?

No, air purifiers can’t be used to regulate the temperature of the air in your home so they won’t work as air conditioners. 

If you look at an air purifier vs air conditioner then you can see there are some similar components, but the job they do is very different.

An air purifier cleans the air, whereas an air conditioner regulates the temperature of the air. They, therefore, aren’t interchangeable. 

However, you can find some air purifier models with an integrated air conditioning unit to give you the best of both worlds:

The Dyson HP01 Pure Hot & Cool HEPA Air Purifier is one of the market leaders which combines the purifier and AC functions. Dyson is a company of vacuum specialists, and they integrated that technology to remove even the smallest impurities, and it has a filter that captures 99.7% of allergens.

On top of the air purification, it also has a fan that can provide heating and cooling to a room. It oscillates to have the most impact on a whole room and has 10 different airspeed settings so you can adjust it as needed.

The key benefit of this Dyson air purifier is that it can help you regulate the air temperature and quality in one go. It saves you from having two noisy, expensive machines and gives you efficient operation with a very quiet mechanism.

This is the solution for any homeowner who suffers from allergies or asthma and lives in an environment that can get too hot or too cold.

People Also Ask (FAQs)

Can I use an air purifier and air conditioner at the same time in the same room?

You can use both devices at the same time in the same area, but it’s often more efficient and cost-effective to buy one integrated device which fulfills both functions.

Do air purifiers cool the air?

No, air purifiers don’t actively cool the air, they just remove pollutants. However, they do have a small fan which can produce a mild cooling effect. 

Do air conditioners purify the air?

No, an air conditioner won’t purify the air on its own. Most air conditioners do have a large filter to remove some dust and dirt, but it won’t remove the smaller bacteria or contaminants. 

Do air conditioners bring in the air from the outside?

Many types of AC draw in cool air from the outside and circulate it around your home, but portable air conditioners work without ventilation and don’t actively draw air in from outside.

Conclusion

Both air conditioners and air purifiers are useful appliances, but they can’t be used interchangeably.

An air purifier will remove bacteria, allergens, pollen, and other contaminants from the air, but an air conditioner will help you to control the temperature.

You can run both together, but if you decide you need both, then you can get some effective air conditioners with built-in purifiers to give you the benefit of both devices.

Hopefully, this guide has given you the full air purifier vs air conditioner breakdown and helped you identify what it is you need in your home.

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Josh Mitchell

Founder

Josh Mitchell
My name is Josh and I am obsessed with home appliances. From portable AC units to heaters and air purifiers, I enjoy testing, learning and using these devices to improve the air quality inside my family home.

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Midea U Shaped Window Air Conditioner

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