Ozone generators and carbon filters are two of the most common solutions that people turn to for removing smoke and all kinds of odors. Many have a hard time deciding which one is better for them, ozone generators or carbon filters. In order to tackle this common debate of ozone generators vs carbon filters, we need to look at it from different angles in order to figure out which one is more suitable for you.
Both ozone generators and carbon filters have the same purpose – removing odor and smells. But how they achieve this is vastly different. Ozone generators release ozone into the room, which then destroys pollutants – in this case, smells. In contrast, carbon filters “inhale” the air around it, which goes through the filter and captures odor particles. Odorless air is then released from the device and back into the room. Harmful particles stay on the filter and do not go back in the air at any point.
Two similarly easy and straightforward solutions, but very different uses and limitations. Let us take a deeper look.
Effectiveness of ozone generators vs carbon filters
As we established in the start, we mainly use ozone generators to remove odors. Ozone is not effective against particulate matter (dust for example) and is not very effective against viruses, bacteria, or other biological pollutants.
Science is a bit divided regarding the effectiveness of ozone generators. Quite a few scientific studies found that ozone has a very limited effect on odor chemicals. Some go even further, explaining that ozone does not even react with many of these chemicals. And if it does, it could take months or years to completely clean. But there is an important common factor in these studies – they only apply for concentration of ozone that is not higher than the public health standards. In other words, a small amount of ozone (below 0.05 ppm) is not effective at removing many smells and odors. At higher concentrations (we are talking about atleast 5-10x higher than the allowed 0.05 ppm of ozone) ozone does deal with smoke and odors. Still, ozone struggles with removing biological pollutants, even in high concentrations.
Carbon filters are very effective at removing two things – odors and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The most common three VOCs that carbon filters can remove are toluene, xylene, and benzene. Carbon filters can also remove the majority of odors, smells, gasses, and some organic compounds. The biggest factor in carbon filter effectiveness is the amount of carbon that comes in the filter, in addition to the filter thickness. The higher the amount of carbon and the thicker the filter, the more effective it is.
Pros and cons
Next, let us take a look at some of the positive and negative aspects of each. This is a vital part of my ozone generator vs carbon filter analysis.
Pros: Ozone generators really do remove odors, some pathogens, and fungi IF you run them long enough, and if the concentration of ozone is high enough. Most commercial ozonators can achieve this, so they serve their purpose well. Ozone is also good at dealing with specific mold spores which we usually find in moist, dark spaces such as basements. It is also great for equipment sterilization purposes Another benefit is that you can actually combine an ozone generator with an ionizer, giving it more even more air cleaning capabilities.
Cons: Ozone is harmful for health, even in small concentrations. If you have asthma or suffer from any kind of allergies, then even the allowed concentration of 0.05 ppm would be detrimental to you. Ozono generators also do not remove many other types of pollutants, have only partial success against biological pollutants, and are absolutely useless in smaller quantities. Depending on which type of ozone generator you take, they can come with regular and high-maintenance costs. Ozone is also dangerous for all living beings, such as pets and even plants to an extent.
Pros: Carbon filters are really good at capturing fumes, cigarette smoke, gases, and odors. Also once these particles are captured by the filter, they cannot be released back into the air. Another big advantage is that you can combine activated carbon filters with other types of filters. By doing this, you can get a really powerful air cleaning device. Air purifiers that use HEPA filters almost always come together with a pre-filter for large particles, and a carbon activated filter for odors and smells. Another advantage of carbon filters is that they are reusable. On average, a typical charcoal filter lasts around a month, but can be washed and reused two or three times before you need to actually replace it.
Cons: Carbon filters are really ineffective against any other type of pollutants except the ones that are listed under pros. The filter replacements can also be very inconvenient and expensive, depending on the filter. Also, it can be quite hard to be completely sure when a carbon filter needs to be replaced. It is impossible to see the saturation level of these filters with your eyes and most of the time you are left relying on the filter replacement indicator light or just the replacement recommendations by the manufacturer.
Ozone Generator vs Carbon Filter – price comparison
On average, ozone generators will be almost twice as expensive as carbon filters. I did a little bit of digging around and compared prices of the most popular and effective ozone generators and carbon filters on the market. Obviously, there are exceptions on both sides – you can find units that are really cheap and units that are really expensive. An average user is probably looking for something that is effective, yet not meant only for professional usage (in other words: expensive). So I found that the sweet spot seems to be in the middle, where the effectiveness is high enough to achieve the goal of effective odor removal, while not breaking your bank.
That being said, most decent ozone generators will cost you around $100, with the more expensive ones moving into the $200 range. The ones that are $50 and below do not produce enough ozone to be effective at odor removal. In contrast, most good carbon filters will be around the $50 price point, moving into the $100 range for more complete solutions that come in combinations with an inline fan. You can also get effective air purifiers that use carbon filters in addition to other types of filters, for around $50. Here is a list of the best air purifiers that include carbon filters, for under $50.
An extra note: as discussed in the pros&cons section, carbon filters need to be replaced every now and then. This adds to the overall cost, keep this in mind. In the table below, you can see how often you need to change a specific filter, on average.
Filter changing frequency for different types of filters (air)
Throughout this post, we have looked at and compared different aspects of an ozone generator vs carbon filter. Only one big question remains – should you choose an ozone generator or carbon filter?
I personally recommend ozone generators primarily for mostly serious mold or odor issues. Ideally, you would want to use an ozone generator in a basement or any room without occupants. This is because ozone generators can be quite inconvenient for residential use. If you use an ozone generator in one of your rooms, you can face many issues. For one, it might take hours for ozone to clean the room. And even after you turn off the device, you need to wait up to 4 extra hours for ozone to disappear. If you suffer from allergies and asthma, then just do yourself a favor and stay away from ozone. Also, keep in mind that ozone negatively affects pets and can even kill plants if the concentration is high enough.
In almost every other odor situation, a carbon filter is a better and cheaper solution. This is because carbon filters will not only neutralize, but also prevent odors from spreading into other rooms. Not to mention that carbon filters do not negatively affect humans, pets, and plants – unlike ozone generators. If you are growing plants (indoor garden) and want to get rid of any possible smell, then a carbon filter will be the best option here too. Carbon filters are also a more budget-friendly solution, which is always a great thing.
Hopefully, this information will help you decide which of the two devices is a better fit for your needs. If you have any questions feel free to comment below!