When I first tried to buy an air purifier, I had a choice: get a portable one or an in-duct system.
At first, I was inclined to get a portable option.
While these wouldn’t be able to clean all the air in my house, they can purify the air one room at a time, which I felt was good enough for my needs.
On top of that, these portable options are generally more affordable than in-duct air purifiers.
But after some research, I started to see why in-duct air purifiers were generally more expensive than portable air purifiers.
And honestly, I began to see why they could also offer more value.
And today, I’ll share with you everything I learned. I’ll explain what in-duct air purifiers are, the types of in-duct options, and how they stack up against portable air purifiers.
While I decided that an in-duct system was right for me, it might not be the ideal choice for others.
By the end of this article, you’ll know all about in-duct air purifiers and their advantages and disadvantages over their counterparts.
That way, you’ll have a much easier time figuring out which is best for you and which one to buy for your home.
Let’s get into it.
What Is an In-Duct Air Purifier?
As the name suggests, an in-duct air purifier is an air purification system inside your air vents.
These will only work in a home or unit with a centralized HVAC system.
So, if you don’t have an HVAC unit at home, you won’t be able to use an in-duct purifier.
In-duct air purifiers require a professional for proper placement and to ensure they will work properly.
The most significant difference is these are designed to purify the air in the whole home.
That way, you won’t have to worry about moving the air purifier from room to room, depending on where the people are hanging out.
In-duct units are much easier to use than portable air purifiers.
But on top of that, they won’t take up any room in your home.
So, no need to worry about where the air purifier should go for effectiveness and interior design.
These air purifiers work similarly to portable ones.
But instead of purifying the air circulating in a room, the purification starts in the vents.
That way, the hot or cold air from the HVAC unit is clean and particle-free.
In-duct air purifiers work in various ways.
Some purifiers use UV light to eliminate particles and contaminants.
Some may also use ionization, while others utilize extended media filters.
I’ll get into the details of that later…
The most significant benefit of using an in-duct air purifier is that most of the good models on the market are equipped to eliminate 99% of the particles in the air.
This means that you won’t have to deal with pollutants like dust, smog, pollen, and other things that may irritate the lungs.
A portable air purifier might not be the best option if you have an HVAC unit.
Check out some in-duct options before deciding.
Types of In-Duct Air Purifiers
As I mentioned, there are quite a few in-duct air purifiers on the market.
These devices filter and clean the air through various methods.
While they all have their advantages, they also have their drawbacks.
When shopping for an in-duct air purifier, I struggled to find the right one for my home.
However, after learning what kinds of particles these air purifiers can handle, I found which one I needed.
So, to save time and struggle, I’ve listed the different types of in-duct air purifiers you’ll encounter.
Did you know that the sun can kill germs?
I was pretty surprised to hear it myself.
You can imagine the look on my face when I found out that some air purifiers kill germs with UV light.
In controlled indoor environments, UV lights are great at eliminating germs.
Most modern HVAC units already have a pre-filter built to catch larger particles like dust and pollen.
So, an in-duct purifier doesn’t prioritize these particles.
Instead, some in-duct air purifiers are designed with UV light for smaller particles.
This means eliminating germs, odors, and anything else that can pass through the initial HVAC filter.
However, UV Light is dangerous to look at directly.
This is why these filters must be inside a duct, so you don’t accidentally look directly into the light.
Another method that air purifiers use to clean the air is called ionization.
This has been a controversial method because of ozone’s by-product of the ionization process.
In small and enclosed spaces, ozone can be dangerous.
Inhaling large amounts of ozone can irritate your respiratory system, so I recommend avoiding portable air purifiers with ionizers.
Conversely, ionizing in-duct air purifiers are safer than portable ionizing air purifiers because the ionization process doesn’t happen in your space.
Instead, it happens within the ducts, so you won’t be exposed to as much ozone.
These air purifiers release negatively charged ions into the air.
The ions then react with the particles floating around, which causes them to fall.
Afterward, you’re supposed to vacuum the particles so they don’t stay in your space for too long.
Since these air purifiers require you to sweep up the dust and particles afterward, they take a bit more work.
And since there’s the risk of ozone exposure, they aren’t the best option if you’re looking to clean up the air in your home.
Extended Media Filters
The last type of in-duct air purification system is extended media filters.
One of the benefits of getting a modern HVAC unit is that they usually come with some sort of MERV-grade filter.
This means that most HVAC units already purify the air to a certain degree, as the filter can catch a fair amount of large particles.
When you use extended media filters, you add another layer of MERV-grade filters to your HVAC unit.
This way, the HVAC unit can catch some smaller particles that can escape the pre-filter.
This is great for people with allergies since extended media filters capture particles that cause most allergies, like dust and pollen.
So, when springtime comes along and you find yourself sneezing a lot, these can come in handy.
In-Duct Air Purifiers vs. Portable Air Purifiers: What’s the Difference?
In-duct and portable air purifiers work toward the same goal: purifying the air you breathe.
However, these two machines do it differently and are designed for specific homes.
Understanding the differences between these two types of air purifiers will make it much easier to figure out which one is the best for your home.
I struggled to determine which air purifier was the best option for my needs.
But it was much easier after taking the time to research how each type of air purifier works, what they can do, and the pros and cons of each.
Ultimately, I figured that an in-duct air purifier was the best option for my family’s needs.
However, there’s no doubt in my head that tons of people might benefit more from a portable air purifier instead.
So, let’s take a close look at both air purifiers to compare them and see their differences to make it easier for you to determine the best fit for your home.
How They Purify the Air
Let’s start by looking at how they purify the air. To understand how these air purifiers do that, we need to look at the construction of these machines.
A portable air purifier is just a fan and a filtration system when you strip them down to the bare essentials.
The fan sucks in unpurified air and then pushes it through the filtration system, which captures the particles that may cause you harm.
From there, the fan pushes the clean air out to the other side and circulates it around the room.
With in-duct air purifiers, the entire process happens within the HVAC system.
Usually, your HVAC unit will already have a filter built-in.
This will capture a fair amount of large particles and slightly purify the air. After passing through the pre-filter, air will either pass through UV light or a media filter.
That way, once the air exits the HVAC system, it’s clean and free of particles and pollutants.
Regarding flexibility, the portable air purifier wins this battle, but not entirely.
Portable air purifiers are flexible because you can move them around the house.
For example, you can have an air purifier in your home office while working.
You can also move it to the living or dining room for hangouts and gatherings, then bring it to the bedroom to sleep.
That way, you’re sure the air is as clean and purified as possible.
While you can’t move an in-duct air purifier, the truth is that you don’t really need to. This is because in-duct air purifiers are designed to handle the entire home.
So, the air will be clean and particle-free in all rooms in the house.
The only downside is removing and reinstalling the in-duct air purifier in a new home is difficult if you move.
And if the new home doesn’t have an HVAC unit, you won’t be able to reinstall the air purifier anyway.
Don’t get me wrong, portable air purifiers are very effective.
If I didn’t have an HVAC unit in my home, there’s no doubt that I would have gone for this option.
With an excellent portable air purifier, you can eliminate the same amount of particles as you would with an in-duct system.
But, the in-duct option is the winner in this category because it cleanses the air in all rooms of the house.
You won’t have to move the in-duct air purifier around.
And you won’t worry about certain rooms having contaminated air because all the air flowing out of the HVAC unit is clean and particle-free.
The main reason I was so hesitant to invest in an in-duct air purification system was the cost.
When you compare them head to head, portable air purifiers are way more affordable than in-duct air purifiers.
Granted, some portable air purifiers on the market are expensive and can have a steep price tag.
However, many excellent budget air purifiers are effective and won’t burn a hole in your wallet.
In-duct air purifiers are more of an investment.
But, these air purifiers can work on the entire household.
And you won’t need to adjust the settings every couple of hours.
So, you will get a fair amount of convenience with an in-duct option, mainly because it doesn’t occupy any living space.
However, keep in mind that in-duct air purifiers are only for homes with an HVAC unit.
If you don’t have an HVAC unit at home, investing in an in-duct air purifier is pointless since you won’t be able to use it in the first place.
But if you have an HVAC unit at home, it could be a more convenient option.
Should I Get a Portable or In-Duct Air Purifier?
This depends entirely on your needs.
I can’t say that one type of air purifier is better than the other because it depends on your home and what particles you want to remove.
Regardless of whether an air purifier is portable or in-duct, you can eliminate the most harmful particles and contaminants floating around the home.
The one thing that a portable air purifier has over an in-duct air purifier is that most portable options nowadays come with a carbon filter.
These are filters designed to eliminate strong and harmful odors like smoke or the smell from last night’s dinner.
In-duct air purifiers don’t have this and usually rely solely on UV light to eliminate odors.
But aside from that, your needs should be the only reason you choose one over the other.
For example, suppose you have a relatively small home or apartment without an HVAC system.
In that case, there’s no doubt that a portable option is the one for you.
However, an in-duct purifier makes sense if you have an HVAC system and want to clean all the air circulating the house.
Why Are In-Duct Air Purifiers So Expensive?
The price of the in-duct air purifiers on the market held me back from getting one for my home.
However, it’s essential to understand that these air purifiers are pricey for a reason.
For one, they go into your HVAC system, so you don’t have to worry about finding the proper placement for the air purifier.
Additionally, they are excellent at eliminating harmful particles in the air.
They are just as effective at removing particles as a portable air purifier.
However, instead of just working for one room, they work for the entire house.
And when you consider all these features, you start to see why these air purifiers are so expensive and how they can be worth it for eligible households.
Conclusion: Are In-Duct Air Purifiers Worth It?
At the end of the day, I figured that an in-duct air purifier was the right option for me.
I had an HVAC system at home and wanted to cleanse all the air in my house.
I would have bought multiple devices if I were to do this with portable air purifiers.
Buying multiple devices would have cost me more than one in-duct air purifier, including the installation cost.
These air purifiers are worth it if you have an HVAC system and want to eliminate the particles floating around the entire home.
But if you only plan on targeting one room or your house doesn’t have an HVAC unit, you might actually be better of with a portable option.