Do you know how air purifiers work? If you have ever had the opportunity to be around one or to own one, you would know that most of them move air around the room.

Air purifiers obviously work by moving air around the room somehow it is very easy to wonder if the air purifiers are also fans. This article has been written to help clear all the arguments concerning that concept. I’ll also explain the working mechanisms of fans and air purifiers to determine if they are the same or not.

The simple question is, are air purifiers also fans?

The most common answer to this question is No, Air purifiers are more than just fans. The truth is that an air purifier helps to move and circular air around the room, it cannot do it at a speed quick enough to match that of an electric fan.

Air purifiers are basically designed to clean the air which you breathe and this would reduce the air flow volume which they can provide for users.

Electrical fans do not have the same properties as an air purifier and do not have any restrictions to moving air around a room. Due to the lack of any restrictions, electrical fans can flow air around the room much faster and cool the room temperature.

Keep reading and we’ll talk more about this. First of all, we’ll be treating the working mechanism of a fan and then that of an air purifier. We may take a look at some of their similarities but most importantly their differences.

What is a fan and how does it move air?

There are different types of electrical fans which you will always find around and each of these fans serves their purpose. However, regardless of their purpose, they have a basic working mechanism.

They make use of an electric motor to rotate blades which cut through the air and cause the air around the room to move from one side to another, thereby creating airflow. When talking about types of blades in cutting the air we have centrifugal and axial style fans. Both of these styles of fans are used in
air purifiers.

A fan is a device which has fixed blades that help to move the air in the room from one end to another. There is a common conception that a fan cools the air while it actually has no cooling properties. The fan does something entirely different. It moves the air around to allow for evaporation of air and dissipation of heat in the environment. In a nutshell, fans move air around the room to create an airflow that cools the room or object.

Most fans make use of an electrical motor with a lot of windings of copper wire to create movement and turn the blades of the fan. It turns the blades by allowing the electric current to go through the windings by creating magnetic fields. These fields, in turn, push away from other magnetic fields and the rotor, the rotating center section, turns. This then turns the fan blades which are attached to the rotor. The blades then cut into the air and move the air. Basically, the fastest fans are able to create better airflow.

A fan helps humans regulate the temperature of their environment by evaporation. Humans cool down their body temperature by sweating. As the sweat is evaporated from the skin, the body cools down because it loses heat in converting the water to vapor. It is difficult for sweat to get evaporated in still air. The air circulated by the fan will help dry up the sweat on the skin. This is the reason why you feel so cool when a fan is blowing around you.


Asides from just helping to dry the sweat from the skin, fans also help with a process known as convection.

In simple terms, we’ll say convection is a process whereby heat is moved away from one place to a cooler location. When you are feeling hot and the air around you is cooler, your body would transfer some of this heat to the air and it will cool you down. When your body heats the air up, it becomes less dense and rises to the top of the room. With the presence of the fan in the room, it helps to eliminate this warm air.

Cooler and denser air will settle in the room and the cycle of convection continues and you would feel cooler. Most electric fans are designed to blow air or move air around, but there are some fans which are designed to draw air in. Examples of these fans are exhaust fans, vacuum cleaners, and range hoods. Now that we’ve treated the working mechanism of fans, let’s take a very close look at air purifiers.

What is an air purifier and how it works?

Air purifiers are special devices that work by moving air through filters and trapping any airborne particles that may lead to pollution, allergies, asthma, sickness, and so on. Also, any air purifier which has an active carbon filter is capable of trapping odors and airborne chemicals. Certain air purifiers are able to kill germs with the use of ultraviolet light (UV light).

An air purifier is an electrical device that is designed to expel pollutants from the air. A lot of air purifier contains an electric fan whose job is to draw in the air to the intake part of the device. This air is then
forced through different replaceable filters where these pollutants get trapped. As soon as the air has been filtered, it released back into the room.

As the whole process is recycled over and over again, the air purifier will continuously remove bad particles and chemicals from the air in a room.  In the end, users will get healthy hair for breathing.

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Air purifier filters

High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA)

These filters are found in certain types of air purifiers. This HEPA filter is made of very thing entangled glass threads which have been formed into a flat sheet. Think of it as a very dense material with gaps too little for the human eye to see. This filter works to filter about 99.97% of airborne particles and allergens as small as 0.3 microns. That is a very small size. It is approximately 1/1,000,000 of a meter.

Activated carbon filters

These filters are also found in other types of air purifiers. These carbon filters are always used alongside the HEPA filters because of their own porous nature. However, their porous nature makes them quite effective at absorbing volatile organic compounds, odors and some other gases in the air.


These are usually materials made up of washable foam or nylon materials that are designed for trapping larger particles. These are often used along with HEPA and carbon filters to reduce the workload on these special filters. They are often less dense and can only trap larger particles such as dust, insects, hair, etc. These pre-filters often serve as a first stage in the filtering process. The different types of filters are found in different air purifiers. Asides from the different filters, there are different types of air purifiers. Certain types make use of ultraviolet light to kill microorganisms such as mold, mildew, viruses, and other germs found in the air. There are also ozone-generators air purifiers and negative-ion air purifiers that help to remove microbes and gases but replaces them with ozone. Ozone air purifiers can, however, present a form of danger to humans.

Air purifiers have fans but how they differ?

Electric fans are part of the parts of an air purifier. They are used to draw in the dirty air and to blow out the filtered air. However, it is very important to understand the difference between a regular fan and an air purifier. These differences include:

1. Most air purifiers have filters which slow down the speed of the air passing through them but fans have no such filters and thus they provide faster-moving air.

Filters are one of the reasons air purifier can’t move air fast enough to cool the room. The rate at which it exchanges or filters the air in the room is based on the air purifier speed and machine efficiency. These two products are quite different because of their contrasting designs and they also operate differently.

The only similarity in their function is that they allow the air in the room to get circulated. Fans circulate air based on the side effect of their operation. Fans are more concerned about blowing air.

However, air purifiers are designed to clean the air of bad particles and to circulate the air for easier breathing. Air circulation is more important to the working mechanism of air purifiers than having to blow air in any direction.

2. The fans in purifiers can’t move fast enough to cool the air in the room.

Air purifiers aren’t expected to clean all the air in the room at once. It can take some time to get the desired results. The period of operation may vary from some hours to a few days depending on the type of air purifier and the size of the room. Air purification is more of a slow process.

If you require an air purifier that would operate faster, it would be a larger and more expensive one. Despite that, they still don’t have fans designed for cooling.

There are even certain air purifiers which do not make use of fans. These air purifiers do not circulate any air in the room because of the absence of the fan. Examples of these types of air purifiers are Ionizers and some ozone generators.

Example of air purifiers that serve as fans

There are quite a few exceptions to this rule. Some air purifiers found on the market actually serve as fans.

The Honeywell AirGenius product family and Dyson air purifiers like the Pure Cool purifying fan create a very high airflow which can be quite similar to that of a fan.

Some other brands such as the Honeywell Air Genius 5 make use of a special filter design which is designed to create a high rate of air circulation quite similar to that of a fan.

On a final note, the majority of the air purifier which you would find around are not fans. They can move large amounts of air rapidly like the electrical fans. They are ineffective at cooling either you or your home. However, there are some models that are an exception to this.


Unlike a fan, an air purifier:

  • Can’t create a high-speed air flow. The filters will reduce the speed of the air flow
  • Won’t cool either you or the room. The air purifier doesn’t blow air into the room continuously.
  • Takes a lot of time to circulate the air in a room

Most air purifiers work by circulating the air in the room. Air circulation is majorly the work of a fan. This is the only similarity which air purifiers have with fans. But an air purifier is much more than a fan.

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If you are so concerned about cooling the room, you are advised to buy a separate cooling unit. You can make use of an electrical fan with most types of air purifiers without any complication.

Hopefully, your question has been treated and you now understand how both devices affect your environment.