Choosing Between an Air Purifier vs Dehumidifier

If you’re trying to improve air quality in your home, there are a lot of products and techniques available to achieve different results depending on your goal. From humidity levels to particulate matter and floating allergens, the list of contaminants and potential issues can be daunting to homeowners and renters alike. Learn more about the common air quality products like air purifiers, humidifiers, and dehumidifiers before choosing the right tool to help improve the air you breathe.

What is the Difference Between an Air Purifier and Dehumidifier?

Air purifiers are used to clean the air by removing pollutants. Air passes through the unit’s various filters that constrain pollutants or remove them so that only clean air is emitted back into the room. Depending on the technology of the product, some air purifiers can have more robust filtration systems. Since an air purifiers main purpose is to “clean” indoor air, it doesn’t have the capability to change humidity levels.

Dehumidifiers work to maintain healthy and preferred humidity levels by removing excess moisture from the air. This can prevent mold and bacteria from growing by creating a less optimal environment for those pollutants to thrive in. A dehumidifier and humidifier serve opposite purposes since one removes moisture while the other introduces moisture into air that feels “too dry” in certain seasons.

How Do I Know if I Need an Air Purifier vs Dehumidifier?

Since air purifiers and dehumidifiers function in different ways, there’s nothing wrong with having both. However, if you notice any of the following symptoms in your home, they can be tell-tale signs it is time to invest in a dehumidifier:

  • Windows show condensation, especially in the mornings
  • Rooms feel stuffy, making the air feel heavier
  • You smell mustiness or mold when you enter a room or area
  • You can see moist or damp stains on walls, ceilings, or surfaces

Is High Humidity Bad?

High humidity can be bad for reasons that can impact everything from your health to your home. A dehumidifier will work to prevent or remediate several issues by removing extra moisture from the air. Here are some situations in which a dehumidifier can help lower high humidity and improve air quality:

  • Mold remediation and prevention – mold thrives in 50%+ humidity, so if you’re noticing a musty smell, mold growth, or if your symptoms are related to your health, consider checking your humidity levels or even calling in the experts to check for mold. A dehumidifier will help lower humidity levels to prevent mold from growing.
  • Dust mites – since dust mites enjoy humidity, creating a hostile environment for these invisible allergens can lower their levels and ease allergy-related symptoms.
  • Asthma – because asthma attacks can be triggered by air pollutants, a dehumidifier will ensure your humidity levels are kept low enough to minimize the growth of bacteria, dust mites, and mold.
  • Structure and furniture – overly high humidity levels can affect the structural integrity of your home. Wood can rot from excessive moisture while metalwork can begin to rust. Even furniture can gather bacteria and dust mites or start to smell musty. High humidity can also create unseen problems, like the ones hiding in the ductwork of your home.

There are some situations where you may need to increase humidity levels, supporting that a humidifier can improve air quality. Here’s where a humidifier vs dehumidifier is actually a better solution:

  • Newborns – if you have a baby, then a humidifier might make a good addition to a nursery. Humidifiers can increase moisture in dry air that can exacerbate scratchy throats and noses, especially during the drier winter months.
  • Illness – According to researchers from the NIH, National Institutes of Health, humidity levels can limit the spread of Covid-19 and other airborne viruses. Increased humidity can also make symptoms of illness feel less severe.

Can I use an Air Purifier and Dehumidifier Together?

Yes, you can use an air purifier and dehumidifier (or humidifier) simultaneously. The differences between an air purifier and dehumidifier allow the two to complement each other when used simultaneously. The only thing to keep in mind is that a humidifier shouldn’t be placed too close to an air purifier. Since a humidifier expels moisture into the air while an air purifier works to filter the same air, if the two are placed side-by-side it can cause the air purifier to accumulate moisture within its filters. If an air purifier’s filters gather moisture and create an environment for bacteria and mold spores to prosper, the mechanism will be unable to properly filter air and will instead distribute the very pollutants you were hoping to minimize.

Now that you’re more familiar with the differences between an air purifier and dehumidifier, you can begin to assess you home and goals to determine which is best for your situation. Keep in mind that an air purifier can be used year-round while a dehumidifier or humidifier is typically only used for shorter periods of time. A humidifier may be used over winter while a dehumidifier might be switched on during humid summer months to minimize moisture levels, and both can run while an air purifier helps address air pollutants. Learn more about how air filters, air purifiers, and air scrubbers work in different ways to improve indoor air quality.