What is an ozone generator? (and how does it work?)

By
Updated on April 3, 2024
Written by
James Booth
James has over ten years experience as a content producer and editor. He focuses on writing articles that are compelling, clear and, more importantly, helpful to the readers. He honed his research and copywriting skills working as part of NeoMam Studios, the parent company of HouseFresh.
TL;DR

Air purifiers that intentionally emit ozone are called “ozone generators.” They convert oxygen into ozone by adding energy to oxygen molecules. This process causes the molecules to break apart, temporarily joining up with other molecules in your environment.

They have been touted as effective for removing indoor air pollutants. However, scientific evidence has not validated the claim and the EPA does not endorse using ozone machines.

Ozone generators intentionally create ozone and are advertised as effective in controlling particulate matter in your environment. But do they work? 

And more importantly, are they safe?

This article will examine what ozone machines are, how they work and the potential health dangers.

What does an ozone generator do?

In a nutshell, ozone generators work by converting oxygen into ozone.  They do this by adding energy to oxygen molecules. This process causes the molecules to break apart, temporarily joining up with other molecules in your environment.

Manufacturers of ozone generators claim that the ozone produced can purify the air and remove:

  • Airborne particles
  • Chemicals
  • Mold
  • Viruses
  • Bacteria
  • Odors

Ambient air is pulled into the ozone generator. Then, either a corona mechanism creates a corona discharge— splitting the atoms— or a UV bulb hits the oxygen atoms, forcing them to split and reform. This produces O3 (ozone). 

How effective are ozone generators?

While manufacturers may claim that ozone generators can improve air quality, few scientific studies support these claims. Overall, there is a lack of evidence that ozone generators are particularly effective, especially at the ozone levels they can produce.

Ozone generators are considered ineffectual at preventing either bacteria or mold in your environment.

This 1983 study from Queen Elizabeth Hospital found that an ozone device could not suppress fungal or bacterial growth in a hospital room over six hours. 

VOCs are not effectively reduced or removed by ozone generators. 

In 1995, a research study was conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division, analyzing how long and at what concentration ozone could effectively remove VOCs from the environment. The results found that it took nearly a millennium to break down less than half of the pollutants tested to their half-lives.

The U.S Environmental Protection Agency does not recommend ozone generators to remove indoor air pollution. 

That being said, the University of California found that when it comes to removing odors in your environment, there are mixed results. 

You’ll likely have heard of ozone in relation to the Earth’s stratosphere. This ozone protects us from the sun’s UV rays and is considered “good” ozone. However, there is also “bad” ozone. Ozone pollution—otherwise known as smog—can now be found in our troposphere and poses a severe health risk. According to the EPA, ozone can reach exceptionally high and unhealthy levels during sunny and hot days. 

Whether produced naturally or with a machine, ozone affects our lungs and can lead to many health problems.

Health problems caused by ozone include:

  • A sore, scratchy throat and persistent cough
  • Inflammation of the airways
  • Aggravation of conditions such as asthma, chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

Those with preexisting lung conditions (such as asthma), older folks and children are particularly at risk. Ozone is also known to deaden or weaken our sense of smell. 

In addition to the personal health effects, ozone pollution can also damage our environment and have a negative effect on plants and building materials in your home. 

When does it make sense to use an ozone generator? 

It might be a good solution if you’re a hotel owner and want to convert some rooms from smoking to non-smoking.

But, there are several much safer and more effective ways to clean the air at home than using a device that generates ozone. Simply remove the sources of odors or pollutants for a start. Then, try ventilating the area to allow for better air circulation in your home. 

An air purifier will be more than enough for ongoing air quality issues. Air purifiers that utilize HEPA filters are the most efficient at removing pollutants, while activated carbon filters will take care of VOCs quickly and safely.

The best air purifiers combine both HEPA and activated carbon filters:

Final thoughts 

Manufacturers of ozone generators make all sorts of claims. But we have looked at this carefully and found that the products are dangerous and often don’t even work as the makers claim.

Moreover, ozone is a very problematic gas for several reasons and should be avoided when looking for an air purifier for the home.

Tip

Do you want to learn more about ozone? Read our article all about what ozone really is here.

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About the author

James Booth

James has over ten years experience as a content producer and editor. He focuses on writing articles that are compelling, clear and, more importantly, helpful to the readers. He honed his research and copywriting skills working as part of NeoMam Studios, the parent company of HouseFresh.

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