Do You Need a Carbon Filter on Your Air Scrubber?

Are you wondering if adding a carbon filter to your air scrubber will offer optimal advantages? Then you’ve come to the right place! Carbon filters are an optional addition to air scrubbers. Most machines offer adequate space for a carbon filter in the pre-filter stage. Carbon filters are used to filter out odor causing molecules.

Before we get more into that, it’s important to know the three different types of filters used on a standard air scrubber: 

  1. Pre-filters are tasked with removing the largest particles that enter an air scrubber.
  2. The primary filter is in charge of filtering the smallest particles that enter the air scrubber.
  3. A carbon filter is an optional filter that removes odors in the pre-filter phase.

What is a Carbon Filter?

A carbon filter is tasked with trapping gas and vapor molecules—aka the things your nose can smell. These specialized filters are made from carbon material that attracts stinky gaseous molecules, causing them to stick to the surface of the carbon filter. Carbon, also known as charcoal, is what’s leftover following incomplete combustion. For instance, think about the wood used to make a campfire—at the end of the fire the black char that’s left is largely made of carbon.

While wood is a common material used to make carbon, other materials can be used as well, including coal and coconut shells. Although, using different substances to create carbon will create slightly different types of charcoal.

Carbon filters rely on a process known as adsorption—as opposed to absorption. That’s because instead of absorbing molecules (think of how a sponge absorbs water), carbon filters attract molecules so that they stick to the outside of the filter (think of how a lint roller grabs hair and lint).

A larger surface area will catch a higher percentage of these odor-causing molecules simply because there is more space for molecules to collect. Hence, why activated carbon is a popular choice, as it has a large surface area to collect more particles. One gram of activated carbon has as much as 2,000 square meters of surface area to capture odor molecules.

What is activated carbon?

Activated carbon undergoes an additional process so that it is even better at attracting gas molecules. It is infused with hot air or steam to create a series of little pores, thus expanding its surface area. Thanks to these itty-bitty holes, molecules have more places to go and settle down on the filter. Also, activated carbon is often treated with a chemical to help it better filter certain pollutants.

Do You Need a Carbon Filter?

Carbon filters are optional, while pre-filters and primary filters are standard. If pre-filters are not used, the lifespan of the primary filter decreases, and the air scrubber requires more frequent maintenance. That’s because the pre-filter traps larger particles before they have a chance to enter deeper into the system and create blockages.

The first and most pressing sign you require a carbon filter is if you are trying to get rid of smells in the air. In some cases, you only need to filter out odorless chemicals, but other times, smells need to go too. So, if you are trying to remove odors from a space, then yes, you need a carbon filter.

Carbon Filter Maintenance

The standard carbon filter will last varying times before needing to be cleaned or replaced. Service life is dependent on the specific types and levels of odors filtered. Usually, your nose knows when it’s time to service a carbon filter because those nasty smells will start to return.