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How to Choose the Best Carbon Filter

Updated on August 2, 2012

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Carbon Filtration

Carbon Filter
Carbon Filter

What is Carbon Filtration?

In air purification, carbon filtration is a type of filter that is typically combined with HEPA filters to create a more holistic approach to cleaning the air. A carbon filter uses carbon to adsorb odors and gases in the air. We did not say absorb. There is a difference. The carbon causes the odor and gas chemicals to latch onto the carbon molecules in the filter in a loose chemical attachment that keeps them bound to the filter. But they are not absorbed into the filter. The reason this distinction is important is because the effectiveness of a carbon filter is in direct correlation to its surface area. The more surface area it has, the more chemical gases it can adsorb. In air purification, the gold standard for carbon filtration is granulated carbon. Granulated carbon is pellets that are poured into a filtration container. This creates the greatest amount of surface area possible and maximizes the efficiency of the filter.

How to Choose an air purifier for the Carbon Filtration

When looking at carbon filtration systems, you need to consider the surface area of the carbon filter. When using granulated carbon, this is determined by weight. 24 pounds of granulated carbon has more surface area than 15 pounds of granulated carbon.

Some carbon filters are specialized to focus on specific odors and gases in the air. In most cases, you will not want to focus on specialty carbon filters. But if you have a specific problem, you may want to consider some of the specialty options available.

You also need to pay attention to air circulation. Air circulation is critical for the effectiveness of the carbon being able to adsorb the odors and gases. If the circulation is not good enough, not all the air in the room will get sucked through the carbon filtration system.

Cheap Carbon Filters vs. Effective Carbon Filters

The cheap carbon filters that you find in many low end air purifiers are ineffective. About the only thing they really do is trap large particles like hair. They do not have the power or efficiency to adsorb odors and gases in the air. Austin Air and AllerAir purifiers provide some of the leading carbon filtration systems in the industry. They do so at a cheaper long term cost than most low-end purification systems. They provide hefty charcoal and carbon filters and in some cases offer specialty filters for smoke and VOCs. These are two of the first companies you should consider when looking for good carbon filtration.

AllerAir Carbon Filter - An Example of Excellent Carbon Filtration

5 Points to Remember about Choosing a Carbon Filter


  • Buy for quality, not for price, you will spend less in the long run
  • Identify your need
  • Invest in granulated activated carbon
  • More pounds equals more surface area means higher efficiency
  • Do your research!


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