Does Adding a Carbon Layer Reduce Particulate Effectiveness?

I recently published tests showing that carbon actually removes VOCs. But adding that carbon layer raises a question: adding carbon means the fan has to power through yet another layer of resistance. Does that make purifier less effective at removing particulates?

Test Method

To test this question, I ran 10 room tests with the Cannon and 10 tests with the Original DIY in the same 15m2 Beijing apartment as my earlier tests without a carbon layer.


Dylos particle counter pollution test


I measured how much particulate it removed with a Dylos particle counter and compared the particle counts (1) before I turned on the purifier at night and (2) the average of the last four hours before I woke up in the morning.


Air purifier test laser particle counter


Carbon vs. HEPA Results

With the additional charcoal layer, the Cannon particulate effectiveness dropped 1-2%. Thus, charcoal has a very minor negative effect on the Cannon.

DIY Air purifier test carbon filter HEPA

However, the Original DIY had a harder time powering through the extra layer. Its 0.5 micron effectiveness dropped 19%, and 2.5 micron effectiveness dropped 15%.

DIY purifier activated carbon test

Conclusion: Carbon Tips

For people who need carbon (and that may not be everyone), I would recommend adding the carbon to the Cannon, but I would think twice about adding carbon to the Original. One workaround is to have one Original fan running with a HEPA and another running with a carbon filter.

As always, I’m posting the raw data and more details on the test for fellow nerds below.

Data: Cannon

The previous Cannon test data is in my earlier post. The raw data for the 10 new tests of the Cannon + carbonHEPA are here:






Over the 10 testing days, outdoor air pollution went down significantly on 6 days–poor luck! To test whether that affected the overall estimate, I isolated the three testing days with changes in outdoor PM 2.5 concentration of less than 10 micrograms.

For those three days, the 0.5 micron results were still 95%. The 2.5 micron results were 93%, which is 2% lower than in the overall tests. Thus, the overall estimate seems to be little affected by outdoor fluctuations when averaged over all of the tests.

Data: Original DIY

Below is the data for 10 tests with the Original DIY.






One day (12/21) was an outlier because the outdoor AQI almost tripled during the test. Thus, I calculated the average with and without that outlier removed. With the outlier included, .5 microns effectiveness was 5% lower and 2.5 micron effectiveness was 2% lower.

Get Your Free Guide to Breathing Safe

Join the thousand keeping up on the latest research & knowledge on how to breathe safe. Sign up now and receive a free guide to breathing safe!

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Smart Air is a social enterprise that creates simple, no-nonsense air purifiers and provides free education to protect people’s health from the effects of air pollution. We are proud to be the only certified B-Corp dedicated to fighting air pollution.