Dust, dander, pollen – Homes are filled with these indoor air pollutants and others. You can clean for hours every day and still not rid your home of these contaminants because many linger in the air. To reduce the number of indoor airborne pollutants, you need an air purifier.
Why Should I Buy an Air Purifier?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the air quality inside the average home can be five times unhealthier than the air outside of it. However, an efficient air purifier can significantly slash the airborne particles that contribute to poor air quality.
Our Recommended Air Purifiers
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Our Top Five Air Purifier Picks
Can’t decide on which air purifier to buy? Take a look at our top five air purifier picks.
5 PureZone 3-in-1 True HEPA Air Purifier Review
The PureZone air purifier may be made for small rooms up to 200 square feet, but it’s powerful with a CFM of 80. This purifier contains a pre-filter, a true-HEPA filter and a carbon filter. Plus, there is a germicidal UV-C light. You can operate the fan at three speeds, which range from 30 to 50 decibels. From the touch-button panel, you also have the option of setting an 8-hour timer.
This Coway AP-1512HH air purifier is compact yet effective in spaces up to 528 square feet. It has a washable pre-filter, a true-HEPA filter and a carbon filter along with an ionizer and an air quality indicator. There are three manual fan speeds as well as a super-quiet eco-mode and an auto mode. There are three timer settings, and filter-change indicators take the guesswork out of maintenance.
Designed to work in an average-size room, this Honeywell air purifier offers four levels of purification and a timer function. It circulates the room’s air five times per hour, running the air through a carbon-layered pre-filter and a HEPA filter. This air purifier boasts CADRs of 100 or more, and it also lets you dim the control panel if you’re a light-sensitive sleeper.
Perfect for your bedside table, the cylindrical Levoit Air Purifier contains a pre-filter, an activated carbon filter and a true-HEPA filter, all of which are easy to access. The discreet touch buttons on the rim let you select one of three fan speeds or turn on the two-level nightlight. This air purifier is also quiet and energy-saving, producing up to 50 decibels and drawing a mere 28 watts of electricity.
Sized for the average bedroom or home office, the 3-in-1 by GermGuardian has a charcoal pre-filter and a true-HEPA filter. This simple tower features a dial that controls the three-speed fan and a button that toggles the UV-C light; the green light tells you when the filters are dirty. Although it’s a 53-watt air purifier, this GermGuardian model is powerful with CADR ratings that range from 108 to 125.
A Quick Note on HEPA Filters
Buyer beware. Some air purifier manufacturers advertise their products’ HEPA filters as the real deal when they are just a low-quality knockoff. To save cost during production, manufacturers may opt to use a HEPA-type or a HEPA-grade filter, both of which are unable to trap as many minute particles as an actual HEPA filter.
If the actual filtration rate is not listed, look for the terms genuine-HEPA or true-HEPA. Both of these terms indicate that the HEPA filter traps 99.97 percent of particles as small as 0.3 microns.
Some activities, like cooking, are done primarily indoors, and these activities can make indoor air more polluted than outside air. However, the main contributor to this problem is inadequate ventilation. Today’s homes are built to be insulated, especially houses in the North.
Although airtight rooms can keep out the chilly air of winter and prevent cool air from wafting outside in the summer, they don’t leave anywhere for air pollutants to escape. This means you are more likely to inhale smoke, dust and VOCs when indoors as opposed to outdoors.
While an air purifier can do an excellent job of getting rid of airborne pollutants, there are some steps you can take to reduce them before they reach the purifier. When you are cooking, turn on the overhead exhaust. If you’re showering, run the fan or crack the bathroom window. Also, check your dryer’s exhaust periodically for obstructions.
Besides dust, radon and smoke are two of the most common and harmful air contaminants found inside of the home. The effects of cigarette smoke are well-known, but not everyone is aware of radon and its impact on your health. Radon is a gas that lacks a smell or a color. Naturally occurring uranium in soil and water can contain radon. When radon rises to the surface, it can infiltrate your home. One of the worst health problems caused by radon is lung cancer.
Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are another common indoor pollutant. VOCs are toxic and come from an array of products, including paint, body sprays, carpet and air fresheners. Asbestos also releases VOCs.
The easiest way to determine the health of your home’s indoor air quality is by using a specialized monitor that detects the volume of particles in the air. If you don’t have a monitor, watch for subtle signs of health problems after certain activities. For example, if you or other household members experience watery eyes, an itchy throat or respiratory problems after a pest control treatment or a room remodeling, these issues may be caused by VOCs.
Also, make sure you check your home thoroughly for areas that aren’t sufficiently ventilated. Musty odors, mold growth, and condensation buildup are more signs of poor indoor air quality.
Not all particles are small enough to find their way deep inside of your lungs. However, those that are can pose serious risks to your health because the lungs are usually not able to expel them. Therefore, it’s crucial that the air purifier you buy has a HEPA filter that can trap particles as small as 0.3 microns. Particles that are responsible for lung damage and allergy symptoms are smoke, dander, pollen, dust, dust mites, many molds, gases and select bacteria.
Even though heavy concentrations of dust are visible to the eye, individual dust mites themselves are not. Those who inhale particles of dust are at risk for multiple health problems such as eye irritation, a chronic cough, asthma attacks and hay fever. Ultra-fine dust particles can make their way into the lungs, spelling disaster for those who have a COPD.
If you want to maximize your air purifier’s benefits, follow these tips. First, make sure the purifier is on all day and night, and keep it in the same room. Also, seal the room as best as possible by shutting the windows and doors. To ensure proper airflow, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions on filter maintenance leave about 2 feet of space around all four sides of the unit.
To get the most benefit from your air purifier, you should run it around the clock. If utility costs are a concern, you can always operate the purifier at varying speeds. If you’re not at home, you can put the fan on its lowest speed to glean the machine’s purification benefits without jacking up your electricity bill unnecessarily.
A powerful air purifier can take a room’s air quality from poor to good in as little as 1 hour. However, the purifier can only maintain a healthy air quality when it’s running. If you live in an older home or a house with an aging HVAC system, it’s highly possible the ducts are dirty, and HVAC ducts are one of the most common sources of indoor air pollutants.
While you should use your air purifier 24 hours per day, that isn’t always feasible. If you’re trying to save electricity costs, follow this operating schedule. The first time you turn on the air purifier, put it on its highest fan speed for about 2 hours or until the air quality indicator shows the surrounding air is healthy if your purifier has an indicator.
At that point, lower the fan speed to its lowest setting in order to maintain the air quality. For large rooms, you may need to put the fan speed on medium. In the event you must turn off the air purifier, or there is a power failure, repeat these steps.
Expensive is subjective, and the cost of using an air purifier varies from one model to the next. The typical air purifier won’t cause a major increase in your power bill as most units only draw as much electricity as a light bulb. If cutting utility costs is a goal for you, buy an air purifier that’s rated by Energy Star.
Absolutely. Air purifiers are highly effective as long as they are used in the right size room. Every air purifier is made to work in a certain square footage. If you have an air purifier rated for rooms up to 250 square feet and try to use it in a 400-square-foot room, the purifier will not be able to capture as many airborne allergens, and it will have to work too hard to keep up, leading to premature motor failure.
Usually, the ideal place to put an air purifier is the area in which you occupy the most. This could be your bedroom, living room or home office. If you have children (baby), you may want to put an air purifier in their bedroom or nursery.
Wherever you choose to put an air purifier, keep in mind that the purifier’s air-cleaning ability does not extend past the room in which it’s placed. If you move throughout your house a lot during the day or can’t decide on a single room, look for an air purifier that’s easy to move, such as a lightweight unit with carrying handles or one on wheels.
Ideally, you should set up your air purifier in the middle of the room in order to avoid walls and furniture. It’s tempting to put a purifier flush against a wall, but the airflow will be impeded by nearby objects, reducing the air purifier’s efficiency.
Questions About Air Purifier Filters
In an air purifier, you’ll find at least a HEPA filter. Many air purifiers also contain a pre-filter and an activated carbon filter. Each filter serves a different purpose.
For larger particle elimination, there is the pre-filter. This filter sits in front of an air purifier’s other filtration media, trapping large particles like pet hair. Air purifiers that have a pre-filter tend to require fewer HEPA filter cleanings and replacements.
HEPA stands for high-efficiency particulate air. This type of filter traps a whopping 99.97 percent of fine particles and allergens that measure as small as 0.3 microns. Therefore, air purifiers with a HEPA filter are well-adept at eliminating airborne pet dander, pollen, and dust mites.
Activated carbon filters are charcoal-based media. These filters are designed to get rid of unpleasant smells caused by cigarette smoke, fireplaces, cooked food, and animals. They are also used to capture VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, that are emitted by remodeling materials, carpeting, and house paint.
As you know, asthma is a serious health condition. It’s all too easy for allergy-causing particles to find their way indoors. If you suffer from asthma or allergies, you can significantly reduce the particles that trigger related health symptoms with a HEPA air purifier since the majority of common allergens are at least 0.3 microns, which is what a HEPA filter is designed to capture.
Of course, air purifiers with additional filters are always your best bet, especially those with a pre-filter and an activated carbon filter. That way, all your bases are covered.
Every air purifier is different. The amount of maintenance yours will require partly depends on the number of filters it contains. Some air purifiers have disposable filters while others boast permanent filters. Still, there are air purifiers with some filters that are temporary and others that last forever with proper care.
Filters that are reusable usually need to be washed periodically, which means a quick rinse under cool tap water. However, you should always defer to the user manual that came with your air purifier, so you don’t accidentally destroy the filters. If your air purifier isn’t equipped with a filter-change indicator, simply mark the cleaning or change-out days on a calendar.
Like a vacuum cleaner or any other appliance, a dirty air purifier doesn’t function at its optimum efficiency. When a purifier has dirty filters, air cannot flow through them easily, and there is less surface space available for trapped allergens. If you continue to run an air purifier with dirty filters, the air quality in your home will quickly begin to degrade, which can lead to major consequences for those who have certain health problems.
It is easy and quick to clean an air purifier. Before you begin, make sure the power cord is not plugged into an electrical outlet. Then, wipe the exterior with a damp cloth. At this point, you can move on to filter maintenance by rinsing the reusable ones and replacing the disposable ones. Finally, put the filter cover back into place, and plug the power cord back into the outlet.
The sound produced by an air purifier comes from its fan. As with other sounds, the level of noise an air purifier makes is given in decibels. While decibels are a solid measurement, sound tolerance is subjective. Therefore, a noise that is disturbing to you may be tolerable to someone else.
The majority of high-quality air purifiers offer several fan speeds. While the highest fan speed is the most effective, you can always lower the speed a notch, so you can sleep, read or watch television in comfort.
You may have heard it called an ionizer, a negative ion generator or ionization machine. Regardless of the name, an ionizer is a technology that is often integrated into an air purifier although it can be a separate appliance. An ionizer releases negative ions, which attach themselves to any positive ion, including bacteria, dust, and pollen. By doing so, the allergens can no longer remain airborne.
Most ionizer-equipped air purifiers have a collection plate. This electrostatic plate collects the bonded particles, so they don’t just rest on the floor and furniture in the room. All you need to do to clean the plate is wipe it with a damp cloth and allow it to dry before turning on the air purifier.
Often found on high-end air purifiers, an ultraviolet-C light bulb sits on a low-frequency light spectrum. The light itself is germicidal. When paired with traditional air purifier filtration, this light is highly effective.
As dirty air passes through the filters and particles get trapped on the filters, the UV-C bulb shines a light on bacteria and viruses, basically killing them. If you have children, you can greatly reduce the number of sick days they take from school by putting a UV-C air purifier in their room.
One of the most popular features on an air purifier is a pollutant monitor. Using infrared technology, this monitor keeps track of the volume of airborne pollutants in the purifier’s vicinity. This monitor also controls the speed of the fan should you opt to run the air purifier in automatic mode. Depending on the current air quality, the monitor will change the fan speed to either reduce or maintain the contaminants in the air. Also, the monitor will tell you the health of the air with a color-coded light.
We don’t have to tell you how damaging second-hand cigarette smoke is on your health. To combat the odors and toxins emitted from the smoke of a lit cigarette, a HEPA filter and an activated carbon filter can help. If you opt for a purifier with just a HEPA filter, you won’t be able to get rid of the associated odors and VOCs of a cigarette.
Formaldehyde is most commonly associated with the embalming process. Surprisingly, this chemical is also found in pressed wood, cigarette smoke, household products and even plastic grocery bags. As long as your air purifier has a carbon filter, it can remove the VOC formaldehyde.
Over 200 viruses are responsible for what we call the common cold. Luckily, UV-C air purifiers can destroy viruses. When the UV-C light bulb comes into contact with a virus, the light alters its DNA, rendering it useless. The air purifier should also have a HEPA filter, which will keep the virus in place, so the light bulb can kill it.
The effects of mold can range from minor airway irritation to life-threatening illnesses. If mold reduction is your major goal, the ideal air purifier will have a HEPA filter and an activated carbon filter. For further protection against mold, the air purifier should also contain an ultraviolet-C light bulb.
Air changes per hour, or ACH, is a measurement commonly given by air purifier manufacturers in the product’s specs. ACH tells you how often the purifier circulates the air in the room every hour. For instance, a 5 ACH indicates that the air purifier filters the room’s air five times in 1 hour. If you suffer from a respiratory condition, you’ll need an air purifier with a high ACH of at least 6.
Micron is simply a shortened term for micrometer, and manufacturers used this term to indicate the particle sizes their air purifiers’ filters can trap. A 1-micron particle is actually one-millionth of 1 meter. Every particle varies in regard to size. For instance, a speck of dust may be 0.3 microns or smaller while a hair strand may be as large as 120 microns.
CADR is a term created by AHAM, or Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, in order to help consumers choose an efficient air purifier. An air purifier’s CADR, or clean air delivery rate, describes the amount of air that is filtered by an air purification machine. Purifiers with high CADR numbers are generally more efficient than those with lower numbers. You’ll notice that every air purifier has a CADR number for dust, another one for pollen and a third for cigarette smoke.
Cubic feet per minute, or CFM, is an important air purifier measurement. This measurement shows the volume of airflow in an air purifier on a per-minute basis. Like other air purifier measurements, the higher the CFM, the better. Since an air purifier’s CFM is measured in a controlled environment, its real-life CFM may be reduced, depending on the speed in which you run the fan, the number of objects in the room and how well the space is insulated.
Buying an air purifier is investing in better health. As such, you want to make sure your air purifier is working as it should. There are certain signs that indicate your air purifier is doing its job. In about 1 or 2 days, you should be able to breathe easier, and your allergy symptoms should subside. You may also notice less dust accumulation on surfaces. When you change the air purifier’s filters, they should look dirty – This means the filters are trapping pollutants.