Best Air Purifiers of 2019
An air purifier cleans your air, reducing your exposure to allergens and other environmental impurities. Our shopping guide is here to help you find the best air purifier for your family.
Let's Clear the Air: Your Guide to the Best Air Purifiers
Clean air. We all want clean air, despite the fact that most of the time, there's not much we can do to control the air quality outside.
Thanks to modern technology, however, there is a way to keep our inside air fresh and healthy: the air purifier. An air purifier can help keep allergy-inducing pet dander at bay. For asthma sufferers, an air purifier can make the difference between reaching for a rescue inhaler and calm, peaceful breathing. And who can underestimate the value of a good night's sleep in a room filled with clean, fresh air?
Home air purifiers are the little brothers of the large, industrial-size air purifiers you will find at most hospitals and industrial workspaces. In a sense, they're an evolutionary extension of the air masks worn by firefighters that enable them to enter smoke-filled buildings. Generally, around two feet tall and made of metal or plastic, most air purifiers are built to blend in with home scenery and accomplish their task with as little noise as possible.
How to Use This Shopping Guide
At BestReviews, we conduct exhaustive research on the the products we review. To make sure we stay on top of consumer needs, we're constantly surveying product owners to understand their needs and gain their feedback. It is our policy to never accept sample products from manufacturers, as this could cloud our vision. Our goal is to remain unbiased and honest in all of our product recommendations and shopping guides.
If you're ready to buy an air purifier, we invite you to examine the above matrix where three of our top air purifier picks are explored in more detail. To enhance your knowledge of air purifiers, read on and learn more in our shopping guide.
The Benefits of Owning an Air Purifier
You already know that an air purifier can help clean your air, reducing your exposure to allergens and other environmental impurities and helping you breathe easier. But that's not all an air purifier can do.
A side benefit rarely listed on any manufacturer's site is the low, steady, white noise that most air purifiers emit. For many owners, this white noise can be a soothing, noise-canceling hum that helps them relax and fall asleep. But there are even more reasons to consider an air purifier.
● If you have a newborn in the house and want to limit the child's exposure to harmful chemicals or pollutants, an air purifier can bring you peace of mind.
● If you live near a major industrial area or region prone to forest fires, an air purifier provides an extra layer of protection against airborne elements that may be lurking in your environment.
● If you're moving into a new home where residue from construction may exist, an air purifier can help shield you from the effects of the residue.
● If you're an artist and want to reduce paint or other chemical odors, an air purifier can help.
● If you're a pet owner and would like to reduce pet-related odors in your home, an air purifier can address this issue.
Types of Air Purifiers: Filter-Based Purifiers
Your goal is undoubtedly to remove allergens and pollutants from the air you breathe, but which type of air purifier should you choose? Below, we'll examine the pros and cons of filter-based air purifiers, electrostatic air purifiers, and ozone generators.
Filter-Based Air Purifiers
A filter-based air purifier traps pollutants and other airborne elements that pass through its sieve. The finer the sieve, the better the air purifier will be at trapping particles.
One of the most popular filter-based air purifiers is the HEPA air purifier. HEPA air purifiers remove 99.7 percent of impurities from the air that are larger than 0.3 microns. Many consumers buy HEPA-based air purifiers for their proven ability to remove pet dander, dust, smoke, pollen, and other pollutants from the air.
Some HEPA air purifiers also feature a medical-grade, ultraviolet (UV) light system that eliminates bacteria, fungus, and viruses as they enter the air purifier. This system safeguards the integrity of the HEPA filter by killing dangerous germs before they reach the air filter.
Other Types of Air Purifiers
Electrostatic Air Purifiers
Electrostatic air purifiers, also known as electrostatic precipitators, filter the air in a slightly different manner than traditional filter-based air purifiers do. As particles pass through an electrostatic air purifier, they become negatively charged through the process of ionization. The charged particles are then drawn toward and trapped by a series of collection plates, where they stick like glue until they're manually removed.
The collection plates in an electrostatic air purifier must be cleaned frequently to maintain effectiveness. And cleaning the plates requires some elbow grease, as the particulates tend to become tightly packed on the plates. If you're not interested in cleaning your air purifier's plates on a weekly (or even daily) basis, you may wish to consider a different type of air purifier.
Furthermore, electrostatic air purifiers may produce ozone, a harmful gas that can irritate the lungs and trigger asthma in some people. In many cases, the amount of ozone produced is negligible, but some would argue that any amount of ozone is too much.
An ozone generator is a controversial type of air purifier that creates high-voltage currents that subsequently convert oxygen to ozone. The ozone breaks down various pollutants in the air. Critics believe that ozone generators are not as effective at removing some types of allergens as other air purifiers are.
Furthermore, some experts suggest ozone-emitting air purifiers pose a risk to human health. Unlike ozone, which is created naturally and acts as a protectant from dangerous UV rays, artificial ozone can damage lungs and even exacerbate allergies and asthma.
The Case for HEPA Air Purifiers
Air purifiers can be used to combat everything from allergies to noxious odors. If your mission is to combat allergens such as mold spores and dust mites, a HEPA air purifier is your best choice.
HEPA air purifiers that diminish allergens may also have special odor-blocking features that help remove the residual effects of smoke from your air. If you're looking for an air purifier that can offset smoke or other odors, look for one that is designed to fight odors as well as allergens.
Gauging an Air Purifier's Effectiveness
Similar to Energy Star ratings that measure the efficiency of home appliances, air purifiers carry their own efficiency rating scale. According to the EPA, an air purifier must have an efficiency rating between 5 and 13 to reasonably be able to provide you with clean air. Any rating lower than that won't be of much benefit.
If you want to know exactly how effective a particular air purifier would be, look at the specs for its MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value) number.
● MERV Rating of 5 to 13: Air purifier filters with MERV figures between 5 and 13 are reasonably efficient at removing small to large airborne particles.
● MERV Rating of 7 to 16: Air purifier filters with MERV figures in this range come close to attaining true HEPA efficiency.
● MERV Rating of 17 to 20: True HEPA filters have MERV values that generally range from 17 to 20.
Choosing the Right Air Purifier Size
Common sense dictates that a small air purifier designed for a studio apartment would not adequately serve people in a large, four-bedroom house. Luckily, manufacturers include "suggested room size" (in square feet) information right on the packaging or in the online description of their products.
When you read these specs, you should also look at an air purifier's "air change per hour" (ACH) rate. ACH reflects the number of times the unit will filter the entire volume of air in your space per hour. An ACH of four or higher is generally the accepted threshold for allergy and asthma sufferers.
Changing Your Air Purifier's Filter
The most important part of air purifier maintenance is changing its filter. Many units have an indicator light that signals when it's time to change the filter. You can also refer to the manufacturer's suggested timetable to know when it's time to change the air purifier filter.
If your air purifier uses multiple filters—one for pre-filtering and one for primary filtering, for example—they may need to be changed at different intervals.
Conveniently, air purifiers that use heat or ultraviolet light never need air filter replacements.
How Much Does an Air Purifier Cost?
For less than $100, you can find many air purifiers that feature true HEPA filters, UV-C sanitizers, and odor-reduction capabilities. Air purifiers in this price range tend to be tower models that stand approximately two feet tall.
Established air purifier manufacturers like Honeywell dominate this higher price range. When you buy an air purifier from a respected brand name, you can expect to get features such as filter-change reminder, pre-filtering, and an ACH rating of five. (An air purifier with an ACH rating of five will clean the air in a 465-square-foot room five times an hour.)
If your goal is to purify the air in a 1,100-square-foot room, expect to pay significantly more than $100. For those with severe allergies or asthma, a high-end air purifier that costs upwards of $700 would probably be the most effective solution.
Air Purifier FAQ
Q. How long should I leave my air purifier on?
A. You can run your air purifier as long as you like; air purifiers are built to stay on for extended periods of time. Most people run them continuously to maximize air quality.
Q. How much does it cost to run my air purifier?
A. The answer to that question varies from product to product, but we estimate that the average air purifier costs a bit more than $35 per year in electricity if you were to run it 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The price of air filter replacements could drive up that cost, however.
Q. Where in the room should I place my air purifier?
A. For maximum coverage, keep your air purifier at least one foot away from walls and furniture. And never direct the purified air at a wall or furniture, as this would impede airflow in the room.