Nobody wants to breathe in dust, dander, pollen, and mold. Unfortunately, though, the air in our homes is loaded with these pollutants, thanks to poor ventilation systems and the use of household chemicals, gas-burning appliances, and smoke-producing tobacco products. The airborne irritants act as allergens and can cause many respiratory issues-especially in those who suffer from asthma and allergies. Air purifiers can help alleviate these negative health effects by removing contaminants from the air. Before you buy one, however, it's a good idea to consider the following factors to ensure that you're choosing the best air purifier for allergies and start your shopping with the five models that have them.
- BEST FOR BEDROOMS: Alen BreatheSmart FLEX Air Purifier
- BEST FOR SMALL SPACES: Coway AP-1512HH Mighty Air Purifier
- BEST FOR LARGE SPACES: Rabbit Air MinusA2 Ultra Quiet HEPA Air Purifier
- BEST WI-FI CONNECTED OPTION: Dyson Pure Cool Purifying Fan
- BEST BUDGET OPTION: Winix 5300-2 Air Purifier
The best air purifiers draw air through one or more filters, which trap the impurities before recirculating clean air back into the room. These machines work in a similar manner to masks worn by surgeons in the operating room: As the surgeons breathe, airborne particles become trapped on the inside surface of the mask, preventing germs from being transmitted from doctor to patient. Both the masks and air purifiers act as filters that allow air to pass through but blocks other damaging particles. Purifiers equipped with high-quality filters can better remove unwanted dust, animal dander, pollen, mold spores, and other pollutants from the air.
HEPA: The Best Filter for Allergy Sufferers
Air purifiers with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters are most effective at catching airborne irritants that plague allergy sufferers. These filters are certified to trap 99.97 percent of all particles of a certain length (0.3 microns or larger). Most pollutants are so microscopic that they can't be seen by the human eye, so investing in a reliable filter is crucial. The downside of HEPA filters is their replacement cost, which runs anywhere from $25 to $100 depending on size. Look for a purifier that incorporates additional filters to trap larger particles before they reach the HEPA filter, ultimately helping your HEPA filter last longer.
Additional Filtering Options
- Carbon filters can reduce the amount of some volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are gaseous particles often found in paint, varnish, cleaning products, carpeting, wood preservatives, and other common household items. These filters can also remove odors. But they, too, must be replaced every few months to maintain effectiveness. For best results, carbon filters should be included as part of the prefiltering system in units that also contain HEPA filters.
- Ozone-producing air cleaners claim to work by increasing oxygen molecules and activating negative ions to eliminate harmful airborne bacteria. The Environmental Protection Agency has determined, however, that ozone is detrimental to the human respiratory system. For that reason, some health experts discourage the use of ozone-producing air cleaners and their use is often regulated.
- Ion-exchange technology and electrostatic technology can increase the effectiveness of filter-type air purifiers by attracting particles through static electricity and trapping them. When combined with HEPA filtering, these products can be quite effective. They require frequent cleaning, however, to keep them working well. After conducting extensive tests on air purifiers, Consumer Reports warned that some ion-exchange and electrostatic purifiers can emit ozone as a by-product of purifying the air, so check the purifier's operating manual (or the information on the box) to ensure that your purchase does not emit ozone.
Air purifiers are tested and rated according to the Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) scale, which indicates the volume of air that a particular machine can clear of a given size of particle, as measured in cubic feet per minute. The higher the rating, the greater the efficiency:
- 25 to 450 removes pollen
- 10 to 450 removes tobacco smoke
- 10 to 400 removes dust
The purifier's box and the owner's manual should also indicate the machine's air-cleaning capacity according to room size, meaning that it's been tested and was effective in purifying the air in a room of a given area.
Keep in mind that dirty filters reduce an air purifier's effectiveness. To increase the useful life of any HEPA filter, take additional steps to keep the air clean, such as vacuuming and dusting daily, banning indoor smoking, and limiting the use of candles.
When shopping for a purifier, consider the filter replacement cost as well as the machine's initial price. An inexpensive unit that requires expensive replacement filters may not be a bargain. Air purifiers with HEPA filters range in price from around $100 for small units to upwards of $900 for high-capacity models with multiple filtering systems that treat large areas.
Other Bells and Whistles
First-time air purifier shoppers may be surprised at the technology incorporated in even the less expensive models. Multiple speed settings, programmable day and night cycles, sealed systems for noise reduction, and remote controls are common features for many brands. Despite the manufacturer's claims, however, not all air purifiers perform at the same level, so weigh consumer reviews carefully.
1. BEST FOR BEDROOMS: Alen BreatheSmart FLEX Air Purifier ($182.24)
For quiet relief overnight, this air purifier's WhisperMax technology dampers operational noises to a soft hum that won't keep you awake. Alen, the manufacturer of BreatheSmart, does not perform CADR testing but emphasizes the unit's high capacity HEPA-Pure filter, designed to trap airborne particles as small as 0.3 microns. The 4.6-star purifier treats rooms up to 700 sq. ft. and offers four speeds, including its sleep mode. The BreatheSmart also looks smart, in 14 designer colors and a sleek design to blend with any décor. Purchase replacement filters (also available on Amazon) separately and change out once every six to nine months. Available from Amazon.
2. BEST FOR SMALL SPACES: Coway AP-1512HH Mighty Air Purifier ($136.85)
Thanks to its high performance, sleek appearance, and affordable filter replacement cost, the Coway AP-1512HH Mighty Air Purifier gets a big thumbs-up from consumers, who rate it 4.4 stars. Users report that the compact purifier's four-stage filtration system successfully removes unpleasant household odors in addition to the smoke, dust, and pollen that its CADR ratings suggest (233, 246, and 240, respectfully). This rating holds in spaces up to 360 square feet, which means that this machine is best suited for small- to medium-sized rooms. Its filter replacement kit (available on Amazon) includes two carbon prefilters that should last six months apiece and a single HEPA filter that should last a year. Available on Amazon.
3. BEST FOR LARGE SPACES: Rabbit Air MinusA2 Ultra Quiet HEPA Air Purifier ($549.95)
Entertaining at home is nothing to sneeze at, so ensure easy breathing in a large great room or family room by purifying up to 700 feet of living space with the Rabbit Air MinusA2 Ultra Quiet HEPA Air Purifier. Its combination of a high-efficiency BioGS HEPA filter, two pre-filters, and an activated carbon filter makes for impressive CADR numbers: 200 for pollen, 193 for dust, and 180 for smoke. The 4.7-star air purifier also features five daytime operating speeds, an additional sleep mode, and remote control operation. Thanks to its long-lasting filters, you only need to order the filter replacement kit (also available on Amazon) once per year. Available from Amazon.
4. BEST WI-FI CONNECTED OPTION: Dyson Pure Cool Purifying Fan ($539)
In addition to its sleek attractive look, the Dyson Pure Cool Link Wi-Fi Air Purifier pulls double duty: Use it to remove allergens from the air all year round as well as cool off rooms with a breeze on warm days. It treats up to 400 sq. ft. with 10 speed settings and a nighttime sleep mode. Remote operation is available via a Wi-Fi connection. After downloading the Dyson mobile app, you can turn the air purifier on and off from your smartphone, program an operational schedule, and view real-time air quality reports. Dyson does not provide CADR numbers for its air purifier, but because it features a True-HEPA filter, we know it is capable of removing up to 99.97% of airborne allergens as small as 0.3 microns. Replacement filters (also available on Amazon in a two-pack) should be used six to eight months. Available from Amazon.
5. BEST BUDGET OPTION: Winix 5300-2 Air Purifier ($128.71)
While it's the least expensive of our picks, this 4.6-star air purifier offers some great features, including a True-HEPA filter and competitive CADR numbers of at 243 for dust, 246 for pollen, and 232 for smoke in areas up to 360 sq. ft. In addition, its Winix PlasmaWave technology effectively filters out disagreeable odors, chemical vapors, and other pollutants. The unit's Smart Sensor reads the air and automatically adjusts the purifier fan up or down as needed. Replacement filters (available to purchase on Amazon) also cost a fraction of some of the competition, and the recommended replacement rate is once every three months. Available from Amazon.