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Air Purifier Shopping Guide
Pollen is a horror story villain for people with allergies — it sneakily waits in the bushes, waiting at any gust of wind to strike. While pollen is not as gory as Freddy Krueger, the toll it takes on Kleenex boxes is just as gruesome. In your own home, you can help limit the effects of allergens by not only vacuuming and dusting, but by also adding an air purifier to the mix.
When you’re sensitive to the smallest particles floating around in the air, it’s important to know how your air purifier will address even the smallest spores. How do you know which filters will attack the smallest particles? How do you even measure a particle? We’re here to help nail down some of the features you should look out for in an air purifier, as well as the different types of filters that can work for different cases.
What are the Different Types of Air Purifiers?
Air purifiers operate in different ways to clear the air of pollutants, each using a unique technique to draw particulates out of the space where you breathe. As you shop for an air purifier, you’ll see these types listed: HEPA filters, ionizers, electrostatic, activated carbon, and air sanitizers. Each filter uses their own strategy to trap and eliminate particulates.
These are the most basic of air filters, and the one you’ll see most commonly used. HEPA filters work by filtering air through the machine, trapping the pieces that are too big to move past the unit. True HEPA filters are certified to trap 99.97% of particles that are .3 microns or larger. To give you a point of reference, mold spores range from 3-100 microns, and even the smallest spore only gets down to 1 micron.
Being the simplest form of filtration, HEPA filters are also one of the most reliable. Paired with activated carbon filters, HEPA filters are known to catch a huge array of particulates that you’ll commonly have in your home. On the downside, you do have to maintain the filter and ensure that the filter remains clean, replacing it at least once a year, and possibly more if there is a more concentrated amount of particulates in the air.
Ionic air purifiers are appealing for their lack of filters and low maintenance, however, it has been noted that these air purifiers create ozone, another pollutant that can cause irritation in the lungs, especially for people with asthma or other sensitivities. While air purifiers are tested to meet ozone requirements, the cost-benefit analysis simply doesn’t make us want to swing towards ionizers for our air purifier needs.
They have a very similar approach to the ionizer air purifiers, however they trap the “charged particles” inside the machine. The plate where these pollutants are stored need to be cleaned to work properly. Again, we don’t recommend this type of purifier, especially knowing that any amount of ozone could be transmitted into the air. However, ionizers have been known to knock out tough tobacco odors from the air, being a beneficial force in airing out a home with heavy smokers.
Carbon filters are generally used in conjunction with your HEPA filters because the porous carbon can trap small, gaseous compounds, volatile organic compounds (VOC), odors, and more. Its properties make it an efficient candidate for taking on odors, and when added to a HEPA filter, they become a ferocious pairing in terms of air filtration. The downside of a carbon filter is their replacement period — they will only last 3 to 6 months before they stop working as efficiently as they should.
These sterilize the air by using heat or UV light to eliminate viruses, bacteria, and spores. This is another strategy that you can add on to your air purifier, making your air purification system that much stronger when it comes to the different types of particulates that you have floating around in your room.
Determining the Power of your Air Purifier
You might need an air purifier just for a small bathroom, or you might be looking to purify the air of your entire home. Both of these sizes differ when it comes to coverage needed from your purifier. While shopping for an air purifier, you’ll notice that each model indicates just how much square footage it will cover. Think about the space where you’ll be using the air purifier, and then choose a unit that covers that amount or more.
A small room is usually around 200-300 square feet, and air purifiers for this coverage generally start around $200. Master bedrooms to living rooms can be considered 400-800 square feet, obviously dependent on the layout of your home. To cover an area like this, you can expect a price tag on an air purifier to start from $350. Then, as you enter into the larger square footage, maybe an open space plan or a studio apartment, you should look for a unit that covers more than 800 square feet. For these, you should budget for well over $400 for a purifier that is effective and functions properly. Once you budget for the initial cost of the unit, you need to keep in mind the cost of filter changes at least once a year and electricity costs.
For home use, it matters what kind of noise level your appliances are going to be emitting. You don’t want your air purifier to sound like a car engine in your living room. Each purifier specifies the noise level emitted when fully functioning, so when comparing units side-by-side, consider this while shopping. If you’re putting an air purifier in a nursery, you want it to be as quiet as possible. It might not matter as much in bathrooms or garages.
Do Air Purifiers Focus on Different Allergens?
As you’ve seen with the different constructions of air purifiers, each approach to cleaner air specializes in removing certain pollutants. For someone living with different pets, you might be looking for a unit that can clear the air from dander. If you’re living with asthma, you want to ensure you’re staying away from ionizers. Have some beautiful birch trees outside? Prepare yourself for some high-pollen days and get a purifier that can easily tackle tree pollen.
You can take a look at the build of each air purifier to determine how well the machine will filter out your specific concerns. For example, pollen, dust mites, mold and more can be removed with a HEPA filter, whereas germs and bacteria might be better-taken care of with an air sanitizer. Have some paint thinner laying around? Activated charcoal is known for its capability of removing chemical emissions.
Trusting our Top Pick
Navigating the many choices for every consumer purchase can be challenging. Our team spends hours doing research, combing through forums, and reading consumer reviews on even the most basic of household items, and we summarize that information in clear, precise comparisons.
Join the millions that have trusted BuyersGuide.org to help them make smarter buying decisions. We help our readers spend their money wisely and find the right product to suit their specific needs. Our independent expert reviews and data-driven shopping recommendations empower you to find the air purifier that's right for you.
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