Best Air Purifiers
Buying the best air purifier or air cleaner is a decision that involves careful consideration. Factors to consider include the air purifier features, such as the type of air filter or filters used.
Also extremely important is your context, such as room size and usage scenario. Do you need a quiet unit for a small or large room? Or a no-frills air cleaner to effectively filter dust, or maybe you’re looking for odor reduction for the kitchen or tobacco smoke, etc?
All of the above are important pieces of the puzzle to help us choose the best air purifiers. In addition, it’s also important to know the essential features to look out for when selecting an air cleaner before buying one or more (I personally use 3 at home and have extensively researched many brands and models).
We now have access to information from manufacturers, independent third-party testing and real world air purifier reviews by users; but it’s all over the World Wide Web. We’ve spent countless hours compiling all that information and organized it here to help you easily assess and choose the best air purifier for your situation.
And just in case you’re wondering, the terms air purifier and air cleaner do in fact refer to exactly the same thing!
Important Features in the Best Air Purifiers
Here are the main features to keep in mind when buying air purifiers:
True HEPA Filter
A high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter is the de-facto standard for all air filters. Beware of cheap models that use “HEPA type” or “HEPA-like” filters. Look for models with a true HEPA filter, which means they trap 99.7% of particles 0.3 microns in size. Animal dander ranges from 2.5 microns to 100 microns and human hair is 50-150 microns so a 0.3 micron HEPA filter effectively traps these. In fact a true HEPA filter also stops mold spores plus some bacteria and virsuses!
This is vital to know before you can start choosing the right air purifier. Before running out to buy (or order online, which is what I do a lot of these days!) any air cleaner, make sure you know the size of the rooms you intend to use the air purifiers in, then shortlist units with an appropriate room capacity that’s based on Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR).
Clean Air Delivery Rate is a measure of how much clean air an air purifier purifies per minute.
Two simple, easy to remember rules of thumb to use are 1 CADR to 1.5 square feet if running an air purifier at max speed and 1 CADR to 1 square foot if running at low or medium. So with a bit of simple Math, a unit with a CADR rating of 100 is good for a 100 to 150 square foot room. Pretty handy formula to keep in mind!
Choosing an air purifier with a capacity that is inadequate for the size of the room is one of the most common mistakes people make (usually in the interest of saving a few dollars). This results in the air purifier having to overwork by constantly running at maximum speed. This in turn generates high noise levels, consumes more power and can lead to shorter machine lifespan due to more wear and tear. What’s worse is that the air in the room is not properly filtered which defeats the whole point of buying the purifier in the first place!
It is much wiser to choose a unit with over capacity, that can comfortably clean the air in a room at medium and low settings. In other words, if your room is 300 square feet, I would recommend an air purifier with a CADR of 300 (1:1 ratio), or at least a minimum of 200 (1:1.5 ratio) or more.
The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers is an organization that independently tests home appliances to verify they perform according to manufacturer’s specifications. The good things about AHAM testing is that brands who volunteer to participate cannot send units of their choosing for testing. Instead, AHAM randomly selects products at any time and sends them to an independent lab for testing. This prevents manufacturers from pulling a Volkswagen on tests! It’s also worth noting that AHAM Verified products have room capacity ratings and CADR ratings for smoke, dust and pollen. You can look for the AHAM VERFIDE mark when selecting home appliances.
Operating Noise Level
This can be an important factor for people who are sensitive to noise, or if choosing an air purifier for use in a bedroom. Some people actually prefer to have a unit that generates some noise as white noise helps them to sleep more easily. Note that the operating noise level will vary depending on the speed setting selected. Of course you can always set to high for 20 minutes or so to filter the air initially, then switch to low to minimize the noise level and maintain filtration while sleeping or watching TV.
How to Choose A Suitable Air Purifier
How do you go about selecting a suitable air purifier?
We recommend the following checklist:
Start with your Objective:
- Is it mainly to remove particles such as dust and pollen? Then choose a unit with a True HEPA filter.
- Do you need other features such as a carbon filter to reduce odors?
- Is it for severe respiratory illness or infection control? Then consider a Hyper HEPA from IQAir.
- This can be determined by where the most time is spent. The bedroom is often the priority since it’s where most people spend 8 hours every night breathing in deeply while sleeping. It could also be the living or dining area if the goal is to filter air of cooking or tobacco smoke, if there is a smoker in the house.
- Bigger is better. A unit with a higher cleaning capacity, run on low speed, is usually more effective and quieter compared to running a smaller unit on a high speed. The product label shows the maximum capacity so it’s often wiser to measure your rooms in square feet, then choose a unit with a room capacity rating that’s 50% or 1.5 times higher than your room size. So for a 200 square foot room, you should ideally get an air purifier rated for a 300 square foot room capacity.
Best air purifier for very LARGE rooms and maximum air purification:
1. IQAir HealthPro Plus
If you're willing to pay for it, the IQAir HealthPro Plus is THE BEST air purifier by a long shot. No other consumer air purifier on the planet comes close to it.
The IQAir uses a Hyper HEPA to filter particles 100x smaller than a True HEPA. Hyper HEPA is the same filter used in clean rooms and hospitals as they filter down to 0.003 microns or 10x smaller than a virus!
This air purifier has the most powerful fan in any consumer purifier. Combined with its HypeHEPA, best-in-class sealed filter frame, and airtight housing design makes this the most effective, powerful and quiet air purifier that can clean large rooms up to 900 square feet!
If you have a large space, or suffer from severe allergies, susceptibility to infection or respiratory illnesses, then this is the air purifier you've been waiting for.
- HyperHEPA provides the most advanced particle protection in the world. It filters the smallest ultrafine particles including viruses, mold, pollen, dust and other allergens to deliver medical grade air. A True HEPA, which is the industry standard for air purifiers, filters 0.3 microns. This beast filters 0.003 microns. That's 100 times smaller than a standard HEPA, making the IQAir effective against airborne viruses which are 0.03 microns.
- The most effective pre-filter in the industry eliminates pollen, spores and pet dander.
- V5 filter provides superior gas and odor protection against VOC (volatile organic compounds).
- UltraSeal design ensures airtight seams so that all the air that is sucked in by the powerful fan gets filtered.
- The most powerful fan in any consumer air purifier pulls in 780 cubic feet of air per minute! And yet is astonishingly quiet.
- Cleans air in very large rooms up to 900 square feet.
- Sturdy castors and a handy guide handle make it convenient to roll this machine anywhere it's needed around the home.
- Rated by the German Consumer Foundation as the best air cleaner. And we all know the Germans have very high expectations when it comes to standards of product engineering and quality.
- Made in Switzerland. Not China.
- It's a pretty heavy machine that weighs 35 pounds and measures 16" x 15" x 28". But as mentioned, it's built with sturdy wheels and a guide handle for mobility around the house.
- High price - This is the most expensive air purifier. But you really get what you pay for, and in this case, it's the best.
Best Air Purifier with Form and Function:
2. Coway AP-1512HH Mighty
The Coway AP-1512HH Mighty is our pick for best air purifier for general home use. It does the job well, looks good and is available at a moderate price.
This is a 4 stage purifier with a pre-filter, odor filter, True HEPA filter and ozone friendly ionizer. It also features an air quality sensor and smart technology to automatically adjust operating speed according to the level air pollution detected. And it looks pretty good as far as air purifiers are concerned! Last time we checked it was selling for only $229.99 on Amazon.
The 4 stage filter features the following:
- Washable pre-filter mesh catches large particles hair, fur and dust to prolong HEPA filter life.
- Activated Carbon filter traps odors, harmful gases and smaller particles.
- True HEPA filter captures 99.97% of particles as small as 0.3 microns such as fine dust, pet dander, pollen, mold spores, bacteria and viruses.
- Ionizer further helps trap even finer particles. (But we would prefer to leave it off)
You can buy this air purifier with confidence, knowing that the Coway Mighty is AHAM VERIFIDE for air filtering performance and certified by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) for electrical safety and ozone emissions to the following specifications:
- Room Capacity: 361 square feet (Think standard hotel room size)
- CADR*: 250 for dust, pollen and tobacco smoke.
- Energy Star: Yes.
- Ozone Friendly: Yes.
- 4 stage filter
- Washable Pre-filter
- True HEPA
- Activated Charcoal filter removes odors
- AHAM Verifide
- Ozone friendly
- Ionizer - while some see that as a feature, we do not like ionizers. But you can choose to turn that on or off.
- Coway is a Korean brand (which isn't a bad thing for technology and appliances), but this product is made in China. However this shouldn't be a major issue since Korean and Japanese manufacturers essentially replicate entire factory systems lock, stock and barrel in their overseas locations to maintain quality control.
Best Value for mid-sized rooms (bedrooms, study, home-office):
3. Winix WAC5500 True HEPA Air Cleaner with PlasmaWave Technology (Best Value)
The Winix WAC5500 is an incredible value. It features an Odor Control Carbon Pre-filter, a Long Life True HEPA Filter, and Winix's PlasmaWave™ Technology that attacks pollutants; neutralizing viruses, bacteria, chemical vapors and odors at the molecular level - without producing harmful ozone unlike an ionizer. The 5500 model is a premium purifier that's currently selling on Amazon at under $200 since the release of the new 5500-2 model. We highly recommend snagging a couple before they're all gone!
This air cleanse has essentially the same features and performance as machines that cost more, such as the Coway AP-1512HH Mighty and the new Winix 5500-2:
- Long-life True HEPA filter.
- Carbon pre-filter to reduce odors.
- Smart sensor with Auto mode to adjust operating speed according to the level of particles in the air.
- PlasmaWave technology to ionize without ozone problems caused by traditional ionizers.
It's also AHAM CADR certified for 350 square feet room capacity (about the size of a typical hotel room), California Air Resources Board (CARB) certified, and Energy Star certified.
If you're a value-for-money type of person with no major respiratory issues that require an IQAir, or prioritize function over form, then the Winix 5500 is our #1 recommendation for best value air purifier.
- Good value-for-money
- High-end features at a bargain price
- AHAM and CARB certified
- Energy Star certified
- Last year's model
- Won't win any awards in the looks department!
Best Value Air Purifier for Large Rooms:
Honeywell HPA300 - True HEPA, Allergen Remover
Honeywell is the #1 brand recommended by allergists.
It is a brand synonymous with air purifiers and their models are no-frills workhorses that provide years of reliable service.
This Honeywell air purifier has a higher than average room capacity of 465 square feet that makes it suitable if you have a medium to large room such as a home office or large bedroom. There are fancier brands and models with more features for mid-large rooms, but the Honeywell HPA300 covers all the important bases at an unbeatable price. It's key features include:
- True HEPA filter removes 99.97% of particles as small as 0.3 microns.
- The activated carbon pre-filter helps reduce odors.
- Simple, user-friendly timer options.
All at a very reasonable price.
- Excellent value-for-money
- 465 square foot rated. Good for larger rooms.
- AHAM VERIFIDE
- Honeywell is the top recommended air purifier by allergists.
- Lacks an ionizer. But that's actually a good thing in our opinion. If this feature is important to you consider the Winix P450, which provides a similar room cleaning capacity with PlasmaWave technology that achieves the same effects without the potentially harmful ozone emissions of an ionizer.
Best Desktop Air Purifier:
Holmes Air Purifier HAP242-NUC
Are you looking for a compact air purifier that will fit on a table or shelf?
This Holmes Air Purifier is an easy choice as our top pick for best desktop air purifier. Why? Because most air purifiers for desktops are low cost models with inferior HEPA Type (not true HEPA) filters. However...
While this Holmes desktop air cleaner ships with a stock HEPA Type filter, which is inferior to a TRUE HEPA, it is easily upgradable. All you have to do is order either the Holmes Allergen Remover Air Filter or Holmes Performance Plus Air Filter, swap out the stock filter and you'll have a compact, True HEPA air purifier with a small footprint and small price tag! Even with the additional filter, the total price still comes up to only about $50!
No wonder that this Holmes model is the #1 selling and highest rated desktop air purifier with about 1500 customer reviews!