Best Air Purifiers
Published on By Maralyn Edid
GermGuardian AC4100 Review
From $55 Best
Best Personal Air Purifier
- Sleek, modern design that sits flat or stands upright.
- Tiny footprint and incredibly light weight (only about 5 pounds).
- HEPA filter and charcoal and PCO pre-filter are attached for easier removal and cleaning; indicator light reminds users to change the filter.
- Optional UV-C light targets germs, bacteria, viruses, and mold.
- 3 fan speeds to allow for less noise or faster cleaning.
- Scattered comments about weak performance and not-so-quiet operation.
- Some reviewers say it's too hard to tell whether the UV-C light is on or off, although others appreciate that it's unobtrusive.
- Short 1-year warranty.
Takeaway: Designed for areas under 100 square feet, the compact GermGuardian AC4100 3-in-1 air purifier impresses users with its overall effectiveness and multiple levels of cleaning power. Reviews point to a reduction in allergy and asthma symptoms when used in a bedroom, less dust in a closet that was full of it, and protection against germs floating around an office. Some find the fan a noisy distraction, but others shrug it off as background music -- a fitting description for a unit looks more like a stylish little speaker than an air cleaner.
GermGuardian AC4825 Review
From $80 Best
Best Air Purifier for Small/Midsize Rooms
- Covers up to 155 square feet, more than a typical small-room air purifier.
- Slim tower profile with a small footprint and recessed handle for portability.
- Multi-level filtration: pre-filter with activated carbon layer and true HEPA filter; filter-change indicator light.
- Optional UV-C light zaps viruses and bacteria.
- 3 fan speeds.
- Energy Star certified.
- 3-year warranty.
- Some reports of limited lifespan, chemical odor, and electrical malfunctions.
- Some users complain that the blue UV-C light is too bright and interferes with sleep.
Takeaway: Priced comfortably below $100, the GermGuardian AC4825 easily claims its perch as the company's most popular model. Users with allergies say this air cleaner makes it possible to keep pets. Others commend its stand against cooking odors, mildew, and dust, and praise it for making nighttime breathing much easier. While some are dubious of the UV-C functionality, others swear by it, claiming it's saved them from catching many a viral bug. A few also grouse about the fan noise and minor snafus. But with an average of 4.3 stars from nearly 8,000 user reviews on Amazon, support for this model's value price and overall performance drowns out the critics.
Winix 5300-2 Review
From $151 Best
Best Air Purifier for Large Rooms
- Exceptionally strong performer, according to experts and users, especially in reducing particulate levels and pet odors.
- Multi-level filtration: carbon filter, true HEPA filter, and optional "PlasmaWave" stage; filter replacement indicator.
- Electronic controls and digital display with auto dim for nighttime use and multi-setting timer (1, 4, and 8 hours).
- Smart sensors adjust the fan speed to the current conditions, including odors and volatile organic compounds; light on the control panel changes color according to air quality.
- 4 fan speeds, including a sleep mode; can be manually controlled.
- Runs very quietly; manufacturer claims 27.8 dB on the lowest setting.
- Energy Star certified.
- 2-year warranty.
- Scattered complaints about limited effectiveness and durability.
- Some disappointment with this updated model compared with the original.
Takeaway: Designed for large rooms up to 390 square feet, the Winix 5300-2 gets lots of love from users. Their reviews tell of eyes that have stopped watering, cooking smells that disappear, and lungs that no longer feel irritated. They say the difference in air quality is immediate and palpable and the amount of gunk that shows up on filters is horrifying. Reviews also laud the rich feature set, which comes at a very reasonable price. To be sure, there are some skeptics who argue that the performance of this updated model is not up to par, but the voices of the majority sing its praises.
Coway AP-1512HH Review
From $207 Best
Another Top-Rated Air Purifier for Midsize/Large Rooms
- Praised by users and experts for its cube-like design, quiet operation, and responsiveness to irritants.
- Multi-level filtration: washable pre-filter, carbon filter, true HEPA filter, and optional ionizer.
- 3 fan speeds; auto mode adjusts the speed to the current conditions and eco mode stops the fan when no pollution is detected.
- Timer with 1-, 4-, and 8-hour settings.
- Air-quality and filter-change indicators.
- 3-year warranty.
- Some users are wary of the ionizer function, even when switched off, given health concerns raised by experts.
- Scattered reports of limited longevity, odd noises and odors, and negligible effectiveness.
Takeaway: A darling of expert testing sites, the Coway AP-1512HH scores for high-level performance, cost efficiency, portability, and overall value. User reviews tend to concur, crediting this air purifier with reducing headaches, runny noses, scratchy eyes, and asthma symptoms; clearing cooking odors and smoke from forest fires; and even helping pets suffering from allergies. A relative newcomer, the Coway "Mighty" has impressive cleaning ability for its compact size -- it can clear rooms up to 326 square feet -- and has already attracted a following.
Holmes HAP242-NUC-1 Review
From $37 Good
Good Air Purifier for a Small Room
- Very compact, desktop footprint; can be set flat or upright.
- Multi-level filtration: proprietary filter with extra odor-absorbing capacity (carbon, baking soda, and zeolite) as well as a HEPA-type filter.
- Users can upgrade to a variety of specialized Aer1 filters for more concentrated or customized cleaning.
- 3 fan speeds.
- 3-year warranty.
- Some users object to the ionizer feature, despite the option to turn it off.
- Scattered claims about ineffective performance, assorted malfunctions, chemical odors, and unacceptably loud noise.
Takeaway: Holmes air purifiers have long earned praise for their excellent value, quickly clearing air of litter box and food odors, hairstyling and garage fumes, particles drifting out of air ducts, pollen, smoke, and more. The desktop Holmes HAP242-NUC-1 is no exception. It's intended for small rooms up to 109 square feet, and scores of users tell of placing it in bathrooms, bedrooms, and kitchens to great effect. It's also said to be a good air purifier for the office. The HEPA-type filter traps fewer pollutants than a "true" HEPA filter (99 percent of particles as small as 2 microns vs. 99.97 percent of particles as small as 0.3 microns), but users don't seem to notice the difference. Those wishing for greater cleaning power can easily switch to a higher-grade filter, which also needs replacing less frequently.
Hamilton Beach True Air 04386 Review
From $48 Good
Good Air Purifier With Permanent Filter
- Permanent HEPA-grade filter can be cleaned with a vacuum; no need to buy replacements.
- Tabletop size; can be positioned vertically or horizontally.
- Good for trapping allergens.
- 3 fan speeds to adjust for lower noise or faster performance.
- Runs very quietly, according to many reviews.
- Only 1 level of filtration; no carbon filter to catch irritants from chemicals or grease.
- Some users wish it had a "true" HEPA filter capable of trapping 99.97 percent of airborne irritants as small as 0.3 microns, instead of 99 percent of particles as small as 3 microns.
- Scattered complaints about ineffective performance.
- Short 1-year warranty.
Takeaway: A hefty majority of reviewers cheer the Hamilton Beach True Air 04386 for keeping the air breathable in homes with pets and residents with limited tolerance for pollen, mold spores, and dust mites. Some consider this the best air cleaner they've ever used, and many report that it rids the air of particulates almost noiselessly when set on low. Compact enough to move around the house or take on vacation, it can clear rooms up to 160 square feet. Most reviewers appreciate the easy-clean, money-saving design, with the permanent HEPA-grade filter, although a few feel cheated that it falls a tad short of the "true" HEPA standard.
Whirlpool Whispure WP500 Review
From $240 Good
Good Air Purifier for Large Rooms
- Makes a noticeable difference in air quality almost immediately, reviewers say.
- Air is refreshed 4.8 times an hour in rooms up to a very spacious 490 square feet.
- HEPA filter and active carbon pre-filter for multi-level cleaning.
- Indicator light to signal when the filters need replacing.
- Electronic controls, including a timer and 8-hour sleep mode.
- 4 fan speeds; "turbo" setting.
- Engineered to run quietly; Whispure models are known for hitting less than 50 dB on max speed.
- Energy Star certified.
- 5-year warranty on the motor and 30-day money-back guarantee that it will prove quieter than comparable models.
- Only a handful of consumer reviews for this particular model; we relied on reviews of a previous version in making this pick.
- Some disappointment with the build quality of that predecessor, and the 1-year standard warranty is short.
Takeaway: A previous model, the Whirlpool AP51030K, earned plaudits from users and experts alike for its features and performance. It scored points with testing sites for removing common irritants like dust, pollen, and smoke at both high and low speeds, as well as quiet operation. The new Whispure WP500P is said to be quieter still and is Energy Star certified. Based on the few available user reviews, we expect that it will at least meet the standards set by the older model, including removal of 99.97 percent of particulates as small as 0.3 microns, thanks to the HEPA filter.
Holmes HAP424-U Review
From $57 Think Twice
- Does an adequate job on dust, pet hair, low-level allergens, and other airborne particulates, some reviews say.
- Covers a fairly large area (up to 180 square feet) for the price.
- Washable pre-filter treated with baking soda, HEPA-type filter for multi-level cleaning, and optional ionizer; can also use a "true" HEPA filter or any proprietary Holmes filter.
- 3 speeds.
- Filter-change indicator light.
- 3-year warranty.
- Large compared with many newer, tower-style models.
- Numerous reports concerning strange noises, burning smells, and product failure straight out of the box or within days or weeks of purchase.
- Runs very loudly and can get louder over time, according to users; one review on Amazon refers to it as "the old jalopy."
- Although the ionizer can be turned off, it remains a controversial feature.
Takeaway: Unlike some of the competition, the Holmes HAP424-U HEPA-Type Tower seems to polarize reviewers. More than one-third of consumers reviewing this model on Amazon are critical, while the rest of the reviews on Amazon and other retail sites give it a fairly enthusiastic thumbs-up. Despite that support, a large number of complaints cite total product failure soon after purchase. For consumers who want a no-frills, small-room air purifier, there are products in the same price range that aren't quite so hit or miss.
Choosing an Air Purifier
Government data show that Americans spend nearly 90 percent of their time indoors, where the air quality is generally far worse than outside. A portable air purifier can make a dramatic difference for those plagued by asthma and allergies, pet dander and odors, fumes from tobacco smoke, or other irritants. Cheapism.com put budget air purifiers through the filter of expert and consumer reviews to identify the best small-room air purifiers under $100 and the best models for large spaces costing less than $250. All our top picks handily help rid the air of contaminants on the cheap, making the atmosphere in your home feel fresher and more breathable.
Do Air Purifiers Really Work?Medical experts warn that not even the very best air purifier can make any health claims, and the EPA bluntly advises that air cleaners be only part of an air treatment plan that includes controlling the source of pollutants and improving ventilation. Still, reviewers generally agree that high-performing air purifiers are worth the investment. Many consumers with allergies, respiratory problems, sensitivity to odors, and pets report an air purifier offers welcome relief in the form of improved comfort and health.
Pricey vs. Cheap Air PurifiersThe market for air purifiers is growing, with new brands and technologies emerging at a steady clip. High-end names such as IQAir, Blueair, Austin, and Alen sit well outside the budget zone with air cleaners that often start at $500 or so. In general, pricey air purifiers do a better job scrubbing the air and pushing it back out, run more quietly and efficiently, and feature more advanced filter systems than cheaper models. Some hit medical-grade air-quality standards. They often boast conveniences such as remote and smart controls and come with longer warranties.
Still, the inexpensive air purifiers highlighted on our list can hold their own. Bearing the labels of trusted household appliance brands such as Whirlpool and Hamilton Beach, along with specialty brands like Holmes, Winix, and GermGuardian, they may be short on bells and whistles, but they win endorsements from users and experts for effective and reliable performance at a value price.
Air Purifier TypesThe first step in choosing an air purifier is to identify the air quality issue(s) you want to address, such as dust, pollen, chemical vapors, and so on. Some cheap air purifiers focus more on particulates than on odors or gases, and vice versa. The Environmental Protection Agency dedicates an entire section of its website to the topic of indoor air quality and the performance characteristics of different types of air cleaners.
Models that clean the air with a physical filter are the most common and arguably the most effective, especially when outfitted with a high efficiency particulate air filter. In this setup, air is pulled in by a fan and passes through a filter that traps airborne irritants. The cleaned air is circulated back into the room. HEPA filters come in several grades, or classifications, with a "true" HEPA filter capable of trapping 99.97 percent of airborne particles -- think dust, pollen, mold spores, pet dander -- as small as 0.3 microns (the average human hair is 50 microns across).
Several of our top picks boast a true HEPA filter, and anyone who suffers from severe allergies or asthma should opt for an air cleaner with the highest-grade HEPA filter. Others on our list use "HEPA-grade" filters that capture 99 percent of invisible airborne particles. Reviewers hold that some of these models are absolutely viable choices for mild or seasonal allergies.
The best air purifiers rely on multi-level filtration. Typically this involves a pre-filter that traps larger particles, like pet hair and dander, and an activated carbon filter that helps absorb odors, smoke, and volatile organic compounds emitted by draperies, carpeting, upholstery, household cleaning agents, paints, varnishes, waxes, and certain building materials, among other substances. In some models, the pre-filter and carbon filter form one unit; in others they are separate.
The number of times air flows through the filter each hour is referred to as "air changes per hour, or ACH. Many experts recommend a minimum of four, although this specification is not often reported by the manufacturer.
UV Air PurifiersSome models, including several of our picks, also incorporate an ultraviolet light (UV-C) that's meant to destroy bacterial microorganisms as the final level of filtration. Experts note, however, that the amount of time required to do the deed is longer than the amount of time the particles are exposed to the light, thus minimizing the technology's effectiveness. Reviewers who keep an air purifier in their bedrooms often gripe that the light on some of these models is too bright for nighttime use. It can be switched on or off at the user's discretion.
Ozone Air PurifiersThe most controversial air purifiers intentionally convert air molecules into ozone to tackle odors. The EPA warns that ozone can damage the lungs and, at the very least, exacerbate respiratory problems. Consequently, many experts recommend against ozone-generating air purifiers.
Ionic Air PurifiersIonic air purifiers also produce small amounts of ozone, but supposedly at levels that do not exceed current safety standards. Instead of using a filter, ionic air purifiers catch contaminants on electrically charged plates/blades or cells. They send out negatively charged ions that attach to airborne particulates, which are then pulled down out of the air and lured back to a positively charged collector plate. Reports dating back to at least 2003 have questioned the efficacy of air ionizers. And yet, these types of purifiers remain popular with some consumers, at least in part because they have no fan, so they're nearly silent. But the absence of a fan also means the machine catches only contaminants that happen to drift within close range. Experts note that often the particles on the charged plates can loosen and be recirculated, and some wind up settling on other surfaces.
Our inclination is to avoid models outfitted with ionic technology unless they include other means of removing airborne irritants and offer the option of shutting it off. Several of our picks include an ionizer as an optional step in the air cleaning process.
The Winix line of air cleaners uses a proprietary PlasmaWave as the final stage in the filtering process. This technology emits both positively and negatively charged ions to combine with water vapors in the air to create oxidizers that neutralize germs, odors, vapors, and gases without emitting any ozone. Also, the charge on these plasma ions is weaker, so they dissipate more quickly, leaving less potentially harmful particles floating about in the air. The PlasmaWave function can be turned on or off.
Large vs. Small Room Air PurifiersThe next step in choosing an air cleaner is determining where you will place it, as the room's square footage affects both size and price. Small-room models intended for less than 200 square feet are always cheaper than large-room air purifiers meant for 350 square feet and up, regardless of features or performance. But a model that's too small for the space won't filter and recirculate the air into the room often enough. Many rooms straddle the line between small and large, so err on the large side when deciding on the best model for your space.
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Features Comparison Buying Guide continues below table
Air Purifier Reviews: What We Considered
Determining which air purifier is best for your needs, especially at the lower end of the price spectrum, can be frustrating. To identify the best budget air purifiers, we turned to comments posted by users on retailer sites including Amazon, Best Buy, Home Depot, Walmart, Target, Staples, as well as manufacturers' websites. For expert advice we looked to sources including Consumer Reports, TopTenReviews, Reviews.com, Wirecutter, TechGearLab, and TechHive, which conduct testing. We also sought online advice from long-standing industry professionals on sites such as AllergyandAir.com and AchooAllergy.com.
As with many consumer products, reviewers often stake out opposing opinions: The positive experiences of many are offset by the negative experiences of others. Most users report good results with the models on our list, writing that they leave the air feeling and smelling clean and fresh, even in the presence of multiple pets. Still, each gets dinged by some reviewers as a total waste of money. Other common complaints include excessive noise from the fan, the cost of replacement filters, and the demands of maintenance (the filters need frequent cleaning).
Pollutant RemovalJudging the performance of an air purifier starts with the simple question of whether or not it cleans the air. Reviews of our top picks say they handily vanquish the usual airborne irritants and also seem to have good staying power. Users report noticeable differences in dust levels and credit their air purifiers with mitigating sneezing, coughing, and wheezing in humans and animals alike. Our favorite air cleaners also are lauded for reducing pet and cooking odors, alleviating the smoke and smell from cigarettes and cigars, ingesting the floating detritus of construction projects, and for clearing the indoor air in the aftermath of wildfires. For models with an air quality indicator, hard evidence comes in the form of lower readouts, users write.
Keep in mind, however, that airborne particles often settle before being drawn into an air purifier, so even a true HEPA filter sandwiched between other layers of filtration won't eliminate all airborne pollutants. For best results, place the unit away from walls and obstructions, in a spot where the air can circulate freely.
CADRThe "clean air delivery rate" indicates how much air is circulated back into a room following the filtering process. This measure should correlate with the size of the room(s) where the air purifier will be used. The CADR is calculated for three types of pollutants: tobacco smoke, pollen, and dust. Each is determined separately by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, an independent third party, as part of a voluntary program. The numbers, which indicate the cubic feet per minute (cfm) that the unit can clear, generally are listed on the packaging for participating products. Note that some manufacturers specify one combined number only.
The maximum CADRs, based on the testing protocols, are 400 for dust and 450 for pollen and smoke. AHAM recommends looking for a CADR for tobacco smoke that's at least two-thirds the square footage of the room where the air purifier will be used. An air purifier with a higher CADR relative to the room size will clean the air faster and more often.
Noise LevelOne important thing to remember about noise is that one person's white noise is another person's distraction. Most air purifiers have at least three speed settings. The faster the fan whirs, the noisier it gets. Users report that the lowest setting is the least intrusive, although this reduces the rate at which air is circulated. Some budget models are equipped with a sleep mode that reduces nearly all noise, and some are equipped with a turbo setting that ramps up the action for rapid cleaning.
Ongoing Expenses and MaintenanceIt would be ideal if an air purifier could be purchased, plugged in, and left alone. Much to the chagrin of reviewers, many air purifiers demand two ongoing expenses: energy and, more significantly, replacement filters.
To cut the energy cost, which corresponds to the size of the air purifier and the frequency with which it's used, experts recommend using the lowest setting and leaving the machine off when you don't need it. Closing the windows and doors to the room being refreshed also helps concentrate the cleaning power. Air cleaners designed for midsize and large rooms are often Energy Star certified, indicating they are at least 40 percent more efficient than models lacking the certification.
On most air purifiers, both the primary filter and the (carbon) pre-filter must be vacuumed frequently and replaced on schedule. Occasionally the pre-filter can be washed in between replacements, and a few air purifiers use a permanent HEPA or pre-filter that requires only regular cleaning. The HEPA filters on other room air purifiers should be changed at least every 12 to 18 months, and some users report replacing them as often as every three months. The pre- and carbon filters usually last three to six months. Some models feature indicator lights or a replacement timer to remind users when filters are due for a change.
Depending on the specific size and model, and the type of filter (pre-filter, carbon, HEPA), the cost of a replacement ranges between $15 and $80, give or take a few dollars. Make sure to follow the manufacturer's guidelines for filter maintenance and replacement (most models take proprietary filters only). Failure to do so will limit the unit's effectiveness and longevity.
Additional Products We Considered
Honeywell HPA250B Bluetooth Review
Bonus: Air Purifier With Smart Connectivity
- User-friendly and effective against odors, reviewers write, with a noticeable difference in the amount of dust and the breathability of the air.
- Can be operated remotely with a smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth.
- Auto settings on the app can trigger operation based on specified levels of allergens in the outside air.
- Multi-level filtration: activated carbon pre-filter and true HEPA filter.
- Sensor for auto-on to clear out volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
- 4 fan speeds/"purification levels."
- Air is cleaned up to 5 times an hour in spaces up to 310 square feet.
- Customizable on/off schedule; programmable timer for 1 to 18 hours.
- Indicator lights for each filter; dimmer for all LED lights.
- Energy Star certified.
- 5-year warranty.
- Some users aren't thrilled with the app, citing a limited proximity range, problems syncing, and functions not working.
- Some grumbling in reviews about excessive noise at higher speeds and a few doubts concerning overall effectiveness.
Takeaway: The big lure of the Honeywell HPA250 is its smart capabilities. Many users like the convenience of the auto features and the ability to create an on/off schedule, all for a relatively modest price. Some contend that the app isn't quite ready for prime time, however. As far as air purification goes, the consensus opinion is that this model does a fine job, and its large coverage area is appreciated. For those skeptical of the smart technology, Honeywell offers non-Bluetooth models with almost identical specs for rooms of different sizes (HPA100, HPA200, and HPA300) that are highly regarded by testing sites.
GermGuardian AC5250PT Review
Bonus: Air Purifier for Pets
- Rids the air of irritating evidence of pets (both four-footed and flying), including dander, hair, and odors, reviewers say, as well as common airborne irritants.
- Sleek, tower-like profile.
- Multi-level filtration: pre-filter with activated charcoal layer and true HEPA filter with special anti-microbial filter treatment ("Pet Pure") to protect against mold and bacteria; UV-C light.
- 5 speeds, including sleep mode; very quiet on lower speeds, users say.
- Digital display; filter change indicator; timer for up to 8 hours (at 1-hour intervals).
- Energy Star.
- 5-year warranty.
- Blue UV light is bothersome at night, according to some users.
- Scattered reports about limited longevity and various malfunctions.
Takeaway: Engineered to meet the needs of pet-filled households, the GermGuardian 3-in-1 Pet Pure suits pet-free homes, as well. Reviews indicate that it helps people who struggle with allergies or snoring, work in rooms without windows, or are plagued by the smell of a neighbor's secondhand smoke -- all while tackling the irritants unleashed by the animal kingdom. Although this model is engineered for small to midsize rooms up to 193 square feet, some users tell of good results in larger spaces.
Rabbit Air BioGS 2.0 SPA-550A Review
Bonus: Least Expensive Rabbit Air Purifier
- Extremely quiet operation (22.8 dB on low).
- Reviewers praise this model's overall air-cleaning ability.
- Powerful enough to clear a 550-square-foot room or even a small studio apartment.
- Multi-stage filtration: pre-filter, charcoal-based activated carbon filter, true HEPA filter, and optional ionizer; filter-life indicator.
- Pre-filter is permanent and can be washed; HEPA and carbon filters are designed to last up to 3 years.
- 5 speeds; auto adjusts to particle and odor irritants.
- Electronic controls with automatic dimming, air-quality indicator lights, and remote.
- Energy Star certified.
- 5-year warranty; 24/7 customer service.
- Some skepticism about effectiveness, notably when challenged by odors, secondhand smoke, and pet dander.
- Some pushback regarding the relatively high price tag.
Takeaway: The feature-rich Rabbit Air BioGS 2.0 helps many users breathe easier and sleep better, reviews indicate, regardless whether the pollutants come from industrial emissions, in-home construction, or normal environmental conditions. Many keep it going at all times, counting on the air-quality sensors to signal the fan to increase or decrease speed as needed. With award-winning design and incredibly quiet performance, Rabbit Air products command a premium, but conveniences like the remote control, long-life filters, and energy efficiency help soften the blow of the hefty upfront cost, as does the large coverage area and customer service that several users call simply outstanding.