I've become a bit of an air purifier nut over the years. Originally, I used them because I believed that they helped keep the dust down and my dirty home cleaner. Now, I've come to appreciate cleaner air quality while I suck it in all night. When you open it up and see how dirty the filters are, you have to be glad that you have one. With indoor air much more polluted in general than outdoor air, having a quiet, energy efficient air purifier in your home should be, in my opinion, an integral part of your home design plan.
What Is a HEPA Filter (and why should I care?)
In the air filter world, the HEPA standard has evolved as the go-to "good enough" quality level. Developed originally during WWII by the Atomic Energy Commission's Manhattan Project to clean radiation out of the air, the design evolved over a number of years into an affordable, mass-produced paper filter system that could be integrated into purifiers, vacuums and other units for commercial and residential use.
To qualify as HEPA by US government standards, an air filter must remove (from the air that passes through) 99.97% of particles that have a size of 0.3 µm.
"HEPA: High-efficiency particulate arrestance or HEPA is a type of air filter. Filters meeting the HEPA standard have many applications, including use in medical facilities, automobiles, aircraft and homes. The filter must satisfy certain standards of efficiency such as those set by the United States Department of Energy (DOE)." via Wikipedia
Here are my top picks for the year, updated from 2010. I totally believe in the super affordable fan and filter based machines, but for better filtering (particularly for odor and allergy sufferers) and quieter filtering, I would recommend spending more.
Spoken of highly by readers, this Sears Kenmore series, available in three sizes, is the most affordable HEPA air purifier that I'm including on the list. It features a sleek, wall hugging design, quiet operation, an EnergyStar rating and a two-filter system that covers up to 400 square feet.
I like Honeywell, and I've also had two of these purifiers for a number of years in our many roomed family house in the country. Big, not particularly quiet (great white noise, however, for sleeping babies & adults), I find the Honeywell purifiers to be simple with very good HEPA filters at a very good price for basic air filtration. This purifier is rated to clean a room up to 390 square feet (smaller than RabbitAir) and is not for continuous air cleaning as it's too loud and not an energy saver.
Rated super highly by The Sweethome, Coway is a name I hadn't heard before, but its products are given high marks for air cleaning at a very good value. Said to be as good as machines twice the price, the Coway Mighty is a small, sleek unit that runs silently, uses very little energy and works with easily replaceable filter panels similar to a RabbitAir machine. It will efficiently clean a 325 square foot room.
Our Previous Lists:
- Best Air Purifiers 2010
- Best Air Purifiers 2009
- 10 Great Small Air Purifiers for the Home Office
- How to Shop for an Air Purifier
What Happened To Air Ionisers???
Famous just a few years ago for being slim, silent and able to clean the air without a breeze (remember how popular they were among those that needed to clear the air quickly in their parents' house?), air ionisers have faded in use because two things happened.
The first was that ionisers were discovered to produce small amounts of ozone, a toxic gas, which set off a health scare and made them persona non-grata in the medical community.
Secondly, and more importantly, ionisers have never proven to clean air and move it through the room as well as traditional HEPA filters. Famously, in 2003, Consumer Reports gave The Sharper Image's popular Ionic Breeze a "fail" rating, which set off a lengthy court battle. In the end, Sharper Image lost the case when it couldn't prove any of Consumer Reports assertions to be untrue.
That said, ionizers have found their way into many HEPA machines as a way of adding extra filtering power. via Wikipedia
Designed by Guto Indio da Costa in 2014, this purifier won the Good Design Award and the RedDot Award in that year. This (and the MinusA2 Ultra Quiet Air Purifier a few products down) are me two top picks of all the machines on this list. I have them at home, and I find them to be compact, powerful and silent. Mine runs continually on low and I've had it for three years without any problems.
Since its inception, Dyson has always been known for breaking the mold with its innovative products. Consider this the air purifier of the future. With the corresponding app, the machine monitors the humidity, air quality and temperature of the room it's in and reacts accordingly, reporting all stats back to you via your smart phone. It promises to remove 99.97% of allergens and pollutants as small as 0.3 microns.
This is the more expensive of RabbitAir's offerings, and it's the one that I have had for years. The MinusA2 sits flat against any wall or piece of furniture, runs absolutely silently and comes with a choice of four different filter systems: Pet Allergy, Odors, Toxins or Germ Defense (they all seem good to me). The unit sips energy with an EnergyStar rating (as low as 7 watts), is a true HEPA filter and covers from 700-815 square feet at normal filtration levels (cleaning for an allergy sufferer reduces the square footage to about half).
Other Good Resources:
- A Breath of Clean Air - Air Purifier Review
- Eat My Dust: An Allergy Sufferer Tests Six Air Purifiers - NY Times
- Air Purifier Reviews - Consumer Seaerch
- Top 20 Air Purifier Reviews - Plenty Air
- Top 10 Air Purifiers of 2016 - Home Air Quality Guides
The top-rated air purifier of VIPforair.com, it also has a near perfect 5-star rating on Amazon. Cleaning up to 1,100 square feet, it covers more space than any other purifier on this list. Like the Dyson air filter, it automatically detects and adjusts to fluctuating air quality. Fully customizable, buyers get the choice of 4 HEPA filters (Pure, Silver—which is best for allergy sufferers, OdorCell, FreshPlus.) Also, for the design aficionado, the BreatheSmart is offered in 15 front panel options, one of them that you can custom paint to make your walls.
The Swedish approach. Founded in the '90s, Stockholm-based Blueair pairs a high standard of filtration with a sleek, Scandinavian design. With a large range of excellent machines at prices from medium to very high, Blueair features HEPA filtration, galvanized steel casing, super quiet operation, no drafts, extreme energy efficiency, and an argument for the highest Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) on the market, which means it will move air more quickly as it cleans. The Classic ECO10 shown here will handle 220 square feet.
IQAir has a great history as it was founded by two brothers, Manfred and Klaus Hammes, who were early pioneers in the '60s developing paper-based filters to eliminate coal dust coming out of ovens in German homes. Also the first to introduce a HEPA quality filter, they later founded IQAir and are still at the forefront of purifying technology, producing air filters for residential and commercial use. Their HealthPro series is their signature. A big stack on wheels, it holds four filtration levels and an ultra quiet fan that goes beyond HEPA standards to remove particles down to 0.003 microns in size. This is expensive and sticks out, but will crush bad air and odor problems without putting up a fight. It will efficiently clean a 900-square-foot room.