Part of the process of buying the best air purifier for your needs is to read air purifier tests reviews. Knowing what you want your air purifier to do is important. Understanding what different air purifiers do is even more important.
Air purifiers, designed to remove particles and pollutant gases from household and office air, are based upon different technologies and some models are more effective than others. Only two organizations perform tests and reviews of air purifiers. Consumer Reports charges a minimum one-month subscription fee for access to its report on air purifiers, while distributor American Air Purifiers is free.
The AAP tests employed a particle counter that registers particles 0.3 microns and larger. A micron is one millionth of a meter; 0.3 microns is about 1.2 ten-thousandths of an inch. Most pollen grains are larger than 10 microns. Most bacteria are larger than 0.3 microns, but many viruses are smaller. Tobacco smoke particles range between 0.01 and 1.0 microns, with a large percentage of smoke particles falling below the test’s threshold. Thus, this industry-standard 0.3 micron minimum particle size covers many, but not all air pollutants.
To test the efficiency of air purifiers, the particle counter was first run for five minutes in a 132 square-foot room to count unfiltered air’s particles of 0.3 microns or larger. Then an air purifier was run in the room at its highest speed, and particles were counted at the air purifier’s outlet port. This established a baseline percentage of particle removal for each air purifier model, the very best job it can do before the air it emits mixes with ambient air.
Next, each air purifier was allowed to run for 20 minutes at its highest speed, with the room’s windows and door closed. Then the unit was shut off and the room’s particle count was measured. This produced the room air particle removal percentage, which is what matters to most consumers.
The room air particle removal percentage varied among fourteen air purifiers tested from 98 per cent to an abysmal 3 per cent! Four models removed more than 95 per cent of particles: the IQ Air Health Pro; Alen A375UV; Alen 350; and Blue Air 601.
Some of the best-known brand names fared the worst, including the Whirlpool AP510 (70 per cent), Oreck XL Pro (45 per cent) and The Sharper Image’s Ionic Breeze (3 per cent).
Dividing each air purifier’s price by the percentage of room air particles it removes gives a sort of “bang for the buck” yardstick. The best value in air purifiers, by this gage, was the Alen T300, rated fifth in particle removal (94 per cent) and retailing for $299 ($3.18 per percent of room air particles removed). The biggest waste of money was the Ionic Breeze, costing $149.67 per percentage of particles removed.
The Ionic Breeze, probably the most heavily marketed air purifier in history with an estimated 25 per cent of the market, also earned a “poor” rating from Consumer Reports… not just once, but all four times that Consumer Reports tested it! The Sharper Image sued Consumer Reports for false and malicious claims about the Ionic Breeze. But a judge dismissed the lawsuit, saying that the magazine had 1st Amendment protection for its reports.
One reason for the Ionic Breeze’s poor ratings is simple. Unlike other air purifiers, it does not have a fan that sucks in dirty air and blows out clean air. Instead, it relies for air circulation upon the “ionic breeze” created by electrostatic attraction of airborne particles a very, very weak substitute for a fan. It might take a full day to clean the entire volume of air in a room. So unless it’s left on constantly, the Ionic Breeze compares poorly to other air purifiers.
The Oreck XL Pro also uses electrostatic charge to cleanse air, but it has a four-speed fan. Still, its 25 per cent efficiency rating by AAP (and 45 per cent by Consumer Reports) suggests that more money should be spent on engineering than on marketing air purifiers.
Getting your hands on air purifier tests reviews is important before you buy an air purifier. Marketing claims are hard to sift through to get accurate information. But third-party reviews, if provided by reputable sources, will give you valuable information.