Ratings of the 15 Best Air Purifiers
Updated for 2016
But HEPA consistently outperforms every other technology. HEPA is the preferred filtration technology of government agencies. Also by air quality experts. We discuss more about this below.
How to Use this Guide
We suggest you start with the rankings of the best air purifiers. This will give you an overview for how they are rated. Ratings include ease of use, air flow, filter efficiency, and customer reviews.
In addition, each air purifier is given an overall rating. It is a score based on a 10 point system. See the air cleaner picture below.
As we test the air purifiers we learn more about the different technologies. We write about them extensively. Here is a summary.
You can learn about what’s needed to clean a whole house.
Now, we have talked a lot about HEPA air purifiers. Yet, HEPA is not a good solution for every indoor air issue.
If you need smoke, gas or odor removal you need more than HEPA. Learn about carbon filters here.
If you need additional background you can see what is an air purifier.
First, we will start with a bit of history. Then continue with what we have learned from testing. Most of all the focus is on information to help you improve your indoor air.
Air Purifier History
There is an interesting history of air purifiers. It has to do with the Ionic Breeze.
We have mixed feelings toward the history of the Ionic Breeze air purifier. This purifier left somewhat of a black mark as a gadget. It ultimately put their company out of business.
The benefit in all of this is that it helped to generate awareness toward improved indoor air quality. So, this is good because indoor air is often polluted than outdoor air.
As much as 100 times more polluted. The main reason is from a source that exists inside. This could be dust in your HVAC system, a pet, smoking, carpeting, furniture and many others.
As a result, this has positioned air purifiers that work as solutions for people with allergies or asthma. They are also good for people looking to improve their home environment from smoke and odor removal.
Here are the key findings from our work.
Our first learning is that different concerns require different solutions. No air purifier is best for every situation. It boils down to a few key factors.
1. It matters what you need removed
A HEPA filter is best for particles. Particles are things like dust, pollen, mold spores, and pet dander.
A HEPA filter works to capture the particles in it’s fibers. A benefit of a true HEPA filter is that this efficiency improves over time. Only HEPA has this effect.
In contrast, other technologies like ionic or electronic air purifiers do not perform as well in testing. And they get worse over time.
We test with a laser particle counter. This makes it clear as to how well each filter works. You can see the results in the efficiency rating for each air purifier.
From research we know HEPA is not good with gases. They are too small to trap in the fibers.
Gases include odors. They are also fumes from furniture, carpeting and chemicals.
So far, we do not test for gas removal. We look online and to date no one has done this testing. It’s difficult to simulate and requires equipment that is out of reach for us. There are many different gases. To measure the performance is beyond our ability.
To overcome this we look at the product specs. We see what is in the filter to remove gases. This gives a good indication for how well it performs.
Here is what we learned about gases. Activated carbon is good for many gases. But, not all.
For smoke removal, activated carbon works well. It also does well with many odors.
It is not good for natural gas or formaldehyde. For this you more than carbon. If the filter lists media beyond carbon it is likely to work well these other gases.
One final point about smoke removal. Smoke is made up of particles and gases. Therefore, the best air purifiers have a combination of HEPA and carbon. HEPA traps the particles. Carbon catches the smoke gases.
2. Air flow is important
In addition to testing filter efficiency we look at the results in a room.
We see some excellent filters. But, when we test we want to know how it does in a room. This is how we use the product.
To factor this in we look at the air flow of the air purifier. A larger air flow means it will clean a bigger room. The best air purifiers have good air flow. More is better.
A criticism of the Ionic Breeze was the lack of air flow.
With our testing we see the low air flow purifiers do not clean as well. It’s like having a small air conditioner trying to cool a large room. It doesn’t work so well.
We test in a bedroom. Within 15 minutes we see improvement in the air quality when a good air purifier is running. Within 15 minutes of turning it off the air quality becomes worse. We see this with the particle counter.
As a result, air purifiers with lower air flow show a lower improvement in the room. From the results they are not moving enough air.
3. Ease of Use
Ease of use does not factor into how well an air purifier works. For us it is a preference. We include it in the ratings since we value usability.
Hence, if you do not care about this then we suggest you pay more attention to the efficiency and air flow results.
On this page we share the ratings of the best air purifiers. This list is from the products that test best. We also include customer testimonials into our ranking. We also use some key findings from CARB.
As a result the key factors we test are ease of use, filter efficiency, and air flow.
Therefore we find that for most situations a HEPA air purifier is best. If you need odor or gas removal you will need activated carbon. In some cases the filter will need additional media.