Last updated on January 17th, 2023
Are air purifiers a waste of money? In short, no. Legit air purifiers not only freshen the air but also clean it in a whole house or one specific room, depending on which air purifier you use. In the Covid-19 time sanitizing the air is equally important to regular hand washing.
But, again, fresh and clean air only possible when a customer knows what’s going on and how to select the right model that will fit the space and specific needs. And that could be problematic considering how many brands has flooded the US market with their worthy or worthless air cleaners (and in many the word cleaner should be taken into brackets).
I’m going to help you with that ocean of air purifiers and uncover how they work, what you should take into account while getting one and provide some examples of legit air purifiers that worth every penny. Let’s start!
How Air Purifiers Work
Majority of modern-day air purifiers work the exact same way:
- Suck in air inside of the unit.
- Pass it through one filter or several filters.
- Release fresh air into a room.
Let’s get into details here.
How much air an air purifier can process in one minute depends on the air purifier’s fan power and is calculated in CFM which is acronym for cubic feet per minute. I talk about it more in the next section of this article, and now let’s focus on the most crucial thing for air purifiers – filtration process.
The typical air filtration process is the following:
- Filtration using pre-filter.
- Filtration using HEPA filter.
- Additional filtration with Activated Carbon or ionizer.
Let’s get into details of each filtration stage.
Pre-filter. The cheapest filter among all others is designed to filter “big” particles like hair, dust, pollen. This way it also helps to prolong life of other filters which can get weary pretty fast. Pre-filters are usually washable and last for 3-6 months on average.
If you set your eyes on a particular air purifier better be sure that it has a pre-filter. In a case it doesn’t, even the best HEPA filter will get weary super fast and you will be forced to change it every few days, making your maintenance costs skyrocket in an instant.
HEPA or True HEPA filter. This is the single most important air purifier filter that can make it or break it. 99% percent of all air purifiers claim to be “True HEPA” but the devil is always in the details.
The vast majority of True HEPA filters that are available for air purifiers feature either H11 version or H13. There are five classes of HEPA filters: Н10, Н11, Н12, Н13 and Н14. The higher the class the more particles filter can capture: H10, H11 and H12 trap 99.5% down to 0.3 microns in diameter and H13, H14 trap from 99.95% to 99.995% of tiniest particles respectively.
The latter two are also considered medical grade air filters and used in hospitals and such. If you have any breathing condition, make sure you purchase an air purifier with True HEPA H13 filter at least, to remove viruses and harmful bacteria from your room.
HEPA filters usually last from 3 to 6 months, it is very rare to find one lasting over 6 month. Some manufacturers make their HEPA filters washable too.
Quality of HEPA filters range from useless (sometimes they smell bad themselves!) to high-quality. I recommend to look for genuine filters, that are certified by manufacturer to fit the air purifier model. Nowadays the filter market is flooded by tons of air filters from different brands, but majority of them are made in China (probably on the same factories too) and quality remains wanting.
Additional filtration. It can be divided into 2 sub-categories:
Activated Carbon filter to remove odor and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). It may come in handy in kitchens, smoking rooms and other heavily polluted areas. It removes different kind of smells including pets and totally depends of the filter quality itself.
Ionizer. It creates negative ions that attach themselves to particles, making them bigger and easier to capture. On the downside it creates ozone. Modern purifiers are release ozone below the dangerous levels, but if you are intolerant to it and/or have breathing conditions, this may lead to head spinning, nausea and other unpleasant conditions. The ionizer can be turned off, but why buy an air purifier with an ionizer to turn it off down the road?
To sum it up: pre filter and True HEPA filter are necessary, Carbon filter or ionizer are optional.
Obviously, there are air purifiers that aren’t utilizing the standard filter system. For example, Airdog air purifiers have their own developed air cleaning system with washing plates. I go into more details on Airdog air purifiers review page.
There are also air purifiers that are known to be as ‘ionic air purifiers‘ or simply ‘ionizer‘. They work as described above, but do not feature filters and particles (dust, pollen, smoke etc.) are often collected at the special plates which require cleaning after some time. Some of ionizers are standalone, other require installation by HVAC technician. The primary example of the latter being Reme Halo air purifier.
What To Look At While Getting An Air Purifier
Here are the major things to look at while buying an air purifier:
CADR. Clean air delivery rate, stands for how much air comes through air purifier and measured in cubic feet per minute in America. The rating was developed by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) to set up standards for air purifiers. Air purifiers often has different CADR ratings for smoke, pollen or dust.
Air Changes Per Hour. ACH or ACPH measures how often an air purifier ventilates and cleans air in a space. The higher the value is, the better. Golden standard is 4 ACH for residential areas and higher for public or industrial areas.
Manufacturers often provide ACH for their air purifiers, but you can calculate it for yourself at this page. There I also provide table with recommended air changes per hour for different spaces.
True HEPA Filter. Under normal conditions True HEPA H11 will work, but medical grade H13 or H14 is required if you have respiratory conditions (asthma, COPD, bronchitis, emphysema etc.) or allergies.
Space Coverage. Manufacturers often put “Large Room Air Purifier” or “Medium Room Air Purifier” in titles to gain attraction and sales, but reality is different. This large room air purifier could circulate the air in a whole room twice an hour, but that won’t meet AHAM standards let alone you will have to run 24 hours per day at the maximum speed even at night. Oh, that noise!
It is recommended to double-check room coverage using ACH calculator (the link is above) to make sure the air purifier can circulate air several times an hour. Ideally you want it to cover your room running at the average speed, producing less noise in the process and making it viable to run at night.
Maintenance costs. Modern-day air purifiers are energy efficient and do not affect electricity bills that much. On average they add up to 5-10 bucks per months – you can calculate energy use for yourself here.
Most of the money spend after the initial purchase are directed toward filters. On average, they will cost you $100 per years, but it all comes down the filter quality, pollution level and the air purifier itself.
Air Purifiers That Worth Buying
There are several brands that do not engage in false advertising and offer quality air purifiers for the money. Let’s take a look at them.
For small or medium rooms I can definitely recommend Coway air purifiers. They have tons of reviews, filters are reasonably priced and overall all of them offer high air cleaning quality for the buck.
If you are willing to spend more money, you may take a look at the Tracs air purifiers. They make air purifiers for whole house and have installed their cleaners in commercial and industrial spaces too. Tracs production facilities located in the US and their customer support is excellent. One of the best air purifiers out there, for sure.
From time to time there are offers that are hard to pass by. NuWave Oxypure smart air purifier is one of them. It features high CADR rating for the price and comes with 4 additional filters, greatly reducing maintenance costs. On the downside customer support lacks quality compared to Tracs.
Lastly, IQAir is selling high-quality medical grade air purifiers. But prepare to spend money on filters as they aren’t cheap.
Basically, this is I what I wanted to share with you regarding the question ‘Are Air Purifiers a Waste of Money or Not?‘. In a nutshell, air purifiers definitely worth their money, but only the ones that fit your room size, purpose and utilize legit HEPA filters.