According to the Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air pollution is among the top five environmental health risks. In fact, the agency says that indoor air is “on average two to five times more polluted than air outdoors.” What's that mean for us? No matter how much we vacuum, dust and clean our homes, there are likely microscopic pollutants floating through the air.
Poor air quality can cause or exacerbate all sorts of health problems—asthma, headaches, dry eyes, congestion, fatigue, and more. The first step to creating clean air in your home is to eliminate sources of pollution—things like smoke, mold, dust, pet dander and some paints and cleaning products—and to ventilate your home with clean outdoor air whenever possible. You will also want to make sure your home’s heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning system (commonly called HVAC) is functioning properly and gets a change of filters regularly. Some people also may choose to install air cleaning devices into their HVAC system.
But if you don’t want to make such a big investment (HVAC work often totals thousands of dollars), consider a portable air purifier. These units are meant to clean the air in a single room or area, and because they are relatively small and light, you can easily move them from one room to the next. Most work by pulling air in, pushing it through one or more filters, and then recirculating the clean air back into the room. You’ll see the term HEPA filter—that stands for high efficiency particulate air and refers to the tiny molecules the filter can capture. Those that meet certain government standards for air filtration are called true HEPA filters. Be sure to choose a unit that’s intended for the size room where you will use it most, and position it where there is open air flow on all sides (i.e. not against a wall).
We’ve rounded up five great options, from a basic, affordable unit to advanced ones that can be controlled from your smartphone. And with summer weather—and the allergies it brings—upon us, now is a great time to try one of these room air cleaners.
Honeywell Bluetooth Air Purifier
This unit uses a carbon pre-filter to trap large particles, gases and odors, and a true HEPA filter for allergens like dust, pollen, pet dander, smoke, mold spores and more. Four settings allow you to customize the desired cleaning level: “general clean,” “germ” for cold and flu season, “allergen” for allergy season, and “turbo” for power cleaning or fast odor reduction. There’s also an auto function that monitors the room’s air quality and adjusts the cleaning level as necessary. And get this: Honeywell has created an app that uses Bluetooth technology to automatically turn the unit on or off when the connected device enters or leaves range—ingenious! You can also use the app to schedule cleaning cycles, purchase new filters and track local pollen and mold counts (you'll get an alert when levels are high). The unit is lightweight and super quiet. It’s intended for rooms of about 310 square feet or less.
Winix HR1000 Air Purifier
Winix is another app-enabled purifier, but this one works by connecting the unit to your home Wi-Fi network. Once that connection is made, you can use the app to monitor air quality, turn the purifier on and off, check filter status and receive error messages from anywhere in the world. The unit uses a five-stage purification system— A washable pre-filter is the first line of defense, capturing large particles, then a coated deodorization carbon filter reduces odors from cooking, pets, smoke and more. Next there’s an anti-microbial coating on the true HEPA filter, which captures allergens such as pollen, mold spores, dust and pet dander. And finally the PlasmaWave Technology produces hydroxyl ions to neutralize indoor pollutants without emitting ozone. Basically, this purifier is a total powerhouse. (And it’s suited for rooms up to 400 square feet.)
Alen BreatheSmart Air Purifier
For large, open rooms up to 1,100 square feet, the Alen BreatheSmart purifier can do the trick. The fan has four speeds, or run it in auto mode to allow the Smart Sensor to adjust the cleaning power based on what it detects in the room. Choose from four filter options based on your needs—HEPA Pure is the standard filter for dust and allergens and comes with the unit unless you pay an upcharge for one of the three specialty filters: HEPA Silver is best for mold, germs and asthma; HEPA FreshPlus is a chemical filter, great for smoke, VOCs and heavier chemicals; and HEPA OdorCell neutralizes odors from things like pets and diapers. And if you’re concerned about the design aesthetic of an appliance in the middle of your room, Alen has you covered: choose from 15 front panel options, ranging from black and white to bright blue, brushed stainless steel, wood finish, and even a primered panel ready for painting. The unit has a lights-off mode for bedtime, a timer, and one of the most unique features—a lifetime warranty. (Which might explain the hefty price!)
Coway Mighty Air Purifier
I know looks shouldn’t matter when choosing an air purifier, but for aesthetically-driven types, this one is about as slick as they come. And great news—it also works really well! The unit is fairly small (about 16- by 18- by 9-inches), but is able to provide coverage in rooms up to 360 square feet. It uses four-stage filtration: A washable pre-filter captures large particles like hair, fur and dust in a fine micro-mesh; the odor filter eliminates bad odors and harmful gases using activated carbon; the true HEPA filter traps airborne allergens like pollen, pet dander, dust and smoke; and the vital ionizer freshens the air with negative ions. Choose one of three manual settings for the fan, or run it on sensor-activated auto mode or eco mode, which reduces energy usage. There’s a color-coded air quality display, a timer and a filter change indicator, too.
Hamilton Beach TrueAir Compact Air Purifier
If you’re looking for an affordable option without a need for added features, this one from Hamilton Beach is your answer. It’s suited for small rooms up to 160 square feet. Set it up horizontally or vertically with the detachable stand— it’s even small enough to fit on a shelf (my husband thought I had bought a new speaker!). The permanent HEPA-grade filter captures dust, pollen, mold spores and more, and comes clean with a few swipes of your vacuum, so no need to purchase expensive replacement filters. Choose from three speeds: high for the fastest cleaning, medium for all-day use or low when extra quiet is needed.
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