Our Top Pick for 2016: Alen BreatheSmart Customizable Air Purifier with HEPA-Pure Filter
Read our full review.
The air that we breathe contains particulate matter that can lead to lung irritation and other more serious problems. Air pollution is not only the result of car exhaust or factory smoke. Dust mites, mold spores, pollen and pet dander can all lead to irritation of the lungs. Using a HEPA filter can help trap these pollutants and bring allergy relief. HEPA stands for High Efficiency Particle Arrestance or High Efficiency Particle Air. These filters are extremely effective at taking all micro-particles out of the air and trapping them. Additional benefits include decreased asthma and allergy triggers. Some of the top HEPA air purifiers can be found below.
Table of contents
- #1 Gold Pick (1st Place Winner)
- #2 Silver Pick (2nd Place Runner-Up)
- #3 Bronze Pick (3rd Place)
- #4 Budget Pick (Best Cheap)
Fits Rooms Up To 240 Sq Feet
Four Different Filter Types
True Hepa Filtration Captures 99.99% Of Airborne Pollutants
Seamlessly Blends With Any Decor
Automatically Detects And Adjusts To Changing Air Quality
Washable Advanced Odor Control Carbon Filter
Captures 99.97% Of Harmful Particles Down To 0.1 Microns In Size
Designed To Eliminate Irritating High Frequency Sounds
Clean Air Delivery Rate (cadr) Of 155 Cubic Feet Per Minute
Quietly And Efficiently Removes Allergens And Dust
Attacks Pollutants At A Molecular Level
5 Air Changes Per Hour
Smart Sensors With Auto-mode
#1 Gold pick (Winner): Alen BreatheSmart Customizable Air Purifier with HEPA-Pure Filter
View it on Amazon for $579.94*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
This modern air purifier is the perfect addition to any living room. The air purifier can easily have the air of your home purified within less than two hours. The filter is completely customizable with four different filter types to accommodate air purification needs. Fourteen panel color options allow you to select the shade that best matches your home décor.
The SmartSensor feature included with this filter by Alen automatically detects and adjusts the filtration depending on air quality, thereby increasing filter life and eliminating the use of unnecessary energy. WhisperMax technology eliminates high-frequency sounds, making the filter a non-disturbance in the home. The lifetime warranty ensures that any problems you might encounter during your use of this filter will be efficiently handled.
For the energy-conscious, this air purifier is ENERGY STAR-certified and uses only 105 watts at the highest speed. Perfect for any open concept room, this filter will clean up to 1100 square feet of air. The powerful fan blows a jet of pure air up to the ceiling. From there, it can spread out over the entire room before returning to the filter.
HEPA filters operate by forcing air through a fine mesh that traps tiny particles from smoke, pets and pollution. If you are considering the purchase of a HEPA filter, be sure to purchase one that is large enough for the room where you intend to use it. The best place for a filter is your bedroom. Many people suffer from allergy symptoms when they first wake up in the morning. This is especially true with the presence of pets. You might be pleasantly surprised to discover that your allergy symptoms have disappeared after a few days of HEPA filter use.
Indoor Air Quality
Did you know that the indoor air quality can be two to five times more polluted than outdoor air? Multiple factors contribute to poor indoor air quality including combustion by-products, pesticide sprays, air fresheners and building material emissions. In severe cases, indoor air was found to be 100 times more polluted than outdoor air. According to the World Health Organization, almost three percent of global disease is the result of poor indoor air quality.
Inadequate ventilation is one of the primary causes of indoor air pollution. Wintertime is especially bad since homes are closed up to conserve heat. Other sources of indoor air contaminants include radon and tobacco smoke. Using an air purifier like the Winix 9500 can help decrease the effect of indoor air pollution.
To further improve your indoor air quality, consider using a HEPA-equipped vacuum cleaner. These vacuums trap more dust and dirt than their non-HEPA counterparts. Although a HEPA filter can go a long way toward keeping your home clean, you should also consider removing all irritating particles from your home. Besides the purchase of a new filter, you might also want to consider using dust mite-resistant coverings for your mattresses and pillows and a high-efficiency furnace filter.
Central Air Purifiers
Did you know that the installation of a central air purifier on your air conditioning will not necessarily solve your dust and/or dander problems? Central air purifiers only work if there is a large amount of return air flow. In other words, you can have the cleanest air in the world blowing out of your vents, but if there is poor return air flow, that clean air will not do you much good.
Consider the purchase of special central air system HEPA filters to capture dust and dander. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for changing frequency. In addition to these steps, your indoor air can also benefit from the use of the Blueair 203 Slim air purification system.
To reduce the risk of heart attack, doctors will tell their patients to lower their cholesterol and blood pressure by eating less fat and exercising more. The use of a HEPA filter can also help prevent heart attacks. Exhaust from cars, trucks and factories are part of the modern lifestyle, but the billions of micro-particles contained in exhaust can lead to an increased risk of heart attack. In city dwellings, a perfectly clean home can have a thin black film on horizontal surfaces by the evening. Breathing these particles can lead to an increase in heart rate and blood pressure. Pollution can also compromise the integrity of the blood vessels in the body.
Most of us take our health for granted. However, long-term health can only be achieved by following good habits while you are still young. One of the most influential factors on the health of the human person is the quality of air you breathe. The tricky thing about air pollution is that most of what is harmful to you is not detectable to your nose. When you are cold, your body will let you know, but you might not be able to tell if the air you breathe is contaminated. Small amounts of toxins that build up in your body can lead to serious health problems down the road. Your health is influenced by those things you do with the most consistency. Regular exercise, for example, can provide the support your body needs to maintain its equilibrium.
Air purifiers can also help decrease the effects of mold and pet dander. Nearly 62 percent of all homes in the United States have pets. However, many pet owners suffer from pet allergies. The proteins found in pet dander, saliva and urine can trigger an allergic response in some people. Pet hair can also collect pollen and mold spores from outside if your pet ever exits the home. Contrary to opinion, there are no truly hypoallergenic dog or cat breeds. Some people may be less affected by certain breeds, but the “allergic-ness” of a pet is not determined either by hair length or by the amount the animal sheds. Even if you find that you are suffering from allergies brought on by your pet, you don’t necessarily need to give your up your pet. Using an air purifier such as the BreatheSmart by Alen can go a long way toward making your life more enjoyable.
#2 Silver pick (Runner-up): Blueair 203 Slim Hepa Silent Air-Purification System
View it on Amazon for $329.00*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
This sleek-looking air filter will add a modern twist to any room. The Swedish design will complement any décor style. The HepaSilent filtration system captures 99.97 percent of all harmful particles down to 0.1 microns in size. The Clean Air Delivery Rate is listed as 155 cubic feet per minute with five air changes per hour. Small yet powerful, this filter weighs in at 25 pounds with a handle for easy transportation. The 203 size is perfect for a small room such as a bedroom, study or home office. This air purifier can be upgraded to a more powerful filter for the removal of odors such as smoke. Reviewers of the Blueair filters have mentioned that the 200 series is a much nicer size and shape than the bulkier 400 series. The filter ships with an electronic timer to remind you when it’s time for a filter change. Stick the magnet on your refrigerator or another metal surface for convenience.
One happy reviewer commented on how clean the filter made the air in her bedroom. The reviewer mentioned that her bedroom became a sanctuary of fresh air after purchasing this filter, alleviating her severe asthma symptoms and dramatically reducing the amount of dust that collected during the course of the week. The Blueair 203 is extremely quiet and can be used for a noisemaker in a bedroom without trouble.
In order to maintain the warranty, you are required to change the filters for the Blueair 203 at least once every six months. According to another reviewer, the cost of replacing the filters is nothing compared to the allergy relief obtained with this air purifier. Failing to change this filter according to manufacturer recommendations can lead to poor air quality. In extreme cases, dirty filters can place a strain on the motor of the air purifier, leading to premature failure.
What is CADR?
If you have ever looked for air purifiers before, you will have noticed the acronym CADR. CADR stands for Clean Air Delivery Rate and indicates the volume of filtered air delivered by a specific air purifier. The higher the CADR number, the faster the air purifier filters your air. You might also have noticed the acronym ACH. ACH stands for Air Changes per Hour and is an indication of the frequency at which the air purifier completes an entire cleaning cycle of the air in the room per hour. An ACH of eight means that your air is cleaned eight times in the course of an hour. If you are an allergy or asthma sufferer, you will benefit from an ACH rating of six or eight.
For best results, experts recommend that you run your air purifier constantly. Most air purifiers come equipped with the ability to change fan speeds to allow greater or lesser air cleaning capabilities. When you are not at home, you can turn the filter down to conserve energy and filter capacity while still maintaining a clean environment.
Asthma sufferers should avoid the use of ionizing air purifiers if at all possible. Some ionizing air purifiers emit ozone during their operation. Ozone can lower the quality of indoor air and cause aggravation of asthma and other respiratory problems.
Allergies and Dust Mites
Anything that causes an allergic or asthmatic response is called a trigger. Dust is a common trigger for those who have sensitive lungs. If your allergies or asthma become worse due to dust, you have a dust allergy.
The main cause of dust allergies is the presence of microscopic insects called dust mites. Dust mites can be found all over your home in your bedding, your mattress and your box springs. House dust can also contain small particles of pollen, mold, clothing fibers and even fragrances from detergents and dryer sheets. All of these factors can be triggers to allergy symptoms and asthma.
Among the many things you can do to limit your exposure to dust mites and dust, consider replacing your slatted blinds and cloth draperies with pull-down shades. You could also schedule a weekly cleaning program to keep up with the dust build-up in your home. Wear a mask if the dust stirred up causes problems for you. If you can tolerate it, consider using furniture polish to control dust. If you cannot be in the house while it is being cleaned, you should leave while someone else does it for you.
To protect your mattresses and box springs from dust mites, consider purchasing dust mite-proof covers to enclose them. These covers will prevent new dust mites from taking up residence in your mattress while sealing in the irritants produced by the current dust mites. Wash your bedding and your pillows at least once a week in water that is between 130 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Dust mites thrive in moist air. To keep them from multiplying, keep the moisture level between 30 and 50 percent. This range will also keep mold growth down.
#3 Bronze pick (3rd place): Winix WAC9500 Ultimate Pet True HEPA Air Cleaner
View it on Amazon for $224.53*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
The true HEPA filtration system of the Winix air cleaner will capture 99.99 percent of all airborne irritants down to 0.3 microns. The washable odor control carbon filter is formulated to capture and retain offensive pet odors along with tobacco smoke and other household odors. The PlasmaWave technology of this filter neutralizes pollutants at the molecular level for effective odor control. Smart Sensors automatically adjust the air cleaner’s settings to meet environmental needs. This filter size is suitable for a family room or a large bedroom for fresh air 24/7.
Although this unit can be operated by remote control for convenience, it can also be operated manually if desired. Four settings permit you to choose between low, medium, high and turbo for the air cleaning experience you need. Set and Forget allows the filter to use its sensors to determine when the air quality needs additional support.
The Winix 9500 will alert you when the filters need replacement with a handy LED light. The entire filter cassette will need to be replaced at least annually. Dirtier air conditions will require more frequent replacements.
The use of this filter can dramatically reduce asthma attack frequency for sensitive individuals. Mold and mildew spores can also be kept under control with the use of this filter. However, mold and mildew will need to be removed at the source to fully solve the problem.
In order to grow, mold requires food, an ideal temperature and moisture. Because mold can eat just about any cellulose-based material such as clothing, books and drywall, you cannot eliminate “mold food.” However, you can decrease dangerous amounts of moisture and control the temperature in your home.
While mold can damage furnishings and upholstery, it can also “hide” under carpets and behind walls. Attic mold is common in American homes and is caused by inadequate ventilation, roof leaks or the improper installation of dryer vents or bathroom fans. Basements are commonly damp and will require special steps to ensure that their temperature and humidity levels remain below mold-friendly ranges.
As a general rule, mold grows at the temperatures where the human body feels comfortable. Sixty to 80 degrees is the optimal temperature range for mold to grow. Areas where condensation forms are especially at risk for mold growth. To keep condensation from forming, you will need to be very vigilant with humidity control. To reduce the risk for mold, an indoor humidity level of 50 percent or less is recommended. A dehumidifier can provide the needed reduction in humidity if you live in a damp environment.
Did you know that nearly 15 percent of people in the United States are allergic to their pets? Many physicians will recommend parting with the pet once the allergy is discovered, but only one in five people will do so. Those who choose to live with their pets will need to find a way to accommodate their allergies.
Pet allergies can mimic allergies to other substances such as milk or eggs. Before you come to a definite conclusion that your dog is responsible for your allergy, request an allergy test from an allergist. If you reduce the allergens in your diet and your living space, you might find that your pet allergies drastically decrease.
The glands that dogs have in their skin produce proteins that some people find irritating. As the dog walks around, the proteins are released to float in the air. Allergens are also present in the dog’s urine and saliva. When a pet licks itself, these allergens are transferred onto its fur. Some dogs with constantly growing hair such as poodles may be less irritating than other breeds. Some breeds may be more irritating to an allergy sufferer than others. Reactions can range from a runny nose to life-threatening asthma.
Living With Pet Allergies
For those of you who may be suffering from known allergies to your pets but cannot bear to think of giving them up, there is hope. There are steps that you can take to try to make it possible for you to live with your pet.
The first step is to establish an allergy-free zone in your home. Make a firm commitment to keep your pets out of this area. Your bedroom is usually the best place for an allergy-free zone. Establish a HEPA filter such as the Winix 9500 to capture microscopic pieces of dander and fur. Also consider the purchase of a plastic cover for your mattress that is easy to clean. That way, you can protect your mattress from becoming covered in dust and debris over the course of the years.
Install additional HEPA filters throughout your home. If you can, have one filter per room. Minimize the number of dust-collecting furnishing such as drapes and curtains. If you have upholstered furniture, consider covering it with slipcovers and washing them once a week. Leather and wooden furniture can be wiped off with a damp cloth to capture dust and dander.
Giving your dog a bath every week can reduce allergens in his fur by as much as 84 percent. Check with your vet to see which type of shampoo is best for your dog’s fur.
If you are really serious, you could also receive allergy shots and antihistamines to help control your allergies. Ask your healthcare provider for more information on controlling your allergies enough to permit you to keep your pet.
#4 Budget pick (Best cheap): GermGuardian AC5000E 3-in-1 True HEPA Air Purifier System
View it on Amazon for $119.99*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
The GermGuardian is a 28-inch tower air purifier with a true HEPA filter to capture 99.97 percent of dust and allergens. The charcoal filter technology helps reduce odors caused by pets, smoking and cooking. The UV-C light technology combined with titanium dioxide helps to eliminate airborne bacteria and viruses. With a single filter to replace every six to eight months, this air purifier is an excellent low-cost choice without being cheap. Be sure to use genuine Guardian parts to ensure that the warranty remains valid.
This air purifier is equipped with indicator lights that let you know when it is time to replace the filter or the UV-C light bulb. Remember that a clean filter has a better opportunity to capture allergens, germs and viruses than a dirty filter. Keeping your air purifier maintained according to the manufacturer’s schedule can go a long way toward keeping your air as fresh and clean as it can be.
The GermGuardian is best for medium and large rooms. With quiet operation, it is perfect for use in sleeping rooms. A five-year limited warranty gives you peace of mind about its operational quality.
The UV-C light used with this filter is completely contained and does not emit ozone. An included safety mechanism prevents exposure to the UV light when the bulb needs to be changed.
This air purifier makes a great gift for a smoker. The purification system is effective enough to remove smoke odors from the home. Be aware that there may be an initial odor when you first start the air purifier. Most reviewers say that the smell dissipates after 48 hours or so, but others have said that the odor never goes away. The brightness of the indicator light may also disturb sleep. Consider covering the light with electrical tape to make it dimmer.
Allergens present during all four seasons of the year? Here is a quick run-down of the allergies you might be suffering from during each month of the year.
January: There might not be pollen floating around during the winter months, but turning up the heat can result in blowing house dust around. If you have dust allergies, you might feel just as miserable as you do in spring and fall. To reduce dust exposure, keep your humidity level below 55 percent and use a HEPA filter equipped vacuum to capture the dust.
February: Even if dust and mold are not a trigger for your allergies, tree pollen can really set your body’s alarm system off. Even in the northeast part of the United States, tree pollen can be observed as early as February.
March: Tree pollen remains high on the list of allergens for the month of March. If trees, flowers and grasses start to flower at the same time, allergies can really pick up. To keep an eye on the pollen count, consider visiting the National Allergy Bureau online for detailed information.
April: All the rain during April makes for beautiful flowers… and an increase in pollen count.
May: Tree pollination may begin in February, but it can last through May for four long months of spring allergies. In some parts of the country, grass pollen is just now emerging.
June: In many areas, June is the worst month for allergies. If you haven’t started experiencing allergy symptoms yet, you probably will soon.
July: Grass pollen is reduced in the month of July, but mold and fungus spores are just now increasing. Mold grows on fallen leaves, compost piles and piles of cut grass.
August: Mold spores peak during hot and humid weather. The best way to keep away from this allergen is to run your AC with an installed HEPA filter. You should also use a HEPA air purifier to help capture mold spores in your inside air.
September: Ragweed allergies are common at this time of year. Depending on your location, ragweed allergies start in August or September and can continue through November. If your autumn is wet and windy, ragweed allergies can become worse.
October: The further north you go, the less likely are you to suffer from fall allergies. However, if you are allergic to mold or fungi spores, your allergy symptoms may linger.
November: This month is the best for most people with allergies, who can spend time outside in the crisp weather.
December: Believe it or not, your real Christmas tree can bring on an allergy attack caused by the mold spores present on the needles and bark. If you cannot live without a real tree, purchase it a week in advance and let it air out in the garage. You can also consider the purchase of a fake tree instead.
Indoor Air Quality
When choosing an air purifier, the first thing you should consider is your indoor air quality. Do you live in a polluted area with visible smog? Do you simply wish to decrease the amount of dust floating around your home? While there are cheap air purifiers available for purchase, these do not have the cleaning power needed to keep the air in the home comfortable to breathe. Allergy sufferers with sensitivities to mold, ragweed and pollen will need a high-quality HEPA filter to capture those fine particles.
If you are extremely sensitive to chemicals, you might wish to invest in a filter for multiple chemical sensitivities. These models contain more odor and chemical filtration than less specifically- designed models and are made with ultra-pure materials to minimize irritation from off-gassing.
To determine what size air purifier you need, you should calculate the square footage of the room you’d like to freshen. Multiply the length of the room by the width for the total square footage. Once you are done, check the specifications for the air purifier you intend to purchase to ensure that the room is not too large for an efficient filtration job.
If you are purchasing a filter to help you manage your allergy symptoms, you should also consider the air change per hour rate (ACH). An air purifier that clean the air four times an hour is the best for allergy- and asthma-sufferers. Those with severe symptoms might need to consider an air purifier with an ACH of six times per hour instead.
Conclusion (Wrapping it up)
Most cheap air purifiers on the market today are dust filters and are not very effective. With a fan, some type of filter and controls, they are only good enough for the very bare minimum at air cleaning. They tend to be unable to deal with dangerous contaminants such as gases, viruses or chemicals. Purchasing a high-quality HEPA filter will provide you and your family with the fresh air you need.
Discussion and comments
We want to know what you think. Do you own any of the products we discussed? Which did you buy and how did it work out for you?
Do you know of an even better product?
- Alen Air Purifier Frequently Asked Questions, AlenCorp.com
- Gray Rollins, What Does an Air Purifier Do?, StreetDirectory.com
- Mercia Tapping, Do Air Purifiers Really Work?, AllergyConsumerReview.com, May 2, 2006
- Allergies, AAFA.org, October 2015
- Pet Allergy, AAAAI.org
- Allergies, Asthma and Dust, NIH.gov, May 18, 2014
- Mold, EPA.gov
- Living Better with Respiratory Allergies, EverydayHealth.com, December 21, 2012
- Indoor Air Quality, Greenguard.org
- Indoor Air Pollution Worse Than Outdoor, Draxe.com
- Facts About True HEPA Filtration, Abatement.com