If you are concerned about your overall health, then you are probably concerned about what is in the air that you breathe. Even our homes are full of pollutants that can affect your health and well-being. Everyday activities can fill the air in your home with pollutants and allergens.

Choosing the right air purifier can be confusing.  There are huge numbers of charts, studies, and certifications found on air purifiers.  Getting to the bottom of all the data and making a good decision is critical. Here is our step-by-step guide to choosing an air purifier.

When considering an air purifier, our suggestions on the steps you should take in the process are:

  • Calculate the size of the room in which the air purifier will be used.
  • Choose an air purifier with a high enough CADR for the room.
  • Choose the type of filtration you need paying particular attention to specific contaminants.
  • Make sure you can live with the air purifier. Noise and ongoing costs are factors you need to consider.
  • Avoid air purifiers that contribute to indoor air pollution. Ozone producing air purifiers should be avoided at all costs.

How to Choose an Air Purifier

Understanding What You are Buying?

Despite what some manufacturers claim, no air purifier will remove 100 percent of the pollutants and allergens from the air in your home.  The problem is that the air purifier can only clean the air that passes through it.  Allergens and pollutants can sit on the carpet, furniture, and hard surfaces just waiting to be disturbed back into the air.

There are several things to consider when buying an air purifier to ensure that you get the best performance.

  • Where will you use the purifier?
  • Do you have specific needs such as removing pet dander or smoking residue?
  • Compare the CADR ratings.
  • Purchase a device with HEPA filter technology.
  • Get a purifier with the lowest noise rating possible.
  • Consider the cost of replacement filters and maintenance.
  • Think hard about whether you need to turn your purifier on and off with your phone.

Room Size Makes a Difference

Before going any further, you should decide what your goal is for an air purifier.  Most portable stand-alone air purifiers will effectively filter the air in one room.  You should make sure that the purifier you purchase is big enough to match the size of the room you want to filter.  Air purifiers are classed by their clean air delivery rate (CADR).

About CADR – Why is it so Important?

The larger the CADR number listed on the air purifier, the more particulate matter the filter will remove from the air.  Typically, the larger the room, the larger the CADR number you want.  There is no industry standard for the CADR number associated with room size.  Many times, the manufacturer will list the recommended room size on the packaging.

The EPA in their “Guide to Air Cleaners in the Home,” makes these recommendations about CADR and room size

Portable Air Cleaner Sizing for Particle Removal:

Room Area in Square Feet 100 200 300 400 500 600
Minimum CADR in CFM 65 130 195 260 325 390

The CADRs are calculated based on an 8-feet ceiling and 5 air changes per hour. If you have higher ceilings, and you need custom air changes per hour, then calculate the minimum required CADR using our CADR Calculator.

What’s in the Air and What do You Want to Remove?

Pollutants and allergens come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and forms.  In general, there are two categories of pollutants and allergens.

These two categories of contaminants require different types of filters.  When considering what purifier will work best for you, you should consider the type of filter that the purifier uses to remove contaminants.

Particulates – Dust, Pollen, and Smoke

These pollutants include allergens such as pollen and pet dander, as well as smoke residue that floats in the air.  If dust is a problem in your region, an air purifier can help alleviate this problem as well.  Overall, the higher the CADR rating, and the faster the fan speed, the better job the filter will do at removing particulates.

Some air purifier manufacturers offer special filters that target specific pollutants or allergens.  Check the packaging and the instruction manual included with the air purifier to determine the availability of specialized filters for your needs.

Gases – We breathe All the Time

We depend on breathing in gas to live.  Oxygen is the primary gas on which we depend for life.  However, there are thousands of other gasses that can contaminate the air in your home, just from everyday exposure.  These residual gases can come from several sources:

  • Fresh paint or the installation of new floor coverings. The paint of adhesives used can give off gases that may be allergens or toxic.
  • Older construction materials that give off gases such as formaldehyde as they begin to age.
  • Plastics used in wall coverings, countertops, and furniture can give off noxious gases.

In general, the best type of filter to handle gases as pollutants is an activated charcoal filter.  Activated charcoal is an excellent material for absorbing and holding toxic and noxious gases.  The best option is an air purifier with a combination of activated charcoal and HEPA filter technology.

Learn more about indoor air pollutants and their sources.

Noise Levels – Living with an Air Purifier

Many manufacturers will include a noise level rating on the packaging.  This can be important if you spend a lot of time in the same room with the air purifier.  Noise pollution can be as irritating as air pollution.  Finding the air purifier with the best noise rating and the other features you need is an important consideration.

In general, an air purifier with a noise rating of 50 decibels is appropriate for most living spaces.  A modern refrigerator produces about 50 decibels when it is running.  For most people, this is a barely noticeable noise level.

Past the Purchase Price – What Does it Cost to Operate?

Purchasing an air purifier adds another layer of expense to your budget.  Running an air purifier 24 hours a day adds additional utility costs to your household budget.  We recommend that you look for an air purifier that has the Energy Star label.  The Energy Star program means that the device meets strict standards set by the EPA for energy efficiency.

Keeping Your Air Purifier Operating at Peak Efficiency

The other layer of expense that comes with your air purifier is the cost of maintenance.  The biggest cost associated with operating an air purifier is the replacement filters.  Before purchasing any air purifier, shop around and determine how much the replacement filters cost.  There are options, and the price of replacement filters has a wide range.

What Not to Buy – Buyer Beware

There are some types of air purifiers that you should avoid.  One type is not recommended at all and may even decrease the quality of the air in a room.

  • Avoid air purifiers that produce ozone – Some air purifiers, particularly those that use electrostatic precipitators, ionizers, or UV lights, can produce ozone. Ozone is a known lung irritant.  If anyone in your home suffers from lung disease, these types of air purifiers could cause more problems than they solve.
  • Chose an air purifier that is UIL listed – Using any electrical device that doesn’t have a UIL listing is dangerous. The potential for an electrical fire is increased with untested and unlisted products.
  • Check for a Certified CADR rating on the packaging – Reputable manufacturers will include a label on the packaging that shows the CADR rating that has been tested by a certified laboratory. If the packaging doesn’t have such a label, the quality of the air purifier may be suspect.

Learn more about how to use an air purifier effectively to get the most out of it.

Making the Choice – Fitting Your Needs

Finding the right air purifier to meet your needs doesn’t have to be an overwhelming experience.  Knowing what you need in your air purifier is the major factor in deciding which air purifier best fits your needs.  Following our step-by-step recommendations can make the process easier and less complicated.