The Best and Worst of Air Purifiers
Best Air Purifiers
Air purifiers are supposed to remove allergens, mold spores, organic and inorganic gasses, and other particles from the air within their area of coverage. Using a powerful fan to force air through its system of filters, the air cleaner should remove dust and other particles, then circulate the cleaned air back into the living or office space. A good purifier will remove at least 98 percent of all mold spores, bacteria, viruses, dust, pet dander, and other airborne particles. The best ones (with HEPA filter) remove 99.97%, making them so efficient that they can be used in a medical setting or other pure environment.
A particle-removing air filter does not remove odors or chemicals, but some multi-filter models perform additional purification by adding a filter layer of activated carbon material. A lot of households depend on air purifiers to clean out the many air contaminants that are believed to cause serious allergies, asthma, and other kinds of respiratory disease. Some purifiers also greatly reduce or completely eliminate the compounds and gases of second-hand tobacco smoke.
The air cleaners available on this site were selected because they do an excellent job of purifying air in the home or small office.
Worst Air Purifiers
Data from scientific tests show that, used properly, quality air purifiers offer health benefits. There are some models that should be avoided, either because they produce ozone or because they do a poor job of cleaning the air.
Ozone Concerns: Air purifiers that use ultraviolet light to produce negative ions must be carefully checked for ozone production. Ozone is a naturally occurring byproduct of ultraviolet light. A known irritant of the lungs, allergy sufferers do not want ozone in their living space. Some air purifiers using ultraviolet light are designed to trap the ozone. One model listed on this site uses natural light, not ultraviolet, to product ions.
For a list of air purifiers thought to produce ozone, please refer to the State of California’s Air Resources Board.
Some just do a poor job. Fortunately, Consumer Reports periodically tests air purifiers: They found that the Oreck air cleaner ($400) not only did a poor job of cleaning the air but also produced ozone in low levels. You probably read about the lawsuit between Sharper Image and Consumer Reports over the low rating of the Ionic Breeze. It has been said that Sharper Image’s continued sales of the Ionic Breeze, which not only did a poor job of air filtration but also produced unacceptable levels of ozone, put the store out of business.
Consumer Reports testers also gave a low rating to the $400 LightAir IonFlow ($400), saying “The IonFlow air cleaner was about as effective at removing dust and smoke as having no air cleaner at all.”