Purifying the air in your home leads to a cleaner environment and a healthier lifestyle. So naturally, we purchased 14 of the best air purifiers and tested them extensively to see what they were made of. Our independent study to determine the top air purifiers found that mechanical air filtering was the most efficient, and within that air purifiers that achieved a Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) of 200 or higher.
After purchasing 14 of the best air purifiers on the market today, we’ve determined that the #1 Pick is the Honeywell True HEPA Allergen Remover HPA300. This model is a purely mechanical filtering system which is preferred to hybrid and electronic units, has a CADR rating of 300, can filter a space of up to 465 square feet, self monitors filter performance, weighs less than 25 lbs, comes with a 5-year limited warranty, and costs less than $200.
- 1 Top Air Purifiers Compared
- 1.1 #1 Pick Honeywell True Allergen Remover HPA300
- 1.2 #2 Pick Austin Air HealthMate Standard HM-400 – Best For Smoke
- 1.3 #3 Pick Coway AP-1512HH – Best HEPA Air Purifier
- 1.4 #4 Pick Alen BreatheSmart – Best Home Air Purifier
- 1.5 #5 Pick Dyson Pure Cool Link – Best For Dust
- 1.6 How We Choose
- 1.7 Who Should Buy An Air Purifier
- 1.8 Key Factors and Features Considered – Air Purifier Reviews
- 1.9 Which Air Purifier is Right for Me
Top Air Purifiers Compared
OVERVIEW Editor's Choice/Best Air Purifier Honeywell HPA300 Buy Now Best Air Purifier for Smoke HealthMate Standard HM-400 Buy Now Best HEPA Air Purifier Coway AP-1512HH Buy Now Best Home Air Purifier Alen Breathesmart Buy Now Best Air Purifier for Dust Dyson Pure Cool Link Buy Now
#1 Pick Honeywell True Allergen Remover HPA300
CADR: 300 | Area: 465 sq ft | Warranty: 5 Years
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Doesn’t ionize air, lightweight, and low cost.
No bull, no fuss, just straight air purification.
The purifier uses a two-stage, mechanical filtration process, first pulling air through an activated carbon pre-filter, then through a HEPA filter. It’s powerful enough to handle rooms up to 465 sq ft without a problem, and it also features an auto-off setting that’s convenient if you intend on using this unit passively as a multi-room appliance.
Honeywell claims that this unit can handle approximately 280 cubic feet of air per minute in a 465 sq ft room, or rather that the unit “Circulates room air up to 5 times an hour based on AHAM smoke CADR [of 300] in [a 465 sq ft room].” A self-monitoring function alerts the owner when it’s time to change filters, and the front panel is removable allowing for simple filter replacements. The unit itself is also super lightweight (only 21 lbs), which is very refreshing considering many purifiers at this same level are significantly heavier.
Note: Honeywell makes the claim that its the #1 Allergist recommended brand, but we couldn’t find an endorsement by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (even though we were able to find a few independent allergists that recommended Honeywell purifiers).
#2 Pick Austin Air HealthMate Standard HM-400 – Best For Smoke
CADR: 220 | Area: 341 sq ft | Warranty: 5 Years
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Doesn’t ionize air, and has a MASSIVE 15 pound carbon filter.
We would marry the HealthMate if it was legal. It’s the best rated air purifier with respect to performance.
The HealthMate’s filtration process is top-notch, nearly industrial-grade. It’s a four-stage, mechanical purification system that first stops large particles like those from pet dander and dust, then medium-sized particles like pollen before passing air through the fifteen-pound, activated carbon and zeolite filter (it’s a beast), and then finally removing the the smallest contaminants with its HEPA filter.
While Austin Air claims this unit is capable of handling interior spaces as large as 1500 sq ft, we recommend spaces no larger than 341 sq ft based on the smoke CADR rating of 220.
From a controls perspective, this is about as simple as it gets. The unit features a four position, three speed control switch on its front cover, and the filter can be replaced by removing the bottom plate with four screws, and then simply pulling the pre-filter and primary filter assembly out of the HealthMate. Also, the purifier sits on a set of swivel caster wheels which helps a lot when moving the not so light 45 pound air cleaner.
Note: This unit is all about the quality of the filtration process – it doesn’t play around. Keep that in mind when it’s time to replace that filter assembly, they’re not cheap.
#3 Pick Coway AP-1512HH – Best HEPA Air Purifier
CADR: 233 | Area: 361 sq ft | Warranty: 3 Years
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Quality performance, modern design, and price.
The Coway AP-1512HH doesn’t disappoint. Despite employing an ionization step in its filtration process, it performs exceptionally well. It uses a four-stage process to filter air, beginning with a simple pre-filter that captures larger particulate matter, then an activated carbon filter for gases and odors, followed by HEPA filtration, and finally passing air through Coways’ proprietary Vital Ionizer.
If you’ve read our “How We Choose” section then you’ll know how we feel about air purifiers that use ionization techniques, but even so the Coway outperformed other purifiers through our extensive weighted testing. We recommend using this unit in well-ventilated areas larger than 200 sq ft, and away from walls and furniture due to the ozone byproduct created.
The AP-1512HH can handle spaces up to 361 sq ft, and has a plethora of control features including self-monitoring, air quality indication, an Eco mode which automatically turns the fan off if pollutants fall below a predefined level, and conventional speed settings to name a few.
#4 Pick Alen BreatheSmart – Best Home Air Purifier
CADR: 300 | Area: 465 sq ft | Warranty: Lifetime
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Lots of customization options, modern design, and very positive consumer rating.
Unlike most other portable air cleaners on the market, the Alen BreatheSmart offers a ton of customization options. If you’re not thrilled about putting a bulky box in your bedroom, or living room, this unit may be the answer you’ve been looking for. Alen offers interchangeable front face plates in fourteen color options, allowing buyers to match their home’s decor (they even have a cover that can be painted).
On the technical side, the BreatheSmart uses a three-stage process to filter pollutants. Air is pulled into the unit through the back, passes over a pre-filter that encases the primary HEPA filter, and then exits the unit after passing through an optional ionization field activated at the control panel on the top of the system. Alen also lets customers pick from four different HEPA/carbon combination filters including the “HEPA-PURE, HEPA-SILVER, HEPA-FreshPlus,and HEPA-OdorCell” filters. While specifications aren’t readily available on the Alen website, the main distinction between its “PURE” and “SILVER” options are the particulate size capabilities, where the “PURE” is meant for larger particles, the “SILVER” filters smaller matter like pollen more effectively. Alen’s “FreshPlus” and “OdorCell” filters use activated carbon as a means to filter gases and odors – our assumption is that the “OdorCell” has a higher concentration of carbon.
We advise that you use the ionization feature in a well-ventilated room that’s at least 200 sq ft. As with the Coway, try to place this unit away from furniture and walls to avoid soiling from the ozone that’s created. Alen advertises this unit as being capable of treating areas up to 1100 sq ft in size, but using the smoke CADR rating of 300 we don’t recommend areas larger than 465 sq ft.
#5 Pick Dyson Pure Cool Link – Best For Dust
Read Full Review: Dyson Pure Cool Link Review | CADR: N/A | Area: 200 sq ft | Warranty: 2 Years
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Design, smart features, and weight.
Our favorite when it comes to smart features and connectivity, the Dyson Pure Cool Link is part air purifier, and part fan. It comes with a remote, but it can also be controlled via a Google Play app and iOS app. From the smart device application users can also schedule operation times, and review indoor air quality reports.
While operational specifics aren’t published on Dyson’s site, from what we’ve found about 1/15th of the airflow through the device is actually filtered through the HEPA and activated carbon filter at the base of the unit. The Pure Cool Link uses Dyson’s two-stage filter, passing air through its glass HEPA filter, and then through an activated carbon layer for odor control. There are ten speed settings on the Link, and it even has a self-monitoring mode that will variate the speed of the unit based on air quality it detects.
We recommend using the Cool Link in areas no larger than 200 sq ft to maximize its filtration potential. Two flow pattern options can be selected from the physical remote, or smart phone app, and for efficient cleaning our research indicates that the “diffused” mode performs better compared to the “personal” mode.
Note: This machine was the loudest out of all of the top five reviewed (max setting was 81 dB). Having said that, it wasn’t so loud that it interfered with much of anything with headphones or light music on in the background.
How We Choose
We began our research with the top fifteen most highly consumer-rated, portable air purifiers available in 2016. Chase Williams, an electrical engineer and staff contributor, helped review technical features and overall performance data. He’s worked as a project manager for some of the world’s largest specialty chemical manufacturers and specializes in electrical room air quality, pressurization, and control systems. His unique experience in the field of air quality analysis helps to set our study apart from others.
Industry standards set forth by the EPA and the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers helped us narrow our focus by defining the most important performance and safety features.
The most significant performance metric we used in rating was the physical filtering process itself. There are a lot of purifiers on the market that use ionization as part of the decontamination process to neutralize particulate matter too small for carbon and HEPA filters. Manufacturers will argue that ionization is a quality feature, adding value to the purification process, but the EPA (as well as multiple independent researchers) advise against the use of ionization within portable air purifiers due to the creation of ozone byproduct. It’s true, there are also studies that show how well micro-contaminants can be filtered with ionization technology – but for single-room, portable air purifiers we don’t believe the introduction of a containment justifies the reduction of another.
Ozone is toxic, and above a specific volumetric level can be a significant health risk. All that said, some purifiers in our top five list feature ionization as part of the purification cycle, and while they may have ranked lower due to that, they moved past other purifiers due to an overall high score based on all of the metrics we measured.
One of the other more significant variables we used to judge performance was the Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) – a measure of how effective an air purifier is at removing particulates of a specific size from a volume of air at a defined rate of flow. The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) developed the CADR as a means of measurement and certification so that consumers weren’t mislead by poorly performing purifiers marketing high-efficiency filter ratings, or high CFM ratings.
All air pollutants aren’t created equal. Larger particles are heavier and typically more difficult for purifiers to process before they settle on the floor. Smaller contaminants often require specific filter types in order to containment. Because of this, the CADR is measured in three distinct performance tiers: smoke, pollen, and dust.
For our examination, we only ranked purifiers with a smoke CADR of 200, or higher (excluding the Dyson).We gave bonus points to machines using activated carbon filters as part of a staged filtering process. Even more points were awarded for purifiers with carbon filters of five pounds, or more.
An activated carbon filter is nothing more than a charcoal screen that has been treated to expand surface area in order to adsorb more vapors and solvents from the air. Maximum noise, unit weight, self-monitoring features, manufacturer warranty, consumer ratings, and price were all also considered during our review.
Who Should Buy An Air Purifier
Thousands of consumers have stated that continued use of indoor air purification systems has improved their quality of life.
In addition to more commonly known air pollutants like pet dander, dust, mold, and smoke, other contaminants may be lingering that you’re unaware of. Anytime you cook, use cleaning products, paint, treat for insects, print documents, or use any kind of chemical process to do pretty much anything, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are released into your home’s air. As you might expect, levels of VOCs vary greatly from household to household, but the EPA estimates that most homes contain anywhere from two to a thousand times higher levels than outdoors.
VOCs are harmful to humans, and at certain concentrations can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, and eye, nose, and throat irritation. Prolonged exposure to some VOCs can cause chronic health problems, including cancer and even death.
If you live in an area that has outdoor air pollution, have indoor pets, suffer from allergies, have constant headaches, or find that your eyes or sinuses are constantly irritated you should consider investing in a purifier and why our air purifier reviews are important considerations for you to follow.
Key Factors and Features Considered – Air Purifier Reviews
- Filtering Process: We make a major distinction between purifiers that use purely mechanical methods to filter air versus those that incorporate electronic methods such as ionization. While ionization may work well in larger areas, the creation of ozone as a byproduct of the process is concerning in small, poorly ventilated rooms. Ozone particulate is also difficult for them to recover, and often causes deposit buildup on nearby walls, or furniture.
- CADR: The Clean Air Delivery Rate is the measure of 100% removal of a specific sized particle from a defined cubic feet per minute of air. Our testing threshold set a minimum acceptable CADR of 200 rated for smoke. We also calculated the maximum recommended square feet from the CADR. Note: There are variations reported by some of our top picks. For instance, the Austin Air unit claims acceptable use up to 1500 sq ft, but using the CADR we found 341 sq ft to be the threshold.
- HEPA and Activated Carbon Filters: You’ll be hard pressed to find an air purifier that doesn’t use a HEPA-rated filter, but finding one that uses an activated carbon filter with more than five pounds of medium is a bit more difficult. We gave extra points to filtration systems with five pounds of activated carbon, or more.
- Self-Monitoring: A pretty standard feature, self-monitoring helps the user keep track of filter efficiency and uses an alerting system to indicate when the filter needs replacing.
- Coverage: We hardly ever review products without checking manufacturer warranties. We used a limited warranty baseline of five years, and gave units with better coverage extra points.
Mistakes to Avoid
- Ozone Producing: Stay away from air “cleaners” that purposefully create ozone. Not all of these devices are suitable for indoor use. Ozone is a toxic gas that can cause respiratory problems at high levels. (Air cleaners that use ionization methods to remove pollutants are typically okay for indoor air purification.)
- Noise: If you’re planning on putting an air purifier in your bedroom you may want to consider the noise it generates on its maximum setting. Typically, a 300-400 sq ft unit will make around 55 dB at full blast.
Which Air Purifier is Right for Me
The majority of consumers shopping for an air purifier are probably going to be more concerned about performance than any other feature, and while all of our top picks performed well, if air purification efficiency is your #1 priority we recommend our Editor’s Choice/Best Air Purifier, the Honeywell HPA300, or our Best Multi-Room Purifier, the Healthmate Standard HM-400.
On the other hand, if you prefer a purifier that’s easy to customize, or one that plays nicely with the Internet of Things, we recommend the Alen Breathesmart and our Best Ergonomically Designed Air Purifier, the Dyson Pure Cool Link respectively.