greater focus on health and well-being is driving sales
of products like home air purifiers, with many people
thinking these devices will make indoor air cleaner.
of these products are forecast to see a compounded
annual growth rate of around 10 percent in 2015-2020,
according to a 2015 report published by TechSci
health experts say the machines are mostly unnecessary
unless a person has a lung condition like asthma or
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). They
advise homeowners to take other steps to clear the air
before investing in one of these devices, especially
since ongoing maintenance and expense are required to
ensure that the units work properly.
your expectations. Dr. Clayton Cowl, chair of the
division of preventive occupational and aerospace
medicine at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and a
pulmonologist, said buyers need to understand the
limitations of air purifiers.
think it’s a waste of money for people who feel that
sticking (one) in their home is suddenly going to rid
them of all respiratory diseases. That they’ll never
be ill, and that’s all they need, and they’re
completely protected. That is not the case," he
Solano, director of lung health for the Lung Association
in Greater Chicago, said air purifiers won’t clean the
entire home, either. Portable air purifiers, the most
common, at best can improve a room.
for people who have lung conditions, investing in better
filters for their furnace and buying a portable air
purifier can help, Solano said.
said the best air purifiers use true high-efficiency
particulate air (true HEPA) filters, which are proven to
trap 99.97 percent of particles of 0.3 microns in size.
looking at these more for patients who have asthma, COPD,
anyone that might have any kind of lung disease. These
do help," she said.
HEPA filters, as opposed to "HEPA-type"
filters, can trap most pollens, dust and pet dander, she
said. Additionally, some air purifiers have carbon
filters to remove tobacco and cooking smoke.
Perratore, senior editor for home and appliance at
Consumer Reports, said that in its tests, the
best-performing air purifiers were the Honeywell HPA300
($300, 435-square-foot room) and the Whirlpool Whispure
APK1030K ($349.99, 500-square-foot room).
to watch for. Solano said that, because there are so
many different models on the market, buyers need to do
their homework. She said the Environmental Protection
Agency’s website has a thorough review of what
shoppers should consider on its Indoor Air Quality page.
Cowl and Solano said homeowners should stick to
filter-type air purifiers and avoid those that use ozone
to clean the air.
can act as a respiratory irritant. So it paradoxically
does harm as opposed to actually helping," Cowl
said ozone is used extensively for water purification
and helps decontaminate unoccupied space from certain
chemicals and biological contaminants — for instance,
after a fire — but she pointed out that ozone in water
is not the same as ozone in air.
from fan speeds, Perratore said that, in its testing,
Consumer Reports found there’s little need to pay more
for any special features on portable air purifiers.
speeds are important because portable air purifiers are
noisy, and they’re usually used in bedrooms. However,
Perratore said that, when the devices are used on low
speeds, they sometimes aren’t as efficient. The two
top Consumer Reports picks work well on high and low
Cowl and Perratore said the units work best when they’re
in rooms where the door is shut and are cleaned as well
as possible to remove lung irritants. The filters must
be changed regularly.
maintenance and cost of these devices may make them a
last resort for people without lung diseases, Perratore
said. True HEPA filters for the Honeywell and Whirlpool
units are $35 and $99, respectively. Then there’s the
energy cost to run the units, he added.
are also limits to what portable air purifiers can
catch. EPA notes that large particulates like dust mites
and cockroach allergens may not be caught by these
units. And Cowl said people who suffer from seasonal
allergies may not get that much relief from having the
air purifiers around.
don’t think any air filtration system will completely
prevent that," he said.
options. Before buying an air purifier, Cowl, Solano and
Perratore suggested checking out other options for
cleaning indoor air. Better furnace filters can trap
pollutants, Cowl said, but those must be changed
regularly too. Look for the minimum efficiency reporting
value (MERV) for air filters. This rating (1 to 20) is a
standard for overall effectiveness. The higher the MERV
rating, the more particulates the filter will screen
out. True HEPA filters are rated between 17 and 20.
Cowl said, many furnaces aren’t designed to use true
HEPA filters, so they may cause the furnace to work
and mattress encasements can limit dust mites in the
bed, Solano said. And keeping a clean home is half the
the windows, dust, vacuum with a HEPA vacuum; that would
be the best thing. These are other things you can really
do besides getting (an air purifier)," she said.