According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the air inside your home may be more polluted than the air outdoors, even if you live in a large city center. One way to improve your air quality indoors is by using an air purifier — they can filter indoor air contaminants like dust, pollen and smoke.
Multiple NBC Select staffers have used air purifiers for years to combat dust, pet dander, wildfire smoke and more. We spoke with health and filtration experts to better understand air quality and advice on what you need to know before purchasing an air purifier.
How we picked the best air purifier
We spoke with industry experts to understand the importance of air quality and filtration methods. Using their guidance, we selected top-rated air purifiers with at least a four-star average rating based on the following criteria:
- Filtration: Our experts say that filtration is key when choosing any air purifier. All of our recommendations advertise high-efficiency particulate air filtration (HEPA, more in our FAQ section) and have a clean air delivery rate (CADR, more in our FAQ section) equivalent to at least two-thirds of the recommended room size. For example, an air purifier for a 600-square-foot room should have a CADR of at least 400, according to our experts.
- Independent testing: We only picked air purifiers independently tested by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM). AHAM certifies the performance of air purifiers through its AHAM Verifide program.
- Adjustability: We only picked air purifiers with at least three adjustable speed levels. Air purifiers can be loud at their highest speed — having lower, quieter speed options, especially in bedrooms, is crucial, based on personal experience.
Top-rated air purifiers in 2023
Most of our recommendations are either staff favorites or top-rated products from veteran air purifier brands like Blueair and Honeywell.
Below each recommendation, we share specifications like recommended room size according to AHAM, decibel levels and clean air delivery rate (CADR).
Editor’s pick: Blueair Pure 511
NBC Select editor Lindsay Schneider received one of these air purifiers from the brand when it launched in 2023 and promptly bought a second one after seeing all the dust it collected. Inside her 400 square foot NYC apartment, she has one in the bedroom and one in the main living space. It’s one of the smallest and lightest purifiers on our list at under 5 pounds, making it easy to fit in any sized space.
The purifier pulls unfiltered air from all directions into its base and pushes clean air out of the top. It also has a fabric mesh cover that wraps around the base of the machine to catch larger clumps of dust, lint and hair — when the cover looks dirty, you can remove the velcro, take it off the machine and hand-wash it. It is very minimalist, with no smart connectivity or sensors to speak of, but has a good recommended room size and CADR for the price.
According to AHAM guidance, this unit is best suited to small to medium-sized spaces no larger than 180 square feet.
Recommended room size (AHAM): 180 sq. ft. | Decibels: 24 — 49 dB | CADR (CFM): smoke: 112, dust: 112, pollen: 112 | Connectivity: n/a | Speeds: 3 | AHAM verified: Yes | Weight: 4.2 lbs
For large spaces: Blueair Pure 311i+ Max
I received the Blue Pure 311i+ Max from the brand and have been using it in my 500-square-foot NYC apartment for almost a year, including during 2023’s Canadian wildfire season.
The 311i+ weighs 7.9 pounds, lightweight compared to air purifiers I’ve used rated for large room sizes. It is also very quiet — on its lowest setting, it only added one or two decibels to my general room ambience, increasing noise from 32 dB to 34 dB (according to a decibel reader on my phone).
Similar to our editor’s pick, it pulls unfiltered air from all directions into its base — I have mine near the corner of my bedroom. During the spring allergy season, I usually wake up with a stuffy nose, sneezing. This year, with this air purifier, I rarely had either symptom.
I also like the 311i+ Max’s pre-filter: a large fabric mesh cover that wraps around the body of the machine. This cover catches lots of large clumps of lint and hair and it’s easy to take off and hand-wash when it gets too dirty.
You can turn the machine on manually or use the Blueair app to access detailed stats like indoor air quality and filter life. I also use the app to set a schedule for the purifier — it automatically changes to night mode, the lowest and quietest speed, every evening around 9 PM.
Recommended room size (AHAM): 465 sq. ft. | Decibels: 23 — 50 dB | CADR (CFM): smoke: 300, dust: 300, pollen: 300 | Connectivity: Yes, Blueair app | Speeds: 4 | AHAM verified: Yes | Weight: 7.9 lbs
For small spaces: Instant AP 100
NBC Select associate updates editor Zoe Malin has owned this compact air purifier for years. “I love that it’s totally hands-off — it senses the air quality in your room and adjusts settings accordingly,” she says. This feature, called auto mode, usually comes in air purifiers that cost around $150 — the Instant AP typically costs under $100.
Another standout feature is its light sensor. When Malin turns off the lights in her apartment, the air purifier automatically dims its display lights and reduces its speed to its quietest setting, about as loud as a bedroom fan, says Malin.
Following AHAM guidance, this air purifier is best for smaller bedrooms and offices no larger than 126 square feet.
Recommended room size (AHAM): 126 sq. ft. | Decibels: 24 — 50 dB | CADR (CFM): smoke: 81, dust: 85, pollen: 98 | Connectivity: n/a | Speeds: 3 | AHAM verified: Yes | Weight: 8 lbs
Great value: Honeywell HPA300
This air purifier is fit for a larger space than most other options, but at a lower price. Unlike many of our top picks, it does not have an auto mode, a companion app or night mode. However, according to AHAM lab results, it has a very high CADR (especially for its price), meaning it can filter out air contaminants quickly and effectively. It also has a 4.7-star average rating from over 30,000 reviews on Amazon.
It has four speed modes: low, medium, high and turbo. It also has a filter indicator button that shows you when it’s time to replace the filter. You can also use the dimmer button to turn off the panel lights on top of the purifier, an important feature for ensuring a dark bedroom while sleeping. It also has a timer button that turns off the purifier after two, four or eight hours.
Recommended room size (AHAM): 465 sq. ft. | Decibels: Undisclosed | CADR (CFM): smoke: 300, dust: 320, pollen: 300 | Connectivity: n/a | Speeds: 4 | AHAM verified: Yes | Weight: 17 lbs
Best design: Bissell Air320 Max
The Bissell Air320 Max looks more like a modern piece of furniture than an air purifier. It stands elevated off the ground with four wooden legs, making it easier for you (or a robot vacuum) to clean underneath it. In the same vein, the power cord can also be tucked out of the way in a wrap-around slot on the back of the machine.
Instead of touch buttons, the Air320 has a single dial that can be used to control speeds and check the filter status. Like our editor’s pick, this purifier has a pre-filter fabric cover that captures larger particles of dust and hair, according to the brand,
When connected with the Bissell connect app, you can monitor air quality and control the air purifier remotely.
Recommended room size (AHAM): 363 sq. ft. | Decibels: Undisclosed | CADR (CFM): smoke: 234, dust: 247, pollen: 264 | Connectivity: Yes, Bissell app | Speeds: 5 | AHAM verified: Yes | Weight: 18.25 lbs
How to shop for an air purifier
Air purifiers are designed to remove indoor air pollution caused by fuel-burning appliances, furniture, cleaning products, heating and cooling systems, car pollution, wildfire smoke and everything in between. These indoor contaminants can enter your lungs and cause irritation or trigger allergic reactions, says Kenneth Mendez, president of the nonprofit Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
Our experts agree that filtration is key when choosing an air purifier, and highlight two important factors in getting effective filtration: HEPA filters and an appropriate CADR.
Meet our experts
At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and without undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.
- Kenneth Mendez is the president of the nonprofit Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
- Michael Corbat is the vice president of engineering for Rensa Filtration and president of the National Air Filtration Association.
Why trust Select?
Justin Redman is a former reporter at NBC Select. For this piece, he spoke with experts like Kenneth Mendez and Michael Corbat to better understand air purifiers.
Harry Rabinowitz is a reporter at NBC Select who covers technology and has used air purifiers in his home for over four years. For this piece, he leveraged his personal experience as well as the experience of multiple Select staff members to recommend products. He also conducted thorough research on top-rated air purifiers.