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5 lab-certified air purifiers for small and large spaces

The right air purifier can help clear your air of contaminants like smoke, dust and pollen.
Close up hand of a mother turning on home air purifier for her newborn baby who is sleeping in the crib in the nursery. Fresh air. Cleaning and removing dust and bacteria. Healthier life and living concept
All of our recommendations are independently certified by AHAM, the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers.Getty Images

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.

SKIP AHEAD Top-rated air purifiers in 2023 | How to shop for an air purifier

Our top picks

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 below) and have a clean air delivery rate (CADR, more below) 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: Blue Pure 311i+ Max

Blue Pure 311i+ Max

The Blue Pure Max line is the latest series of Blueair air purifiers. I received the Blue Pure 311i+ Max from the brand and have been using it in my 500-square-foot NYC apartment for a few months, including during 2023’s Canadian wildfire season

The 311i+ weighs 7.9 pounds, lightweight compared to air purifiers I’ve used rated for similar room sizes. It is also very quiet on its lowest settings. When using a decibel reader on my phone, this purifier on its lowest setting only added one or two decibels to my general room ambience, increasing noise from 32 dB to 34 dB.

It pulls in 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 changes to night mode, the lowest and quietest speed, every evening automatically around 9 PM.

Recommended room size (AHAM): 465 sq. ft. | Decibels: 23 — 50 dB(A) | 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

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 because 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 of this air purifier 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 which is quieter than most bedroom fans.

Following AHAM guidance, this air purifier is best suited to smaller bedrooms and offices no larger than 126 square feet.

Recommended room size (AHAM): 126 sq. ft. | Decibels: 24 — 50 dB(A) | CADR (CFM): smoke: 81, dust: 85, pollen: 98 | Connectivity: n/a | Speeds: 3 | AHAM verified: Yes | Weight: 8 lbs

For large spaces: Blueair Protect 7770i

Blueair Protect 7770i

The Protect 7770i is fit for rooms up to 674 square feet, according to AHAM guidance. It is a top-rated pick from our guide to the best quiet air purifiers, with a maximum decibel rating of about 53, about as quiet as a conversation.

Aside from filtering large spaces, the Protect 7770i has a more advanced screen that shows you the air quality in your space, a feature typically reserved for companion mobile apps. Like our editor’s pick, the Blueair 311i+ Max, you can connect this air purifier to the Blueair app to set a schedule and view filter status. After setting it up via the Blueair app, you can control this air purifier using Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.

The Protect 7770i is very heavy at 43 pounds but it has wheels built-in to more easily move it about your space.

Recommended room size (AHAM): 674 sq. ft. | Decibels: 25 — 53 dB(A) | CADR (CFM): smoke: 435, dust: 400, pollen: 435 | Connectivity: Yes, Blueair app, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant | Speeds: 4 | AHAM verified: Yes | Weight: 43.2 lbs

Great value: Honeywell HPA300

Honeywell HPA300

This top-rated air purifier cleans a larger space than most other options around the same $270 price. Unlike most of our top picks, it does not have an auto mode, a companion app or a night mode. But according to AHAM lab results, it has a very high CADR rate (especially, we think, for its price).

The features it does have are basic but important. It has four speed modes: low, medium, high and turbo. It has a filter indicator which shows you when you need to replace the filter. The dimmer button turns off the panel lights, a useful feature if you want to use this product in a bedroom. It also has a timer button which turns off the purifier after two, four or eight hours.

Room Size: 465 sq. ft. | Decibels: Undisclosed | CADR (CFM): smoke: 300, dust: 320, pollen: 300 | Connectivity: N/A | Speeds: 4 | AHAM verified: Yes

Best design: Bissell Air320 Max

Bissell Air320 Max

Unlike other options on this list, this air purifier from Bissell 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 under. In the same vein, when moving or storing the purifier, the power cord wraps around a slot in the back of the machine.

Instead of touch buttons, the Air320 has a single dial that controls speeds, power and filter status. Like our editor’s pick, the Blue Pure 311i+ Max, the Air 320 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. On Amazon, the Bissell Air320 Max is top-rated, with a 4.6 star average rating from over 3,000 reviews.

Room Size: 363 sq. ft. | Decibels: Undisclosed | CADR (CFM): smoke: 234, dust: 247, pollen: 264 | Connectivity: Yes, Bissell app | Speeds: 5 | AHAM verified: Yes

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. They highlighted two important factors in getting effective filtration: HEPA filters and an appropriate CADR.

Frequently asked questions

HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters are pleated and can remove at least 99.97% of airborne particles (like dust or pollen) that are 0.3 microns in size (the particle size that is the most difficult to catch), according to the EPA . Our experts agree that HEPA is crucial for quality filtration.

But HEPA isn’t a centrally regulated standard, says Michael Corbat, vice president of engineering for Rensa Filtration. It’s up to brand and third-party laboratories to test and disclose accurate filter data, he says.

The lack of oversight is a concern — you are relying on manufacturers to perform and report on these filter tests accurately, according to our experts. Rather than rely on decentralized testing and manufacturer claims around HEPA, our experts recommend taking note of each air purifier’s CADR as well.

CADR (clean air delivery rating) is an indicator of how well an air purifier will clear a given space of contaminants (measured in cubic feet per minute). Usually, air purifier companies will indicate the CADR for contaminants like tobacco smoke, dust or pollen. For example, a pollen CADR of 125 means that the air purifier can remove pollen and deliver 125 cubic feet of clean air per minute.

According to AHAM , your air purifier should have a CADR rating equivalent to about two-thirds of the area of your space (in cubic feet). CADR tests assume an eight-foot ceiling, so if you have a higher ceiling, you’ll need an air purifier with an even higher CADR.

Corbat recommends finding air purifiers tested and certified by AHAM that are given a CADR by the organization (any CADR ratings are otherwise self-reported by the brand). All of our picks are AHAM certified, and we include AHAM’s recorded CADR scores in each product recommendation.

A decibel (dB) is a measurement of sound — a ticking watch is around 20 dB, a soft whisper 30 dB and a motorcycle 95 dB. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), prolonged exposure to sound levels above 70 dB can bother you, while sound above 90 dB can damage your hearing, depending on how long you hear it.

When it comes to air purifiers, it is largely up to the manufacturers and third-party laboratories to test and disclose accurate sound data, similar to HEPA filters. As noted in our guide to top-rated quiet air purifiers, we recommend cross-checking claimed decibel levels with consumer groups like Quiet Mark, a UK-based independent global certification program that identifies the quietest products.

A smart or Wi-Fi-compatible air purifier can typically connect to a smartphone app that allows you to control the machine remotely from your phone — this includes changing the speed level, adjusting display brightness and setting a recurring schedule, Our editor’s pick, the Blue Pure 311i+ Max , can be controlled using the brand’s Blueair app. Smart compatible air purifiers can be convenient — I can use a phone app from the comfort of my couch or bed to change speed levels or check on my indoor air quality levels.

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.

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 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.

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