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If you’re allergic to pollen, spring can be both a beautiful time of year and an ugly reminder that seasonal allergies have the propensity to rain on your parade.
Closing your windows can help keep pollen out, but it’s still possible to bring some of the outdoors inside in your hair and on your shoes and clothing. Plus, without fresh air circulating through your home, indoor air pollution from sometimes harmful particulates, such as dust and mold, can reach concentrations five times higher than air pollution outdoors, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. But a good air purifier can reduce some of those pollutants, as well as pollen, and help you breathe easier.
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“The best air purifiers we’ve tested are able to remove small particles from your air whether at high or low speed,” says Misha Kollontai, who oversees the testing of air purifiers at Consumer Reports. “They are able to do so at a relatively low noise level, which is great since they are operating around the clock.”
On the flip side, Kollontai observes that the worst air purifiers on our list struggle to clean the air at both low and high speeds, adding, “Oftentimes, poor performance in removing particles like smoke and dust is accompanied by a lot of noise, which can be bothersome in a living area.”
To test air purifiers, we inject smoke and dust particles into a sealed chamber and measure how well each model removes particles between 0.1 and 1 micron. (Human hair has a diameter of 100 microns.) We use a particle counter to measure the change in particle concentration as the air purifier runs for 15 minutes at the highest speed, and then at a lower speed. And because these run day and night, we measure noise levels, in decibels, at every speed, and calculate annual operating costs for filter replacements and energy use to run the machine 24 hours a day.
The three top models in our air purifier ratings earn an Excellent or Very Good rating for particle reduction at a low speed while keeping noise to a minimum. (They all aced the high-speed test, as did many models.)
Here’s a closer look at the top five air purifiers we’ve tested, followed by the three worst. They’re listed alphabetically.
The Best Air Purifiers
CR’s take: With the recent addition of the Alen BreatheSmart 75i Pure to CR’s ratings, there’s a new reigning champ in the air purifier space. The 75i proves to be top-notch at capturing and removing dust and smoke while running at its highest and lowest levels, earning an Excellent score in both tests. Holding a conversation or getting work done while the unit runs should be easy enough: The model receives a Good score for noise levels on high and low speeds. Another reason this model receives high marks? Its energy and operating costs, including filter replacements, run roughly $140 annually, which is significantly less than the other standout models on the list. And it covers up to 1,300 square feet, which is significantly more than the others highlighted here.
CR’s take: The reasonably priced Blueair Blue Pure 211+ is one of only four portable air purifiers that receives an Excellent rating for particle removal at both high- and low-speed settings in CR’s tests. Plus, it has a machine-washable fabric prefilter for capturing larger particles (like pet hair) that can prolong the life of the main filter. It’s designed for floor use in a large room. A couple of caveats: Expect some noise when the unit is running at high speed; it gets a below average score in that test. You’ll also have to shell out about $200 each year for energy and operating costs.
CR’s take: Man, can this machine clear a room. It’s one of only four models that earn Excellent scores for particle removal at both the high- and low-speed settings. The Blueair Classic 605 runs whisper-quiet at low speeds, but it’s noisy on high speed. It’ll clean the air quickly, but you won’t want to be in the room while it does, especially if you’re having a conversation or watching TV. Of course, you pay for all that performance. It’s one of the most expensive air purifiers in our ratings, and that’s just the initial cost; filter replacements and energy use will set you back around $250 per year. The machine weighs a hefty 30 pounds but has casters that make it easy to cart from room to room. Its claimed capacity is a room of 775 square feet.
CR’s take: The portable Blueair Protect 7470i has a filter indicator (to alert you when you need to change/clean the filter), a dirt sensor, and three speeds. On its highest setting, it receives an Excellent score for removing dust, pollen, and smoke, but it does generate a bit of noise. It runs more quietly on its lower setting, for which it receives a Very Good score for clearing contaminants. This model is designed for floor or tabletop use in a space that’s about 420 square feet, and it costs about $140 a year to maintain.
CR’s take: The Samsung Cube Stack earns Excellent scores for particle removal at both the high- and low-speed settings. But it certainly comes at a price. The stack is two Samsung Cube models placed one on top of the other to produce a much stronger cleaning machine. To get the desired effect, you’ll need to purchase two units, making it the most expensive air purifier in our ratings. It’s also not as quiet as the top-rated model, and its annual cost is around $209 for filters and energy use. Test engineers find the stack to be best suited for large rooms, and given that it weighs a bit over 49 pounds, it’s best to keep it stationary. An indicator light will flash when it’s time to change the filter, and its functions can be controlled by an app.
Worst Air Purifiers
CR’s take: The Crane EE-5073 doesn’t deliver on an air purifier’s basic premise: to help sanitize the air of harmful pollutants. Designed for use in rooms of up to 150 square feet, it earns Poor ratings for dust, pollen, and smoke removal on both high and low speeds. That makes it one of the worst-performing air purifiers that CR has tested. Not to mention it isn’t Energy Star certified, so it’s less energy-efficient compared with qualified air purifiers. It’s relatively quiet and has an inexpensive annual operating cost of $39, but these seem like moot points, given the model’s ineffectiveness.
CR’s take: The Lasko HF11200 earns Poor ratings at removing dust, smoke, and pollen at its highest and lowest speed, which means it fails to live up to the most basic requirement for a portable air purifier. In addition, it lacks a filter indicator, so you’ll have to keep track of when it’s time to change the main filter. And it’s not Energy Star certified, which means it’s less energy-efficient than qualified air purifiers. It doesn’t produce much noise and it’s pretty easy to operate, but it costs $105 per year to operate. This model is designed for smaller rooms.
CR’s take: This is a case of “you get what you pay for.” The lowest-ranking air purifier in our ratings happens to carry the lowest retail price. Pure Enrichment claims that the Pure Zone Mini 2-in-1 removes close to 98 percent of dust and smoke, but when put to the test, the unit fails to live up to that. It earns a Poor rating for dust and smoke removal on both the lowest and highest settings. The Mini 2-in-1 is portable and rechargeable, which is convenient. That means it can be turned on in your car or on a plane, as demonstrated on the product’s website. This helps the machine earn an Excellent rating for energy output and the lowest operating cost—$29 annually—of all the air purifiers on our list. But with such poor results, it’s not much more than a white noise machine.
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