An air purifier is an electrical appliance that removes virtually all airborne contaminants from the indoor environment.
The air circulating through the typical home contains not only carbon monoxide, soot, and pollen from outside, but dust mites, pet dander, mold spores, and a dozen other pollutants that originate inside.
An air purifier can remove virtually all of these contaminants, and do so, in most cases, for just pennies a day. After careful consideration, we have determined that the following are the best air purifiers of 2021.
1. Blueair 211+ Air Purifier
The Blueair 211+ Air Purifier is built for large rooms up to 540 square feet. It relies on a carbon-based main filter and two pre-filters that remove all but the tiniest of particles. It may be the best large room air purifier value on our list.
What we like: The 211+ Air Purifier is ideal for homes where obnoxious odors and smoke are an issue. It is, without a doubt, one of the quietest large units on the market. We also appreciate how energy efficient it is.
Flaws: Looks a little like a trash can. So be careful guests understand it is not.
2. Levoit LV-H132 Air Purifier
Levoit goes the extra mile with their outstanding LV-H132 Air Purifier. It utilizes a three-stage filtration system that includes both a HEPA filter for airborne organic particles and an activated charcoal filter to remove smoke and odors.
What we like: We love how quiet, light, handsome and energy-efficient this air purifier is. The three-stage filtration system is also hard to beat. It is a great choice for the kids’ room or the home office.
Flaws: You may be tempted to use it in a larger room, but it is really built for more close quarters.
3. Winix 5500-2 Air Purifier
The 5500-2 from Winix provides three-stage, high-end air purification at a decidedly low-end price. Given how effective and affordable the Winix 5500-2 is, we can forgive some of its design shortcomings.
What we like: Like the Levoit LV-H132, the 5500-2 from Winix employs a three-stage filtration system that gets the air squeaky clean. At 28 decibels, it is also whisper quiet, literally. A great choice for bedrooms or small-ish living rooms.
Flaws: It will only accept one type of filter, and the replacements are expensive.
4. Partu Air Purifier
The Partu Air Purifier is a handsome, affordable, ultra-quiet air purifier that uses HEPA filters to scrub the air of allergens, pet dander, bacteria, and more. It is compact and affordable and, with its multicolor LED nightlight, it is a great choice for the kid’s room.
What we like: The Partu packs a lot of air-purifying punch into its compact size. You can choose from seven different color nightlights. And by manually cleaning the filter every six months, you can significantly extend its life.
Flaws: Comes with its own version of ‘new car smell’ that will take a few days to dissipate.
5. Coway Airmega 300 Smart Air Purifier
With most air purifiers you will need to manually adjust the device if you think the air needs more or less cleaning. The Coway Airmega 300 does the adjustment itself. It is one of the few ‘smart’ air purifier features around that makes sense.
What we like: The Airmega offers five different speed settings. The combination of HEPA and charcoal filters covers all the contaminant bases. It sits up on legs so you can vacuum under it. And the automatic fan adjustment is a nice touch.
Flaws: The design is not its strong point. It is also relatively heavy.
6. Dyson Pure Cool Link Air Purifier
The Dyson Pure Cool features a very cool design, a highly effective HEPA filtration system, and a smartphone app that you will probably never use. That’s because once you switch on the Pure Cool, it does not really need further input from you.
What we like: The HEPA filtration system removes more than 99% of airborne pollutants. That includes bacteria and viruses. Automatically adjusts fan settings to reflect the number of contaminants in the air.
Flaws: While we love the design, the fact is it will look out of place in a lot of homes. Which is why it is number 8 on our list and not higher.
7. Coway AP-1512HH Mighty Air Purifier
The Coway Mighty Air Purifier uses a combination pre-filter and HEPA filter to keep the air in any mid-sized room cleaner than what you will find in most hospitals. If you have a son or daughter away at college, get them one of these for their dorm room.
What we like: The inclusion of a pre-filter will help the HEPA filter work more effectively. On average, it uses a very modest 77 watts of electricity. And there is a warning to alert you to clean the filter.
Flaws: The fact that it shuts off after not detecting pollutants for 30 minutes is not really such a great thing.
8. Molekule Air Purifier
The Molekule Air Purifier is a design winner that uses a multi-stage filtration system to scour the air in your biggest room of virtually all airborne pollutants. If you can swing the rather steep asking price you’ll find it delivers on its clean air promises.
What we like: The Molekule will handle any room up to 600 square feet. The design allows it to fit in with just about any modernist decor. It is built to last, has a genuine leather handle, and never emits ozone.
Flaws: Whether it is actually worth the fairly steep investment is a matter of some debate. We felt it did a good job.
9. Alen BreatheSmart Large Room Air Purifier
Alen has obviously put a lot of work into both the form and the function of their BreathSmart Classic Air Purifier. Unlike with most other air purifiers, you have a wealth of colors and panel designs from which to choose.
What we like: The BreatheSmart is as handsome as it is effective. The design will work with a wide variety of contemporary home styles. It is powerful, reasonably quiet, and its HEPA filters will remove any offending airborne particles down to .3 microns.
Flaws: It is going to set you back a pretty penny, although it is not likely to disappoint.
10. RabbitAir MinusA2 HEPA Air Purifier
Air Purifiers are meant to be switched on and left to run indefinitely. As such, the plethora of control options on the RabbitAir MinusA2 are largely redundant. What is not redundant is how incredibly effective the device is in clearing the air of contaminants.
What we like: The six-stage HEPA filtration system removes virtually all airborne allergens, bacteria, viruses, and more. The Toxin Absorber takes the HEPA purifier one stage further by also capturing most VOCs. Looks great too.
Flaws: As we said, the ‘smart’ controls are basically redundant. And it is pretty expensive.
Who Needs an Air Purifier?
Anyone who wants their home to be a healthier place needs an air purifier. Anyone who suffers from, or has a family member who suffers from, allergies, asthma, or other respiratory conditions needs an air purifier. Anyone who lives in an urban environment where copious amounts of atmospheric pollution regularly make their way into the home, also needs an air purifier.
Air purifiers scrub the air of pollen, dust mites, pet dander, noxious odors, cigarette smoke, carbon dioxide, and more. They can help prevent young people from developing allergies, and they can help prevent older people from being exposed to dangerous bacteria and viruses. If you want to ensure your home is a healthy place for everyone in it, an air purifier is a must.
How We Ranked
Air purifiers are simple devices, both in concept and construction. They draw air from the room, pull that air through either a HEPA, activated charcoal or ionizing filter, and then release the clean air back into the room. Most can process an entire roomful of air 5 or 6 or more times every day.
Because of their essentially simple nature (you turn them on and leave them running round the clock), air purifiers do not need ‘smart’ functionality. So those that touted basically useless functions (like apps that allowed for remote control, etc.) did not earn any extra points in our ranking system. What we were primarily interested in were the type of filters used, the build quality of the device, the warranty, design, and price.
While ionizing filters have their place, they are also the only type of air purifier that cannot be recommended for everyone. That is because they generate ozone that can be harmful to those with certain respiratory ailments. So ionizing air purifiers did not score as highly with us as those that use HEPA or activated charcoal filters.
Design was also important because the air purifier is intended to be a full-time addition to whatever room you place it in. So it has to look good. But looking good is not enough. It has to be built to last. Even though it will be running 24 hours a day 7 days a week, the air purifier should still last for four or five years, minimum. And it should have a warranty that covers at least one or two years of that. Oh, and it should never be louder than an ordinary pedestal house fan.
Finally, we considered price. Primarily because of our desire to provide a range of price options for our readers. But also because we love to find great values.
An air purifier helps you breathe easier. There is a common misconception that outdoor air is more polluted than indoor air. In fact, the opposite is true in most cases (1). Indoor air pollution is trapped. It cannot be blown out to sea by a strong wind. Instead, it circulates over and over throughout the house. The best way to deal with it and to make your home environment healthy is an air purifier.
An air purifier can relieve your allergies. Some of the most common indoor pollutants are allergens. These include pollen, pet dander, dust mites (2), mold spores, and more. Many people with allergies are unaware those allergies originated in their home and cannot understand why they do not get relief when they close the front door behind them. An air purifier using a HEPA filter can remove 99.9% of allergens from the air in your house.
An air purifier helps you sleep better. If you are not sneezing, coughing, or dealing with itchy eyes, or asthma, you are going to sleep better. It does not take a scientist to figure that out. An air purifier that removes virtually all of the sources of your indoor discomfort is going to help you sleep better and feel more refreshed in the morning.
An air purifier is essential during the winter. The dangers of indoor air pollution are many (3). And the threat is magnified in the winter when windows and doors get sealed up tight to conserve heat. Sealing a house off against the outside world also seals in an array of pollutants and allergens that can make your home unhealthy and your life miserable. The best way to combat this is to install an air purifier or purifiers.
An air purifier can absorb unpleasant odors. That includes cigarette, marijuana, and cigar odors, as well as unpleasant pet odors and odors from burnt food. Air purifiers with activated charcoal filters are particularly effective at fighting odors. The carbon in those filters binds with the molecules causing the odor and removes them from the air.
An air purifier can help asthma sufferers. Asthma can be triggered by smoke, dust mites, pollen, mold spores, and more (4). Fortunately, air purifiers do an outstanding job removing these common asthma triggers from the air. If someone in your home suffers from asthma, you should seriously consider picking up an air purifier.
An air purifier can help improve your mood. Philosophers and scientists have long understood that a positive mood can have a positive effect on health (5). But the dynamic goes the other way as well. People who feel better physically also feel better mentally. As your air purifier removes allergens and other pollutants from the air in your house, you will likely feel physically better. As a result, it is likely your mood will improve as well.
An air purifier is great if you have kids. A person may be meticulous in keeping a clean home. But unless they are also addressing the air quality inside the house, it is not really free of health risks. The conventional wisdom has always been that children under 10 are too young to develop allergies. But that notion is changing (6). So, if you want to help ensure your children do not develop allergies when they are still toddlers, consider an air purifier.
An air purifier is good for your furniture. Everything from Persian rugs to delicate electronics are susceptible to being damaged by dust. But you do not have to accept the slow decay of your expensive furnishings. An air purifier with a HEPA filter can remove more than 99% of dust particles in the air. As a result, you will breathe easier, and your expensive furnishings will last longer.
An air purifier may help reduce the risk of degenerative brain disorders. In recent years, researchers have begun looking closely at the relationship between air quality and brain disorders, including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Such a link is now considered to be a given (7), although the exact mechanisms still need to be worked out. An air purifier can clear the air in your home and reduce the risk of brain disorders.
An air purifier can reduce carbon dioxide levels. Excess carbon dioxide is not just bad for the environment, it can also elevate the risk of migraines and high blood pressure, and a rash of other health problems (8). Air purifiers can remove excess carbon dioxide from the air and prevent it from causing problems for yourself and your loved ones.
An air purifier is a great addition to the office. If you have an office in the city, there is no way to prevent air pollution from creeping indoors. For this reason, many people find it useful to have an air purifier in their office. An air purifier can also be an essential bulwark against sick building syndrome (9), which affects many modern office buildings large and small.
An air purifier can take pet dander out of the air. Pet dander is a major cause of allergies among pet owners (10). It can cause chronic respiratory distress and is considered a major trigger for asthma. Unfortunately, there is no way to shampoo your pet to a dander-free state. If pet dander is an issue for yourself or a loved one, you only have three choices: learn to live with it, get rid of the pet, or get an air purifier.
An air purifier can help ensure your baby is born into a healthy environment. No one wants their newborn baby to be breathing dust mites, pollen, air pollution from outside or the aforementioned pet dander. Installing an air purifier before you bring your new bundle of joy home can help ensure that he or she gets off to a healthy, happy start.
An air purifier cleanses the air of bacteria. If you think air purifiers are only good for removing dust from the air, think again. There are also air purifiers that can cleanse the air of dangerous bacteria and viruses. These devices use HEPA filters that are fine enough to eliminate even the tiniest microbes from the air.
An air purifier is a must for the basement. Air purifiers are not dehumidifiers. But what they can do is remove molds spores that often float freely in the air in damp basements. These mold spores can trigger all manner of health problems from lung infections to asthma attacks (11) and even death (12).
Q: What does an air purifier do?
A: Air purifiers remove pollutants from the air in your home. They do this by employing any one of several different types of filters that capture dust, pollen, mold spores, pet dander, dust mites, and more. Some are particularly well-suited to removing fumes and odors from the air, such as tobacco or marijuana smoke, automobile exhaust, soot, and odors from the kitchen and bathroom. And some can cleanse the air of bacteria and viruses.
Q: Are there different types of air purifiers?
A: There are, and they are distinguished by the type of filters they use. The most common are ‘high-efficiency particulate arresting’, or HEPA, air filters that remove contaminants using a mechanical method. Other air purifiers use activated charcoal (13) filters that remove contaminant molecules by binding with them as they pass through the filter. And some air purifiers use charged particles that capture pollutants and drop them to surfaces where they can be collected with a vacuum or dust cloth.
Q: What is a pre-filter?
A: A pre-filter is just what it sounds like; a secondary layer of filtering material placed in front of the main filter. Pre-filters extend the life of the main filter and help it do its job more effectively by removing large particles from the air before they reach it. You will likely need to change or clean your pre-filters much more often than the main filter. But many people feel they make a big difference in air quality.
Q: Why do I need an air purifier?
A: When most people think of air pollution, they think of outdoor air. But the outdoor environment is vast, wind currents carry air pollution away, and both trees and oceans absorb CO2 and other pollutants. Since there are no wind currents, forests, or oceans inside the home, air pollution tends to get trapped there. Indoor air quality can actually be significantly worse than outdoor air (14). That is why you need an air purifier.
Q: Will an air purifier work in a large room?
A: You can find an air purifier that will work with virtually any size room. Some are designed to handle small, enclosed spaces. Others can be placed in large open rooms and purify the air of an entire floor of a house. People often use smaller models in their offices at work to help protect them from ‘sick building syndrome’ (15). Or they’ll place one in their bedroom or other rooms that are often closed off from the rest of the house.
Q: What is a VOC filter?
A: A VOC filter captures fumes and odors such as those emanating from a litter box or someone smoking. This type of filter typically contains activated charcoal. Charcoal is used because it binds with the offending molecules, and in doing so, neutralizes them. Other VOC filters use something called ‘zeolites’ (16). These minerals have ultra-fine pores that act as natural filters blocking the odors and fumes from passing through.
Q: Where is the best place to put an air purifier?
A: If you are buying a single small unit, it is advisable to place it in the room where you spend most of your time. That might be the living room, or a home office, or it might be a bedroom. If you are purchasing a large unit to purify the air on an entire floor, you should place it in a centralized location. In most homes, that will be the living room.
Q: Can an air purifier protect me from the coronavirus?
A: The answer is ‘Yes, maybe’. It really depends on the nature of the virus. At first, scientists thought transmission was primarily person to person and that everyone who was infected got seriously ill. That is why they recommended people stay at home. If that were the case, air purifiers would not do much. But there is now a lively debate about the possibility that it is airborne (17), like measles (18). So if that is the case, air purifiers may indeed help.
Q: What are the signs that I need an air purifier?
A: If you have moved and do not feel as healthy in your new surroundings, you may benefit from an air purifier. If you have recently engaged in remodeling or large-scale cleaning and are now suffering ill effects, you may need an air purifier. If you recently got a new pet and are now displaying allergic symptoms, you may need an air purifier. If your house or apartment is unusually damp, you may also benefit from an air purifier.
Q: Will an air purifier remove contaminants on furniture?
A: Once contaminants have settled onto the surface of chairs, tables, bookshelves, carpets, and more, the air purifier can not remove them. The purifier only removes those particles that are actively floating in the air. To remove pollutants from furniture and other items, you will need to vacuum them or otherwise clean them by hand.
Q: How often do I have to change the filters in an air purifier?
A: How often you need to change the filters in your air purifier will depend on the type of air purifier and the type of filters it uses. As a general rule, you should probably change the filters every six months or so, unless directed to do otherwise by the manufacturer. Keep in mind, too, that some air purifiers have permanent filters or filtration systems that do not require changing filters.
Q: What does CADR stand for?
A: You will often see and hear the acronym CADR when shopping for an air purifier. CADR stands for Clean Air Delivery Rate. That means the volume of air the purifier can clean over a given period of time. Typically it is expressed in Cubic Feet per Minute or CFM. There are three CADR measurements: one for tobacco smoke, one for dust, and one for pollen.
Q: Are air purifiers loud?
A: From an objective standpoint, most air purifiers are no louder than the average house fan, or about 40 to 60 decibels (19). That said, the noise level emitted by a particular air purifier will depend on the size of the unit and the build quality. Some manufacturers build their housings in such a way as to absorb sound. Others emphasize style over sound suppression.
Q: Is it okay to run an air purifier all night?
A: It is not only okay, it is recommended that you run your air purifier 24 hours a day 7 days a week. If you shut your air purifier down every night, you only open the door to contaminants that will be breathed in by everyone as they sleep.
Q: What does ACH mean?
A: ACH is an acronym for ‘Air Changes per Hour’. ACH indicates how many times during the course of an hour the air purifier filters all the air in a room. So, if your air purifier has an ACH rating of 5, that means it is designed to filter all the air in a given space five times per hour. Keep in mind that if your air purifier is designed for a small space and you try to use it in a big space, the ACH rating will not apply.
Q: Is an air purifier going to run up my electric bill?
A: Most of today’s best air purifiers are energy-efficient devices that typically use anywhere from 60 to 100 watts of electricity. That is far less than a PC, and about the same as a ceiling fan. It usually adds up to a few dollars a month on your electric bill. Considering the health benefits you are likely to derive from the air purifier, that seems like money well spent.
Q: Will an air purifier dry out the air in my house?
A: No, an air purifier is not a dehumidifier. It is not going to dry out the air in your home and cause your wooden furniture to crack. You may have heard that it is a good idea to use an air purifier in a damp room or in the basement. And it is. But doing so does not remove humidity from the air. Instead, it removes mold spores and other contaminants associated with damp spaces from the air.
Q: Are air purifiers safe?
A: Most air purifiers use HEPA or activated charcoal filters that are perfectly safe. Others add an electrical charge to the air to capture contaminants in a process known as ‘ionization’. Air purifiers that rely on ionization (20) can produce ozone as a byproduct. The CDC recommends not using this type of air purifier if there is someone in the house suffering from a respiratory condition (21).
Q: Can I run an air purifier with the windows open?
A: You should have your purifier running 24 hours a day 7 days a week. As such, there is no scenario that would call for turning it off, including opening a window. Just bear in mind that the air purifier is not going to work as effectively if a window or door is left open for any significant amount of time. So, opening the window to allow smoke from burnt food out of the kitchen, for instance, is not a problem. But leaving the window open for hours is not advised.
Q: How long does an air purifier last?
A: In most cases, air purifiers should last up to five years. If you maintain the device properly and do not ask it to do more than it is designed to do, it may last a bit longer.
Air purifiers can significantly improve the health and comfort of everyone in the home. They remove common allergens like pollen, dust mites, and pet dander. They eliminate noxious odors and smoke from the kitchen or from cigarettes, cigars, or marijuana. They can rid the air of bacteria and viruses, and they can make the office a safe and productive place to be.
There are several types of air purifiers on the market today. Most use HEPA filters, some use activated charcoal, and still others employ both. Exactly which air purifier will serve you best will depend on what type of airborne contaminants you are dealing with. Use the above information to help you make an informed decision.
For cpoe.org’s #1 recommended air purifier, click here.