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Air Purifier Buying Guide

Many residents don't think twice about their indoor air quality, but those with respiratory problems may find it harder to breathe due to air pollutants. Family members who suffer from allergies, asthma or COPD may benefit from buying an air purifier. This equipment filters dust, pollen, pet dander, smoke, chemicals and other airborne pollutants to provide you with cleaner indoor air. Even if you don't personally suffer from respiratory issues, an air purifier may improve your overall health and wellbeing.

Assessing Your Home Purification Needs

Before you ask, "Which air purifier should I buy?" you should analyze your home's needs. The first step is to identify the heating and cooling system you have. Your HVAC system may determine which type of air purifier you need.

How to Choose an Air Purifier

There are two basic types of air purifiers, which are portable and whole-home. If you have a forced-air heating and cooling system, you can install a whole-home air purifier in the ductwork. Without a duct system, you may have to opt for a portable unit.

  • Portable Air Purifiers – Portable or room air purifiers only filter the air within a single room or open space. These units are the less expensive option and work well in homes without a forced-air system. They may sit on the floor or tabletop, and some units feature wheels for easier maneuverability. You might choose a portable air purifier to place in the bedroom of someone who suffers from asthma or COPD to improve the air quality for that person. The best models use HEPA filters that capture the smallest of airborne particles. Keep in mind that you need to clean or replace these filters once per year. You should avoid any units that feature electronic precipitator or ionizer technology because these models emit ozone, a known lung irritant. Also avoid dedicated ozone generators that emit large quantities of ozone by design.
  • Whole-Home Air Purifiers – If you have a forced-air system, you can contract an HVAC technician to install a whole-home air purifier. These units must be professionally installed into the ductwork, and some models require electrical wiring. Whole-home purifiers work with your existing heating and cooling system to filter pollutants from the entire house. The most effective systems utilize HEPA filters to purify the air.
  • Whole-Home Air Filters – A cheap alternative to buying an air purifier is to replace your furnace filter with a new air filter. Choose from fiberglass, pleated or electrostatic filters. This option is less effective than built-in purifiers, but it is a fine choice for homes with minimal air pollution.

Air Purifier Certifications

When reviewing and comparing air purifiers online, you may notice different ratings and certifications. To find the best air purifier for you, it is important to understand such ratings. These numbers indicate how well the unit performs at its highest speed. The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) rates each model based on the speed at which it filters pollutants. The clean-air delivery rate (CADR) ranges from 0 to 450. Models with a CADR above 350 are excellent, and those rated below 100 perform poorly. The AHAM also suggests the appropriate room size for particular units. It is recommended to choose a slightly higher capacity than what you need so that you can run the air purifier at lower, quieter speeds.

Air filters for purifiers are given a minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV). This number ranges from 1 to 20 and measures the unit's effectiveness of removing air particles. Larger filters are given higher values, but a good rating for residential homes is between 7 and 13.

Air Purifier Features to Consider

Portable and whole-home air purifiers offer different features that can improve your experience. Consider the following features when choosing an air purifier.

  • Fan – A unit's fan sucks in air to filter pollutants. These models are more effective but operate at louder volumes.
  • Filter Indicator – The unit tells you when to change or clean the filter.
  • Odor Removal – This feature removes odors while purifying the air but may take awhile before you notice a difference.
  • Automatic Operation – Air quality sensors and monitors adjust the unit's operation based on current conditions.

Choosing a Contractor

If you decide that a whole-home air purifier is right for you, you need to hire a professional contractor to install the unit. An experienced technician can recommend where to buy air purifiers and help you choose the right size and capacity. You need a professional to properly install the air purifier in your ductwork while ensuring efficient operation. The right contractor can also help you in the future with servicing your equipment and assisting with other indoor air quality solutions.