Best Air Purifiers of 2020
Best air purifiers for 2020: Test about the best HEPA, ionic, carbon-activated and other air purifiers on the market right now.
Fearmongering in ad campaigns aside, air purifiers really do accomplish quite a bit for your home. In fact, from filtering aerosol droplets (which can carry COVID-19 virions) to pollen to wildfire smoke out of the air you breathe, air cleaning devices seem to offer more value than ever. But with the overwhelming number of air-cleaning devices on the market, all advertising various filtration methods, how do you find the best one?
After tested the extra features on a dozen of the most popular models, interviewed various experts in the field of indoor air quality, David Priest written up the definitive list of the best air cleaners around. Ready to buy an air purifier? Look no further.
According to Shaughnessy, who has a doctorate in chemical engineering, most air cleaners run your air through a filter designed to catch particles you might otherwise inhale. These are usually High Efficiency Particulate Absorbing filters and they're designed to capture 99.97% of particles sized 0.3 micron or larger. HEPA filters reliably remove smoke (including from wildfires), pollen, dust and other particulate matter that pollutes home environments.
Activated carbon offers another type of filter, which captures odors and gaseous pollutants that can slip through a HEPA filter. "[Carbon filters are] good ... to an extent," said Shaughnessy, "but they need to have a sufficient amount of carbon. You don't want breakthrough happening where the carbon becomes fully saturated and it releases what was captured back into the air."
Another common type of air cleaning works via ionic filtering. These filters can be effective, according to Shaughnessy, but they have a number of shortcomings: Some don't actually remove particulate from the home, but rather cause them to attach themselves to surfaces around the home. Others must be cleaned consistently, or they might begin to emit ozone -- itself a pollutant.
While some ionic purifiers are effective and standards for them have risen significantly in recent years, the benefits an ionic purifier offers over a HEPA filter are in many cases negligible -- particularly given the risk they occasionally pose.
An important standard to keep an eye out for is the AHAM Verified Clean Air Delivery Rate, which tells you how much air a purifier can process in a given time frame. Not every company uses this standard, but most do.
Recommendations get a little more complicated when companies don't list a CADR, or when they employ proprietary filtration methods.
Some major players, like Dyson and Molekule, offer their own standards. That doesn't necessarily mean that their devices are inferior, but rather that they require extra scrutiny. In these cases, I looked at the explanations presented by the companies themselves and talked to third-party specialists. By and large, such devices -- even if they do accomplish what they claim -- still end up overpriced compared with competing products with more readily accessible evidence backing up their claims.
For the recommendations below, David primarily consider the power for the price (that is, the higher the CADR and the lower the price, the better). Secondarily, he look at additional cleaning modes, the helpfulness of controls, the general design and the noise level. The perfect air cleaner looks sleek enough to fit into most modern decor, can operate as desired with minimal fiddling and can thoroughly and quietly clean your air.
Best overall air purifier
Blueair Pure 411
The Blueair Pure 411 is a simple, straightforward purifier with smart design and solid bang for your buck. You get particle and carbon filtration (which removes odors and gaseous pollutants) that will work well in a 160-square-foot room, all for $120. Some devices, like Sharp's Air Purifier, don't even offer that much cleaning power at nearly twice the price.
The Blueair has different colored prefilter sleeves for the outside of the device, so it will fit into almost any color palette, and its single-button interface is as intuitive as it gets. The device is also light, with middle-of-the-road noise production. Besides the noise, the only real downside is the lack of extra goodies, like timer buttons.
Best air purifier for large spaces
Honeywell Home HPA300
Honeywell's $250 air purifier is a little more expensive than other HEPA models, but it can cover a larger space than almost any other purifier I tested: 465 square feet. Despite its clunky design (this thing weighs a hefty 21 pounds), the Honeywell Home is actually one of the quieter models around.
The Home's aesthetic isn't my favorite, but you get good control for setting timers and checking whether the prefilter or filter needs replacing. If you're looking for great basic performance for a reasonable price, you can't beat the Honeywell Home.
Best for design
Coway AP1512HH HEPA Air Purifier
Coway's air purifier falls between the Blueair and Honeywell models above in both price and the size of the room it can cover, but its unique design and ion filtration technology set it apart from those. The Coway can filter air for rooms up to 361 square feet and its striking, retro design was one of my favorites among the devices I tested.
While the ionic filtration technology isn't a huge plus, it also won't produce significant ozone, as tested by the California EPA. If you want an air purifier for a midsize room, Coway's purifier is one of the best options around with one of the most adventurous looks.
Best for car
Autowit air purifiers' compact design and HEPA filtration technology ideal for use in cars. 3-stage filtration effectively removes PM2.5, pollen, smoke, dust, flocci, formaldehyde, unpleasant odors and more. And with air quality indicator, it automatically detects and indicates the air quality around via different colors of the LED indicator. Worried about noise? Don't worry! Silent Mode sanitizes the air for easy breathing and more restful sleep with a noise of 35dB tops.