“What’s the best air purifier on the market?”
It’s a question that many of us might ask. There are thousands of air purifier models to choose from, so how can you find the best air purifier that’s right for you? This article covers those steps in a slightly unorthodox way.
What’s the Best Air Purifier?
Turns out, this question is kind of over thinking it. Instead of the absolute best, the answer is: there are a lot of very effective purifiers out there.
But that’s easy to say and doesn’t help choose among all the options. Use these four steps for that:
Step 1: Ignore the Marketing Hype
Claims about proprietary technology aren’t backed up by the tests I’ve seen. The Molekule purifier is a good example of claims that don’t fit the data: Is Molekule really better than similarly priced air purifiers already on the market?
Also ignore imported filters that try convince you with European flags or beautiful blonde families living in all-white homes.
Step 2: Go Straight to the Numbers
Instead of marketing hype. Focus on the numbers. The most important numbers for an air purifier are the room size it covers (in sqft or m2) and its CADR rating.
Room size means how big a room the purifier can cover (when running on its highest setting). CADR tells you how much clean air is coming out of the purifier.
If you’re looking for a quieter air purifier, choose one with a higher room size/CADR number then run it on low.
Step 3: Know That More Expensive DOESN’T Mean Better
Don’t be fooled into thinking that more expensive purifiers are better. It seems logical; the phrase “you pay for what you get” exists for a reason, right? And who wouldn’t want to pay more to protect their health?
Unfortunately, the purifier world doesn’t work like that. Turns out air purifiers are surprisingly simple – they’re just fans and filters that can even be DIY-ed at home.
But most air purifier companies don’t want you to know that. That way they can charge thousands of dollars for clean air. Don’t take our word for it. Here’s data that shows two DIY air purifiers that cost just $30 performing as well as thousand dollar machines.
Step 4: Find Third-Party Test Data
Once you’ve found an air purifier, find third-party data that backs up the claims. Some good resources:
AHAM Tests: The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) has a searchable database of effectiveness tests that they ran (CADR).
Home Tests: Smart Air founder Thomas Talhelm has tested a handful of purifiers: Blue Air 203, IQ Air Health Pro Plus, Philips AC 4072, and DIYs. Test of the Xiaomi here important for anyone who owns the Xiaomi.
Sweet Home Tests: The tests of this US citizen scientist include 7 major brands. His raw data is no longer up online, so I archived a copy of it here.
Shanghai Consumer Protection Bureau Tests: The Consumer Protection Bureau in Shanghai tested a huge slate of purifiers and published the results. They’re no longer online, so but I archived (and translated) the results.
Consumer Reports Tests: Consumer Reports has great tests of purifiers, but unfortunately the data is behind a paywall.
Step 5: Breathe safe!
That’s it! To recap: don’t be fooled by marketing, but concentrate on the purifier’s data. Find third-party test data to verify a purifier’s effectiveness, and know that a more expensive doesn’t necessarily mean more clean air.
How I Protect Myself
Smart Air is a certified B Corp committed to combating the myths big companies use to artificially inflate the price of clean air.
Smart Air provides empirically backed, no-nonsense purifiers and masks, that use the same HEPA filters (that filter 95-99.5% of particles of size 0.3 microns) for a fraction of the cost of big companies.
Thomas is an Associate Professor of Behavior Science at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and the founder of Smart Air, a social enterprise to help people across the world breathe clean air without shelling out thousands of dollars for expensive purifiers.