Why are Air Purifiers so Expensive?

I thought about why air purifiers cost a lot because I was living in Beijing when the (first) “airpocalypse” struck. Here’s what it looked like:

Beijing air pollution airpocalypse example

The High Price of Air Purifiers

I went out to buy an air purifier, and found that the one I wanted cost $2,000! I worked out I’d need two for my apartment and would also need replacement filters. In total, I was looking at paying $5,000 for air purifiers just to breathe clean air. I got thinking. Are air purifiers really that expensive? Does clean air really need to cost that much?

expensive air purifier price buy online iqair

The Real Cost of Air Purifiers

To me, $2,000 was too expensive for me to buy an air purifier. So I started researching what’s actually inside an air purifier. As it turns out, air purifiers are just fans and filters. There’s nothing complicated or expensive about them. They’re so simple, I made my own. For just $30.

Air Purifier fan and Filter Combination Simple and Cheap not expensive

I tested how much particulate they removed from my Beijing apartment against the big brands and found the stronger DIY removed as much particulate as that $1,000 machine I wanted. Here’s the data:

air purifier effectiveness price product comparison

Learn more: three easy steps to making your own air purifier »

Why Are Most Air Purifiers So Expensive?

The data showed that a simple, cheap DIY air purifier worked just as well as the expensive air purifiers. That made me question: why are most air purifiers so expensive. And it really motivated me to think about how companies were able to sell these air purifiers with an expensive $2,000 price tag. I think there are three big factors behind expensive air purifiers:

1. The Value of an Air Purifier is Hard to Assess

In consumer psychology, products can be split into three categories based on when we assess their value:

Type 1: Products that we can assess the value of before we buy

A good example is a hard drive. Before we buy them, we can see how much space they have and how fast they are, and we have a pretty good idea of how much value they have. We know that spending more will get us a bigger hard drive. It’s simple.

assess cost and value of air purifier before buy


Type 2: We can assess the value just after we buy them.

A good example is yogurt. I’m not sure which kinds I like, but as soon as I buy one and eat it, I have a good idea of how much it’s worth to me. Maybe I buy an expensive yogurt, but don’t like the taste. I won’t buy this expensive yogurt again.

Unlike yogurt, the value of air purifiers can't be assessed just after purchase


Type 3: We cannot assess the value even after we buy them.

Wine is a classic example. I don’t know much about wine, and it’s hard for me to say how good a wine is, even after I drink it. I’d guess that an expensive wine is likely better, but I can’t tell.

Air purifiers are like wine. It's very hard to assess the value of an expensive air purifier

Air purifiers fall into this third category. Unless we have an air quality monitor to test our air, we don’t really have a good sense of whether they’re working or not.

When people can’t assess the value of a product like an air purifier, we tend to use price as a measure for value. It’s natural to think “I better buy the most expensive, as that will be the best!”. Air purifier companies can take advantage of this thinking.

Trick #1

Without an air quality monitor, the value of an air purifier is hard to assess. So we naturally use price as a factor to determine more expensive equals better.

Smart Air

2. The Fear Factor

When people are buying wine, they’re usually pretty relaxed. But when the world outside people’s window looks like mine did in Beijing, a little bit of fear gets added to the equation.

Purifier companies use a fear factor to jack up the price of air purifiers

That fear makes us even more likely to use price as an indicator of quality. If I’m scared about my health, I’m not going to skimp on a few extra dollars. Think about it: who wants to go to the cheap surgeon for a heart surgery?

Trick #2

Companies use the fear for our health as a means to charge more for air purifiers

Smart Air

3. Because Air Purifier Companies Can

In 2013, when I set out to buy an air purifier, most people knew very little about air purifiers. That meant that companies could charge what they liked for an air purifier, and nobody would question it.

Big air purifier companies use gimmicks to sell clean air


Today, many people still don’t know the true cost of clean air. That means companies continue to profit for high-priced air purifiers.

Trick #3

The air purifier industry is opaque. Most consumers don’t know the true cost of an air purifier, so are at the mercy of the prices large companies charge for clean air.

Smart Air


Here’s How I Solved the Problem of Expensive Air Purifiers

After finding out that air purifiers are surprisingly simple, and low cost. I set up a Smart Air.

Smart Air is a certified B Corp committed to combating the myths big companies use to inflate the price of clean air. Smart Air provides empirically backedno-nonsense purifiers and masks, that remove the same particles as the big companies for a fraction of the cost. Only corporations benefit when clean air is a luxury.

Smart Air purifier more powerful cost less than other big brand air purifiers like blue air iqair

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Smart Air is a social enterprise that creates simple, no-nonsense air purifiers and provides free education to protect people’s health from the effects of air pollution. We are proud to be the only certified B-Corp dedicated to fighting air pollution.