Why Are HEPA Filters So Expensive?

The costs of replacement HEPA filters for air purifiers can quickly add up. A quick search on Amazon reveals some HEPA filters that cost hundreds of dollars.

Should HEPA filters cost this much? Put simply: No! Read on to learn why HEPA filters shouldn’t be expensive, but why some companies charge high prices for their replacement filters.

HEPA Filters: Incredibly Simple Tech Invented in the 1940s

Let’s clear this up: HEPA filters found in air purifiers were invented over 70 years ago. The US government invented them as part of the Manhattan project, to protect against airborne radioactive materials. The technology behind them is really simple: a simple mat of randomly aligned fibers, that create a sort of ‘net’.

HEPA Filter Polypropylene PP

That may leave many wondering: if HEPA filters are simple tech, why are they so expensive?

Why Are Replacement HEPA Filters So Expensive?

One way to answer this question is to use the analogy of home printers. A typical home printer sells for about $100. And research shows that the cost to build the printer is actually higher than the sale price:

According to IHS Markit, a global information provider, the cost to build a printer is higher than the retail price of most—if not all—consumer printers.

Consumer Reports, 2018

But for printers, the refill ink usually costs a lot. Replacing the ink cartridges in a $100 printer can often cost upwards of $50.

So why do they cost so much?

Consumer Report’s Rich Sulin explains this, saying “Think of the original price tag of a printer more like a down payment. You’re still expected to make periodic payments over the course of ownership.” Put simply, you’re paying back for the low initial price of the printer, through the ink cartridge refills.

Are HEPA Filters Expensive to Pay Back for the Low Air Purifier Price?

In that case, it may be reasonable to think that HEPA filters work the same way as ink cartridges. Perhaps HEPA filters are expensive as a way of paying back for the low cost of the purifier. But this theory doesn’t hold: air purifiers – unlike printers – are also really expensive to buy.

Psst: Air purifiers also need not be expensive. Find out why here →

The Real Reason HEPA Filters Are So Expensive

So what’s the real reason HEPA filters cost so much?

Put simply, it comes down to psychology and marketing. We buy HEPA filters and air purifiers to protect our health. And we really value our health. So much so that we’re often willing to spend a lot to protect our health. If HEPA filters can help keep us healthy, as data shows, then spending a little extra money on HEPA filters seems reasonable.

Let’s play a simple test. Considering your health may be at stake, which of these filters would you purchase?

If you chose the $34.99 filter, then you’ve fallen right into the trap most companies take advantage of. Companies market and sell their HEPA filters with a higher price tag to make their filters look superior. Surely that $34.99 filter is going to do a better job of protecting my health than a $13.99 filter, right?

Not necessarily. Because most people don’t know the science behind purifiers, companies use this marketing tactic to trick us into spending hundreds of dollars more than we need to on replacement HEPA filters.

Don't Overspend on HEPA Filters

Companies use inflated HEPA filter prices to convince you into believing their HEPA filter is superior to others. Don’t fall into this trap. HEPA filters are incredibly simple tech, and need not break the bank.

Smart 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 Blast Mini air purifier CADR

Smart Air provides empirically backedno-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.


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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.