Air Purifier Tipsheet For the Absolute Beginner

So you’re completely new to the idea of buying an air purifier – you have absolutely no clue where to start. This guide has detailed pages on pretty much all the questions you could have, but that can be overwhelming, and some people may just want a quick and dirty overview of what they need to know and think about. So here it is – the short, summary version of what you ought to be aware of before you actually buy.

Air Purifier Tipsheet

Things to be on the lookout for:

1) Do the air purifier brands you’re thinking about buying use ozone or not?

This is a hotly debated subject – some manufacturers say it’s great and kills germs effectively. However, the EPA has recommended that you avoid air purifiers that produce it – mainly because even if you use them properly, with some brands it can get concentrated around the air purifier at dangerous levels. The manufacturers respond that millions of people use them with no evident ill effects. My recommendation: go with the EPA – there are plenty of other methods of cleaning the air and I just wouldn’t risk it. Some people also don’t like the smell, independent of any health risks.

2) How much noise will it make?

You’ll want to figure this out too. Nearly all air purifiers are noisy at the highest level. This is extremely subjective – one person may think it’s a racket and another think it’s just background noise. But there are some easy solutions: first, make SURE that the product you buy has multiple settings – if there’s a medium and a low, you can adjust it if it turns out to be too loud. Second, some of the more expensive models have remote controls and timers – they’ll let you set it so that it’s on high while you are at work or out of the house, and goes back to low when you’re at home or asleep.

3) How many do I need?

That sounds like a strange question to anyone at first. I didn’t even think about it – but if you do, you’ll realize that one air purifier probably can’t cover the air in your entire house. Most are set for a limited number of square feet – usually enough for a good-sized room. If you want to cover an entire house, you either need multiple air purifiers or you need one designed to cover that much square footage.

However, if you get a single heavy-duty one, it may not cover the periphery of the house that well. Do you really need more than one? Maybe not – for instance, think about why you’re trying to get one. Is it pet odors or smoke?

Those may be concentrated in one part of the house – so you don’t need coverage of the entire thing. If it’s allergens, you might just need one for the bedroom of the person who’s allergic. It’s your call, but be aware that one air purifier will often not be enough – check the description to see how much it can cover.

The alternative would be getting an all in one air purifier humidifier.

4) Does it really work?

This is tough to answer. Lots of people report that it does and makes a great improvement in allergies, pet smells, etc. For smoking, it doesn’t work as well – it’s very hard to entirely get rid of the odor just because a cigarette puts so many pollutants into the air. It will help, but it’s not a silver bullet unless you go with the very high end. I’ve personally used them, and while I don’t notice a difference in air quality (although I’m not sensitive to it – no allergies, etc.), I do notice it when I pull out the filter to clean it and see all the dirt and junk it has in it. Seeing a black layer of grime that I used to be breathing is effectiveness enough for me.

5) What brand do I get? Again, hard to tell you. I’ve reviewed a lot of specific ones on this site and researched whatever I could find on them. All seem to have some problems and some benefits – I would go take a look at Oreck, Honeywell, and Hunter if you have absolutely no experience with them. Those companies all make a variety of brands, and you should be able to find something whether you want a cheap one or an expensive, better performing version.

The different cleaning technologies:

You’ll need to have at least a passing familiarity with what each of the technologies is, because often they will just throw out terms that are meaningless to an average consumer:

HEPA – This is a form of disposable filter that is highly effective at getting rid of smaller particles. However, it’s also extremely expensive. Tips: First, make sure that if you are getting an air purifier with a HEPA filter, you know how often it needs to be replaced. Many times it’s annually, and it can cost almost as much as the air purifier itself. Just keep that in mind when you’re budgeting. Second, shoot for something that has a secondary filter as well. There are many cheap filters that you can clean on your own. They only get big dirt and not the fine particles – but they reduce the load on the HEPA filter and mean you have to change it less often. A lot of air purifiers use both at the same time for this reason – first it goes through the cheap filter you can wash and reuse, then anything that doesn’t catch goes through the HEPA filter.

Ozone – This is a gas that is deadly to humans in large concentrations, but is used inside of some air purifiers to kill off germs. It can produce a weird smell. This is probably something to avoid in my opinion.

Ionization – A technology that is designed mainly to get dust out of the air. It works by charging particles as they come through the air purifier, so that they will stick to surfaces when they come out. You probably aren’t interested in the physics, but you NEED to know this: if your air purifier doesn’t come with an ionization plate, the dust is going to stick on the surfaces around it. That means dusty floors and tables. A plate is just a surface inside the air purifier for the particles to stick to – you have to clean it off, but your floors don’t get dusty.

Ultraviolet – This is a way to kill germs. It’s included in many air purifiers – basically, they send the air through an ultraviolet lamp. This is safe, but the one thing to watch out for is that some air purifiers say they use “ultraviolet” technology to kill germs, but instead of bombarding the germs with UV rays they use UV rays to make ozone, which kills the germs. It’s an indirect way to avoid telling people they’re using ozone – so be aware of it and watch for it.