Monday, June 18, 2018

Air Purifier Buying Guide: Why you Need One, How to Choose the Right One and Why it May Be one of the Best Investments You Make

Let's talk about the air your family is breathing

Take a deep breathe.  It is not very often that we stop to think about what we are breathing in, yet we do it over 20,000 times every day.  The reality is that the air we breathe is not always as pure as we would like to think it is.  Usually, the air is full of pollution, fragrances, cleaning products, paints, allergens, dust, pollen, mold spores,  and a long list of other stuff that can actually affect our health and our young children's health in both the short term or long term.

There are various reasons someone might consider buying a portable air purifier at home.
  1. If you live in an area where air quality/pollution is an issue.  
  2. If you or someone in your home frequently works  with certain art materials (paints, glazes etc) which give off dangerous volatile organic compounds (VOC's)
  3. if you live near an agricultural area where pesticides are often sprayed
  4. if you are remodeling or are moving into a recently built home
  5. mold problems
  6. Allergy sufferers (seasonal, pets, cigarette smoke etc)
*  I also have to say that we all sleep so much better when the air filter is on over night.   

Let's talk about just how serious each reason can be (or scroll down to my air purifier buying guide)....


A new study published just last week (September 2015) had a scary new statistic: globally, air pollution is responsible for about 3.3 million premature deaths every year, more than HIV/AIDS and malaria combined.

Although in general the areas and populations most affected are in India and China, the United States made it on the list of the 'Top Ranked Countries of premature mortality linked to outdoor air pollution (2010)' , ranking #7 worldwide.

According to the National Resource Council, approximately 64,000 people in the United States die prematurely from heart and lung disease every year due to particulate air pollution - more people than die each year in car accidents.  

As is the case with all toxic chemicals, children are often more affected due to their small size and developing organs.  Children see a higher incidents of  acute respiratory illness, increased incidence of respiratory symptoms and infections, episodes of longer duration, and lowered lung function resulting from prolonged exposure to air pollutants.


The World Air Quality Index, offers a new interactive map that broadcasts air-quality measurements from around the globe in real time.  This is a great tool that helping us see where in the world air quality is an issue. 

The map color-codes the data according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Index scale (green = good; maroon = hazardous) and refreshes every 15 minutes to relay the latest breathing conditions. 


If the air quality in your city reaches level orange or higher (or even yellow if you have young  children with respiratory issues) it might be a good idea to purchase an in home air filter (air filters might also be a good idea for allergy sufferers!) .  More on that at the end of this post below!


1. If you use cleaning, painting or hobby supplies you are probably exposing yourself to some toxic fumes and VOC's which would be affecting the air quality you breathes.

2.  If you are remodeling or are moving into a recently built home - even when  using Greenguard certified building materials, chances are some of the construction materials will be giving off VOC's like formaldehyde.   Kitchen cabinets, new closets, paint, caulking, hard flooring, carpets, composite wood products all give off VOCs

3. mold problems - 

4.  New furniture:  composite wood furniture and even solid wood furniture that uses conventional lacquer or paint can give off VOCs.

Many VOCs are human-made chemicals that are used and produced in the manufacture of paints, adhesives, petroleum products, pharmaceuticals, and refrigerants. They often are compounds of fuels, solvents, hydraulic fluids, paint thinners, and dry-cleaning agents commonly used in urban settings.

Products that containing VOCs release the chemicals into the air when they are used and when they are stored. Most often, you would notice an odor when using these products. Most of these products recommend that they should be used in well ventilated areas

Many products contain VOC's- even nail polish and conventional cleaners!

Among products that can release higher levels of VOC's into the air you are breathing are: Fuel containers or devices using gasoline, kerosene, fuel oil and products with petroleum distillates: paint thinner, oil-based stains and paint, aerosol or liquid insect pest products, mineral spirits, furniture polishes, PVC cement and primer, various adhesives, contact cement, model cement, Paint stripper, adhesive (glue) removers, Aerosol spray products for some paints, cosmetics, automotive products, leather treatments, pesticides, Upholstered furniture, carpets, plywood, pressed wood products

The National Institute of Health has a longer list of items that contain VOC's

Short-term exposure to high levels of some VOCs can cause headaches, dizziness, light-headedness, drowsiness, nausea, and eye and respiratory irritation. These effects usually go away after the exposure stops. In laboratory animals, long term exposure to high levels of some VOCs has caused cancer and affected the liver, kidney and nervous system.

As always, keep children away from any of these chemicals if they must be used.


  • open windows and allow ventilation of the room you are in.  Do this DAILY
  • switch from conventional cleaners to natural or home made ones
  • consider buying an air filter if you must work constantly with these products (read more below)

My husband is a seasonal allergy sufferer, so I understand how desperate one can be to find help - any relief- when you suffer from allergies. Some people and company's claim that air purifiers help them with allergies (they do, after all, clean the air of allergens) however I did not find any real studies that showed scientific proof.

However many allergists do recommend air purifiers to their patients, as part of a multi step solution to combating allergens.

People who are allergic to pets, but can't bear to get rid of them, or who have neighbors or roommates that smoke might also be interested in air purifiers


If you have decided that an air purifier can help your family, it is important to understand that not all air purifier are created equally. Even some well known brands don't live up to their claims. Air purifiers are not considered medical devices and thus they are not regulated.

 We have two top of the line air filters and I am amazed at how often I have used them since I purchased my first one 8 years ago! During our 3 years living in Mexico City with a newborn we decided to purchase one, which we still own, use and recommend.

This year we purchased our second one after moving into our remodeled house.  Even though we chose many green construction options some things  escaped my picky eyes and the off gassing from our window frames, moldings and custom bathroom cabinetry led us to purchase a second air filter specifically to filter out VOCs.

 For this guide (and for my own purposes when I decided to purchase a second filter a couple of weeks ago) I did some new research- here are the the top air filters in 2018 (which include the 3 I have used/have).


There are two types of filters that are important in a quality air filter: 
  • HEPA filter: HEPA stands for high-efficiency particulate absorption, and to meet the government standard for this label, the filter must remove 99.97 percent of particles in the air that are 0.3 micrometers or larger.  HEPA filters are best for removing  most bacteria and allergens (such as dust, pollen, and mold).  It cannot  clean the air of odors, smoke, fumes, or chemicals.

  • Charcoal/CARBON filters:  designed to filter out odors, smoke, fumes and other chemicals.  The heavier the carbon filter the better the filter will be at removing chemicals.  Most well known air filters today contain HEPA filters, not all contain carbon filters.  If you are chemically sensitive or need to remove odors, smoke, fumes or VOCs you should make sure your filter of choice contains a substantial carbon filter.

1. Blueair Classic 403 HEPASilent Air Purification System, Allergy, Smoke and Dust Reducer, Medium to Large Rooms 365 sq. ft., White

 (the first filter we purchased 8 years ago) 

  • The Blueair 403 comes with or without the SmokeStop filter.  The granulated activated carbon in the 403 SmokeStop provides a broader filtration range for little additional expense, so you might want to consider the slight addition in cost.  
  • This it the one we have at home
  • Cleans rooms up to 370 square feet
  • HEPA filtration system: HEPASilent® technology captures 99.97% of particles down to 0.1 microns
  • super quiet operation at low setting
  • extreme energy efficiency, ENERGY STAR qualified
  • one of the highest Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) on the market, which means it will move air more quickly as it cleans.
  • considered 'stylish': Winner of Excellent Swedish Design award and a permanent spot in Stockholm's National Design Museum
  •  have to switch filters every 3-6 months
  • heavy: 43 lbs
  • $$$ 

2.  IQAir HealthPro Plus Air Purifier

I don't own the IQ air but did use it recently during a water filtration problem we had in our new house that resulted in mold.  It was lent to me and we used it before, during and after the mold was dealt with and during the work on the wall.  I loved it- but it is huge.  I would recommend for people who have serious allergy problems.

  • -  IQAir's revolutionary HyperHEPA filtration system is proven to capture particles 100 times smaller, down to 0.003 microns; the smallest particle that exists. 
  • - V-5 Cell™ chemical & odor filter contains 5 lbs of coal-based activated carbon and potassium permanganate impregnated alumina
  • - HyperHEPA® filter exceeds HEPA standard - passes the world’s most stringent HEPA filter test EN1822, 99.95% efficient at 0.22 microns, 99.5% efficient at 0.16 microns
  • - 6 fan speeds
  • High powered yet quiet fan motor can cover large or small areas effectively. Swiss quality - built to exacting specifications in Switzerland.
  • -  only replace the filter that needs replacing, saving you money in replacement costs over the life of the product.
  • - Integrated filter life monitor takes all the guesswork out of filter replacement.
  • - Very low energy consumption.

  • Size (it's large)
  • Initial cost (the long-term ownership costs are relatively low though, due to the modular filter design, long lasting filters, and top quality components use
  • - quite loud in the highest setting

Austin Air B400C1 Health-Mate Air Purifier, Standard, White

The Austin Air HealthMate  this year (2018) tested number one for VOC elimination in various independent tests.   It contains both a HEPA and carbon filter.

I would recommend for chemically sensitive and people who have a need to remove smoke, fumes, VOCs.  This is the filter we purchased after moving into our new, remodeled, home.

  • - massive 15-pound activated-carbon filter bested all other air purifiers by a wide margi
  •  FEMA and the Red Cross chose Austin Air units for deployment at Ground Zero and the surrounding areas in the aftermath of 9/11
  • - cleans areas up to 700 sq feet (the 'normal' not junior model cleans larger areas)  
  • -This can help to remove sub-micron particles and other forms of chemicals and noxious gases:  including pollen, dust, cigarette smoke, chemical gases and other harmful substances from the air
  • - a bit loud on the highest setting but not too loud in medium or low setting.
  • - $$$

4.  Airocide - NASA Air Purifier for allergies, asthma and chemical sensitive individuals with Odor control  

This relatively new technology for the home was developed by NASA and is FDA approved. It has been available and used by NASA and various large corporations (including, reportedly,  Whole Foods) for about 12 years.  Today,  I would say this is my favorite option due to design, although price is steep.   


  • No filters needed. The filtration system, its maker says, was first designed for NASA, to remove ethylene from the space shuttle so astronauts could grow food on long missions.
  • Airocide rids the air of virtually 100% of harmful pathogens by eliminating them completely, including the main allergy triggers: mold, fungi, pollen, dust mites, viruses, bacteria, and VOCs
  • compact size only weighs 9 lbs 
  • Reaction Chamber must be replaced (although not that frequently:  about once a year and costs $99 Airocide Reaction Chamber Replacement Kit, for APS-200
  • Steep price point
  • Have not seen a lot of independent reviews on the technology.... so hard to say if its claims are true.....  but it looks so so pretty!  I would trust it more for elimination of allergens and not so much for dangerous chemicals

Coway AP-1512HH Mighty Air Purifier, White 

This air filter received top marks from various reviewers and testers online.   IT seems to be the best value for your dollar - an ideal choice for those looking for an air filter to help with allergies (pollen, dust ect).

  • - compact size, light and easy to move around
  • - modern design
  • -quiet
  • - energy efficient
  • - Services rooms up to 361 square feet
  • - good price
  • does not filter chemical pollutants like pollen, dust, cigarette smoke, chemical gases and other harmful substances from the air



  2. The World Health Organization defines that air pollution these days is more harmful than passive smoking. Can you believe that? We really need to take all measures we can in order to prevent getting harmed from such a polluted environment we live in today.

  3. I do not understand the Coway review; first it says that helps with allergies (pollen, dust, etc.) and after it says CONS: it does not filter pollen, dust,...the question would be: what is it good for, besides that is modern design and energy efficient?

  4. Well, I have read about the uses of activated charcoal and how it can help in eliminating foul smell and purifying the air with ease. Perhaps, this is the reason why most of the experts recommend activated charcoal as the best air purifying substance.

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