After researching more than 50 models we purchased the 12 best air purifiers of 2020 and conducted controlled, side-by-side tests to determine which ones are the absolute cream of the crop. We assessed everything from air cleaning performance, to operating cost, to noise production, all to find the perfect model for every situation and budget. Whether you're an allergy sufferer that needs to keep the pollen out of your bedroom, or you have general air quality concerns and you want something that can clean your main living area, this review has what you are looking for.
The Best Air Purifiers of 2020
Best Overall Air Purifier
The Coway AP-1512HH is a strong ally if you are looking to vanquish pollen and other airborne particulates. In just 30 minutes, it removed 99.3% of the airborne particles from our 150 square foot testing room. This was more particle reduction than most other models were able to achieve over an entire hour. The Coway's fan is both powerful enough to keep things cool during those sweltering summer nights and quiet enough not to drown out your next Netflix binge. We also like that the machine can turn itself one and off based on configured settings in its accurate air quality meter.
The only real bummer about the Coway is its cost. The list price is quite steep. However, it does have less expensive filters and uses electricity more economically than most models, so in the long run, the annual cost is less than some other models. If you can make the investment upfront, the Coway gives you top-notch performance with a reasonable lifetime cost.
Read review: Coway AP-1512HH
Credible research studies such as NASA's test results suggest that HEPA filter equipped air purifiers can filter more than 99.9% of airborne virus particles that enter the air purifier. However, they cannot stop virus particles from contaminating surfaces nor from passing directly between people. Thus purifiers likely offer only marginal if any protective benefits from the virus itself and definitely should not be used as a replacement for any of the best practices put forth by the CDC or local healthcare and governmental organizations.
Best Buy on a Tight Budget
If you're looking for the most air cleaning power per dollar, the GermGuardian AC4300BPTCA is the clear frontrunner. It removed an impressive 99.39% of airborne particulates in our testing room over the course of an hour, despite generally selling for far less than most of its competitors. Its fan also makes a relatively innocuous noise, and it won't add too much to your electric bill.
The only complaint that we have for the AC4300BPTCA is that it doesn't have an air quality meter. However, that would be a lot to expect at this price point. Also, while the fan is quieter than average and the air cleaning performance is above average, the AC4300BPTCA is not the best in either of those categories. Those that are very sensitive to noise or live in areas with particularly bad air quality may benefit from making a bigger investment in the Coway. For most people, however, the AC4300BPTCA offers an exceptional balance of performance and price.
Read review: GermGuardian AC4300BPTCA
Best Bang for the Buck
If you want all the bells and whistles of a top-shelf purifier, but can't swing the initial investment of the Conway, then the GermGuardian AC5350B is a worthy substitute. It is packed with features like an on/off timer, 5 fan speed settings, and a UV bulb that is meant to kill bacteria. It also performed quite well in our air cleaning tests, achieving a 99.5% particulate reduction after 1 hour. And it does all this without the same sticker shock as the Coway.
While the AC5350B is less expensive upfront, its filters are quite expensive. In the long term it ends up costing about the same as the Coway, so we would still suggest going with the Coway if you don't mind spending more initially.
Read review: GermGuardian AC5350B
Best for Small Rooms
If you are looking for a small-bedroom unit, the GermGuardian AC4100 is an inexpensive and effective way to get rid of pollen while you sleep. Our testing indicated that it has enough power to get airborne particulate out of small rooms, and it is nearly silent on its low fan setting. Combined with a super-simple interface and you've got a great machine to fight the pollen all summer long.
The AC4100 is noticeably less powerful than other purifiers, so even when used in a small room you'll likely want to run it for an hour or so before you go to bed in order to get its maximum benefit. It can also get a bit loud when set on the medium or high settings. If you can live with those minor flaws, we think this is the best and most economical purifier available for small rooms.
Read review: GermGuardian AC4100
Best for Larger Rooms
Honeywell True HEPA Allergen Remover
Finding a large-capacity air purifier can be hard to do. Many models that are advertised as high capacity simply claim a larger effective area than the certified CADR (clean air delivery rate) would suggest. Others don't use true HEPA filters, a standard that is probably important to many people. The Honeywell True HEPA Allergen Removerwalks this line better than other models we've found. It offers a higher-than-average CADR of 300, meaning it can be highly effective for rooms of up to 450 square feet. It also uses a real HEPA filter.
While we love the Honeywell True HEPA Allergen Remover's large capacity, its fan is louder than average and can be annoying depending on the acoustics of your home. Additionally, its replacement filters are more expensive than average and it uses more electricity than some competing models, so you end up spending a bit more in the long run. However, if you're looking for true HEPA filtration from a larger capacity purifier, the Honeywell True HEPA Allergen Remover ticks all of the boxes.
Read review: Honeywell True HEPA Allergen Remover
Many purifiers utilize ionizers that released charged particles into the air that then latch onto airborne particulates, making them easier to filter. However, some ionizers can create ozone as a byproduct, which itself can be a harmful lung irritant. While some ionizers are likely safe, in cases like these we like to adhere to the precautionary principle. Therefore we only tested models that either do not have ionizers, or that can be run with the ionizer switched off.
Unique Detachable Air Quality Monitor
Offering great performance that nearly earned it an Editors' Choice Award, the TruSens Z-2000 sets itself apart from the rest of the field with a separate air quality sensor that can be placed away from the purifier itself (this sensor communicates with the purifier wirelessly, but must be plugged into an outlet). This lets you place the sensor on your bedstand or next to your favorite chair, prompting the purifier to react to the quality of the air that you're actually breathing, not just the air immediately surrounding the main unit. It backs this feature up with quiet operation, a user-friendly interface, and reasonable operating costs relative to its performance.
Apart from fairly hefty upfront cots, our only real qualms with the TruSens are that it was slightly less effective at removing odors than the top-scoring Coway in our tests and that it hasn't received a clean air delivery rate (CADR) certification. However, our tests indicate that it is very effective at removing airborne allergens (generally 2.5 microns and above), and thus would likely be a great choice for those seeking relief from pollen.
Read review: TruSens Z-2000
Why You Should Trust Us
Authors Steven Tata and Max Mutter have spent the last three years researching and testing a variety of health and wellness products including air purifiers, humidifiers, electric toothbrushes, and fitness trackers. They've also tested a myriad of other home and kitchen products, from security cameras and wireless speakers to toaster ovens and pressure cookers.
To test our lineup of the best purifiers, we used a professional grade air quality meter to measure airborne particulate concentrations, and tested all of the purifiers in the same 150 square foot room to keep conditions as consistent as possible. To choose the models that made it into this review, we researched over 100 different products before whittling it down to the 13 most promising. We then spent over 200 hours testing not only the air quality that each machine produced, but also user friendliness, noise levels, and assessing overall operating costs.
Related: How We Tested Air Purifiers
Analysis and Test Results
In scoring air purifiers we divided our tests into four different weighted metrics. The results of our air cleaning performance tests factor most heavily into each model's final score. We also give consideration to noise production, user-friendliness, and operating costs, all things that can have significant impacts on the user experience. In the following sections, we dive deep into the results of all these tests to help you find the best air cleaning device for your home.
When it comes to air purifiers, you generally have to pay more for better power, capacity, and features. However, a hefty price tag doesn't always mean it's the best product. The Coway outperformed multiple models in a higher price range, despite its middle-tier price tag. If you don't need top-shelf performance and aren't fussy about extra features, the GermGuardian AC4300BPTCA and AC4100 both offer good performance at relatively low prices.
When shopping for an air purifier don't forget to factor in the cost of replacement filters and electricity usage. Some models that are less expensive upfront, like the GermGuardian AC5350B, end up burning the same amount of cash in the long run as the top-performing Coway.
Air Cleaning Performance
Our most heavily weighted metric is air cleaning performance. In our testing, we sealed up a 150 square foot room, then filled it with smoke by burning incense, matches, and paper. Once we got the room to the desired level of airborne particulate pollution, we ran each purifier for an hour, monitoring the air cleaning progress with a Dylos air quality meter. Our tests focused on the elimination of airborne particles sized 2.5 microns and up. This size range corresponds to the vast majority of airborne allergens including most pet dander, mold, and pollen. We chose to focus here because we've found most people seeking out our review are doing so in search of allergy relief, though all of the models that we tested also eliminate much smaller particles.
A cadre of four different models shares the top score of 8 out of 10 in our air cleaning performance metric. The Editors' Choice winning Coway AP-1512HH rid our testing room of more than 99% of its large airborne particles in just half an hour and got that reduction close to zero after a full hour. While none of the models we tested were particularly good at removing odors, the Coway made more of an impact than most.
The Blueair Pure 211 actually achieved a slightly larger particle reduction than the Coway in our test (the difference was marginal but measurable). However, it failed to leapfrog the Coway because the lack of a carbon filter meant it barely affected the odors in the room at all.
Also in this group of top scorers, the Honeywell True HEPA Allergen Remover cleared well over 99% of the large airborne particles from the testing room after half an hour, but its total reduction after an hour was just a bit behind that of the above models. Its odor reduction was on par with that of the Coway.
The TruSens Z-2000 falls just behind the top scorers with a 7 out of 10. It generally matched the top models in our tests, hitting a 99% reduction after half an hour and getting close to eliminating all large particles before 1 hour had passed. It also did better at removing the smoke odor than most. However, it doesn't have a CADR certification, something all of the top scorers possess.
A few models fall into the decidedly average rung on our air cleaning performance ladder, earning 6 out of 10. The GermGuardian AC5350B and its sibling, the AC4300BPTCA both eliminated 95% of airborne particulates in our testing room within half an hour, and both were able to push that figure to just over 99% by the time the clock struck 60 minutes. The Levoit LV-PUR131 also achieved just over 99% airborne particulate reduction after an hour in our testing room, but it was quite slow out of the gate, hitting just an 85% reduction after a half an hour.
Considering its high price tag, the Dyson Pure Cool Link proved to be a bit of a disappointment in our air cleaning tests. After an hour it had cleared only 97% of the airborne particulates from our testing room, whereas many models that cost only a fraction of the price were able to push that figure well above 99.5%. It also struggled to remove odors more than most of its competitors. The PureZone 3-in-1 followed closely behind, reducing particulate concentration by 93.6%.
Two of the smaller units that we tested, the GermGuardian AC4100 and the Levoit LV-H132, only achieved a 95% reduction after an hour in our testing room. While those figures aren't impressive, both models would likely be able to help out an allergy sufferer sleeping in a 150 square foot bedroom. However, we definitely wouldn't recommend them for larger spaces.
The worst performer was the Hamilton Beach TrueAir. It failed to hit a 90% reduction after an hour of cleaning, and both really struggled to remove any of the smoke odor in the room. Granted, both of these units are small, but the equally small GermGuardian AC4100 was significantly more effective.
Since most people are going to be in the same room as the air purifier, any odd noises the device emits could have significant impacts on your ability to cohabitate with it comfortably. The good news is that none of the models we tested are particularly loud — none registered more than 61 decibels on our sound meter — the equivalent of a normal conversational volume. Still, even relatively quiet noises can be annoying if they're at the wrong pitch. Thus we spent hours working on our computers right next to each model as they ran, and spent a night with each in our bedrooms.
For those that are particularly sensitive to noise, the GermGuardian AC5350B would be our top recommendation. We really had to strain to hear it when it was set to its lowest mode, and even on the highest setting, it only gave off an innocuous, low-pitched hum.
The TruSens Z-2000 is another model that manages to maintain a low auditory profile. Its lowest setting is virtually silent and even when cranked up to turbo mode it produces a fairly low pitched, white noise hum.
Another option for those with sensitive ears, the Coway AP-1512HH is almost silent on its lowest setting. When you crank it up high it generally manages to remain in the innocuous, low-pitched genre, though it is just a bit higher-pitched than the field-leading GermGuardian AC5350B.
Also sitting atop our noise scoreboard are the PureZone 3-in-1 and the Levoit LV-H132. Again, these models are practically silent when on the low setting, and on the highest settings are audible but not grating. It should also be noted that these units are smaller than the Coway and GermGuardian and thus have less powerful fans.
A slew of models scored just below the top step in our noise testing. The Levoit LV-PUR131's high setting produces a low-pitched hum, similar to that of the top scoring models, but on low it is a bit louder than the nearly silent low settings of models like the Coway. The Blueair Pure 211 keeps a low rumble that blends into the background when on its highest setting, but that low rumble seems to be just as noticeable when you turn it down to its lowest setting.
Just behind the top contenders in our noise testing was the Hamilton Beach TrueAir. On high it emits a fairly low pitched hum that can mostly fade into the background, but not completely. On low it is quiet, but still much more noticeable than the top performers.
The average performer in our noise testing was the Dyson Pure Cool Link. It was almost completely silent on low settings, but at high settings the fan emits a higher pitched roar that is hard not to notice, and may even make you click up the volume a few notches on the TV.
Two different models tied for the bottom slot in our noise testing. Both GermGuardian models that we tested, the AC4100 belched out a high pitch when used on their highest setting that is quite hard to ignore. On their low setting the pitch got a bit lower and less grating but was still very noticeable. The Honeywell True HEPA Allergen Remover produced and even louder high pitched noise on its high setting, but was slightly quieter on its low setting.
Ease of Use
Air purifiers are generally simple and require no real maintenance beyond periodically replacing the filter. However, there are certain features that can make day to day use a bit more enjoyable. Variable fan modes let you dial down the noise if you're watching TV. Remote controls let you do that without even leaving the couch. Handles and wheels make it easy to move the purifier around if you want it to follow you from the living room to the bedroom. Timers keep you from forgetting to turn the purifier off when you leave the house. We evaluated all of these aspects of our purifiers in order to determine how easy they are to operate and incorporate into your daily routine.
Both the Coway AP-152HH and the Levoit LV-PUR131 provided similarly user-friendly experiences in our testing. These models both have streamlined control panels, convenient carry handles, and air quality sensors that allow the machines to automatically kick on when the air quality diminishes, and power down to save energy when the quality improves. Both models also weigh about 12 pounds, light enough to move around without too much hassle. Between the two we have a slight preference for the Coway as we found its air quality meter to be slightly more accurate. The Levoit's air quality meter is still accurate enough to be useful, but we would be more likely to use that feature on the Coway.
We also found the GermGuardian AC5350B to be very user-friendly. The control panel is simple and intuitive, it is on the lighter side at just over 11 pounds, and it has an automatic shut off timer, so you can set it and forget it.
The TruSens Z-2000 also offers a sleek user interface, along with a unique detachable air quality meter. This meter must be plugged into a wall, but can communicate with the purifier wirelessly. This allows its auto mode to react to the air quality wherever you place the sensor (say on a nightstand) instead of the air right next to the purifier. This can provide some nice peace of mind. At 7.4 pounds it is also quite easy to move from room to room.
Slightly behind the top scorers were three models that we felt were quite easy to use, but did have some minor drawbacks. The Dyson Pure Cool Link is easy to set up, incredibly light, has 10 different fan speeds, and a convenient remote control. However, the purifier itself only has an on/off button, so if you lose that remote you lose quite a bit of functionality. The Honeywell True HEPA Allergen Remover has a clean interface and all the bells and whistles, but at 17 pounds it is one of the least portable of the bunch. The GermGuardian AC4100 is very simple and compact, and user friendly, but only has 3 fan speeds and does not have an automatic off timer. The GermGuardian AC4300BPTCA has incredibly simple and easy to use controls but lacks an auto-off timer.
The Hamilton Beach TrueAir was at the bottom of our ease of use scoresheet. Purifiers are quite simple machines, so even this model wasn't particularly difficult to operate, but they were a bit less streamlined than the other models. The Hamilton Beach TrueAir was the only model that required some actual assembly out of the box, but it was fairly simple. It has only three fan speeds controlled with a dial that feels somewhat flimsy. It is, however, very light and portable.
It's easy to forget that you're going to have to pay for replacement filters and electricity costs throughout the lifetime of your air purifier. Measured every purifier's energy consumption and price checked all of their replacement filters to estimate how much each will end up costing in the long run. Our lifetime cost calculations assumed the national average for electricity cost ($0.12/kWh), average usage of 12 hours a day, filters being replaced according to manufacturer recommendations, and a functioning lifetime of 5 years.
The lowest lifetime cost was the GermGuardian AC4100. With average electricity economy and fairly inexpensive filters, we estimated its lifetime cost at $294. The Levoit LV-H132 followed behind with an estimated lifetime cost of $323. The PureZone 3-in-1 was still in this ballpark, logging an estimated lifetime cost of $279.
Most of the models we tested fell into the $500-$600 range when it came to estimated lifetime cost. The Levoit LV-PUR131 is very economical when it comes to electricity usage, but a middle of the road list price and relatively expensive filters pushed the estimated lifetime cost to $549. The TruSens Z-2000 costs a bit more upfront, but sips electricity and uses fairly inexpensive filters, pushing its estimated lifetime cost to $548. The Editors' Choice winning Coway AP-151HH also uses very little electricity, but the high list price and slightly above average filter costs led to an estimated lifetime cost of $556. The GermGuardian AC5350B is quite cheap upfront, but due to the very expensive filters will end up costing you $542 in the long run. The Hamilton Beach TrueAir uses a filter with a relatively short life span, pushing its long-term costs up to $573.
A few models garnered far above average estimated lifetime costs. Because none of these models were top performers, we would only recommend picking up that extra cost in certain extenuating circumstances. The Honeywell True HEPA Allergen Remover gulps up electricity, resulting in a high lifetime cost of $771. However, it has a larger than average capacity, so if you want a purifier for a larger room it may be worth the extra cost. The Dyson Pure Cool Link uses electricity very economically, but its high list price pushes the lifetime cost to $889. That extra cost is only worth it if you're enamored with Dyson's bladeless fan technology. The Blueair Pure 211 has expensive replacement filters, resulting in a lifetime cost of $1,105. This machine also has the highest capacity of any model we tested, so that enormous extra cost might be worth it if you're trying to clean a large, 500+ square foot room.
While an air purifier certainly isn't a necessity, it can be effective at relieving some symptoms for those with bad allergies, or those with pulmonary illnesses that live in areas with poor air quality. You have to shop carefully, however, because some models are much more effective at air cleaning than others, some are whisper quiet while others are grating, and some that look like a bargain hide extra costs in the form of expensive filters. We hope that our testing results have elucidated all of those things for you, and led you to the perfect models for your home. Now go fight that pollen!
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata