Best Air Purifiers of 2020
The Winix 5500-2 is the most effective purifier we tested. It virtually eliminated the presence of measurable airborne particulates in our tests, reducing their concentration by 99.99%. Impressively, it did this with a fan that emits only an innocuous, low hum — a welcome relief from the high-pitched whining of many other models. It also provides many bells and whistles, like an air quality monitor that can automatically adjust settings based on the ambient air quality, remote control for making adjustments without getting out of bed, and multiple fan settings and off timers.
The price of the Winix 5500-2 would be its main downside. Its list price is well above average. However, you can often find this unit on sale, and it's quite a steal given its stellar performance. You can't go wrong with the Winix 5500-2 if you're looking for the best possible air purifier.
Read review: Winix 5500-2
Great Air Cleaning Performance
Over the course of an hour, the Coway AP-1512HH managed to remove 99.84% of measurable airborne particulates from our testing room. While not quite as prolific as the top model's 99.99% reduction, this is still one of the best performances we've measured. Its fan perfectly walks the line between being powerful enough to add cooling air circulation on sweltering summer nights while still being quiet enough to not interrupt your Netflix binging. We also appreciate the built-in air quality meter, which we found to be quite accurate.
The Coway does cost a bit more upfront than most of the other models on this list. However, in the long run, part of that extra cost is made up for, given its filters and electricity usage are slightly more economical than average. Overall, this machine is a great and high-performing option, particularly if you can't find our top recommendation on sale.
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. Therefore, 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 on a Tight Budget
If you're looking for the most air cleaning power per dollar, the GermGuardian AC4300BPTCA is a great choice. Over an hour, it removed an impressive 99.39% of airborne particulates in our testing room, despite generally selling for far less than most of its competitors. We found the fan's noise output to be largely inoffensive, and it uses relatively little electricity.
With the AC4300BPTCA's lower price tag, you lose some of the bells and whistles, most notably a built-in air quality meter. You also lose some capacity — the CADR of 100 indicates it is better suited to a smaller, 150 square foot room over a larger living area. If your allergy or respiratory concerns are severe and/or you plan on using your purifier in a large space, we would recommend you invest in one of our top models we've suggested. However, for use in a smaller bedroom, the GermGuardian AC4300BPTCA offers great performance at a below-average price.
Read review: GermGuardian AC4300BPTCA
Best for Small Rooms
If you're looking for a purifier to be used in a smaller bedroom, 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 on its low fan setting, it is nearly silent. Combine that 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. To enjoy the maximum benefit, even when used in a small room, you'll likely want to run it for an hour or so before you go to bed. When on medium or high settings it can also get a bit loud. 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 difficult. 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 Remover walks this line better than other models we've found. It offers a higher-than-average CADR of 300, meaning it can be highly effective in rooms of up to 450 square feet. It also uses a real HEPA filter.
While we love that the Honeywell True HEPA Allergen Remover's capacity can handle larger rooms, its fan is louder than average and can be annoying depending on the acoustics of your home. Over the long run, you'll also spend a bit more than on some of its competitors — this model's replacement filters are more expensive than average, and it uses more electricity. 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 release 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 placed this model near the top of the heap, 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 costs, 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. It also 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 14 most promising. We then spent over 200 hours testing not only the air quality produced by each machine, 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 consider 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.
In general, paying more for an air purifier will get you better performance and/or larger capacity. There are exceptions, however. For example, the Winix 5500-2 provides stellar performance and often sells for significantly less than its list price. The GermGuardian AC4300BPTCA also punches well above its price tag, offering high-quality air cleaning for less than many competitors.
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.
Multiple models topped our air cleaning leaderboard, the first being the Winix 5500-2. In just the span of an hour, it managed to remove 99.99% of the measured airborne particulates in our testing room. This was a feat no other model could match. While we still haven't been able to find an air purifier that is truly effective at removing odors, the Winix 5500-2 proved to be more successful than most.
The Coway AP-1512HH also removed nearly all measured airborne particulates within an hour in our test, reaching a reduction of 99.84%. It also removed more odors than most, though smoke smells remained quite noticeable.
The Blueair Pure 211 boasts one of the largest certified clean air delivery rates (CADR) of the models we've tested, making it suitable for rooms of up to 525 square feet. It also removed 99.95% of measured airborne particulates in our test. While it performed quite well in our tests, it is one of the few models that does not use HEPA filters. If pollen is your main concern, this doesn't really matter, but if you're looking to filter out smaller particles the HEPA standard adds quite a bit of peace of mind.
The Honeywell True HEPA Allergen Remover also gave an elite performance in our test, obtaining a 99.78% measured airborne particulate reduction. It also removed more odors than most, even if they mostly remained.
Scoring a 7 out of 10, the TruSens Z-2000 falls just behind the top scorers. 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 bar 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 60-minute mark hit. 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.
The Dyson Pure Cool Link proved to be a bit of a disappointment in our air cleaning tests, especially given its high price tag. Only 97% of the airborne particulates from our testing room had cleared after an hour, 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 anyone suffering from allergies 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 struggled to remove any of the smoke odor in the room. Granted it is a small unit, 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.
The Winix 5500-2 would be our top recommendation for those that are particularly sensitive to noise. When it was set to its lowest mode, we had to strain to hear it. Even on the highest setting, it only gave off an innocuous, low-pitched hum.
The GermGuardian AC5350B is also quite easy on the ears, staying near silent in its low mode and only emitting a low hum when turned to high.
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 in its lowest setting. Though it is just a bit higher-pitched than the field-leading GermGuardian AC5350B, when you crank it up to high, it generally manages to remain in the innocuous, low-pitched genre.
Also sitting atop our noise scoreboard are the PureZone 3-in-1 and the Levoit LV-H132. Similar to the other models, these models too are practically silent when set on low and are audible but not grating when set on high. 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. 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. When set 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 the fan emits a higher-pitched roar when on high 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. When used on its highest setting, the GermGuardian AC4100 belched out a high pitch that is quite hard to ignore. On its low setting, the pitch got a bit lower and less grating, but was still very distinct. The Honeywell True HEPA Allergen Remover produced an even louder high pitched noise on its high setting, but on its low setting was slightly quieter.
Ease of Use
Outside of periodically replacing the filter, air purifiers are generally simple and require no real maintenance. However, certain features 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 to determine how easy they are to operate and incorporate into your daily routine.
The Winix 5500-2 delivers one of the most convenient user experiences of all the models we've tested. Its control panel is simple and straightforward, allowing you to easily access its different fan speeds, off timers, and its auto mode, which automatically adjusts its output based on the ambient air quality, as measured by its internal air quality meter. Despite being 15.4 pounds, it is quite easy to move around thanks to a well-designed carrying handle.
The TruSens Z-2000 also offers a sleek user interface, multiple fan speeds, and off timers. The most unique feature offered is its separate pod that can measure air quality from anywhere in your home and relays that information back to the purifier. You can program the purifier to react to changes in air quality right at your bed or your favorite couch, instead of the air quality directly adjacent to the purifier. We found installing and using this pod to be quite easy. Weighing in at a relatively feathery 7.4 pounds, we found it easy to move from room to room.
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, then once the quality improves, powers down to save energy. Both models also weigh about 12 pounds, light enough to move around without too much hassle. Between the two, our preference slightly leans towards 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.
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 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 three 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.
At the bottom of our ease of use scoresheet is the Hamilton Beach TrueAir. 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. To estimate how much each unit will end up costing buyers in the long run, we've measured every purifier's energy consumption, and price checked all of their replacement filters. 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 an 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.
When it came to estimated lifetime cost, most of the models we tested fell into the $500-$600 range. The Levoit LV-PUR131 is very economical in terms of 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 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 doesn't cost much 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.
According to our calculations, the Winix 5500-2 will cost $660 over its lifetime, putting it a bit above average. However, this assumes that you buy it at its list price. It is often available for significantly less than its list price, however, bringing it solidly back into the average range.
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.
Though not a necessity for every household, air purifiers can be effective in relieving symptoms for those with bad allergies or improving poor air quality for those with pulmonary illnesses. It's important to shop carefully, though, since 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 find the perfect model for your home. Now go fight that pollen!
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata