Suffering from springtime sniffles? We purchased 13 of the best air purifiers available today and tested their ability to clear up a smokey room side-by-side, all to find the ones that are most likely to give you some relief from seasonal allergies. Most purifiers use somewhat arcane statistics to advertise their air cleaning power, making it somewhat difficult to tell which ones would actually be effective in your home, and which are glorified fans. Our rigorous testing procedures found not only the most effective machines, but the ones that are easiest to use and most economical in the long run. That way you can find the best purifier that fits within your budget.
The Best Air Purifiers of 2018
Analysis and Award Winners
In anticipation of allergy season we tested two promising new purifiers, the Pure Enrichment PureZone 3-in-1 and the Levoit LV-H132. However, neither of these models impressed in our air cleaning tests. IF you're looking for a purifier for less than $100, we would still recommend the GermGuardian AC4825, and if you want the best of the best the Coway AP-1512HH is still our favorite.
Best Overall Air Purifier
For those that want to wage all out war against pollen and other airborne particulates, the Coway AP-1512HH will be the strongest weapon in your arsenal. In just 30 minutes it was able to remove 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. To boot the Coway's fan is both powerful enough to keep things cool during those sweltering summer nights, and quiet enough to not drown out your next Netflix marathon. We also like that the accurate, built-in air quality meter lets the machine autonomously turn on and off as needed.The only real hurdle we ran into with the Coway was its cost. The list price of $230 is quite steep. However, the Coway does have less expensive filters and uses electricity more economically than most models, so in the long run you end with average costs. If you can make the investment upfront, the Coway gives you top notch performance with a reasonable lifetime cost.
Read review: Coway AP-1512HH
Some air purifiers use ionizers to produce charged particles that stick to dust and pollen and make them easier to trap in a filter. However, these ionizers are somewhat controversial as there are many claims that these devices can produce ozone, which is a harmful lung irritant. Many manufacturers claim that their ionizers are ozone free, but in cases such as these, we take the conservative route. Therefore we only tested models that can be run without an ionizer.
Best Buy on a Tight Budget
If you'd prefer to keep your air purifying budget below 3 digits, the GermGuardian AC4825 is the best way to go. In our tests it was able to remove 99% of airborne particulates over the course of an hour. While this isn't quite as powerful as the Coway, it indicates that the AC4825 still has enough power to keep an average sized bedroom mostly allergen free.The biggest sacrifice you make going with this less expensive model is the fan noise. On the low setting it's fairly discreet, but at medium and high there is an audible whine that may annoy those that are sensitive noise. However, we mostly found ourselves leaving purifiers set on the low setting during normal use, so this is by no means a deal breaker.
Read review: GermGuardian AC4825
Best Bang for the Buck
If you want all the bells and whistles of a top shelf purifier, but don't want to make the initial investment required by the Coway, the GermGuardian AC5350B would be a worthy substitute. Its packed with features like an on/off timer, 5 fan speed settings, and a UV bulb that is meant to kill bacteria. It also performaed 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 does have a more attractive upfront cost, 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
Top Pick for Small Rooms
Most people only really need an air purifier for their bedroom, and if your bedroom is on the small side (~100 square feet) 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. 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, so even when used in a small room you'll likely want to run it for an hour or so before you go to be to get the full effect. 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
Analysis and Test Results
When used correctly air purifiers can potentially bring some much-needed relief to the everyday symptoms of airborne allergy sufferers and those with sensitive respiratory systems. After conducting extensive research we bought and tested 10 of the best models on the market and put them through a stringent series of tests so that you can decide which will serve you best.
Most of our testing focused on how quickly and effectively each model was able to remove particulate matter from the air. We also looked beyond air cleaning capabilities to the other ways having one of these machines in your home might affect your day to day life, like how easy they are to operate, how noisy they are, and how much they cost to run. If you're not sure whether an air purifier would benefit you, there is some helpful advice in our buying advice article.
When it comes to air purifiers, you generally have to pay more for better power, capacity, and features. However, a big pricetag doesn't always mean you're getting the best products. As you can see in the chart above, the $230 Coway outperformed multiple models in the $300-$500 range. If you don't need top shelf performance and aren't fussed about extra features, the GermGuardian AC4825 and AC4100 both offer good performance at realtively low prices.
When shopping for an air purifier don't forget to factor in the cost of replacement filters and electircity 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
If an air purifier doesn't significantly reduce airborne particulate concentration, then it is not worth buying. To test the air cleaning performance of our purifiers we sealed off a 150 square foot room and burned incense, paper, and matches to create a smoky environment. We then put each purifier into the haze and ran it on high for one hour, monitoring the particulate concentration with an air quality meter. Most of our score was based on how quickly and by how much each model was able to reduce airborne particulates in the room. We also considered odor elimination, but to a lesser extent as no model really excelled in this regard. In general we found models that use True HEPA filters perform better than those that use HEPA Type filters, with a couple notable exceptions.
Somewhat surprisingly one of the HEPA Type models, the Blueair Pure 211, was one of the best performing models in our test. After 30 minutes it had reduced airborne particulate concentration by nearly 99%, and by the 45 minute mark had the concentration very close to zero. However it does not have a carbon filter, and left a good amount of smoke smell in the room.
Three other models were basically on par with the Blueair. The Honeywell True HEPA Allergen Remover, the Coway AP-1512HH, and the Winix 9500 all posted particulate reductions of at least 99% by the half-hour mark. They also all had concentrations close to zero by the end of the test, though not quite as close to zero as the Blueair. All of these models do have carbon filters, and were thus slightly better at reducing that smoky odor. The Honeywell True HEPA Allergen Remover was slightly better than the others in this regard, but model was good. The room still smelt strongly of smoke, but not overpoweringly so.
The majority of the models we tested fell either at the top or the bottom of the air cleaning performance spectrum, with the Levoit LV-PUR131 and the GermGuardian AC4825 the lonely occupants of the average, middle ground. After running for 30 minutes the Levoit LV-PUR131 had reduced particulate concentration by about 85%, which was far off from what the top scorers achieved in the same time frame. After an hour that figure bumped up to 99%, which feels acceptable, but still wasn't as good as the 99.9% figures the top scorers produced. It also removed more of the smoke odor than most other models, but a strong smell still remained.
Both the GermGuardian AC4825 and the GermGuardian AC5350B performed very similarly to the Levoit. These models were slightly faster out of the gate, both hitting around a 92% reduction in particulates by the half-hour mark, and both improving to over 99% by after a full hour. Both these models and the Levoit would be able to remove the vast majority of particulates if you were to run them in your bedroom overnight, but would likely never get the air quite as clean as the top scorers.
The low scorers in our test were models that were not able to achieve a 99% reduction of particulates within a one hour window. The best of these low performing models was the Dyson Pure Cool Link. It was relatively effective at the start of the test, reducing particle by 86% after half an hour. However, at the hour mark, it had only achieved a 97% reduction. It was also one of the least effective models when it came to odor reduction. The PureZone 3-in-1 reached only a 77% reduction after 30 minutes, but did improve to a 96% reduction at teh hour mark. The GermGuardian was slightly worse, hitting an 84% reduction at the half-hour mark but only 95% at the hour mark. It was also quite ineffective at reducing odors. The Levoit LV-H132 lagged slightly behind these models, achieving a 94% reduction of airborne particulates after 1 hour.
At the bottom of the barrel were the Holmes HEPA Type Desktop and the Hamilton Beach TrueAir. These models performed almost identically, hitting reduction in the mid 70's at the half-hour mark and only 89% after a full hour. Both models also left behind very very strong smoke odors.
Perhaps the largest potential downside of bringing an air purifier into your home is the fact that it makes noise. Since a purifier is only useful if used in your direct vicinity, you're probably going to notice that noise. Luckily most of the models we tested are relatively quiet. When using a decibel meter we never got a reading higher than 61, which is right around normal conversational volume. However, some models have higher pitch sounds that can be annoying, even at low volumes. We listened to every model at their high, medium, and low settings to determine which ones might disrupt your TV watching, and which ones you'll barely notice.
The GermGuardian AC5350B was the quietest model we tested, earning the top score of 9 out of 10. It was virtually silent when running on its lower settings, and on high it produced a low pitched hum that easily fades into the background. The Coway AP-1512HH also earned a 9 out of 10, but on high it produces just a slightly higher pitch that is thus slightly more noticeable, but is still easily ignored.Rounding out the group of top scorers are the PureZone 3-in-1 and the Levoit LV-H132. Both of these modles were virtually silent when we ran them on their low and medium settings, and had a failry innocuous medium-low pitched hum on their high settings. It should also be noted that both of these models are on the small side, and thus have less powerful fans than teh larger models.
A number of models scored just slightly behind the Coway in our noise testing. The Levoit LV-PUR131 emits a low pitched hum when on high that is about even with the Coway in terms of conspicuousness. On low, it is much quieter, but not nearly silent like the Coway. The Winix 9500 is a bit more noticeable than the Levoit and Coway when on high (turbo), but is essentially silent when on the low setting. The Blueair Pure 211 is as inconspicuous as the Coway when on high, but is still noticeable when used in its low mode.
Just behind the four 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 two average performers in our noise testing were the Holmes HEPA Type Desktop and the Dyson Pure Cool Link. The Holmes was fairly average across the board in our testing. At high settings it produced a buzzing sound that was hard to ignore, but not completely annoying. At low settings it creates a medium pitched hum that isn't too loud, but definitely noticeable. The Dyson 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.
Three different models tied for the bottom slot in our noise testing. Both GermGuardian models that we tested, the AC4825 and the AC4100 both 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
Though air purifiers are generally simple and require no real maintenance beyond replacing the filter periodically. However, there are certain touches 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 and into the bedroom. Timers keep you from forgetting to turn the purifier off when you leave the house.We evaluated all these aspects of our to purifiers to ascertain how easy they are to operate and incorporate into your daily routine.
The Levoit LV-PUR131 and the Coway AP-1512HH emerged from our testing as the most user friendly models. The Levoit was very easy to setup and has a simple, clear interface. At 11.4 pounds it is also relatively light, and a rail style handle makes it easy to carry around. It has multiple fan speeds and a quiet sleep mode, as well as a timer that goes up to 12 hours. It also has a built-in air quality meter, so you can put it in auto modes and the purifier will react to the current air conditions. However, we did not find this meter to be accurate, so we would recommend just running the purifier at the highest setting that doesn't seem too loud to you.
Our other user friendliness favorite, the Coway AP-1512HH, was also very easy to set up. Its carry handles and fairly light weight of 12.7 pounds make it easy to move from room to room. The clear controls let you easily adjust fan speed, set the timer, and turn off the ionizer (which we would recommend). It also has an auto mode that will adjust settings based on its built-in air quality meter. We found such meters to be unreliable on most models but the Coway's meter was quite consistent, always ramping up to high at the same airborne particulate concentration.
The new GermGuardian AC5350B also earned a top score of 8 out of 10 in this metric. Its simple interface makes setting the fan level and off timer very easy, and at 11.25 pounds it won't weigh you down if you want to move it from the living room to the bedroom.
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 setup, 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 Holmes HEPA Type Desktop was just a bit harder to deal with than the Blueair, but still wasn't frustrating to use. At 4.7 pounds it is very portable and is ready to go out of the box. However, the plastic knobs used to adjust the fan speed and ionizer feel a bit cheap and flimsy, and it only has three fan settings. The Levoit LV-H132's user experience is similar. It is small and light at 6.5 pounds and easy to setup, but it only has 3 fan settings and no extra features like an off timer.
The Winix 9500 and the Hamilton Beach TrueAir were both at the bottom of our ease of use scoresheet. Purifiers are quite simple machines, so even these models weren't particularly difficult to operate, but they were a bit less streamlined than the other models. The Winix's controls were comparatively cumbersome to use. We didn't find the odor and air quality meters to be accurate. Accessing full functionality requires the remote control, which is fairly well designed. Also, at 18 pounds and with no carry handles, the Winix was our least favorite model to carry around. 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.
Apart from the upfront cost of buying an air purifier, you'll have to pay for replacement filters and the electricity needed to run the purifier throughout its life. We measured each model's energy usage with a watt meter. We then calculated the estimated lifetime cost of each purifier. For this calculation we assumed electricity costs at the national average ($0.12/kWh), usage of 12 hours a day, that filters would be replaced according to manufacturer recommendations, and a useable lifespan of 5 years.
With a low list price, incredibly energy usage, and inexpensive filters, the Holmes HEPA Type Desktop was the top performer in our operating cost testing. Its estimated lifetime cost is just $143, more than $100 less than the next best model.
A distant second in term of estimated 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 closely behind with an estimated lifetime cost of $279. The PureZone 3-in-1 was still in this ballpark with, loggin an estimated lifetime cost of $323.
We saw multiple models falling into the $500-$600 range in terms of estimated lifetime cost. The Levoit LV-PUR131 sips electricity, but an average list price and somewhat expensive filters pushed its lifetime cost to $549. The Coway AP-151HH proves that you have to be willing to pay at least a bit for high performance. It's relatively high list price and filter costs put its lifetime expenditure at $556. The GermGuardian AC5350B costs less up front, but with its expensive filters it ends up costing around $542 in the long run. The Hamilton Beach TrueAir requires more frequent filter replacements than most models, which pushed its lifetime cost to $573. The Winix 9500 has relatively cheap filters but a higher list price, which pushes its lifetime cost to $591.
Now we get into the really expensive models. The Honeywell True HEPA Allergen Remover's list price is only a bit above average, but it gulps up more electricity than any other model, making its lifetime cost $771. The Dyson Pure Cool Link barely uses any electricity, but its filter are pricey and its list price is higher than any other model, resulting in a lifetime cost of $889. The Blueair Pure 211 uses an average amount of electricity, but expensive filters and a high list price make its lifetime cost $1,105.
If you're an allergy sufferer or have a chronic pulmonary illness an air purifier can go a long way towards alleviating everyday symptoms and annoyances. However, not all air purifiers are created equal. Some are more effective at filtering airborne particulates than others, some are quiet while others can be grating, and some come with hidden costs in the form of expensive replacement filters and high energy usage. We hope that our testing results have led you to a model that will fit your needs and budget.
Still not sure? Take a look at our buying advice article for more info.