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A bedroom’s air quality is important for getting a good night’s sleep. Many people rely on air purifiers to rid their sleeping quarters of dust mites, microbes and other airborne particles, as well as bacteria, viruses, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and unpleasant odors. Air purifiers are particularly beneficial to people with allergies and/or asthma. Air purifiers sold today fall into four general categories based on the type of filtration used: HEPA, activated carbon, ionizer, and ozone; some purifier models utilize more than one of these systems, as well as UV technology. Although high-end air purifiers can cost hundreds of dollars, shoppers can usually find models for $100 or less.
This guide will explore the purpose and functionality of air purifiers, some benefits and disadvantages of using one, tips for first-time buyers, and our picks for the top-rated air purifiers according to actual owners.
Air purifiers remove contaminants and irritants from indoor air using one of two general techniques:
Most air purifiers sold today utilize one (or more) of the following four technologies:
HEPA: An acronym for High Efficiency Particulate Air, HEPA is a filtration system that must (according to industry standards) trap at least 99.7% of particles larger than 0.3 microns, which include chemicals, spores, and other particles that cannot be seen with the human eye.
HEPA filters are accordion-shaped and made of ultrafine fibers. They use three processes to trap particles of different sizes:
Particles accumulate on the filter whenever air passes through, resulting in cleaner air each time. Larger particles are immediately trapped, while smaller ones HEPA filters generally need to be replaced every two to four years; replacement filters are widely available.
HEPA filters are considered the most effective air purifiers for removing particles, as well as the most common and, in most cases, the cheapest. However, they do not remove odors or volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are emitted from paint, adhesives, and other gas pollutants. One important note: some purifiers advertise as using ‘HEPA-like technology’ or use similar verbiage, but this usually means the filters do not meet official HEPA standards.
Activated carbon: ‘Activated carbon’ (also known as activated charcoal) refers to a form of carbon that has been modified with small, porous openings that expand its surface area. Active carbon technology employs filters that feature low-volume pores that are extremely absorbent.
As a result, activated carbon purifiers trap odors, VOCs, and other emissions that cannot be trapped by HEPA filters. However, they are less efficient when it comes to trapping dust mites, microbes, and other air particles. For this reason, some purifiers feature HEPA and activated carbon filters.
Ionizer: Also known as negative ion purifiers, ionizers rely on active purification (unlike HEPA and activated carbon purifiers that use the passive method). Ionizers essentially zap particles with a chemical charge and collects them using one of two methods:
This method, while scientifically advanced, is somewhat inefficient because it transfers particles to other areas of the room, rather than absorbing them or trapping them in a filter. This poses the risk of the particles breaking free and reentering the air.
Ozone: Ozone purifiers clean the air using ozone gas. This technology is controversial because ozone, when produced at high levels, can be toxic to humans. Long-term exposure to smaller amounts can also lead to health problems. As a result, ozone purifiers have not received official approval from any federal safety oversight agency — although, for the record, much of the bad press comes from purifier brands that use different technologies.
The upside to ozone purifiers is that they are highly effective at transferring molds, bacteria, odors and gases — but not dust or other particles. As a result, ozone purifiers often feature ionizers as well.
In addition to the four technologies described above, some purifiers — typically passive, filtration models — utilize UV technology. UV uses active purification to convert oxygen particles into ozone, which then targets bacteria and viruses and converts them into harmless molecules. However, this technology is not particularly effective at targeting allergens.
The table below summarizes the key differences between HEPA, active carbon, ionizer, ozone, and UV purification technology:
|Type of Purification||Passive||Passive||Active||Active||Active|
Regardless of the technology used, air purifiers commonly feature the following components:
The following components are associated with certain purification technologies:
Purifiers are considered a sleep aid because airborne contaminants can cause health problems like congestion, headaches, stuffy noses, sneezing, and shortness of breath — all of which are proven to negatively affect sleep quality. This is especially true with people who have allergies, as well as those with asthma.
Additionally, most purifiers produce a subtle whirring sound that similar to the output of white noise machines, which are also used as sleep aids. White noise and other noise colors (such as pink) drown outside noise and allow people to fall asleep more easily. Some air purifiers come with a specialized ‘sleep’ setting, which is usually the lowest and quietest, and thus the most conducive to sleep.
Here are a few important factors to take into account when shopping for a new air purifier and comparing different brands and models:
Now, let’s look at the top-rated air purifiers according to the people who use them. The following six purifiers earned the highest ratings according to our customer and owner experiences and reviews. To learn more about the product, please click the retailer links in the second-to-last row.
|Model||Airmega 300||BreatheSmart-Flex-Pure||Blue Pure 411||AC4825 3-in-1||LV-PUR131||Air MinusA2|
|Dimensions (est.)||14W” x 14L” x 21H”||25W” x 15L” x 8.5H”||8W” x 8L” x 17H”||5.5W” x 9L” x 22H”||14.5W” x 7L” x 18.5H”||24W” x 21L” x 10H”|
|Weight (est.)||21.5 lbs.||15 lbs.||3.5 lbs.||9 lbs.||11 lbs.||23.5 lbs.|
|Recommended Coverage Area||1,256 sq. ft.||700 sq. ft.||Up to 175 sq. ft.||155 sq. ft.||322 sq. ft.||700 sq. ft. or 815 sq. ft.|
|Timer Settings||1 hour|
|Non-adjustable timer||Non-adjustable timer||Non-adjustable timer||1 to 12 hours||Non-adjustable timer|
|Warranty||5 years||Lifetime||1 year (may be extended to 2 years)||3 years||2 years||5 years|
|Tuck Customer Satisfaction Rating||88% (176 customer reviews)||90% (143 customer reviews)||89% (188 customer reviews)||88% (9,378 customer reviews)||90% (922 customer reviews)||93% (645 customer reviews)|
There are other ways to cleanse the air in your bedroom other than (or in addition to) using a purifier. These include the following:
For more information on accessories that can improve your sleeping environment and help you get a good night’s rest, please check out the following pages on Tuck.com: