Breathing is an essential part of our everyday lives. Our bodies do it automatically whether we think about it or not, but the quality of the air we inhale is a story of its own.
While oxygen is the only thing we need when it comes to breathing, it often comes in a package with some irritants we would rather avoid, like bacteria, dust mites, smoke, microbes and the list goes on. All of these things, depending on their amount, have an impact on our health – they may either pose small inconveniences or aggravate more drastic reactions in our organisms.
Among other things, the air we breathe directly interferes with our sleep. Infections, allergic reactions, and nocturnal asthma can be aggravated during sleep solely due to the polluted air in one’s bedroom. This is why a lot of people turn to air purifiers for protection. And with the current situation regarding contamination all around the globe, it is no surprise that the purifier market developed as much as it has. These devices come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and colors. However, it is essential to note that not all purifiers work the same.
Air purifiers are specifically designed to remove a vast array of contaminating particles from indoor spaces. Different types of purifiers, the way they work, their benefits and disadvantages, and our favorite models of 2019 are listed in this article to help you understand this topic a little better and make an informed decision.
How Do Air Purifiers Work?
Your house naturally collects lots of dust and germs without an air purifier. Their mere presence doesn’t necessarily mean that you will experience significant health problems, but you’d undoubtedly be better off without them. So how would a purifier aid this situation?
Well, while all of these appliances have the same purpose of removing the contaminants from your surroundings, they work in one of two ways:
- Active purification aims to turn various gasses and chemicals into harmless molecules using a process called ionization. While the air improvement is evident with this method, it doesn’t remove pollutants and isn’t as efficient as the system of passive purification. However, people whose issues aren’t critical, as well as those who aim to prevent potential complications may find active cleaning to be good enough for their purposes.
- Passive purification uses a filtration system to separate and permanently remove contaminants from the air, which is why it’s considered as the superior design. As such, this method is more suitable for people concerned with allergens and those with existing, more severe difficulties whose symptoms are easily aggravated.
Besides this primary classification, air cleaners differ by the type of technology they employ out of the following:
HEPA is a passive purification technology that has been used for many years. The name stands for High-Efficiency Particulate Air, and refers to the industry standard that HEPA filters must meet; at least 99.97% of all particles larger than 0.3 microns must be trapped in the screens for the device to earn its title. This includes spores, chemicals, and other contaminants invisible to the naked eye.
HEPA filters’ shape is similar to that of an accordion. These devices are made of ultrafine fibers, and they do their job through three processes:
- Interception traps the larger particles and some of the smaller ones closer to the filter.
- Impaction attaches more of the smaller contaminants to the larger ones already caught during the interception
- Diffusion forces the leftover bits to slow down and bumps them with gas particles as a last resort, though the majority of the work is already done during the first two steps.
HEPA air purifiers are held at a pedestal because of their high efficiency. Combined with the fact that these appliances are often the cheapest compared to their competition, it is no surprise that HEPA are some of the most widespread air cleansers in use today. Their filters should be replaced every four years at the latest, and due to their frequent use, the replacements can be easily found almost everywhere.
It is important to note that these filters do not generate ozone or any other harmful byproducts. However, they do not remove odors and VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), the natural byproducts of paint and adhesives. Additionally, some cleansers may be advertised as “similar to HEPA,” which should be taken with a grain of salt, as it usually implies they didn’t meet the official industry standards.
Activated Carbon Technology
Charcoal filters are handy tools for capturing pollutants such as VOCs, chemical emissions, gases, smoke, and odors, all of which aren’t captured by HEPA systems. This filter, however, has a lower efficiency with trapping microbes and other airborne particles – coincidentally, the exact ones that HEPA eliminates with ease. This is why many companies use these filters together to cover virtually any contaminant possible and provide their customers with clean, allergen-free air. Much like HEPA, Activated carbon employs a passive purification mechanism.
UV technology is most often used in combination with passive filter systems since it doesn’t get rid of airborne particles. It is, however, an excellent method to kill germs such as viruses and bacterias.
Air purifiers using this technology have a UV lamp installed, and as microorganisms pass by the UV rays radiated from the light, cellular or genetic damage destroys them. However, this process isn’t very useful for eliminating allergens, which is why most devices start filtering the air with HEPA and activated carbon, and use the UV only as a final stage in the process.
Negative Ion Purifiers, or Ionizers, are active purifiers that use injections of chemical charge to target and stun airborne particles such as pollen and dust. These contaminants are then collected in one of two ways:
- They are magnetically attracted to the filter where they can be easily wiped off
- They bump with other particles and get stuck together. At some point, the joined particles gain too much weight to be able to stay afloat, so they drop to the floor or other flat surfaces where they can be wiped off or vacuumed.
As seen above, these filters are less effective than some competing technologies on the market; an Ionizer might be able to neutralize and move specific pollutants, but not rid the room of them on its own. Unless swept off in a relatively short time window, dust may break free from the bypassing particles it collided with and get back into the air.
Ozone (O₃) is known to be toxic in high amounts, or small doses over a longer period. Controversially enough, Ozone air purifiers intentionally produce this gas to clean the air.
Many statements were made to ensure the public that ozone air purifiers are safe and effective in controlling indoor air pollution.
However, health professionals have refuted the safety claims of these devices, and no agency of the federal government has approved their use. Exposure to ozone is believed to ignite asthma symptoms, and a high enough level can permanently scar the lungs.
Although the bad press certainly carries weight, the public should consider the fact that this mostly comes from competing companies. These purifiers do have some upsides – they transfer bacteria, mold, gases, and odors quite effectively, but aren’t useful when it comes to dust, pollen, and other similar particles.
Best Air Purifiers of 2019
Rabbit Air MinusA2
This purifier combines active cleansing with HEPA and activated carbon systems to cover a wide range of pollutants from dust mites and other allergens to unpleasant odors. The cleaning process includes six phases and has received nothing but praise for its efficiency.
Rabbit Air MinusA2 comes in two models to cover rooms of different sizes; the SPA-700A is fitted for 700 sq. ft. spaces, while the SPA-780A covers up to 815 sq. ft. When it comes to design, the latter has an additional, WiFi-compatible option that can be connected to iOS devices like smartphones.
The MinusA2 include five speed features, which is above average, and automatically switches to sleep mode in the absence of light. Mounted on the wall or left on the floor, it is sure to provide sound sleep with zero disturbances, as you don’t need to monitor it around bedtime or during the night – just crawl into bed, enjoy the fresh air, and forget all about it.
If this sounds too good to be true, you may be right. The prices of this purifier certainly aren’t budget-friendly, starting at $550. However, if you can afford it, the MinusA2 is worth the money. It is eligible for Amazon Prime so at least the shipping won’t cost extra, and it comes with a five-year warranty, which exceeds the average when it comes to air cleaners.
To summarize, the Rabbit Air MinusA2 will suit you if:
- You need it for 815 sq. ft. space (or smaller)
- You are prone to allergic reactions, have asthma or another breathing-related issue
- You are sensitive to odors
- You want minimum-maintenance but a thorough purifier
- You are willing to invest in a more expensive but long-lasting, quality product
This model also uses both HEPA and activated charcoal, and clears the air almost entirely, with 99.97% efficiency rate. Three settings are available on each appliance: auto, eco (save mode, applicable for rooms with relatively few pollutants), and sleep (quiet) mode.
What’s unique about this product is the range of space it covers; the Airmega offers two models, the Airmega 300 and the Airmega 400, the first already covering the stunning 1,256 sq. ft. while the latter covers up to 1,560 sq ft. Needless to say, both of these fit bedrooms as well as living rooms and even garages.
Besides that, this purifier features four different speed modes, a shut-down timer option, a monitor displaying current air quality, and an indicator to let you know when to change the filter. The starting price for the Airmega 300 is $400, still on the costly side, while the Airmega 400 reaches $570.
All in all, this air cleaner is a good pick if:
- Your bedroom is large, or you want to put the purifier in another room
- You experience allergic reactions, especially to dust, pollen, etc.
- You are sensitive to smell
- Louder noises wake you up or distract you from falling asleep
- You have a bigger budget
Blueair Blue Pure 411
Another HEPA and activated carbon combination, this model rids the air from 99% of contaminants, including off-putting smells. Though as effective as the purifiers mentioned above, Blueair Blue Pure 411 is one of the smallest designs available, and naturally has a modest coverage radius of 175 sq. ft. at the most, making it the best fit for tighter or medium-sized bedrooms.
What it lacks in range, it covers in other areas. The Blue Pure 411 is exceptionally quiet, emitting next to zero noise – 47 decibels is the loudest it can get, compared to the 50 decibels considered soft for most other purifiers.
Three speed settings are adjustable with this device, while its timer is set. Another advantage of the model is its remarkably low price – at only $90, the Blue Pure is extremely cost-effective and affordable for most households. The warranty lasts a year.
Blueair Blue Pure 411 is optimal for you if:
- You are highly sensitive to noise, regularly waking up because of it
- Your bedroom is on the smaller side
- Odors bother you
- You need a hypoallergenic environment
- Your budget is limited
Levoit purifies has a filtration system with three stages, including activated carbon and a genuine HEPA filter. It removes 99.9% of pollen, dust, smoke, pet danders, and mold spores.
It can be used in rooms as big as 322 sq. ft. Levoit LV-PUR131 can filter out particles that are as small as 0.3 microns and completely clears the air in as little as ten minutes.
Another quality that sets this model aside is its highly advanced timer, adjustable from one to twelve hours, with a separate sleep mode option for those who prefer fuss-free solutions.
Besides that, LV-PUR131 comes with a screen that monitors air quality and notifies you accordingly, so you don’t have to think about it at all, making it a universal favorite of the lazy and extremely busy people alike.
LV-PUR131 costs under $160, which is way cheaper than its competitors’ usual. Although not as affordable as the Blue Pure 411, it is still a high-value pick, backed by a warranty covering two years.
In conclusion, this model might work for you if:
- You want to customize products to match your needs as closely as possible
- You like your technology “smart” and prefer not to meddle with manual settings
- You have allergies or breathing problems
- You have pets
- You sleep in a moderate or large bedroom
- You have a smell sensitivity
- You don’t want to spend a fortune on an air purifier
Additional Tips for Keeping Your Bedroom Air Clean
Avoid smoking in the bedroom. This should be a given, but many people underestimate the effect a couple of cigarettes have on the quality of the air in the room, and the consequences to their health later on during sleep. Incense and candles should also be kept elsewhere, but they aren’t as harmful as smoke.
Keep a plant in the room as a natural purifier. Plants naturally produce oxygen and absorb some of the harmful gases in your room, improving the overall quality of the air you breathe.
Clean and vacuum often to remove as many airborne particles as possible, especially if you don’t have an air purifier, or have one that operates as an active system, moving rather than destroying contamination around you.
Keep your windows open as long as you are at home to help circulate the air, except during pollen season if this is a major issue for you.
Change your sheets and pillowcases regularly to avoid dust build-up. Cleaning the air will only make sense if the rest of your room is clean, too.
Michael is a professional writer based in Boston and someone who has always been fascinated with the mysteries of sleep. When he’s not reading about new sleep studies and working on our news section, you can find him playing video games or visiting local comic book stores.