Air Filters Without the Subscription
December 27, 2008 1:17 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone have positive experiences with some kind of room-based air cleaner which does not require the purchase of replacement filters?

I know HEPA filters are the best, but I'd rather not get into the replacement filter game.

I bought an Ionic Breeze, cheap. Now I know why, it's the Ozononator. Off it went. I heard that the Oreck air purifier has a similar issue and that it is also not a particularly effective cleaner.

I realize that mere electrostatic charge is not going to bring dust, pollen, etc., scurrying from all corners of the room like a cartoon magnet, eager to latch onto the collection surfaces, so I wouldn't mind something with powerful sucking fans that happened to grab air and ram it into the device. Alternatively, some kind of removable filters I could hose off regularly would be good.

I don't mind having to wipe something down or wash it out every few days. It would be nice if it would work well against the particulates from second-hand smoke.
posted by adipocere to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I have a TrueAir(tm) Somethingorother (I can't find a model number on it) which has a vacuumable filter. I get the impression you're expected to replace the filter eventually, but so far vacuuming it has been sufficient. I haven't used it against smoke but it works OK for pollen and cat dander.
posted by hattifattener at 1:35 PM on December 27, 2008

I've got one of these Bionaire cleaners. It has a washable HEPA filter that is pretty easy to get to and works well. Has a little light that tells you when it needs a filter cleaning.

I generally hate fan noise and consider it too loud to run all the time, but it has a timer.
posted by Ookseer at 1:37 PM on December 27, 2008

Heavy duty commercial ionic air cleaners, used as smoke scrubbers when you could still smoke in clubs, work great, don't emit too much stinky ozone, but are expensive. They should last forever though.
posted by StickyCarpet at 3:04 PM on December 27, 2008

If you want to kill bacteria, mold etc. you're going to need something with a UV light stage. If you want to really purify your air, you're unfortunately going to need a product with a changeable filter. Your best option might be something with a washable filter, but I cannot vouch for their effectiveness. I can safely vouch for changeable filters, and there are some products where the filters won't need to be changed for nearly a year.

I actually work for a company that manufactures an air purification system, and I can tell you that any system that releases ozone is not purifying your air. The amount of ozone you need to release to effectively clean the air in your house would be toxic to the people living in the house. Any ozone releasing machine is a sham which can only do harm, or more likely, have no effect whatsoever but to create a larger electric bill.
posted by Modus Pwnens at 3:22 PM on December 27, 2008

Yeah— when I was shopping for an air cleaner, it was really hard to distinguish machines that had electrostatic precipitators from machines with some sort of ion emitter. The ionization/ozone machines seemed to fall into two categories also: ones which claimed to precipitate the dust outside the machine (so everything nearby would get coated with crud?) and ones which claimed to break down the dust/germs (along with any other organic substances near the machine, like rugs or lungs?). The non-snakeoil precipitators all seemed to be industrial or nightclub sized machines, not something to stick in the corner of my bedroom. So I ended up with an old-fashioned physical filter.
posted by hattifattener at 5:41 PM on December 27, 2008

For what it is worth we always carefully vacuum our short-term filters thoroughly in lieu of replacement. We don't see a huge difference from when we used to replace them every few months instead of annually.
posted by typewriter at 6:33 PM on December 27, 2008

I haven't found any good filters that don't have, well, filters.

I have had good luck with very cheap ones, though. Specifically, 20x20" furnace filters, bungee-corded to an old box fan, with a little duct tape to seal the edges, do a great job of removing dust, pollen, and pet dander, and are dirt cheap. You can probably vacuum the filter media, but they're less than $3 from Home Depot so I don't bother. Just undo the bungees and replace once a year or so (whenever the fan seems like it's not moving as much air). Total running cost is only a few cents per hour.

We tend to only use ours during the spring (when the pollen is really bad) and filters have lasted more than a year.

The quality of the filtration depends mostly on the type of filters you buy; if you wanted basic dust removal (e.g. sawdust in a workshop) you could get some of the sub-$1 fiberglass ones, or if you have allergy issues you can get the better pleated-paper ones that are a few bucks. I like the "EnviroCare" brand ones, but 3Ms also work well, although they cost a dollar or two more.

I have been thinking about getting the 4" thick HEPA filter media (they look like very thick furnace filters but are apparently for whole-house air filtration systems), but so far haven't tried it.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:03 PM on December 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'll chime in - I've used an Austin Air Healthmate for nearly 10 years and it works really well. It moves a LOT of air and you can only hear it when it's on its highest setting.
That said, it IS a HEPA filter but the nice thing is you dont have to change it for their recommended 5 years. I ran mine for 8. The filters arent cheap (about 180$) but they really do last that long. There are newer designs of them with carbon filter that would probably help your secondhand smoke issue better too and last longer. I left mine running constantly for several years at a time and it still works fine. I know its a filter unit, but you arent replacing it monthly or anything so maybe its something you'd consider.
posted by clanger at 11:04 PM on December 28, 2008

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