I Can Haz Clean Air
December 18, 2009 12:31 PM   Subscribe

What is the best air filtration/purification system for a 1 bedroom apt. in Brooklyn?

I'm still getting used to the difference in air quality here in NYC (I came from Wisconsin). My apartment, while great in many ways, is above a somewhat busy street, as well as an apartment of smokers below. As a result, the air seems heavy with contaminants and toxins of various stripes!

Has anyone had good experiences with an air filter/purifier/etc. for the purpose of removing city contaminants/air pollution? What works? The apt. is about 850 sq. feet.

Thanks in advance.
posted by airguitar2 to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
FWIW, about 15 years ago I kept one of these things next to my bed, and it just meant that I caught colds constantly - I think that the filter grew bacteria on it. I imagine that high-quality HEPA filter would not cause such problems, and that's what I'd recommend, though it may cost a bit.

I've also kept spider plants because I've read, over many years and in more than one place, that they're superior at cleaning the air in a room. According to this article: "Philodendron, spider plant and the golden pothos were labeled the most effective in removing formaldehyde molecules. Flowering plants such as gerbera daisy and chrysanthemums were rated superior in removing benzene from the chamber atmosphere." This article, on the other hand, suggests some other plants that may be even better.
posted by Dasein at 1:27 PM on December 18, 2009

When shopping for an air filter, beware the labels.

What you want is a "True HEPA" filter. Many filters are marketed as "HEPA-like" which are significantly less effective.

I have a Honeywell filter I bought at Target. The interior HEPA filter is cleanable, I just vacuum it once in a while. There is a charcoal pre-filter that needs replacing once every 2-3 months.
posted by Fleebnork at 1:33 PM on December 18, 2009

Okay, I looked up the top-rated room air purifiers on Consumer Reports (hey, someone should benefit from my online subscription) and they say the following generally:

No air purifier alone will clean the air. Nor should it be the first thing you try. Based on increasing concern about exposure to even small amounts of ozone, we strongly suggest using whole-house and portable air purifiers that rely on filters and produce no ozone.

At their lowest and quietest settings, the top-rated portable air purifiers outperformed or matched most of the other portables in the Ratings. There's no reason to choose any others.

They then go on to recommend the following portable purifiers:

Whirlpool Whispure AP45030S (63 out of 100) Price as tested: $230
Kenmore (Sears) Progressive 83202 (57 out of 100) Price as tested: $270

You can probably find those models, or their successor models, for less. Based on their comments, I would try to be specific about the model you get. Good luck!
posted by Dasein at 1:36 PM on December 18, 2009

The consumer reports review of air filters was terrible, the testbed they set up was a joke.

Generally, IQAir, Austin Air, BlueAir and Alen make the best models. Familiarize yourself with the ratings actually mean before you make a purchase.

Avoid ozone filters, they actually create pollution, go with a HEPA technology.
posted by zentrification at 2:29 PM on December 18, 2009

zentrification may be right; if you do want to go with the Whirlpool, the 450 model has been replaced by the 510.
posted by Dasein at 2:35 PM on December 18, 2009

I bought a Friedrich C90A Electronic Air Cleaner for about $400 some 6-7 years ago. It uses internal electrostatic precipitation, much like a whole house cleaner. It greatly minimizes the amount of ozone or ions getting out of the filter. So much so that I can't smell ozone when it's running.

I am incredibly happy with mine. It kept the dust from parrots to a minimum, and reduced the cat litter odor when I had to live in a room with the cat litter.

IIRC, Consumer Reports did rate the Friedrich very well.
posted by MonsieurBon at 2:41 PM on December 18, 2009

I bought a Honeywell HEPA filter that is a step or two up from the one Fleebnork linked to. Very happy with it. The two faster speeds are a bit noisy so I don't run much when I am home, but I crank it up when I leave the apartment. From what I recall when researching the purchase, the biggest variable affecting cost is noise. If you want a super-quiet one that you can leave running all the time, and isn't a piece of crap, be prepared to pay a few hundred (and up).
posted by Brian James at 3:19 PM on December 18, 2009

FWIW, our Whirlpool Whispure 510 has been running like a champ for a good five years. We've been happy with it. The HEPA filter runs about $70 and the pre-filters about $30. We replace the HEPA filter annually, and the pre-filters every three months or so.
posted by DakotaPaul at 3:43 PM on December 18, 2009

I couldn't stomach paying hundreds of dollars for one of those fancy electronic units, so I've been running two of these Sears Kenmore HEPA Air Filters for about six months now and am pretty happy with them. They have a HEPA filter and activated carbon pre-filter. It is pretty quiet - the sound it makes is sort of a soft whooshing sound instead of a high pitched fan sound. The other nice thing about it is that it has a very small footprint and was relatively inexpensive (very good sale going on right now, too).

The Honeywell units seem to be popular in the under $200 price range, but the one we tried (the big round model) was loud even at the quietest setting and had a huge footprint.
posted by kenliu at 6:25 PM on December 18, 2009

Honestly, having a bunch of decently sized plants is your best bet, unless you have severe dust allergies... try that before you go dropping a lot of money on air filters.
posted by modernnomad at 7:52 AM on December 19, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks a lot, everyone. I'm going to try the plant solution first. I found this great TED talk about three indoor plants that help "grow" clean air, and I'm going to invest in a bunch and see how that works. Plus, they'll really spruce up the apartment (no pun intended).

posted by airguitar2 at 11:07 AM on December 20, 2009

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