Please help me pick an air purifier so I can survive in my new home.
January 12, 2018 9:38 AM   Subscribe

I recently bought a condo, and have been suffering from allergies, most likely due to dust mites, since then. It's getting worse and my quality of life is suffering, as I can't breath, sneeze often and am always tired. I'm looking for an air purifier but there are so many choices and features to choose from that I'm overwhelmed.

I'm pretty sure the offending particles are dust. About 4 years ago I lived in a different home and had similar symptoms and had testing done. While I had several allergies, the reaction to dust mites was off the charts (high). When I moved from that place to another apartment with all hardwood floors, the allergies went away. The new place I live has all hardwood floors too, but there is visibly a lot more dust here. Dust appears soon after I remove it.

My budget isn't huge--maybe $400 or under. It would have to be portable so I can move it from the bedroom to the living room (both pretty large rooms) as needed. I've seen another question about this in 2015 but there was no resolution.

Any experience or knowledge about air purifiers would be appreciated. The terms like HEPA, Medical Grade, VOC, etc. are so confusing. Thanks
posted by parkerposey to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I can look up the exact model later but I wish I hadn’t bought a fancy air purifier and I should have gone with several HEPA grade air filters on box fans.
posted by raccoon409 at 9:44 AM on January 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

You want a HEPA filtration unit. You only need VOC if you're worried about fumes or unpleasant odours (like paint). "Medical grade" is ad-copy; ignore it.

Try to figure out where the dust is coming from -- it's not just coming from you, if there's such a huge difference from your last place to this place.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 9:45 AM on January 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

We have a BlueAir filter - I'm not sure offhand which model - and it's been fantastic. We found a refurbished one at I think Home Depot, and while there was some back-and-forth with the company (it had an erratic power supply) they dealt with it at their cost and at 50% off it was totally worth it.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:54 AM on January 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

The filter you are looking for is HEPA unit that fits your air volume needs with the lowest cost consumables.
posted by Dr. Twist at 9:54 AM on January 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have the Honeywell HEPA air purifier for 390 square feet. I ordered it on amazon for about $150. I move it around the house as needed. It works great for my allergies. I also have HEPA air filters on my air conditioner/furnace.
posted by ilovewinter at 9:55 AM on January 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

I used this little guy when I lived in a dusty, moldy house and it worked really well for me (I don't know how severe your allergies are or mine were, so it's kind of subjective, but I did stop coughing all the time and got much better, more restful sleep). It's also very affordable- you could buy two!
posted by Snarl Furillo at 10:35 AM on January 12, 2018 [3 favorites]

I use GermGuardian with pet filters. It helps. Super portable. Various fan levels. Levels 1 & 2 are quiet enough to sleep with (I'm sensitive to sound).

But also check your air filters. Buy the highest filtration level you can afford and change them out regularly (no less than every 3 months, more frequently if needed).

And if you can afford it, a robotic vacuum cleaner is the bomb for keeping dust levels down. There are options under $200 that work great.
posted by slipthought at 12:05 PM on January 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

The Wirecutter guide is great. It not only makes recommendations, but it explains what you're looking for. I had a gift card to the Home Depot so I wanted to use that. I ended up getting one that fit all the Wirecutter requirements and was available at HD. Honestly, I'd probably just go with the Wirecutter rec if I were doing it now.

And MAN it's amazing. Within 3 days I started feeling better.
posted by radioamy at 12:35 PM on January 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

I have a BlueAir 211+ and it's been fantastic. I chose it because my seasonal allergies were driving me crazy and it was the highest rated on Consumer Reports. Seems to help and it has a pre-filter you can toss in the wash every so often to extend the life of the expensive filter inside the unit. Reasonably quiet on low setting and I like the medium setting for white noise while I sleep.
posted by jet_pack_in_a_can at 1:37 PM on January 12, 2018

I'm also seriously allergic to dustmites and as a result, I've been through dozens of air purifiers over the years. Most models, as long as they're HEPA, are pretty much interchangeable. They will all reduce the dust and pollen in your environment as long as you keep your doors and windows closed, wash your bedding and curtains when needed, and vacuum regularly. Where they differ (besides price) is what size room they can cover and quietness.

That being said, every BlueAir I've tried has been head and shoulders above the competition in every respect. They are super quiet on the low settings, mildly noticeable on medium, and on high, about as loud as a box fan. The more speed settings you have, the quieter (usually). My favorite thing about the BlueAirs though, is that they can clean a smelly room in mere minutes compared to other models that take a half hour or more. The filtration system is top notch. I don't know how to describe it, but it just smells like fresh clean air, like a breezy, clear day. I've had service people come into my home wearing god awfully strong colognes and ten minutes after using the BlueAir, the smells are totally gone. It works extremely well ridding rooms of smoke, perfumes, foods, and other funky odors. The negatives, for me, is that they're big and obtrusive (you can't really hide them behind furniture because they need to be out in the middle of the room to do the job properly), it's annoying to move it from room to room, the price of replacement filters, and the price of the unit itself.

For example, Costco has the BlueAir 505 on sale for $499.00 which will cover my largest room, but the replacement filters are about $80.00 (recommended replacement time is two times per year) and depending on what I'm doing that day, I'd have to move it several times, which is kind of a PITA. I returned my BlueAir and bought several smaller, almost as good air purifiers and put one in each room so I don't have to move them. Replacement filters aren't nearly as expensive either.

Whatever you buy, make sure you can return it easily because sometimes it takes a few tries to get the right one for your circumstances. Also, it's very important to stay on top of vacuuming and mopping the floors, wiping down furniture, and tossing your curtains in the dryer every now and then if your place tends to attract dust. There's only so much an air filter can do.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 2:12 PM on January 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

Thirding the Wirecutter recs. Note that they had some anomalous results with the Blue Air models in their testing, which may give you pause. For what it’s worth I have the Coway Airmega and really like it.
posted by roomwithaview at 9:58 PM on January 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

I understand that the following is way outside your budget, but it might be useful to others, or to you in the future.

If you don't have downstairs neighbors, but do have carpeting, get rid of the latter, and replace it with hardwood or engineered flooring. Carpet is perfect for harboring allergens and dust. Sometimes it is manufactured with allergens built in. Vacuuming cannot completely remove the crap that accumulates in carpeting, no matter how often you do it, or what kind of machine you use. I will never live in a carpeted home again.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:42 AM on January 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have a stupid expensive air purifier. I don’t use it anymore because the “HEPA filter on a box fan” method works better and the replacement filters are cheaper. I have two of them; one at each end of the house. Works better than the air purifier ever did.
posted by MexicanYenta at 6:02 PM on January 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

Could someone give more detail about the HEPA-on-a-box fan thing? Which filters, who sells them, etc.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:07 AM on January 14, 2018

Step 1: Buy a box fan
Step 2: Go to a store and buy a 20”x20” HEPA filter meant for air conditioners and heaters. They’re sold at Target, Walmart, Home Depot, Lowe’s, and sometimes grocery stores. They have different levels of particulates they filter out. For me, the cheapest is fine, and I’m allergic to dust mites, cat dander, mold, etc.
Step 3: Tape the filter to the fan.
Step 4: Profit?

Here’s a video.
posted by MexicanYenta at 1:02 PM on January 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

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