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Whether you're plagued by allergies, smog, or smoke, a high-quality air purifier can go a long way in improving the quality of air your household breathes. Our team of experts researched over 50 units before purchasing the best 12 available today to conduct our own hands-on research. We assessed air cleaning performance, operating costs, and noise produced by each machine. We also tested a range of models that will perform across a large spectrum of situations and budgets. We hope our in-depth testing will clear the air on which air purifier is best for your home or office.
Editor's Note: This review was updated on May 4, 2022, to include new models, such as the Levoit Core 300, which takes home the prize for high performance at a low cost. We've also added in the Alen BreatheSmart 75i, which is our first choice for large spaces.
The Winix 5500-2 is one of the most effective air purifiers we tested, as it consistently reduced the measurable concentration of airborne particles by 99.99%. Perhaps equally impressive is that it achieved this without producing more than a gentle, inoffensive humming sound. Many of the other units produce an obnoxious and high-pitched whistle, which is not a pleasant sound. This unit is loaded with features, including an air quality monitor, which automatically adjusts the settings based on current ambient air quality. The Winix also comes with a remote control and has different fan settings and programmable timers.
The obvious drawback is the price. This high-quality machine costs a great deal more than others in our fleet. Given its truly excellent performance, it is a worthy investment for your household's ongoing health. If you're looking for the absolute best-performing air purifier and willing to spare no expense, this may be the model for you.
Coming in at a close second in terms of performance is the Coway Airmega 1512HH. Over the course of an hour, it removed 99.84% of measurable airborne particulates from our testing room. While it's a few decimals shy of our highest ranked model, this is still top-notch performance. The fans on this machine are powerful enough to circulate cool air but not so loud as to disturb your evening Netflix binge. The built-in air quality monitor is convenient and accurate.
The upfront cost of this unit is higher than most of the other models we tested, but this cost comes with a caveat. Fortunately, the Coway is one of the most economical air purifiers to run. Its filters are long-lasting, and the unit uses very little electricity. This is a high-quality device that is a little bit more economical than our top choice.
Air Purifiers and COVID-19 (Coronavirus)
Credible research studies such as NASA's test results suggest that HEPA filter equipped air purifiers can filter more than 99.9% of airborne virus particles that enter the air purifier. However, they cannot stop virus particles from contaminating surfaces or passing directly between people. Therefore, purifiers likely offer only marginal, if any, protective benefits from the virus itself and definitely should not be used as a replacement for any of the best practices put forth by the CDC or local healthcare and governmental organizations.
The Alen BreatheSmart 75i is a true powerhouse. With one of the highest CADR of any air purifiers we tested, this unit is suitable for spaces up to 1,300 square feet. Over the span of an hour, it removed 99.99% of measurable particulates from our testing room and significantly reduced the odor in the room post-testing. Amazingly, this unit was also incredibly quiet.
Besides the high buy-in cost, the biggest flaw we found with this machine is its large size. Weighing in at 27 pounds, this is a big and bulky device. Even with its built-in handles, this can be a hassle to move. However, if you're after a burly air purifier for large spaces, this is the model for you.
The Levoit Core 300 is small but mighty. Considering its diminutive size, it offers truly excellent air-purifying capabilities. Weighing about seven and a half pounds, this machine is easy and convenient to move from room to room. Over the course of an hour, it removed 99.97% of measurable particulates from our testing room.
Because of its size and power, if you want to utilize it to its full potential, you are limited to using this in spaces that are 219 square feet or less. When set to high, this machine is quite noisy. Our testers didn't find the noise particularly obnoxious, but it is present. With a lower initial purchase price and low operating costs, this is an excellent unit for those on a budget.
This TruSens Z-2000 places near the top of the heap for offering excellent performance. This model sets itself apart from the rest of the field with a separate air quality sensor that can be placed away from the purifier (this sensor communicates with the purifier wirelessly but must be plugged into an outlet). This lets you set the sensor on your bedstand or next to your favorite chair, prompting the purifier to react to the quality of the air that you're breathing, not just the air immediately surrounding the main unit. It backs this feature up with a user-friendly interface, quiet operation, and reasonable operating costs relative to its performance.
Apart from fairly hefty upfront costs, our only real qualms with the TruSens are that it was slightly less effective at removing odors than the top-scoring Coway. It also hasn't received a clean air delivery rate (CADR) certification. However, our tests indicate that it effectively removes airborne allergens (generally 2.5 microns and above). This would likely make it an excellent choice for those seeking relief from pollen.
A Note On Ionizers
Many purifiers utilize ionizers that release charged particles into the air that latch onto airborne particulates, making them easier to filter. However, some ionizers can create ozone as a byproduct, which can be a harmful lung irritant. While some ionizers are likely safe, we like to adhere to the precautionary principle in cases like these.
Why You Should Trust Us
Authors Steven Tata,Max Mutter, and Buck Yedor have spent the last few years researching and testing a variety of health and wellness products, including air purifiers, humidifiers, electric toothbrushes, and fitness trackers. They've also tested many other home and kitchen products, from security cameras and wireless speakers to toaster ovens and pressure cookers. This team is no stranger to diving into the nitty-gritty details and conveying them to consumers clearly and comprehensively.
To test our lineup of the best purifiers, we used a professional grade air quality meter to measure airborne particulate concentrations and tested all of the purifiers in the same 150 square foot room to keep conditions as consistent as possible. To choose the models that made it into this review, we researched over 100 different products before whittling it down to the 12 most promising. We then spent over 200 hours testing the air quality produced by each machine and assessing user-friendliness, noise levels, and overall operating costs.
In scoring air purifiers, we divided our tests into four different weighted metrics. The results of our air cleaning performance tests factor most heavily into each model's final score. We also consider noise production, user-friendliness, and operating costs, significantly impacting the user experience. In the following sections, we dig deep into the results of all these tests to help you find the best air cleaning device for your home or office.
In general, paying more for an air purifier will get you a larger capacity and/or better performance. There are exceptions, however. The Winix 5500-2, for example, provides stellar performance and often sells for significantly less than its list price. The Levoit 300 also performs well above its price tag, offering high-quality air cleaning for less than many competitors.
Air Cleaning Performance
Our most heavily weighted metric is air cleaning performance. We sealed a 150-square-foot room in our testing, then filled it with smoke by burning incense, matches, and paper. Once we got the room to the desired level of airborne particulate pollution, we ran each purifier for an hour, monitoring the air cleaning progress with a Dylos air quality meter. Our tests focused on eliminating airborne particles sized 2.5 microns and up. This size range corresponds to most airborne allergens, including pet dander, pollen, and mold. We chose to focus here because we've found that most people seeking this information are searching for allergy relief, though all of the tested models also eliminate much smaller particles.
The first of multiple models topping our air cleaning leaderboard is the Winix 5500-2. It managed to remove 99.99% of the measured airborne particulates in our testing room in just the span of an hour. The only other model that could match this feat was the Alen BreatheSmart 75i. It also reduced 99.9% of particulates, just a little bit slower. While we still haven't been able to find an air purifier that is truly effective at removing odors, the Winix 5500-2 proves to be more successful than most.
The Alen BreatheSmart 75i also offers one of the highest CADR numbers, which will allow you to use it in spaces up to 1,300 square feet.
The Coway Airmega 1512HH also removed nearly all measured airborne particulates, reaching a reduction of 99.84% within an hour in our test. It also removed more odors than most, though smoke smells remained quite noticeable.
Next in line was the small but powerful, Levoit Core 300. This little device was able to remove 99.97% of measurable particulates.
The Honeywell True HEPA Allergen Remover also gave an elite performance, obtaining a 99.78% measured airborne particulate reduction in our test. It also removed more odors than most, even if they remained prevalent.
The TruSens Z-2000 falls just behind the top scorers. It generally matched the top models in our tests, hitting a 99% reduction after half an hour and getting close to eliminating all large particles before one hour passed. It also did better at removing the smoke odor than most. However, it doesn't have a CADR certification — something all of the top scorers possess.
A few models fall into the average bar on our air cleaning performance ladder. The GermGuardian AC5350B eliminated 95% of airborne particulates within half an hour, and by the time the 60-minute mark hit and was able to push that figure to just over 99%. After an hour in our testing room, the Levoit LV-PUR131 also achieved just over 99% airborne particulate reduction. Still, it was quite slow out of the gate, hitting just an 85% reduction after the half-hour mark.
The PureZone 3-in-1 reduced particulate concentration by 93.6%.
One unit on the smaller side that we tested, the Levoit LV-H132, achieved a 95% reduction in our testing room after an hour. While those figures aren't impressive, this model would likely help anyone suffering from allergies sleeping in a 150-square-foot bedroom. However, we definitely wouldn't recommend it for larger spaces.
Since most people will be in the same room as the air purifier, any odd noises the device emits could have significant impact on your ability to cohabitate with it comfortably. The good news is that none of the tested models are particularly loud — none registered more than 61 decibels on our sound meter — the equivalent of a normal conversational volume. Still, even relatively quiet noises can be annoying if they're at the wrong pitch. Thus, we spent a night with each in our bedrooms and hours working on our computers right next to each model as they ran.
The Winix 5500-2 is our top recommendation for those that are particularly sensitive to noise. We had to strain to hear it when it was set to its lowest mode. Even on the highest setting, it only gave off an innocuous, low-pitched hum.
The GermGuardian AC5350B is also relatively easy on the ears; it stays nearly silent in its low mode, only emitting a low hum when turned to high. The TruSens Z-2000 also maintains a low auditory profile. Its lowest setting is virtually silent, and even when cranked up to turbo mode, it produces only a fairly low-pitched, white noise hum.
The Coway Airmega 1512HH is almost silent in its lowest setting. Though it is just a bit higher-pitched than the field-leading GermGuardian AC5350B, it generally remains in the innocuous, low-pitched genre when you crank it up to high. Also sitting atop our noise scoreboard are the Levoit LV-H132 and the PureZone 3-in-1. Like the other models, these are practically silent when set on low and audible but not offensive when set on high. It should also be noted that these units are smaller than the Coway and the GermGuardian and thus have less powerful fans.
When you consider the size and power of the Allen Breathesmart 75i, you'll be amazed at how quiet this machine is. It's not as quiet as our top scorers in this metric, but it is hardly noticeable.
In our noise testing, many models scored just below the top step. The Levoit LV-PUR131's high setting produces a low-pitched hum, similar to the top-scoring models. It is louder than the nearly silent low settings of models like the Coway on low. The Blueair Pure 211+ keeps a low rumble that blends into the background when on its highest setting, but that low rumble remains just as noticeable when you turn it down to its lowest setting.
The Honeywell True HEPA Allergen Remover produced an even louder high-pitched noise on its high setting; on its low setting, it's slightly quieter.
Ease of Use
Outside of periodically replacing the filter, air purifiers are generally simple and require no real maintenance. However, certain features can make day-to-day use a bit more enjoyable. Variable fan modes let you dial down the noise while watching TV; remote controls let you do that without even leaving the couch. Handles and wheels make it easy to move the purifier around if you want it to follow you from the living room to the bedroom. If you always forget to turn the purifier off when you leave the house, timers can help. We evaluated all of these aspects of our purifiers to determine how easy they are to operate and incorporate into your daily routine.
Out of all the models we've tested, the Winix 5500-2 delivers one of the most convenient user experiences. Its control panel is straightforward, allowing you to easily access its off timers, different fan speeds, and auto mode, which automatically adjusts its output based on the ambient air quality, as measured by its internal air quality meter. It is quite easy to move around despite being 15.4 pounds, thanks to a well-designed carrying handle.
The TruSens Z-2000 also offers a sleek user interface, multiple fan speeds, and off timers. The unique feature offered is its separate pod that can measure air quality from anywhere in your home and relays that information back to the purifier. You can program the purifier to react to air quality changes right at your bed or your favorite couch instead of the air quality directly adjacent to the purifier. We found installing and using this pod to be quite straightforward. Weighing in at a relatively light weight of 7.4 pounds, we found it easy to move from room to room.
Both the Coway AP-152HH and the Levoit LV-PUR131 provided similarly user-friendly experiences in our testing. These models have streamlined control panels, convenient carry handles, and air quality sensors that allow the machines to automatically kick on when the air quality diminishes. Once the quality improves, it powers down to save energy. Both models also weigh about 12 pounds and are light enough to move around without too much hassle. Between the two, our preference slightly leans towards the Coway, as we found its air quality meter to be slightly more accurate. The Levoit's air quality meter is still accurate enough to be useful, but we would be more likely to use that feature on the Coway. The GermGuardian AC5350B is user-friendly. The control panel is intuitive and straightforward, it is on the lighter side at just over 11 pounds, and it has an automatic shut-off timer — so you can set it and forget it.
Needing a special mention for this metric is the Levoit Core 300. Weighing only 7.5 pounds, this unit is as easy as it gets to pick up and move. It is quick to set up and is simple to change filters.
Slightly behind the top scorers are three easy-to-use models; however, they have some minor drawbacks. The Honeywell True HEPA Allergen Remover has a clean interface and all the bells and whistles, but at 17 pounds, it is one of the least portable.
It's easy to forget that you're going to have to pay for replacement filters and electricity costs throughout the lifetime of your air purifier. To estimate how much each unit will cost buyers in the long run, we've measured every purifier's energy consumption and price-checked all of their replacement filters. Our lifetime cost calculations assumed the national average for electricity cost ($0.12/kWh), average usage of 12 hours a day, filters being replaced according to manufacturer recommendations, and a functioning lifetime of five years.
The Levoit LV-H132 follows behind with an estimated lifetime cost of $323. The PureZone 3-in-1 is still in this ballpark, logging an estimated lifetime cost of $279. The Coway Airmega, while fairly average in most respects, has a lifetime cost of only $357. It is incredibly energy efficient and has relatively inexpensive filters.
When it came to estimated lifetime cost, most tested models fell into the $500-$600 range. The Levoit LV-PUR131 is very economical in electricity usage, but a middle-of-the-road list price and relatively expensive filters pushed the estimated lifetime cost to $549. The TruSens Z-2000 costs a bit more upfront but sips electricity and uses fairly inexpensive filters, pushing its estimated lifetime cost to $548. The Coway AP-151HH also uses very little electricity, but the high list price and slightly above average filter costs led to an estimated lifetime cost of $556. The GermGuardian AC5350B doesn't cost much upfront, but the costly filters will cost you $542 in the long run.
According to our calculations, the Winix 5500-2 will cost $660 over its lifetime, putting it a bit above average. A few models garnered far above average estimated lifetime costs. Because none of these models were top performers, we would only recommend picking up extra costs in certain extenuating circumstances. The Honeywell True HEPA Allergen Remover gulps up electricity, resulting in a high lifetime cost of $771. However, it has a larger than average capacity, so it may be worth the extra cost if you want a purifier for a larger room.
The Blueair Pure 211+ has expensive replacement filters, resulting in a lifetime cost of $1,105. In a similar vein to the Blueair, the Allen Breathesmart has the highest lifetime cost of any of the machines we tested, $1,289. This is largely due to its high MSRP and more expensive filters. It's not a total energy glutton, but the Allen is an expensive machine when combined with the other factors. This unit also has the highest capacity of any model we tested, so that enormous extra cost might be worth it if you're trying to clean a large, 500+ square foot room.
Though they may not be necessary for every household, air purifiers can effectively relieve symptoms for those with bad allergies or improve poor air quality for those with pulmonary illnesses. It's important to shop carefully though, since some models are much more effective at air cleaning than others. Some are whisper quiet while others are grating, and some that look like a bargain hide extra costs in the form of expensive filters. We hope our testing results have elucidated all of those things for you and led you to find the perfect model for your home. Now go fight that pollen!
GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.