How to Choose an Air Purifier for Allergies

Three Parts:Choosing a Type of Air PurifierConsidering Different FeaturesLooking at Ratings and Endorsements

Air purification is a top priority for many because air quality can have a significant effect on a person’s health and well-being. Since the 1940’s air purifiers have been used to clear indoor environments of air pollutants such as dust, pollen, mold and more. With so many purifiers on the market, it is important to know how to search for one that will decrease allergen causing pollutants, and help both you and your family to breathe easier.[1]

Part 1
Choosing a Type of Air Purifier

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    Choose a room air purifier. This is your only option for an air purifier if your home doesn’t have forced-air heating or cooling. These range in weight from 10-20 pounds, have a handle for moving, and stand on the floor or table in the room of choice. They generally cost less than whole-house models, ranging anywhere from $60 to a couple hundred dollars.[2]
    • Room air purifiers require annual replacement of the filter that captures airborne particles responsible for allergies. Over time, this expense can approach the cost of the air cleaner itself.
    • Some newer models have cleanable and reusable HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters.
    • Air purifiers and filters can be purchased at your local department store or hardware store.
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    Opt for a flat, whole-house air filter. This is an inexpensive option which works with your house’s built-in heating and cooling unit. You simply replace your furnace’s filter with your filter of choice.[3] Filters come in four different varieties: flat filters, extended media filters, electronic filters, or ultraviolet filters. Replacement is required every 1-3 months. These are considered the most efficient way to filter household air because as long as the fan is running, the system is continuously filtering the air in your home.[4]
    • Your house’s current heating and cooling system contains a flat filter that is used to protect your furnace from large particles of dust. Replace it with a pleated filter that attracts allergens like pollen and pet dander. They cost about $15 and should be replaced every 2-3 months.[5]
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    Try an extended media filter. An extended media filter is a whole-house filter piled in the shape of an accordion. Its shape makes it more effective than fiberglass filters. The filter is built into your home’s ductwork, and requires professional installation. Media filters range in price from $400-$600, and the filters, which should be replaced annually, cost $40-$60.[6]
    • The pile of filters makes it more effective than flat fiberglass filters in catching allergens and air pollutants.
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    Consider electrostatic precipitators. Also known as electronic filters, these filters put a high voltage charge on particles to attract them like a magnet. Electrostatic precipitators are built into the ductwork of your home and cost anywhere from $600 to $1000 installed. Electronic filters will never need to be replaced but wash the collector plates require in soapy water every few months.[7]
    • Ionization, or the process of charging particles, has been known to create trace amounts of ozone and cause lung irritation.
    • The electric charge is also responsible for attracting allergens like pollen and pet dander.
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    Avoid a dedicated ozone generator. Ozone generators are a type of room purifier which emit small amounts of ozone by design. Manufacturers suggest that the byproduct reduces allergens such as dust, smoke, pollen and mold.[8] However, studies have shown that these claims are inaccurate, that packaging by manufacturers is misleading, and that the emission of ozone can cause health hazards.[9]
    • The state of California has banned the sale of ozone generators due to health concerns.
    • Ozone generators are typically purchased for places where ozone is needed, such as places where there is gaseous pollution. They should not be used to remove allergens such as dust, mold spores, pollen, or bacteria.[10]

Part 2
Considering Different Features

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    Consider the size of the purifier. When choosing an air purifier you have to consider the size of your household or office. Air purifiers range in size from some that are compact and portable to some that take up a lot of space. Always get one that is made to operate in a space that is slightly larger than yours actually is. This will help to guarantee that the machine will be capable of removing allergens and emitting fresh and clean air.[11]
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    Opt for a HEPA filter. HEPA filters (high-efficiency particulate air) are the most effective at capturing air pollutants such as dust, pollen, mold spores, and pet dander. The HEPA filter guarantees that 99% of these contaminants are completely filtered. It is the model most recommended by doctors.[12]
    • The HEPA filter can be vacuumed meaning that it only has to be replaced every 5 years as opposed to every few months with other filters.
    • It is important for those with allergies to avoid purchasing just any air purifier or vacuum cleaner. Ensure that you are purchasing a “true HEPA” by checking the particulate size noted by the manufacturer on the box.[13]
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    Make sure it has a servicing indicator. The indicator is a light that lets you know when it is time to clean or replace your filter. Whether it’s a room purifier or a whole-house model, ensure that your purifier has a service indicator to make sure the air cleaner works effectively.[14]
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    Search for a low-noise system. Air purifiers can be noisy, particularly when they operate on the highest setting (the setting on which most manufacturers test their devices). Look for a system with quiet operation functions or choose a model designed for a larger area so it will clean better even at lower, quieter speeds.[15]
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    Look for easy-change filters. Search for an air purifier that requires no tools to remove the filter for cleaning or replacement. Look for a system that contains a pop-out door that allows the filter to be easily pulled out for replacement. The average person may put off changing a filter due to the difficulty or tediousness of the task.[16]

Part 3
Looking at Ratings and Endorsements

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    Look for the airflow rating or air change rate. Manufacturers list the airflow rating in CFM or cubic feet per minute. The airflow rating is a measurement of the air change per hour (ACH) or how many times the unit purifies the room during one hour. Look for a purifier that has 4-6 air exchanges per hour, or once every 10-15 minutes.[17]
    • The manufacturer’s ACH rate is usually calculated at the maximum operating speed for the maximum room size. Running on maximum speed usually means a noisier air purifier. If you prefer to run your machine at a lower speed, oversize your purchase by 20-40%.[18]
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    Look for an efficiency rating certified by the AHAM. The clean-air delivery rate (CADR) measures the volume of air filtered and delivered by an air cleaning system.[19] In short, it measures how quickly it can remove airborne pollutants. The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers certifies the CADR of air purifier systems. A system with a CADR above 350 is excellent while anything below 100 is poor.[20]
    • The CADR measures how quickly the system can remove smoke, dust, and pollen. Smoke ranges from 10-450, dust from 10-400, and pollen from 25-450. The higher the number, the faster the machine.[21]
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    Search for an “Asthma and Allergy Friendly” certification. The “Asthma and Allergy Friendly” endorsement is a fairly new certification from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation. This certification signifies that the air purification system won’t just redistribute pollutants, but will actually reduce them.[22]
    • In order to meet specifications of the program, the air cleaner must reduce bio-allergen levels as a result of removal (and not just re-distribution, and must not contribute to ozone levels.[23]
    • This Asthma and Allergy Friendly certification was started in 2006 and the program independently tests consumer products.[24]
    • A list of certified devices can be found on the Asthma and Allergy Friendly Program’s website.[25]
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    Read consumer reviews. Online consumer reviews are often helpful in determining whether products are as effective as they claim to be. Reading consumer reviews can address certain features that may not be discussed by the manufacturer such as lifespan, ease of changing the filter, effectiveness towards specific allergies, and more. There are many website, such as Consumer Reviews, that provide reviews and buying guides for consumers.[26]


  • Clean aggressively. Wear a face mask when dusting or vacuuming, and wash all bedding in hot water once weekly.
  • Control your indoor environment. This is the most basic tool in any allergy sufferer's arsenal. Ban smoking indoors, keep pets out of the bedroom, and keep doors and windows closed year-round.
  • Run your purifier 24-hours a day to ensure the cleanest air possible. You can run your purifier on high speeds when you're away from home to avoid the noise created by the system.

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Categories: Allergies and Immunization