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How to Choose the Best HEPA Air Purifier

Updated on June 16, 2014

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Steps to choosing a good HEPA Air Purifier
Steps to choosing a good HEPA Air Purifier

What is a HEPA filter?

HEPA stands for High Efficiency Particle Arrestance. It is actually a standard set by the US government for measuring the quality of a particle filter. To qualify as a HEPA filter, a filter must be able to trap 99.97% of particles in the air passing through the filter down to .3 microns in size. This measurement standard applies specifically to the filter itself and not to the air purifier in which the HEPA filter operates. It is possible for a filter to qualify for the HEPA standard, while the purifier in which it operates does not. It is also possible for a filter with the HEPA title, to actually exceed the HEPA standard in performance.

HEPA for Asthma and Allergies

HEPA purifiers are popular for people who suffer from asthma and allergies. They provide high quality particle filtration with minimal disturbance of the air. Many who suffer are extremely sensitive to air movement and gravitate towards HEPA filters. When looking for a good HEPA air purifier, you need to consider air circulation, performance, long term costs, and the problem you are trying to solve.

Air Circulation

Air Circulation is fundamental to good HEPA filtration because only a small amount of air passes through a HEPA filter at a time. If air circulation is poor, all the air in the room will not pass through the filtration system. Your ventilation and heating and air conditioning system can play a role in the air circulation process. But good HEPA filtration systems have their own air circulation that draws air into the filter and pushes it out the other side. A good filtration air purifier will create 4-6 air changes per hour in the air. If you suffer from asthma or allergies, 4-6 air changes is the minimum standard you should consider when looking at HEPA filtration systems. Anything less than that will result in an air purifier that is not efficient because it does not clean enough of the air in the room each hour. The result being that you will not get excellent particle reduction which is necessary to help reduce asthma and allergy symptoms.

Price or Performance: Which is more important?

Which is a more important quality in an air purifier to you?

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The actual performance of the air purifier is influenced by the quality of the air purifier machine as well as the filter itself. If the container for the filter is not well sealed, air can leak out through multiple areas of the machine, and not all the air that goes into the purifier actually goes through the filter. This is why a HEPA filter may meet performance standards while the air purifier itself may be less efficient than the filter at removing particles from the air. Air circulation also impacts performance by affecting the air purifier's ability to clean particles from large volumes of air.

Cheap HEPA Air Purifiers are Expensive on the Back End!

The purifier on the left is an example of the type of filtration systems you should avoid purchasing at all costs. They are cheap on the front end, but will end up costing you more over the long term to address the same square footage that the Austin Air machine, featured on this page, is capable of covering. Not only that, but air purifiers like the Hamilton Beach have poor performance, meaning it will not address the issues you are spending money to solve. Machines like the Hamilton Beach can cost upwards of 69 cents per square foot of air cleaned. By contrast, machines like the Austin Air can cost around 11 cents per square foot of air cleaned. People fall into the trap of buying the cheapest purifier on the market only to discover that it doesn't do what they want it to do. Later they may realize they also spend more on the purifier than if they had invested in a top-tier air cleaning system to begin with. The lesson is quality air purifiers sell for bargain prices. You do not need to settle for a cheap system. You can get excellent performance for an excellent price if you do your research.

Good HEPA Air Purifiers Cost More to Buy and Cost Less Over Time!

Your end goals is most important. If you are looking for serious relief from asthma and allergies, performance is going to outweigh costs. If you are a person that haphazardly decides you need to keep the air in your home cleaner but have no pressing urgent need, you will probably buy the cheapest purifier you can find at a department store. You need to know why you are looking for a machine. You need to know what problems you are trying to solve. HEPA purifiers solve certain types of problems. They do not solve others. But when you have decided you need a HEPA air purifier, remember that you can pay more on the front end, with less costs on the back end and get superior performance than the many cheap purifiers on the market will give.


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      John 3 years ago

      Stay away from Tracs air cleaners at 785.00 dollars. There is no customer service from factory out of Fla. You won't be able to return the unit. Take the warning.