Continuing our series on air purification, we’re back again this time with the best air purifier for asthma. In this article we examine the top three best air purifiers for asthma sufferers based on HEPA filtration, airflow characteristics and management, carbon filter integration, and overall machine construction, packaging, and end user experience.
Do air purifiers help with asthma? Absolutely. Indoor air quality is a significant factor in our overall respiratory health, and the addition of a machine that pulls pollutants from your home’s air will only help to improve the quality of air that you inhale.
Our #1 top pick and Editor’s Choice for the Best Air Purifier for Asthma is the Austin Air Bedroom Machine. Lacking superfluous decontaminating technologies like ultraviolet and ionizing components, the Bedroom Machine uses a purely mechanical filtration process to rid the air of airborne particulate contaminants. Purely mechanical meaning that incoming air is purified with a filter assembly and nothing more – because it doesn’t need anything else.
Note: While some manufacturers, such as Blueair, utilize ionization properly, others fail to efficiently engineer additional cleansing methods (like ionization) into their machines. This leads to a contaminant discharge into the environment being treated which is non-ideal for allergy and asthma sufferers.
Best Air Purifier for Asthma
How We Choose the Best Air Purifier for Asthma
Wading through the sea of air purifiers on the market today can be overwhelming if you aren’t sure what you’re looking for – but we’re here to make that process just a little easier. Our appliance contributor, Chase Williams, has nearly a decade of experience as an instrumentation and controls engineer working with heavy equipment and monitoring devices within some of the largest manufacturing facilities in the world. He has meticulously reviewed air purifiers from a wide variety of manufacturers and the list that follows includes only the absolute best three performing air cleaners for consumers that suffer from allergies, or asthma.
Inspections of air purifiers initially began with a general review of the physical filters employed in each machine. Filtration methods vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but generally a purification process will push air through the following stages: pre-filtration, carbon media, HEPA filter
Pre-filtration, or pre-filters, are intended to remove large airborne material from airflow before treatment. This is wholly meant to protect the machine from flow blockage caused by things like pet hair, dust bunnies, and really anything larger than a human hair. A great (and some would argue conventional) air purifier usually includes an external pre-filter that’s removable and washable. These don’t need to be replaced, and only require minimal maintenance when buildup occurs.
Carbon media is best effective for odor and volatile organic compound (VOC) removal from environments. Types of carbon media, additives, treatments, and total amounts of media used all need to be considered to weigh effectiveness for each application and comparison between similar air purifier models. Having said that, there are a few good rules of thumb to stick to: (1) The more activated carbon media used in a device, the greater the filtration capacity. Manufacturers proud of their carbon filters will openly advertise the activated carbon weight; (2) Carbon filters and HEPA filters are not going to have the same usable lifespan, so a product that has separate filters instead of one filter assembly is ideal for those looking to cut costs associated with filter replacement; (3) Specific treatments and impregnation of various materials, like alumina, are used for specific applications. Alumina is used as a desiccant to remove moisture from the air and the treated environment’s air is dried in the process. If you require specific chemicals removed from your home’s air, take time to ensure that the filtration process you’re investigating will do the job.
Finally, HEPA filter classification was measured to ensure the medical-grade quality necessary to treat air for asthma sufferers. HEPA filter grades can be measured based on the density of filter construction, and there are standardized grading systems that manufacturers and consumers can refer to. The most common specification used is the European Norm which defines several classes of filters based on the retention rate of particles of a specified size, or larger. For this list, only HEPA filters capable of a retention rate of 99.95% were considered (medical-grade filters).
Why You Should Buy an One of the Best Air Purifiers for Asthma
Asthma can be debilitating. Allergies can shut down an otherwise perfect day. When it comes to indoor air quality you shouldn’t have to worry about irritants making a condition even worse – and you don’t have to. The Environmental Protection Agency lists indoor air pollutants as one of the leading health risks in the United States, and for good reason – as more and more products are sold to consumers, more contaminants are introduced to those consumers’ homes. Cleaning products release VOCs that can be detrimental to an individuals health at specific levels. Cooking releases VOCs too. Even some furniture can release harmful pollutants into the air.
In addition to VOCs, indoor pets, dust, dead skin cells, mites, and even fecal matter can linger in a home’s air causing unwanted respiratory reactions and complications. Buying the absolute best air purifier for asthma for your family can dramatically improve respiratory health.
Having said all of that, let’s get on with our list on the best air purifier for asthma this year.
#1 Pick Editor’s Choice/Best Air Purifier for Asthma – Austin Air Bedroom Machine Air Purifier
Price: $765 | Medical-Grade HEPA: Yes | Weight: 47 lbs
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: The best air purifier for allergies and asthma that we’ve tested. Austin Air takes air purification seriously and the Bedroom Machine shows it.
This is mechanical filtration at its finest. The Bedroom Machine moves 250 cubic feet per minute through its 5-year filter array, and it covers up to 1500 sq ft. The filter array contains 15 pounds of activated carbon (which is a lot considering most other machines on this level fall between 3-5 pounds) and a medical-grade HEPA filter. As the filter is constructed, air is initially passed through a PERMAFILT pre-filter to capture large particulate that’s easily observed my the naked eye, then through a medium particle filter to capture things like pollen and dust mites, then through the activated carbon filter, over the unit’s HEPA filter, and finally through a high-efficiency gas adsorption filter which acts as a second line of defense against harmful gases and VOCs.
The unit itself is solidly constructed (which is demonstrated by its weight), but the caster wheels help moving this unit fairly easy. Maximum fan speed can be a little louder than most (67 dB), but this is because the machine is moving a ton of air through its filter assembly. If using in a bedroom, we recommend setting the machine to its medium fan speed setting while sleeping. It’s a manually controlled air purifier, which means it doesn’t offer an automatic mode – but it’s purification is top-notch so if automation isn’t a high priority you can rest assured that the Bedroom Machine will deliver as promised.
Replacement filters aren’t cheap for this device. They range in cost between $350 and $450, but they last for approximately five years. Expect to spend an additional $135 per year in energy consumption costs to operate this device.
#2 Pick Best Air Purifier for Dust – Blueair Classic 405
Price: $599 | Medical-Grade HEPA: Yes | Weight: 31 lbs
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Blueair makes some of the best air purifiers for asthma in the world, and the 405 demonstrates the company’s commitment to outstanding air quality appliances.
Blueair air purifiers use ionization the right way. The company’s machines pull air through a filter array consisting of (in this order) an ionizer, carbon filter, and HEPA filter. Ionization creates an ozone byproduct, but Blueair has proven that its machines reduce more ozone than they create – largely due to the placement of the ionization stage in the filtering process. As particles are electrically charged through the ionizer, they pass over the staged filter array and bond to interwoven fibers. The purification process at work here is state of the art.
The 405 is very well built, and due to the level of engineering the unit is actually very lightweight. No unnecessary parts, just the bits that matter. Sensors on-board detect filter life, open panels (machine power is turned off if any access panels are removed during operation), and WiFi connectivity allows users to control the device remotely. This machine does not offer an automatic mode. We recommend operating on the medium setting. The highest setting produces about 52 dB which really isn’t too noticeable, but after initial setup, the medium setting should suffice for most households.
Filters should be changed approximately every six months with 24-hour use, and costs for both the HEPA and Carbon SmokeStop filters will run you around $180 collectively. Average annual energy costs shouldn’t exceed $100 USD.
Note: The best air purifiers for asthma often demonstrate superior design through simplicity. They’re easy to control, easy to maintain, and deliver clear, measurable air quality results.
#3 Pick Best HEPA Air Purifier – AIRMEGA 400S
Price: $749 | Medical-Grade HEPA: Yes | Weight: 24.7 lbs
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Dual filter arrays, medical-grade everything, awesome design, great smart features, and outstanding performance make the Airmega 400S one of our top picks.
You know the feeling you get when you open an Apple product? The packaging is designed with such detail and the products are so perfectly engineered that you just know – even before you buy it – you’re experience is going to be one of the best. That’s the experience Airmega customers can expect with the 400S. The added bonus is that the purification process is one of the best. Dual filter assemblies pull air through each side of this machine and push purified air back out through the top of the unit. Air is filtered through a removable pre-filter and then through a filter assembly that Airmega calls the Max2 (it’s a combination medical-grade HEPA and activated carbon filter).
The machine is built very well. Magnetic side panels can be removed by pulling upward and out from the bottom of each, exposing the pre-filters and Max2 filters on wither side. This machine is SMART. Automatic modes for normal daily needs as well as a mode for bedtime are built to ensure users need to do very little as far as managing control of the device. A multicolored LED ring on the front panel gives users a simple visual indication of air quality, and controls at the top of the system allow for manually operation if you so desire. Wireless connectivity and an Airmega iOS and Android application are available that not only allow for remote control, but also provide users with indoor air quality and run time information. On its highest setting, the 400S makes around 52 dB of noise (not that noticeable).
Filter change recommendations are provided by the machine itself – it even indicates when it’s time to clean the pre-filters, and a set of replacement filters will run you $129. Out of our top three top picks on this list, this device consumes the least amount of energy, costing a household approximately $90 USD per year to operate.
Best Air Purifier for Asthma – Key Factors
- Carbon filter weight played heavily in our decision to rank the Austin Air Bedroom Machine as our top pick (At 15 pounds, the activated carbon component of the filter array is one of the heaviest we’ve seen in a consumer-grade air purifier).
- Activated carbon is the only filter media that will reduce, or completely remove, odors from an environment, and it’s the only effective method of reducing VOCs. For people suffering from asthma, carbon filtration is a critical component.
- HEPA filters are classified based on particulate retention rate. As airflow is directed through a HEPA filter, particles are captured by woven fibers within the filter membrane. The tighter the weave, the higher the retention.
- The European Norm for HEPA filter classification ranges from a retention rate of 85% to 99.999995%. For our review only HEPA filters which retain at least 99.95% of particles were included.
- Utilization of HEPA as the primary cleansing method means that things like ionization and ultraviolet treatment aren’t incorporated into the air purifier’s design. Pulmonary side-effects from byproducts of ionization (ozone) are avoided through purely mechanical filtration.
- Air purification machines are designed to pull in dirty air and push out air that’s been filtered, but without the right placement of intake and output vents, airflow patterns around the machine can inhibit efficient cleansing. If the intake and output vents are too close together the machine may only recirculate already purified air, and that’s no good. For our study, we analyzed air flow patterns to determine if this kind of cycling was likely and removed machines with inadequate designs.
Best Air Purifier for Asthma – Features to Look For
- An automatic mode allows users to step away from managing increasing or decreasing the purifier’s fan speed setting. It automatically adjusts from low to high based on the indoor air quality level. If pollutants are detected, the machine increases airflow to remove contaminants as quickly as possible and then returns to a lower setting after particualte detection decreases.
- Wireless connectivity, as silly as it may sound to some, can be very convenient. Some machines allow for remote monitoring of both indoor air quality and machine functionality. If you’re a busy professional that wants to ensure your home’s air is always being treated for pollution properly, a WiFi feature could be something to look for.
- Some machines which lack an indoor air quality sensor can connect to remote sensors (sold separately). In this case, WiFi connectivity is required to communicate air filtration needs between the sensor and the purifier.
- Managing energy usage while on vacation is another great feature that can be utilized with a WiFi compatible unit.
- While a well constructed filer array (one piece that includes the pre-filter, carbon filter, and HEPA filter) works fine if designed properly, a removable pre-filter is ideal for easy cleaning of large dust accumulation. Pre-filters should be visually examined on a regular basis to ensure that airflow isn’t being inhibited by blockage.
- We also prefer that removable pre-filters are accessible from the exterior of the air pruifier. It makes inspecting and cleaning easier for the end users.
Best Air Purifier for Asthma – Mistakes to Avoid
Don’t purchase a machine that lacks a quality carbon filter. Look for specific information about the carbon filtration stage, call the manufacturer if you can’t find the data online, and compare the carbon filter weight of each machine you’re investigating. Remember, a heavier activated carbon filter means longer filter life and a greater surface area to more effectively adsorb odors and VOCs.
Just like carbon filters, HEPA information should be readily available on the manufacturers, or retailers, website. Look for the 99.95% badge – this will ensure that purification is in the right retention range for asthmatic consumers.
Pick a dedicated spot for the air purifier in your home that’s at least 12 inches away from any surface, or object. This will ensure that airflow isn’t impeded in or out of the device. Run the machine on its highest setting 2-3 hours after installation, after which a lower fan speed setting can be selected, or you can engage an automatic program if one is featured on the device you purchase.
Surge protection should be used to protect the air purifier’s motor from unstable electrical current. Any cheap surge protector will suffice.
If you’re concerned about energy usage, consult the owner’s manual to determine maximum and average electrical loads. In manual operation, adjust for every day needs. If you’re cleaning, vacuuming, bathing the dog, or cooking, turn the machine to its highest fan speed. If you’re leaving your home, or sleeping, reduce the fan speed to its lowest setting. This will optimize both electrical usage and air purification. As a simple way to roughly estimate energy costs, look for the wattage of the device in question and assume a cost per year equivalent to that wattage. For instance, if a machine consumes 175 watts, assume it will cost $175 per year to operate. This trick can not be used with appliances like dryers – it only works for 24-hour operating devices, and it doesn’t account for variations in fan speed. For a more accurate calculation, use this online tool and select “fan” from the drop down.
What Else You Should Think About When Buying an Air Purifier for Asthma
Not all air purifiers are created equally. Don’t make the assumption that using any air purifier is better than not using one at all – this is absolutely incorrect. Depending on the technology used to clean the air, some machines may even exacerbate allergy and asthma symptoms.
Introducing the right air purifier into your home is only the first step in combating irritants in the air. Make sure any contaminants that can be removed to the outside are. Avoid spraying aerosols in the home if possible. Vacuum carpets with a HEPA-rated vacuum cleaner, and regularly clean curtains and bedding. If you have an indoor pet, consider using hypoallergenic shampoo.
Check out our article on how to properly clean your air purifier; If you want to know more about HEPA filtration, we’ve got something for you; If you’re interested, check out our lists of the best air purifiers for allergies, and the best air purifiers for pets. Variations in filter dynamics affect the effectiveness of air purifiers for different intended uses. For instance, the best air purifier for smoke isn’t the best air HEPA air purifier;
The best air purifier for asthma, Austin Air’s Bedroom Machine, can help reduce indoor air pollution and improve overall health if used correctly, and in conjunction with cleaning best practices. Always consider air purification as one component in the fight against indoor air pollutants. To ensure continued air quality improvement, your air purifier should be operated on a regular schedule (if not around the clock).