For this review, we’ve compiled a list of the best HEPA air purifiers based on filtration methodology and filter specifications. HEPA, or high-efficiency particulate air, filters used by indoor air purifiers can help allergy sufferers and improve overall health if used properly.
Our analysis of high-grade, HEPA air purifiers includes a deep look into the mechanics of HEPA filtration and the machines used to move air through them. The European Norm (EN 1822:2009) specification was referred to as an initial rating schedule for HEPA filter class, denoting total particulate retention from 85% (E10) to 99.999995% (U17). Machines included in this list have been used by major organizations like NASA and Google to purify indoor air environments of pollutants.
Our #1 pick and Editor’s Choice for the best HEPA air purifier is the AIRMEGA 400S air purifier ($765). Weighing cost of ownership with its outstanding purification qualities, the AIRMEGA 400S leads the pack as the best bang for your buck. It removes 99.995% of airborne particulates, and it’s the only air purifier we’ve reviewed that has not one, but two industrial-grade HEPA filters which work in unison together pulling untreated air through its purification chambers and pushing clean air back into the environment.
Best HEPA Air Purifier
How We Choose
My background is in electrical engineering and electrical room air quality analysis. I’ve managed multi-million dollar industrial air purification projects for Fortune 500 companies, and to put it mildly, I am an expert for indoor air particulate analysis, and instrumentation and controls engineering.
The term HEPA is thrown around quite a bit by manufacturers, and most consumers don’t know the difference between a standard HEPA filter (usually an E12 HEPA class which removes up to 99.5% of airborne contaminants) and a medical, or industrial-grade filter. Machines marketed toward regular consumers using filters which are rated as H13 and above were only considered in this review.
Typically, H13 and H14 are used in industrial settings like pharmaceutical manufacturing and electronic control rooms. These filters remove airborne particles of 0.3 micrometers in diameter (just like all other HEPA filters) however, they have a greater particulate retention rate and therefore are more efficient when it comes to removing harmful toxins from environments.
We also considered the distinct architecture of the air purifiers on our list. Air flow dynamics are critical to optimal air filtration and so the arrangement of air intake(s) versus the clean air exhaust(s) is crucial to machine performance. Things like air flow eddy currents generated near where the machine is installed in a home, or office, should be considered when designing a machine and mapping air patterns. It’s important that a machine doesn’t just recycle air that it has already cleaned, but rather continue to process dirty air in a uniform and consistent manner.
Why You Should Buy
Allergies can be triggered by a number of air pollutants ranging from dust, pollen, mold spores, and smoke particles to volatile organic compounds, dust mite feces, and even off gas generated by fireplaces and automobiles.
Even short-term exposure to contaminates can cause health issues, and some medical studies suggest that long-term exposure to polluted indoor air could eventually lead to severe health problems such as respiratory distress, asthma, some forms of cancer, and even death in rare cases. Regularly using an indoor HEPA air purifier can mitigate health risks associated with home air pollutants – and even completely remove risks if used in conjunction with other air and surface cleaning techniques (this would include using a HEPA vacuum cleaner, regularly washing linens, and ensuring cleaning products are environmentally safe).
#1 Pick Editor’s Choice/Best HEPA Air Purifier – AIRMEGA 400S The Smarter App Enabled Air Purifier
Price: $749 | HEPA Class: H13 | Coverage Area: 1,560 Sq Ft
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: The 400S is an awesome home air purifier that filters environmental toxins with two industrial-grade HEPA filters.
The most economical HEPA air purifier on our list, the Airmega 400S uses two industrial-grade (H13) HEPA filters to remove contaminants from the air, and due to its unique design the machine is capable of running relatively quietly (52 dB) even on its highest airflow setting.
Aesthetically, this machine rocks the boat. Its unique design is visually appealing in any space. A multicolored light ring on the front of the device is used to indicate air quality (colors range from blue-green, green-yellow, orange-red, and pink). Even the purifier’s electrical cord is wrapped in a nice two-tone fabric. Coway really spent time with the finer details on this machine and it shows.
Equipped with Wi-Fi, the Airmega can be controlled remotely, and the company’s mobile app provides a superior machine interface not only for controlling the device, but also for monitoring air quality. The 400S features a Smart Mode which adjusts purifier performance based on air quality, and also a differential pressure sensor which detects filter performance and alerts the user when it’s time to install a set of new filters.
Side panels are attached via two clips near the handles and two embedded magnets at the bottom. Lifting up and outward at the base of each panel allows for easy access to each filter assembly. Something else worth mentioning – this is the very first air purifier that we’ve received which has filters wrapped individually in place. Buyers should ensure they follow the manufacturer’s quick start guide located on the box to ensure that filter packaging is removed before starting the machine for the first time.
Noteworthy: The company responsible for the Airmega brand, Coway, has been featured in Gadget Review’s Best Air Purifiers of 2016 for its Coway AP-1512HH air purifier.
#2 Pick Best HEPA Air Purifier for Large Rooms – Oransi ERIK650A Commercial Grade HEPA Air Purifier
Price: $2,539 | HEPA Class: H14 | Coverage Area: 1,700 Sq Ft
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Preferred by NASA and Google, Oransi makes some of the most industrial-grade air purifiers on the planet. The 650A is no exception and delivers nearly unrivaled performance.
Oransi’s 650A is a beast. It comes loaded with an industrial-grade (H14) HEPA filter fitted into a unique airflow chamber designed to optimize air distribution and filtration. Oransi claims that this machine offers “the highest level of air filtration in the market.” The 650A also uses a proprietary carbon and potassium permanganate gas filter to eliminate odors, gases, and smoke from the air.
This machine is a commercial-grade system that’s designed mostly for electrical control rooms and hospital operating rooms. The 650A has a German-engineered motor that runs quieter than most other purifiers in its segment, and uses nearly 90% less energy than comparable machines.
Some consumers (including this author) prefer using commercial-grade machines in the home as they typically have higher grade filters that consume more pollutants and last longer than other consumer-grade purifiers. Another commercial-grade purifier that we love is the Blueair Pro XL.
#3 Pick Best HEPA Air Purifier for Allergies – IQAir HealthPro Plus Air Purifier
Price: $899 | HEPA Class: H13 filter | Coverage Area: 1,125 Sq Ft
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: A favorite of the Gadget Review team, the IQAir HealthPro Plus offers excellent features and a medical-grade HEPA filter that puts most other consumer air purifiers to shame. It’s an excellent machine for both its performance and its value.
We love this machine! IQAir has built an outstanding consumer-grade air purifier, the HealthPro Plus, that uses a medical-grade (H13) HEPA filter in conjunction with an activated carbon cell filter array and pre-filters to eliminate airborne pollutants. It’s been rated by Consumer Digest as a Consumer’s Best Buy, it’s easy to operate, and includes a combination of features which are considered most desired based on consumer feedback we’ve reviewed.
Key Factors and Features to Look For
HEPA Filter Class
- Understanding filter class is critical to understanding what an air purifier is capable of. HEPA filters aren’t all identical and neither are air purifiers.
- Most consumer-grade HEPA filters are E12 HEPA class and perform well enough for most needs. The review only considered air purifiers demonstrating filters beyond the average classification.
Airflow Design Characteristics
- Think of how water in a stream wraps itself around a protruding rock. Currents in the water spin backward into themselves and the rock divides flow around itself. Air currents behave the same way, and when air purifiers are designed airflow analysis has to take into account air patterns created by both the machine and its placement in a home.
- If a machine lacks an adequate design it can create an air vortex, or eddy currents, which reduce the effectiveness of the machine’s cleaning potential. We analyzed intake and exhaust placements to ensure that thought was given to probable airflow problems.
- Noise generated by consumer-grade air purifiers ranges from a low thirty decibels to, in some cases, a high ninety decibels. For bedroom use, we recommend machines that generate a maximum of seventy-five decibels at their highest setting. All of the machines on our list meet these specifications at a minimum.
Particulate Filter Retention
- Filters come in a wide variety of configurations and classifications, and navigating the sea of technical terms can sometimes feel a little overwhelming. To keep it simple, look for specifications in the product description that mention rates higher than 95%.
- If you’re inclined to dig deeper, a medical-grade filter (H13) should have at least a local retention rate of 99.75% (local retention means at any arbitrary point on the filter) and a total retention rate of 99.95% (total retention is the filter’s overall particualte retention capability).
Filter Replacement Indicator
- A great feature to have, especially for the absent minded, is a filter replacement indicator. Who has time to remember to replace a filter after twelve months?
- Typically, portable air purifiers requirement a filter change between 12 and 36 months (this varies greatly with filter type and configuration), but owners should always refer to product manuals for manufacturer recommendations. Dependent on the machine, replacement filters can be relatively expensive often ranging from $100 to $200 USD.
- Automatic modes help regulate air purifier airflow settings so that purification can be regulated based on air pollution. We like the “set it and forget it” options. Gauging air pollution without a sensor isn’t always possible. Sure, if you’re cleaning or cooking you can crank up the fan speed, but without an air quality indication you don’t know when to crank it down.
- Some really fantastic air purifiers are available that don’t feature automatic detection, and while manually changing the airflow setting on a machine isn’t a difficult task, it isn’t the most efficient either. The only model on our list that includes an auto mode is the Airmega 400S.
Mistakes to Avoid
Don’t let yourself be fooled by HEPA marketing hype. Some manufacturers like to tout about HEPA ratings and mention “99%,” but 99% isn’t enough data to understand the nature of the filter used for purification. Chances are, if a manufacturer states 99% instead of 99.97%, they’re offering a standard HEPA filter instead of a cut above the rest.
Machines without air quality sensors and automatic modes should be carefully evaluated before buying. Are you, as an owner, going to adjust a machine’s setting diligently? Would you forget about the purifier after a few months and just leave it running on one airflow speed indefinitely? If you’re like me, automation is valuable. It frees my time to do other things, and ensures devices are operating as efficiently as possible. As indoor air pollution rises from cleaning products, cooking, vacuuming, and outdoor contaminant infiltration, an automatic air purifier will adjust its performance as needed.
Pay mind to where you will put a new air purifier in your home. Placing a new machine too close to a wall, or furniture, can inhibit its filtration abilities. Always read manufacturer manuals, and as a good rule of thumb never place a purifier closer than 12″ from any object, or surface.
What Else You Should Think About
Consider your specific needs carefully. Not everyone requires an industrial-grade HEPA filter, nor a forty-five pound activated carbon filter. If you’re interested in learning more about air purifiers for allergies and dust then we’ve got a review for that. If you want to learn more about HEPA we’ve got an article for that too.
Our top pick, the Airmega 400S is the best HEPA air purifier we’ve reviewed based on HEPA filter class, airflow characteristics, and structural design. It’s affordable considering its performance, and it’s pretty slick looking too to boot. Check out the Airmega 400S video below to get a better idea of what this top-notch machine can do: