After three weeks of testing, studying, and consulting with a team of air quality experts on six of the top air purifiers available, we found that the Winix 5300-2 is the best air purifier. You might be wondering, what exactly is an air purifier?
An air purifier is exactly what it sounds like; it’s a portable machine that you put in your house that cleans the air with a filter. They’re useful to anyone who wants to breathe happily in their home. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency found that the level of air pollutants inside your home are often two to five times higher than outdoor levels, so if you’re spending a lot of time indoors, you may want to invest in an air purifier.
If you’ve got problems with dust or smoke, then you can improve your air quality a lot with just a good vacuum or an exhaust fan, but a good air purifier can catch all the stuff floating through the air that you just can’t clean any other way. To get clean air, you need to buy a purifier with a good filter.
There are a lot of different models out there, but always check that you’re getting one that has a High Efficiency Particulate Air filter. Or, HEPA for short. Compared to a regular furnace filter that only captures large dust particles, the HEPA class filters capture everything from pollen-sized down to virus and smoke-sized particles.
This is standard performance for any Association of Home Appliance Manufacturer verified machine, so anything not HEPA-level is usually just a knock-off brand. Another thing to consider is your room size compared to the machine’s size.
If you buy a machine that’s too small, it might not be able to keep up with new particles coming in through doors and windows. Buying a machine that’s too big isn’t really a problem, but you want to make sure you’re spending your money on the numbers that matter for your living space.
Here’s how you do it: most air purifier manufacturers participate in a program where independent air quality labs calculate their clean air delivery rate, or CADR for short. Basically, this certificate tells you the biggest room size, in square feet, the air purifier can handle effectively. You can also calculate it yourself at AHAM.org.
For now, let’s get into how we tested. Once you figure out the HEPA and CADR qualifiers, the playing field for air purifiers is actually pretty level. In performance testing, the filters were all working like they were supposed to. A HEPA-class filter is designed to do a great job cleaning up particles even smaller than the ones measured for smog advisories.
Just to be sure about that performance, then, we tested with smoke and super-fine white paint pigment dust. Our laser-powered particle meter confirmed that all the filters were cleaning up all the airborne particles, even at the half-micron level.
However, cleaning speed is something that makes the difference between an air purifier that technically works and one that’s a good fit for your home. The higher the air delivery rate, the shorter the cleaning time, the better. All of the machines that list a certified CADR hit their targets, and that’s great news.
Of the two smaller machines that weren’t certified, though, the Levoit was clearly not moving air as quickly as advertised. We sent a few e-mails, but they never responded with an explanation. It turns out that along with speed comes noise.
The difference in noise levels very closely matched the speed of the fans: if you want a quieter air purifier, you’re going to have to settle for turning down the fan and waiting longer to clean your air. Fortunately, all of the models we tested have a good range of fan speeds. Finally, our team rated each air purifier on their power efficiency and their filter replacement cost.
Winix 5300-2 review
It’s hard to get much better than the Winix 5300-2, our best overall pick. At around $120, the Winix is the cheapest CADR-200 air purifier finalist we tested. That means it can clean the air from a 360 square-foot area four times in about an hour, and it will work even faster in smaller spaces.
While the performance is comparable to our other finalists, the extra features and energy efficiency makes this a great value. The Winix comes with an air quality sensor that monitors your room for particles and will speed up when they’re detected. No other mid-price air purifier came with this feature.
The Winix is also the air purifier we’d like most as a “roommate.” It has a quiet fan that tied for quietest cleaning performance with the Coway, even while cleaning slightly faster. Plus, it comes with a feature called “night” mode that no other model had.
In “night” mode, the Winix turns off the control panel lights and works in auto-speed mode to turn up the fan when it finds nuisance particles coming back into your room. While we did like this extra touch, we felt it could’ve been even better if it let us run at one speed for a constant white noise to sleep to.
Still, we don’t hesitate to recommend the Winix as the best air purifier. You can even find replacement filters at some local stores! Two other CADR-200 models that came close to the Winix were the Coway – AP-1512HH and the Honeywell – HPA200.
Since they were so close in user experience and performance, we’ll just go over them quickly. At around $100 more than our best overall pick, the Coway was neck-and-neck with the Winix in every category but price.
It is slightly louder than the Winix at high speeds by one decibel, or a tiny bit quieter at the slowest speed, but the difference is practically unnoticeable unless you’re using a meter. As far as air cleaning speed, the Winix beats out the Coway by seconds while using about 15 fewer watts of energy.
So, the testing results are so close that there’s really no difference. If you look at the price, however, the Winix is the clear winner.
The Honeywell – HPA200 would also work well in the same size room, very slightly slower and less power-efficient than the competition. Because the fan moved air more slowly, it was quieter at full speed than both the Winix and Coway.
The question is, does this make it a better air purifier? Our team didn’t think so. Performance shouldn’t be sacrificed for a slightly quieter user experience, especially seeing how the Honeywell is more expensive. It’s also missing those “plus” features like the air quality sensor and auto-speed feature of the Winix and Coway.
Should you ever buy a small air purifier? Smaller air purifiers can be great for anyone with limited room. In comparison to the bigger models, small air purifiers are generally cheaper, take up less floor space and use the same high-performance filters.
But, small purifiers will always take longer to clean your air, and usually use more energy overall than larger models would. This is because, well, bigger models are made for bigger jobs; putting them in smaller spaces would just mean you can turn them off sooner.
The GermGuardian, for example, is a compact tower model that’s easier to find a spot for than our best overall pick, the Winix. But it uses six times more electricity when it’s running at the lowest speed, so manually turning this one on and off is the only way to avoid spending a lot of extra money on electricity costs.
Not only that, but even though the GermGuardian’s replacement filters are the smallest we found, they’ll still cost you more if you replace them at the recommended rate. We ran the numbers: after using the GermGuardian and the Winix for two years, the initial savings on the smaller machine cancels out.
Other small air purifiers like the Honeywell – HPA100 are a similar story. Honeywell pretty much makes this a down-sized version of the larger 200 and 300 models. At around $105 though, it’s not much cheaper than our overall best pick, the $120 Winix. And it had far worse power efficiency.
The Honeywell cleans half as much air as the Winix, but it somehow uses almost just as much power! If you don’t have the space for a larger purifier like the Winix, you can get the same results with a smaller purifier, but, you may be paying more for it in the long run.
Our suggestion? Spend a little more on a larger air purifier like the Winix, and get clean air more easily and inexpensively than you would with the competition. Did you find this article helpful? Have any questions? Don’t forget to like, comment and subscribe.