The Best Air Purifier

When it comes to air purifiers, CADR is king. CADR, a rating assigned by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, tells you what size room an air purifier can, well, purify. We tested out nine that clean close to 360 square feet and looked at ease of replacing filters and features like air quality sensors and Auto settings. We then spoke with air quality specialists and physicians about the importance of True HEPA filters and secondary filters before landing on our two top picks.

The 2 Best Air Purifiers

High-End Features
Winix 5500-2 Air Cleaner with PlasmaWave Technology
Winix
An efficient air purifier equipped with all the bells and whistles.
Pros
Intuitive controls and sensors
Hassle-free filter replacement
More cost-effective than similar models
Cons
Not as powerful as some competitors

Why we chose it

Intuitive controls and sensors

Above all else, Winix stands out for its lineup of features. Its completely digital panel lets you control the purifier’s speed or enable PlasmaWave Technology (which, when activated, claims to “instantly neutralize airborne viruses, bacteria, chemical vapors, odors, and gases”). The simplicity of this digital panel extends to its sensors: The Winix’s glowing LED lights shift from blue to red the more polluted the air.

It’s not just looks, though; the Winix is also packed with features that make life simpler if you don’t want to constantly monitor your machine. Specifically, a built-in air quality sensor automatically runs the fan at its lowest when the air quality is good — a nice touch for your peace of mind and for saving power. Other models like the Blueair air purifier came with some controls and sensors, but they weren’t nearly as robust as those on the Winix. Simple digital design and a full breadth of automatic features won us over.

Hassle-free filter replacement

Popping the hood of the Winix was easy. The cover uses magnets to snap in and out of place, and each filter locks inside the next — there’s no question where each piece should be when replacing the filters. By comparison, the Coway is much flimsier, and it takes a couple of tries to put the front and pre-filter back on after you remove them.

More cost-effective than similar models

Air purifiers can get expensive, often topping the $600 mark. That’s why the Winix, at less than $200, is so impressive: It’s powerful enough to cover 360 square feet and comes with features like air quality sensors and Auto settings that are found on more high-end air purifiers. If you’re looking for a powerful air purifier that comes with all the bells and whistles (but not with a high price tag), the Winix is worth considering.

Points to consider

Not as powerful as some competitors

Admittedly, there are more powerful air purifiers on the market. The Winix U450, for example, has higher CADR ratings, covering an additional 100 square feet. However, this 100 square feet comes at a cost: The U450 model is double the price of the 5500-2. The Winix 5500-2 may not cut it if you have an unusually large room, but its features and affordability still push it to the top of the lineup. If you’re concerned about that additional 100 feet of coverage, you may be better off purchasing two 5500-2 units for features and cost-savings alone.

Long-Term Savings
Coway AP-1512HH Mighty Air Purifier
Coway
A powerful air purifier that has long-term benefits.
Pros
Cheap replacement filters
High CADR ratings
Compact design
Cons
Difficult to change filters

Why we chose it

Cheap replacement filters

A major bonus of the Coway is its cheap replacement filters. A single replacement filter for the Coway costs about $15 less than a filter for the Winix, meaning the Coway averages out to be cheaper than the Winix in a few years’ time. This is a huge win if you’re concerned with savings and want to get the most out of your air purifier.

High CADR ratings

The Coway ranks three points higher than the Winix in terms of CADR ratings for dust (although it is slightly worse at capturing pollen, coming six points below the Winix). It also notably excels in number of air exchanges per hour. At the max setting, the Coway averages five air exchanges for a 360-square-foot room with a nine-foot ceiling — the average ceiling height of a home. The Winix only averages four and a half air exchanges. While both numbers exceed the minimum recommendation by our experts, the Coway may be a better choice if you’re looking to make the most of a large room.

Compact design

Unlike bigger air purifiers, which can stand out like a sore thumb in your home, the Coway is sleek and compact. It’s a bit wider than the Winix, but overall shorter. Because of this, it’s easy to place the Coway under a window without it feeling obtrusive. Plus, the black design with gray accents feels sleek and well-aligned with most modern decor. If you value aesthetics, you’ll likely want to choose the Coway over the Winix.

Points to consider

Difficult to change filters

Despite its otherwise-sleek design, the Coway is notably flimsier than the Winix. In our testing, it took a few attempts to replace the front and pre-filter after removing them. This is largely due to the fact that the Coway doesn’t have magnets to snap in and out of place; additionally, the filters don’t lock into each other as they do with the Winix. It’s not a deal breaker, but if you’re taking it apart every two weeks to rinse out the pre-filter (which is recommended for both units), the Coway is more of a hassle.

Guide to Air Purifiers

How to find the right air purifier for you

Factor in replacement filters and energy use

Air purifiers aren’t a one-and-done purchase — replacement filters and energy use will affect your bottom line, especially considering that air purifiers are typically left on at all times. To predict your electric bill, you need to know how many kilowatt-hours your purifier uses per day, multiplied by the average electricity rate where you live.

Consider size and placement

When looking for an air purifier, make sure it fits your space. Air purifiers should never be flush against walls or furniture, as most units work best when they can take in air from all sides. If you have a small room, ensure that your air purifier is compact enough to meet basic requirements.

Think about additional features

Air purifiers come with more features than you might think. The Winix, for example, is equipped with features like timers, sensors, and a power-saving fan that automatically slows down when air quality is good. When researching air purifiers, think beyond simply purifying the air in your home and consider additional features you might need. If you’re seeking ways to keep your energy bill low, for example, you may choose to seek out a purifier with an Auto setting.

Air Purifier FAQs

How can you improve air quality in your home?

An air purifier is the best way to improve the air quality in your home. However, cleaning can make your purifier’s job easier. Carpets hold lots of dust, pollen, and other irritating particles. (In fact, for people with who asthma or allergies, living without carpet is the best option.) Vacuuming helps remove these particles in order to improve air quality, especially if you use a vacuum with a HEPA filter.

Do CADR ratings measure gaseous pollutants?

No. While CADR ratings give the most accurate representation of an air purifier’s ability to actually purify air, this testing method isn’t perfect. It doesn’t do anything to measure gaseous pollutants or very small particles (anything below the 0.3 micron threshold that HEPA filters are able to catch). That said, CADR ratings are currently the best option available, and these results are trusted by organizations like the EPA and Consumers Union.

Is the air more polluted inside or outside your home?

You may think that the air outside is more contaminated, but that’s not always the case. According to studies conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the air inside a home might be two to five times more contaminated with pollutants, be it animal dander, cigarette smoke, or soot.

Do larger air purifiers have better CADR ratings?

The short answer is yes. The largest purifier we looked at, the Honeywell HPA300, maxed out at 465 square feet and also had some of the highest CADR ratings. But that extra coverage is expensive, with the Honeywell retailing roughly double the cost of the Winix 5500-2.

The Best Air Purifiers: Summed Up

Winix 5500-2 Air Purifier
Coway AP-1512HH Mighty Air Purifier
High-End Features
Long-Term Savings
Price
$181
$230
CADR Dust Score
243
246
CADR Pollen Score
246
240
Max Square Footage
360
360
Air Exchanges per Hour
4.5
5
Replacement HEPA Filter
$61
$47