Air Purifiers and the Cost of Clean Air
Replacement filters and electricity bills should factor into your clean-air budget
Indoor air can be two to five times as dirty as outside air, so it makes sense that interest in air purifiers spikes in winter, when cold weather keeps us indoors with the windows shut.
To clear the air, more and more consumers are turning to air purifiers. In 2018, sales of portable air purifiers skyrocketed by about 1 million units, according to the trade publication HomeWorld Business. Now, an estimated 1 in 4 American households owns an air purifier.
But air purifiers aren’t cheap. Most models that CR recommends cost more than $200, and up to $900. They can be expensive to operate, too, because they typically require filter replacements once or twice a year and should be run around the clock. (See our chart below for a breakdown of annual costs.) Some models have multiple filters that need replacing. For instance, activated carbon filters that are claimed to remove odors need to be replaced every three months and can cost up to $50 a pop. That’s on top of the main filters, which range from $20 to over $200 each.
That Clean Air Will Cost You
|Model||Price||Annual Energy Cost||Filter Cost||Total, First Year||Total, Fifth Year|
|Blueair Blue Pure 211+||$300||$52||$140||$492||$1,260|
Are Air Purifiers Worth It?
The best ways to improve indoor air are to remove any pollutant sources and ventilate with clean outdoor air. When those methods aren’t possible—or they’re not enough—portable air purifiers can help reduce indoor pollution.
The air purifiers that do well in our ratings capably filter dust, smoke, and pollen from the air.
EPA-reviewed studies have also shown improved cardiovascular health and modest improvements in allergy and asthma symptoms among participants. However, scientific and medical communities can’t definitively link the use of air purifiers to health benefits because reported health benefits are inconsistent among participants and there have been very few long-term studies.
There are also limits to what an air purifier can do. An air purifier can only remove allergens while they’re floating in the air. Larger, heavier allergens, such as mites, mold, and pollen, settle to the ground so quickly that the air purifier can’t capture them all in time. Studies are inconclusive on air purifiers’ ability to tackle gases.
Because the health benefits from using air purifiers vary from person to person and depend on the types of pollutants in your home, it’s ultimately your call if paying for—and running—an air purifier is worth it. We provide the data, you make the call.
Energy Efficient Air Purifiers
If you want to keep annual costs down, these three air purifiers rank in the top tier of our ratings and are relatively cost-effective when it comes to energy use (and filter replacements).