What's New in Home Air Purifiers

These days, the best home air purifiers don’t just remove pollutants—they're smarter, more energy-efficient, and sometimes even better-looking, too

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3 air purifiers on blue background Photo: John Walsh/Consumer Reports

Home air purifiers quickly became a sought-after device with the start of the pandemic, but they’ve been around since the 1860s. Over time, these purifiers—designed to clean the room they’re placed in, as opposed to a whole house—have become smaller, smarter, and more attractive.

Consumer Reports doesn’t rate air purifiers on aesthetics, size, or app compatibility, but we do take note of the emerging trends within the market. Misha Kollontai, who oversees testing of air purifiers at CR, says that more home air purifiers are aiming to be a design element. “Part of that might be because if you’re really focused on purifying your air, you’re probably looking to make it a mainstay in your living space,” Kollontai says.

He’s also seeing a greater focus on interactivity and paired apps, as well as portable models.

Many models are also aiming to take away some of the guesswork that often comes with using an air purifier. For instance, there’s an uptick in designs with an indicator for when it’s time to switch filters—though it’s not yet clear whether that’s any better or worse than just swapping them out every set number of months. In addition, more home air purifiers now feature particle counters, which let users know if the particle count in a room is high.

MORE ON AIR PURIFIERS

Looks and convenience features aside, the best home air purifiers should still offer a powerful filtration system—though, surprisingly, that’s an area that hasn’t improved much in recent years. “The tried-and-true combination of a well-designed fan system and a real HEPA filter are still responsible for most of our best performers in terms of capturing dust and smoke-sized particles in the air,” Kollontai says.

However, in the past five years, air purifiers have made inroads in terms of energy efficiency. “This is a notable part of the annual cost associated with an air purifier,” Kollontai says, “especially if you’re running it 24/7.”

We’ve also noticed some units entering the market with extremely quiet modes, but their effectiveness at the lower setting is often nowhere near what you’d want to see, Kollontai says. “Finding a unit that performs well both at low and high speeds is the safest bet, so you can switch between them when necessary,” he says.

In this article, we highlight three home air purifiers that balance a popular nice-to-have feature with solid cleaning capabilities.

CR members can learn more about how they rate in a range of areas (including cleaning capacity, noise, energy efficiency, and more) by exploring our comprehensive air purifier ratings. For tips on buying the best home air purifier for your needs, check out our air purifier buying guide.

Smart Features

WiFi-connected models that you can monitor via a smart­phone app let you see a live particulate matter (PM) reading for your indoor air, as well as the levels of pollutants being filtered out. Some manufacturers, such as Blueair, offer models with extra sensors that can determine the indoor air quality. The app, which doubles as a remote control, also lets you set schedules for the device and alerts you when your filter needs replacing.

Sleek Styling

An air purifier is a visible part of your room that’s running all the time, so you’ll want it to both work well and look good (or at least fade into its surroundings). New designs are increasingly more streamlined and aesthetically pleasing. The Samsung Cube, for example, a top performer in CR’s tests, will soon offer custom-styling options like a range of colors, with a herringbone or striped front. It’s already available in silver and white.

Small Sizes

There are now many compact—even portable—models on the market. Levoit and PureZone offer options small enough to use in a car, and LG’s PuriCare Mini Air Purifier is so petite that you can carry it around your wrist. Note that CR does not test air purifiers in confined spaces like cars or planes—so the smaller models typically end up with lower Overall Scores simply because they can’t offer filtration that’s as powerful as that of their full-sized counterparts, at least in the larger spaces we test in.

Editor’s Note: A version of this article also appeared in the August 2021 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.


Headshot of CRO Home Editor Tanya Christian

Tanya A. Christian

I've spent more than a decade covering lifestyle, news, and policy. At Consumer Reports, I'm happy to sit at the intersection of these specialties, writing about appliances, product safety and advocacy, consumer fairness, and the best tools and products to help you spruce up your home. When I'm not putting pen to paper, I'm exploring new cultures through travel and taking on home makeover projects, one room at a time.