Are Air Purifiers a Waste of Money – How and Why Air Purifiers are Worth the Cost


If you’ve been around any home goods store, then odds are that you’ve walked by an air purifier.

You might have not noticed it or known what it was, but they’re there. Waiting.

What are they waiting for? Well, air purifiers are waiting to be bought by someone who knows just what they can do, which, spoiler alert, is a whole lot of stuff. Read on to find out just what an air purifier can do for you.

aerial view of city under cloudy sky during day time

So, what about our original question, though? Are air purifiers just a big waste of money, or are they little miracle machines that can extend our lifespans?

According to the EPA, air purifiers are worth it due to what they can do to improve the air quality in your home. Additionally, your need for an air purifier actually increases the closer you live to urban and industrial areas, as the EPA outlines in a webinar they conducted.

But that leads to an important question: How do air purifiers do this?

Air purifiers come in many, many different shapes and sizes, and they come with quite a few different systems as well.

Some air purifiers just have filters while others have things called sanitizers which are used to kill germs and mold spores, among other things. Other air purifiers are used to kill mold at the source, some are used to remove odors, and others still can do even more things.

But, at the end of the day, just about every air purifier that you’ll come across will be able to do one thing: it will be able to reduce the number of particles in the air.

Now, some air purifiers are better than that than others, and I’m here to shed some light on that in the least boring way I can!

So, join me as I dive in.

Air Purifiers Are Great At Removing Dust and Other Allergens

First things first, air purifiers are incredible at removing dust from the air.

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As you can see in this (sort of gross) picture here, this air filter is covered in dust!

I ran a finger through it just to show how deep it was!

This particular filter has a little screen called a pre-filter which is the first line of defense in any good air purifier’s lineup of filters. As you can see here, this pre-filter captured a whole lot of dust!

If you’d like to learn more about pre-filters, check out my article on them here: What is a Pre-Filter? Does My Air Purifier Need a Pre-Filter?

Besides dust and allergens, air purifiers (particularly those with HEPA filters) are used to cleanse the air of much, much smaller things as well!

Believe it or not, they are used in nuclear power plants to ensure that tiny, radioactive particles don’t get out and hurt anyone! They’re also used in factories like those that make semiconductors because even one spec of dust could ruin a product! With the right air purification, that can be avoided.

But air purifiers with HEPA filters do have their flaws–one big flaw is the fact that people try to fake their HEPA credentials! For instance, some air purifier manufacturers make “HEPA Type” filters which aren’t HEPA at all!

That’s why you should only buy “True HEPA Filters”, “Medical Grade HEPA Filters”, or other things along those lines. The US DOE has rules set in place that regulate those real HEPA filters and ensure that they work as well as they ought to!

If you’d like to shop for the air purifiers I personally recommend, check out this list here: Air Purifier Essentials Top Picks: Best HEPA Air Purifiers on the Market

But how do air purifiers clean dust and other particles out of the air?

Well, there are a few methods.

HEPA filters are solid filters, usually made of paper or cloth. The fibers in the HEPA filter are tight enough that they capture 99.7% of particles larger than .3 microns (and sometimes less). That equates in a lot cleaner air!

Another method uses electrostatic plates that automatically capture particles as they pass by the plates.

However your air purifier works, odds are that it will work wonders at capturing dust out of the air. Just know, however, that more money spent on an air purifier doesn’t necessarily mean cleaner air. Not all air purifiers are created equal, so it’s best to shop around and consult people who know air purifiers (like me, or friends who have them).

Air Purifiers With Built-In Sanitizers Are Great at Killing Germs and More

Air purifiers exist for a lot more than just cleaning the air of dust and allergens, though.

Believe it or not, some air purifiers, those that have built-in air sanitizers, can also kill and capture germs like bacteria and viruses too! So, if you’re worried about getting sick at school, work, or even at home, then one of these air purifiers could be just the right option for you.

Something I personally love about air purifiers with air sanitizers is how they aren’t just an air sanitizer (which you can get as its own unit). I like how these particular units also have air filters, usually a HEPA filter, which ensures that the air is being cleaned of more than just germs.

It’s cleaning up allergens, dust, and some odors too.

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In fact, some air purifier/sanitizer combo units have filters that capture even more odors plus dangerous gasses too!

The air purifier I’ve got pictured here might not look like a lot. It’s just a big white box, right?

Wrong!

This air purifier is an amazing piece made by a company called EnviroKlenz (check out my article on this air purifier here). I actually laughed when I found out that this particular company made air purifiers because I had been following their work in the defense industry before then–they make stuff to keep soldiers safe from chemical weapons attacks and more.

So, I can confidently say that they probably know what they’re doing when it comes to air purifiers! I can also say that I’ve loved mine since I got it. It’s been running nonstop.

The FDA, like a lot of health authorities, have extensively examined air sanitizers and confirmed time and time again that they are very effective at reducing one’s risk of catching an airborne illness, which is something we can all see the value in. I’m writing this during the Coronavirus lockdowns, so the idea of a machine working to mitigate the risk of getting sick is even more prevalent today.

Air Purifiers Can Get Rid of Bad Smells, Toxic Gasses, and More

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Here’s a shot of that filter from earlier, but this time it doesn’t have all the dust on it!

This particular filter goes to a Levoit air purifier and it’s a three-in-one filter. Those three filters are the pre-filter, the HEPA filter, and then an activated carbon filter.

The activated carbon filter is where the magic happens when it comes to removing odors and toxic gasses.

Activated carbon filters use activated carbon to capture and then hold onto gaseous molecules that might carry an odor, some that do not, and a few other things.

Long story short, the end effect is that the air coming through the filter is a whole lot cleaner and safer to breathe.

How?

Well, the activated carbon (also called activated charcoal) is able to capture these things because of the way that it’s made. As it’s made, tiny pores are opened up and it is those pores that are able to capture things.

Gasses like radon, which can cause lung cancer, can be captured by activated carbon filters. VOCs, which have their own host of dangers, can be captured by activated carbon filters. Smoke and other odors can be removed from the air. Even fart air from your bathroom can be mitigated with an activated carbon filter!

Yes, you read that right.

Air purifiers can make your bathroom stink less–even after that one family member uses it. (I wrote an article on how they work for that here.)

BUT WAIT! Don’t Overpay for an Air Purifier!

If you’re on the fence or if you’re convinced that you need an air purifier, then odds are that you’ve made it this far. (If you think I’m totally wrong, then you’ve probably left already.)

So, since you’re probably interested in getting an air purifier, let me provide you one HUGE piece of advice.

Don’t overpay.

I know, I know, that’s obvious.

Except it’s not.

When I’m talking about overpaying, I’m talking about more than just the price tag of your original purchase. I’m talking about the cost of replacement filters, how big of an air purifier that you need, and a whole lot more.

You see, every air purifier is different and their costs are sometimes really hard to compare.

All the air purifiers I listed out in this article Air Purifier Essentials Top Picks: Best HEPA Air Purifiers on the Market pass my test for what I personally like in air purifiers and what I recommend to most people, but there are lots of other great air purifiers out there.

So, if you aren’t about to check out my recommendations, here are some things to keep in mind when you’re doing your shopping:

  1. How big is the room you’re buying the air purifier for?
  2. How much are air purifiers that are made for rooms that size (in general)?
  3. What do you need your air purifier to clean out of the air? (Odors? Dust? Germs? All of the above?)
  4. How much are replacement filters?
  5. How much is shipping?

There are, of course, other things to consider, but these are the big things I’d recommend you look out for.

First off, you can’t buy an air purifier that’s built for a really small room and then put it in a large room and expect it to clean the air perfectly. It will improve the overall air quality, but it won’t do it as well as if you bought the right size machine. Think of it like shoes–they might work if they’re a little small, but they aren’t making things as comfortable as they could be.

grey shopping cart

Second off, you have to look around to see what the market is in general for the specific size of air purifier you want. Shop around! Don’t just buy the first one you see that fits your needs or you might end up overspending or buying a bad machine. (Customer reviews can help you make a good decision there too.)

Third off, you should buy an air purifier that takes care of what you want it to. You might not need an air purifier with all the bells and whistles–oftentimes you won’t! Besides that, there’s no harm in starting small. Just buy an air purifier for your bedroom, bathroom, or office. (I HIGHLY recommend the Levoit air purifier on my recommended air purifier list for those things–I’ve loved mine so much!)

Fourth off, replacement filters can cost a fortune. Personally, I suspect some of the meaner air purifier manufacturers use that as a tactic to make a lot more money in the long run. Find an air purifier that has filters that last a long time and don’t cost a crazy amount to replace. On top of that, find ones that are easy to find replacement filters for too! Some air purifiers are impossible to find replacement filters for, and that’s no good if you’re thinking about buying one of them! Also, a pro tip, if you get the right air purifier they will have nice, durable air filters that you can vacuum out and clean, which means your dollar goes a whole lot further!

Finally, the fifth thing: shipping. So, as is the case with crazy expensive replacement filters, I think shipping is another way that mean people stick it to you and overcharge. I recommend buying through Amazon Prime (click here to get a 30-day free trial to Amazon Prime). Since I hate the price gouging shipping and handling fees, all the air purifiers on my recommended list are Prime Eligible, so you can avoid most of the lame shipping charges. I’ve had some air purifiers I’ve looked at that charged more shipping than the machine was worth, so that’s something you should watch out for.

Dig Deeper…

Alright, I know I did a TON of info dumping on all of you and I know that some of you will want to learn more about all of this. I was in the same boat when I first started learning about air purifiers, and I still learn more about them every day! (I’ve become quite the geek for them–maybe I should name this site AirPurifierGeeks with how much I’m learning! Hahaha)

Anyhows, here are a bunch of other articles that I’ve written that I think might appeal to you, if you’d like to dig a little deeper and go beyond what I said in this article and what I already linked to.

Want to learn more about air purifiers for dander allergies? Here’s a cool piece! Can Air Purifiers Help With Dander?

Curious about air purifiers for allergies and allergic asthma in general? Here’s another article: Do Air Purifiers Help with Dust Allergies and Asthma?

Want cleaner air n your home? I know I do! Here’s an article for you, I had a lot of fun writing that one, for some reason! How to Clean Indoor Air – 14 Simple Ways to Clean Up the Air in Your Home

I could keep going on and on with things I’ve already written, so I’m going to end it with this piece: What Are the Top 7 Proven Reasons Have an Air Purifier in my Bedroom? I know I mentioned air purifiers in your bedroom, so, if you’re not convinced, that article might just do it for you!

Anyhows, that’s all I’ll pester you with today, I hope you all make the right decision FOR YOU when it comes to air purifiers. For me, I’ve bought one for every room I spend a lot of time in, but I know plenty of people who just get one or two air purifiers and call it good.

Have a good one, and thanks for reading!

Jonathon Silva

Jonathan Silva is our longtime Air Purifier Essentials author. He has been writing on air purification technologies for his entire professional career.

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