HVAC Q&A: Which Air Purifiers Are Best For Removing Allergens?

It’s allergy season, and that means stuffy noses, sneezing, and itchy throats. But what if walking through the door of your home meant getting a break from your allergies? In today’s HVAC Q&A, we’re going to talk about a solution that provides that level of protection. Marcus in Louisville, Kentucky writes:

“HVAC.com team,

Allergy season in Louisville, KY is pretty bad. I’m always uncomfortable, and I feel like I don’t really have a place I can go to get away from all the junk in the air. I’ve heard about air purifiers, but I don’t want to spend money on something that won’t actually help my situation.

What kind of allergens does an air purifier actually remove from the air? Are some better than others? Which one should I buy? I need help!”

Unfortunately for Marcus, he lives in one of the worst cities for spring allergies, but relief is just one air purifier purchase away. Air purifiers come in all different shapes and sizes, and with all different types of features.

HEPA Filters Remove 99.97% of Particles

Before we get into the different types of air purifiers on the market, let’s take a minute to discuss high-efficiency particulate arrestance, or HEPA for short. In order to be classified as HEPA, an air filter must remove no less than 99.97 percent of particles 0.3 microns or larger from your air. This standard, enforced by the Department of Energy, makes HEPA air filters the gold standard for allergen and airborne particle removal.

But There are So Many Different Types Of HEPA Purifiers…

Which Filter Type Is Best For My Allergies?

Now, on to the good stuff. If you want to create an allergen-free space to relax this spring, here are the four types of air purifiers you’ll have to choose from and an explanation of which allergens they remove from the air:

1.) True HEPA/UV-C Air Purifiers Remove The Most Allergens

True HEPA/UV-C air purifiers are the best you can buy. These air purifiers are typically more expensive than others, but they’re worth it for homeowners who live in high allergen areas or that have especially bad reactions during allergy season. True HEPA/UV-C air purifiers combine replaceable HEPA air filters with an ultraviolet germicidal light to trap 99.97 percent of airborne allergens and 99 percent of airborne germs and odor-causing bacteria.


2.) True HEPA Air Purifiers

True HEPA air purifiers use replaceable HEPA-rated filters to remove 99.97 percent of the airborne particles in your home. If you or a member of your family has a bad allergy problem, True HEPA is the minimum level of protection you should look for. They rid your home of the pollen, dust mites, and mold spores that are the main causes of seasonal allergies and help keep your home smelling fresh.

Just like your HVAC system’s furnace filters, the HEPA filters in True HEPA and True HEPA/UV-C air purifiers need to be replaced at least every three months.


3.) HEPA-Type Air Purifiers

These air purifiers are the less-effective cousin of True HEPA air purifiers. If pollen and dust mites aren’t as big of problem in your home, these more economical air purifiers might be the best for you. The replaceable filters still trap 99 percent of small airborne particles including dust, smoke, and pet dander to help keep the air in your home cleaner, but they do not get rid of smaller particles like pollen and dust mites that may cause allergies.


4.) Permanent HEPA-Type Air Purifiers

Permanent HEPA-Type air purifiers work just like HEPA-Type air purifiers, except they have filters that do not need to be replaced. The reusable filters require occasional cleaning to help trap 99 percent of airborne particles.


What About All The Other Types Of Air Purifiers?

When it comes to air purifiers, there are plenty of extra options, some of which can be incorporated into the choices above. Here are some other air purifying options to watch out for when you’re shopping:

  • Activated carbon filters use small, absorbent pores to capture pollutants as they pass through the filter. Since the pores chemically react to the pollutants in the air, activated carbon filters are great at removing odors, chemicals, and smoke from the air, but they do not remove dust and allergens. If you have an odor problem, look for HEPA or HEPA-Type filters with activated carbon to remove odors and purify the air.
  • UV purifiers remove bacteria and viruses from the air. These ultraviolet germicidal lights kill airborne germs to help keep your family healthy. Like activated carbon filters, they are rarely used alone to purify air and work best when combined with HEPA or HEPA-Type air purifiers.
  • Ionic air purifiers don’t actually purify the air. Instead, they send streams of negative ions into the air that attach to airborne particles, making them too heavy to remain airborne. Since most surfaces are positively charged, the negatively charged particles are attracted to the surfaces in the room, and settle there. In other words, the particles may be removed from the air, but they’re still stuck in the room.

Here’s The Bottom Line…

Remember, your air quality needs will determine which air purifier to buy. If you’re looking to create a safe haven from seasonal allergies caused by pollen, dust mites, and mold spores, then a True HEPA or True HEPA/UV-C air purifier is the right choice for your home. If you just want to get rid of the pet dander, lint, and household dust that makes breathing a little more difficult, save some money and choose a more economical HEPA-Type air purifier.

How do you deal with seasonal allergies? Which air purifier do you think will be best for your home? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Will, HVAC.com expert

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