In every instance where pollution indexes climb, masks and air purifiers see a spike in purchases across China, bolstering an industry that continues to do extremely well. When it comes time to look for an air purifier however, there are often a bewildering array of air purifiers to choose from and with prices running the course of the spectrum.
How cheap is too cheap? Should I bother with other kinds of filters besides HEPA? Is there really that much more value to be gained from some of the expensive import models? These are all relevant questions that this article will hope to address.
While the units on this list all are strong performers, what you’re essentially getting when you pay more for a purifier is in the bonus features, exterior design and conveniences. All candidates here filter PM2.5 entirely adequately at 90% and above efficiency, but depending on the peculiarities of your living space there can be other considerations that require some attention.
What is your tolerance for noise? Do you have issues with mold or allergies? Are Volatile Organic Compounds like formaldehyde a problem at your residence?
At its most basic, an air purifier designed to tackle pollution is simply a High-Efficiency Particulate Arrestance (HEPA) filter coupled with an often ‘basic’ fan, sucking in air from the environs and pushing out filtered ‘cleaner’ air. This setup will tackle pollution effectively but may not be that comfortable to sleep through and may require additional assistance from other air treatment devices like humidifiers to make up for ‘dryness’ or other undesirables.
1. Premium – IQAir HealthPro 250
This is the golden standard in air purification, time-tested and well-recommended from all around. IQAir has been around since air purifiers were first introduced to China, and until comparatively recently, was synonymous with air purifiers so much so that the Hong Kong Hospital Authority deployed IQAir units throughout its hospitals to guarantee sterility against SARS.
As many consumer reviews will attest, the IQAir devices are top performers that provide all kinds of purification, filtering out pollen, pet dander, VOCs and of course that most deadly concern: PM2.5.
With that kind of pedigree however, you can expect to pay handsomely and buying IQAir units in China is particularly expensive. Expect to pay anywhere up to RMB 15,000 for a unit, with filters sets starting at RMB 2380 and with the HEPA filters lasting up to four years, according to IQAir.
The IQAir HealthPro 250 is designed for rooms of approximately 50-75 square meters and emits 22dB of noise on its lowest fan speed.
2. Midrange – Philips AC4025 Air Purifier
A solid affordable contender, with a wide deployment, a refreshing design and most importantly, offered at an affordable price. The Philips does on the face of it offer a very similar proposition to the IQAir, bringing PM2.5 levels way down for the smaller spaces it is designed for, in addition to adding humidity, reducing dust and pollen.
The Philips fetches about RMB 650 over on Taobao with filters costing up to RMB 150 every two years with average usage.
The Philips AC4025 is rated for small bedrooms and emits 36dB of noise on its lowest setting.
3. Budget – SmartAir “The Original”
The SmartAir “Original” is the most basic implementation of the air purifier concept.
It is literally a High-Efficiency Particulate Arrestance filter attached to a fan, much like what is contained inside a more typical air purifier but in this case fully exposed for all to see.
The SmartAir will perform as it should removing upwards of 90% of airborne PM2.5 particles in a short amount of time and that is all it will do. In its standard configuration it does not appear to account for pollen, microbacteria or VOCs.
“The Original” sells for RMB 200 and is most suited for rooms 16 meters square and under.
Replacement filters for the device fetch RMB 80 with replacements needed approximately every 5 months.
In my personal experience the Original is tolerable to sleep through, though light sleepers may find cause for concern. Additionally The Original has a ‘drying’ effect for places like Beijing and may be more tolerable when coupled with a humidifier.