Thinking of buying an air purifier to help your family breathe a little easier? There are plenty of good models on the market, but we want to tell you about two products we tested that performed so poorly our testing staff had to keep checking they were even switched on. (Yes, they were that bad.)
CHOICE household expert Chris Barnes shares tips on what to look for in an air purifier.
Air purifiers can help you breathe more easily by removing dust, pollen, smoke and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the air inside your home. They're particularly useful for families with allergies and asthmatics, as well as during bushfires or if you live near a main road.
But if you're going to buy one, make sure it does the job.
CHOICE's air purifier expert Chris Barnes offers a scathing appraisal of the two bottom performers: "Two models performed badly in all aspects. I would certainly avoid these duds. In fact, they performed so poorly that we wondered if they were working at all, but as far as we can tell they were operating normally," he says.
The worst performing air purifier
Greentech Pure Air 500
- CHOICE Expert Rating: 19%
- Performance score: 6%
- Price: $179
Unfortunately for owners of the Greentech Pure Air 500, you get what you pay for (in this instance at least). At $179, it's the cheapest product we tested, but also the least impressive.
It scored a dismal 6% for performance, 5% for dust performance and 5% for smoke performance. It also had very poor comparative energy efficiency, and was very noisy when operated on the low setting.
The second-worst performing air purifier
Greentech Pure Air 3000
- CHOICE Expert Rating: 22%
- Performance score: 6%
- Price: $889
Costing nearly five times as much as the Pure Air 500 model, you'd expect at least some improvement in performance, right? Well, you'd be disappointed if you shelled out the $889 for Greentech's Pure Air 3000.
It scored a measly three percentage points higher than the Pure Air 500 model, but sadly that was just due to a slightly higher ease of use score. Aside from that, it's as poor a performer as the cheaper model.
The only edge it has over its poor cousin is that it has five fan settings (the Pure Air 500 only has one), but it's still noisy to run on the lowest setting.
We recommend you don't waste your money on the Pure Air 500 – and we very strongly recommend you don't bother with the Pure Air 3000, either.
Can air purifiers filter and kill viruses and bacteria?
Should you buy an air purifier to help keep your home free of COVID-19 coronavirus? Not really.
Air purifiers can trap some airborne viruses, but they won't do anything to manage viruses on hard surfaces in your home and on your hands, which are significant sources of contamination. Even air purifiers that have fancy features like photocatalytic, UV or catechin filters can only trap virus particles that are airborne – they won't get rid of viruses on a person's skin or on a hard surface.
"An air purifier can help keep your home clear of germs, including the COVID-19 coronavirus, but only to a limited degree. Many air purifiers actually are capable of trapping and even killing viruses, but they will only trap a small percentage of germs in a typical home," says Barnes.
"Most viruses in the home aren't in the air, but rather on skin, in bodily fluids or on hard surfaces after human contact.
"Your best options are still the same as before: minimise unnecessary contact, clean any hard surfaces that people often touch, and regularly wash or sanitise your hands."
How we test
Our expert testers have 20+ years of experience in heating and cooling products, so they know what makes a good air purifier.
We put each product through its paces to find out:
- how well it removes allergens such as dust, smoke and pollen from the air
- how noisy the unit is on full and low power
- whether its filters are easy to remove and replace
- how easy its smart app is to use (where applicable).