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Is It Worth It to Buy an Air Purifier?

Updated on April 28, 2022 by Joseph D. Nielson

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There are a few basic human necessities we all deserve. A sturdy roof over our heads, three square meals a day, some vitamin-d-enriching sunshine… and lots of fresh air.

Fresh air isn’t just a luxury; it’s a bodily requirement, responsible for strengthening our immune systems, regulating our blood pressure, facilitating peak cognitive function and even improving our digestive systems.

In bygone eras, getting enough fresh air wasn’t hard. Most people spent considerably more time outdoors, working among nature or commuting in open-air vehicles. These days, we have to be more exacting with how (and how often) we get our fresh air. Especially since COVID-19 forced several people to work from home, that means optimizing our homes for fresh air.

But, as with all over-the-top expenses, we often ask questions. Why buy an air purifier? Where can I buy an air purifier? And should I buy an air purifier?

In this article, Fresh Home Guides will explore a few salient points surrounding air purification: how they work, when you should be purifying the air you breathe, and whether it’s worth it to buy an air purifier.

What Are Air Purifiers and How Do They Work?

Essentially, air purifiers are home appliances that sanitize air.

Perhaps it’s best to take a small step back and define “air,” an often-misunderstood term that we use quite often! Air is an invisible mixture of gases and particulates that surrounds us wherever we are. Some of these gases – like oxygen and hydrogen – are fundamental to keeping us alive.

Other gases and particulates, however, are by-products of vehicle exhaust, manufacturing, smoke, dust, dander, dust mites and volatile organic compounds. You can think of these things as unwanted hitchhikers, catching a free ride on the beneficial oxygen and hydrogen.

Air purification acts on these unwanted hitchhikers in a few different ways. Some release negatively charged ions to latch onto pollutants. Others use UV light to inactivate airborne pathogens like bacteria and viruses. And our favorites, like the Dyson Air Purifier, draw polluted air in through HEPA filters, removing 99.97% of airborne particles <0.3 microns.

When Do You Need an Air Purifier?

Further in the article, we’ll delve into whether the common household needs an air purifier. But in this section, let’s examine a few special cases where air purification is – if not mandatory – highly encouraged.

Here are some signs that your home needs an air purifier or cleaner.

Asthma Symptoms

If you, or someone you live with, suffers from asthma symptoms, consider buying an air purifier. Asthma symptoms (both non-allergic and allergic asthma) are triggered by common environmental pollutants like smoke, dust, dust mites, dander and mold. Air purifiers help nullify and remove these triggering pollutants, making them an effective strategy against attacks. You can read more about the medical science surrounding air purification and asthma at this link.

Air Pollution and Environmental Factors

If your home experiences higher-than-average air pollution, it’s wise to equip yourself with an air purifier. Let’s look at two common case studies.

The first: your house is situated in a city that ranks low on the Air Quality Index (AQI). Urban air quality tends to fluctuate depending on time of year, weather patterns and industrial activity; still, some cities have it perennially worse than others. Check out the New York Times’ infographic breakdown of every city’s air quality to see how your home ranks.

Second: Your house is near to seasonal wildfires. This has become more of an issue in recent years, especially around the Pacific Northwest, where massive summer wildfires can cause blanketed smoke pollution that reaches a wide radius.

If you live in a dry area prone to smoke or smog, you should also consider combining an air purifier and a humidifier. The two working in concert can add moisture to the air, creating an environment that’s easier on the lungs and skin.

Pets and Allergies

You can’t live without your furry friends – nor should you have to! But those furred pets, like cats and dogs, come with an environmental pollutant that can trigger allergies: pet dander.

Essentially, pet dander is airborne flakes of dead skin that float around in ambient air. (We know, it’s gross). Dander particulates often have jagged shapes and linger in the air for long periods, making them especially triggering to individuals with pet allergies.

If you have pets, we recommend getting an air purifier. Even if no one currently residing in the home is allergic, an air purifier makes your home more hospitable to guests (who may be allergic).

Even for non-allergic people, a home free of ambient dander will feel noticeably clearer and cleaner. In addition to an air purifier, consider a pet vacuum too. Make sure to read Fresh Home Guide’s roundup of the best vacuum for cleaning and removing pet hair before you buy!

Woman doing yoga next to her dog breathes the fresh air from her air purifier

Dense Living Spaces

The denser your living space is, the more pollutants you can expect – bottom line. More bodies in a home (be they family, roommates or pets) means more dander, dust, dust mites, gases and ambient particulates. There are more people breathing, cooking, coughing and – sorry to be crude – passing gas.

In other words, if your home has two or more people per 600 square feet, consider buying an air purifier.

Smoking

Finally, air purifiers are a must if you have any smokers in the home. Second-hand smoke isn’t just a common allergen; it’s a toxic mixture of more than 7,000 chemicals, many of them carcinogenic. You want to remove as many of those chemical particulates as possible from your home.

If you are buying an air purifier to get rid of smoke in your home, we recommend you read through Fresh Home Guide’s air purifier for smoke reviews, which we’ve linked above.

Are Air Purifiers Worth It for the Rest of Us?

What if you don’t meet any of the criteria above? What if your home is allergy-free, smoke-free and pet-free, and you live in a low-pollution corner of the world? Should you buy an air purifier?

There’s no hard-and-fast answer to that question. It all depends on how much you value clean air, and how much disposable income you can allocate to the task. Air purifiers cost roughly between $185 and $700, with higher-end models boasting more powerful filtration systems. If you buy certain air purifiers online, you can pay by monthly installments – meaning the cost of your air purifier is the same as any other monthly expense in your budget. Think of it like a utility: a monthly investment in clean, healthful air.

To recap: Why buy an air purifier? There are several reasons. Air purifiers mitigate the risk of allergens. They remove harmful chemicals from smoke. They accommodate people with asthma symptoms. And they refresh your home from all the ambient dust mites, pet dander and volatile compounds that you (and your furry friends) generate throughout the day.

About Joseph D. Nielson

Former journalist and editor for various press groups, I now dedicate my time to reviewing products for the home and family life. When I get time to myself, I enjoy rock climbing, taking my dirt bike for a rip, and most importantly providing my family with the best home possible!