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To get the most from an air purifier, CR’s experts say you should use it in the room where you spend the most time. That’s probably your bedroom. But if you’re working from home, you may be logging long hours in your home office (which, yep, might also be the bedroom). The same goes for students learning remotely.
Several studies show that breathing clean air is good for your brain as well as your body. One study published in IZA World of Labor found that high levels of outdoor particulate pollution led to significant decreases in worker productivity at a call center.
“Even if your health isn’t compromised to the point where you need to take a day off from work, small changes in your well-being, like watery eyes, a runny nose, or a scratchy throat, can worsen your productivity,” says Matthew Neidell, the lead researcher of the study and an associate professor of health policy and management at Columbia University.
And he says that improving your indoor air pollution by 50 to 80 percent—which we know is doable using an air purifier with a HEPA filter—would have a real impact. “You should certainly see people improving their productivity with drops like that,” Neidell says.
The top models in our air purifier ratings are great for large rooms or an open-plan living space—but probably overkill for a 150-square-foot room (the average size of an office).
“The ideal air purifier for an office is one that is physically small and performs adequately at low speeds because no one wants to work in a racket,” says Dave Trezza, CR’s lead tester for air purifiers. “Since the office is a smaller space, even models that don’t top our ratings chart will do well and save you some money.”
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3M Filtrete FAP-C03-A2 (Lowes)
CR’s take: The 3M Filtrete FAP-C03-A2 looks like a paper shredder and will fit nicely underneath your desk. On its low-speed setting, this model garners a Good rating for its ability to remove smoke and dust particles from the air. It’s also whisper-quiet. At high speed, it works even better, earning a Very Good rating for particle reduction. But it is a bit loud. While its purchase price is reasonable, you’ll pay around $30 for filter replacements annually and, if you work from home, $76 per year for electricity to run the machine (we calculate this based on using it 24 hours a day)—that’s a relatively high annual cost compared with similar models.
Honeywell AirGenius 5 HFD-320
CR’s take: The Honeywell AirGenius 5 HFD-320 looks like a space heater tower, so it’ll be right at home in your office. It’s one of the few models we test with a washable main filter, which saves you money because you don’t have to buy replacement HEPA filters. But if your office is at home, expect to pay about $40 per year for the electricity to run it. This model garners a Good rating for removing smoke and dust particles at its low speed and a Very Good rating for noise. It performs better in our particle reduction test at high speed and scores a Good rating for noise—it isn’t especially quiet, but it is among the quietest of the air purifiers we test.
CR’s take: In our tests, the Winix 5300-2, which is the size of a carry-on suitcase, gets an Excellent rating for particle reduction at high speed. Most models that ace this test do so while making a good deal of noise, but not this one. The Winix earns a Very Good rating for noise on both high- and low-speed settings, making it the quietest model in our ratings. It earns only a Fair rating for removing particles at low speed, but because it’s so quiet overall, you can run it on its top-performing high speed without the noise. The annual cost for energy use if you work from home is a very reasonable $10, but filter replacements will run you about $80 per year.