Air Purifier Promises

FRESNO, Calif.

People spend more than $500 million a year on air purifiers. Consumer reports just tested 21 from companies like Whirlpool, Holmes, and Honeywell.

Testers use a special chamber to assess each unit. In one test, they fill the chamber with fine, powdered clay dust. In another test, cigarette smoke is used. Then testers measure how quickly each air cleaner removes the particles from the air.

Some expensive ones had problems. This $400 Oreck air cleaner didn't do a good job at cleaning the air and also produced low levels of ozone. That's a respiratory irritant! And this $400 Lightair Ionflow did an even worse job of cleaning the air.

"The IonFlow air cleaner was about as effective at removing dust and smoke as having no air cleaner at all," John Galeotafiore said.

In fact, unless you have asthma or allergies, you probably don't need an air cleaner at all. If you do suffer from a respiratory condition, consumer reports says there are steps you can take before buying one.

"If you have respiratory problems, put dust mite covers on your mattress and pillows. Remove any wall-to-wall carpeting, and don't let any pets into your bedroom."

If you still have symptoms after taking these measures, consumer reports did find some air purifiers that performed very well.

This $300 whirlpool is top-rated. It's very quiet and has a filter-replacement indicator, which is a very helpful feature.

If you have a forced-air heating or cooling system in your home, you can replace the system's filter with a whole-house filter.

These are supposed to be more effective against dust, smoke and pollen. Consumer reports evaluated several of these. Top rated is one from 3M, the Filtrete Elite Allergen 2200, which costs $25.

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