Where Should I Place My Air Purifier? A Pro Weighs In

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You've seen it all over your social feeds and on the local news (and perhaps even right outside your window). Thanks to the smoke from wildfires in Canada, a smoky orange haze has blanketed the tri-state area, and it's having a negative effect on the air quality in large parts of North America, including Boston, Philadelphia and New York City.

Earlier this week, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation issued an Air Quality Health Advisory, noting that the pollutant of concern is fine particulate matter—microscopic particles that, according to research, can lead to serious health problems like decreased lung function and irregular heartbeat.

That's where a home air purifier comes in. And whether you’re on the hunt for a new air purifier to keep the air in your home clean or trying to figure out how and where to set it up, we've got you covered. Let’s dive in, shall we, and answer the age-old of question of “where should I place my air purifier?”

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1. First things first: What is an air purifier?

An air purifier is essentially a machine (which can vary greatly in size) designed to remove contaminants and impurities from the air, thus making the air cleaner, better-smelling and all-around more breathable.

Most air purifiers work by using a filter to suck in and trap these contaminants. You’ll often see these referred to as HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters, which means they trap 99.9 percent of particles that are .01 microns or larger—think allergens, pet dander, dust and other forms of pollution. Other non-HEPA purifiers use other technologies to kill (rather than trap) pollutants and germs.

2. Do I need to choose a specific air purifier for specific rooms in my house?

We checked in with Yan Zhang, the CEO of Airdog, an air purifier that uses patented, active filtration TPA technology. According to Zhang, “When choosing an air purifier, you should consider the room size and CADR (clean air delivery rate). Usually, each purifier has its own applicable area. For example, our X5 air purifier is recommended for 400 square feet of room, and the X8 air purifier is recommended for 1,000 square feet of room.”

However, Zhang is quick to note that “CADR is just a symbol of how fast an air purifier could clean the room.” So, while most air purifier companies will recommend that you use one of their larger models to clean, say, a 400-square-foot room, it doesn’t mean that said model cannot clean a 1,000-square-foot room. “It just takes longer time to clean.” Bottom line? “At this time when air pollution is more serious than ever, due to the occurrence of wildfire and spreading of viruses, higher CADR is recommended,” says Zhang.

3. Speaking of viruses, can air purifiers clean the air of COVID-19?

Maybe. As we increasingly see evidence that COVID can linger in the air, there’s a case to be made that filters can capture the virus (which is .125 microns) effectively. But, according to a July 2020 article in Wirecutter, “that doesn’t necessarily mean an air purifier will protect you.” In fact, “as of June 16, 2020, the position of the CDC is that the coronavirus is primarily transmitted by person-to-person contact and by contact with virus-laden droplets expelled through coughing and sneezing.” In sum, it’s probably a good idea to use an air purifier in poorly ventilated spaces with a risk of transmission, but your most important defenses against COVID are still mask-wearing, social distancing and hand-washing.

4. OK, where should I place my air purifier?

According to Zhang, you should place your purifier in a free airflow area, at least 1.6 feet away from a wall, in order to allow it room to catch all the particles in the air. Be sure to keep it out of the way of furniture and tight corners, although many folks do opt to position theirs near a doorway, in order to catch incoming pollutants that come through as the door is opened and closed.

Want to elevate your air purifier off the ground? That’s totally fine, as long as there’s still a few feet of clearance above it (so air can flow in easily).

It’s also totally OK to place your purifier nearest to the place where you’re most concerned about air quality—whether that’s a funky-smelling spot in the kitchen (yes, some purifiers are designed to eliminate odors) or a musty bedroom that’s exacerbating your spouse’s asthma.

5. How do I choose the right machine for the job?

It might seem like common sense, but Zhang reiterates that you should think about why you want an air purifier before you buy one, then search for a model that addresses your specific needs. “If it’s for formaldehyde or TOVCs removal, you should look at the performance of the formaldehyde and TOVCs removal capability. If it’s for smoke, wildfire and pollutants, the CADR value is a very important parameter for you to look at. If you are concerned about the air contamination, like viruses, then you should look at the active air filtration rather than the traditional passive filtration.” 

6. Got any air purifier recommendations?

Of course we do! If odor elimination is your top concern, we highly recommend the Levoit Smoke And Odor Eliminator ($179). It can accommodate up to 900 square feet and can remove unwanted odors like smoke and lingering food smells. It also removes 99.97 percent of dust, mites and pet dander, and thanks to its slim shape, it's discreet enough for open areas.

If you're more concerned about purifying your entire home, try Alen Breathesmart's Large Room Air Purifier ($788), which accommodates up to 1,300 feet. The HEPA filter captures up to 99.99 percent of dust, mold, bacteria, chemicals and more. (FYI, Prime members get free Prime delivery, which means it would only take two days to get your purifier.)

But for those who need a solid purifier for smaller spaces, the Molekule Air Mini+ ($499) is your best bet. Not only does it boast a sleek design, but it also includes an air quality sensor and speed control. This purifier accommodates up to 250 square feet, and according to the official website, buyers can get new filters auto-delivered every 6 months.

For more options, take a look at our list of the 12 best home air purifiers, then read up to see if a hand-held travel air purifier can actually get the job done.

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Associate Editor, News and Entertainment

Nakeisha has been interviewing celebrities and covering all things entertainment for over 8 years, but she has also written on a wide range of topics, like career...