Best Air Purifiers in Canada (2020 Reviews)


Mark Weir

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Quick overview

Canadians spend most of their time indoors and according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the concentrations of some pollutants are often 2 to 5 times higher indoors than outdoors.

Homes are built to be increasingly energy-efficient, but the air-tightness required for windows and doors can also trap in unwanted pollutants when there isn’t sufficient ventilation or air exchange.

Pollutants such as pollen, dust mites, dander, mold, smoke from tobacco, cooking, or wood-burning as well as gases from cleaning products, pesticides, furnishings and building materials all have negative effects on human health and have recommended exposure limits. Fine particles that are 10 μm (micrometer or micron) or less in diameter are a significant concern because they can get trapped in the lungs and cause aggravation, asthma attacks and are linked to reduced lung function.

A study done in Vancouver, BC looked at the cardiovascular health effects of HEPA filtration in areas affected by traffic-related air pollution and residential wood burning. They found a 40% decrease in the concentration of indoor PM2.5 (2.5 micrometers or less) and improvements in cardiovascular health markers. That said, the health benefits reported in studies have been inconsistent and there are few long-term studies so the link between purifiers and health benefits is not yet definitive.

If you spend a lot of time indoors, live in an area that suffers from poor air quality or have health conditions or severe allergies that make you more sensitive to mold, dust, dander or pollen, the best ways to improve indoor air quality are to remove the pollutant sources and increase ventilation to bring in clean outdoor air.

This includes:

  • Replacing or upgrading your furnace filter
  • Vacuuming
  • Using exhaust fans in kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms
  • Reduce chemical use, store them outside
  • Opening windows
  • Installing a heat recovery ventilator
  • Not allowing pets in the bedroom
  • Adding a portable air purifier

How does an air purifier work?

An air purifier is essentially a vacuum cleaner for the air. It cleans the air you breathe by using a fan to pull it through a filter that catches airborne particles. Purifiers only remove particles that are floating in the air. Larger pollutants such as mites and mold are heavier and settle to the ground so quickly that they aren’t all caught in time. However, fans, HVAC and your own movement will stir up particles from the ground to give the purifier another chance.

When comparing their effectiveness, there are two main factors to consider: Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) and High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) grade.

What is the Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR)?

Clean air delivery rate is an air filter performance metric that combines the volume of air per minute (or airflow) and the percentage of particles removed from the air (or efficiency). It is calculated by multiplying the air flow rate through the filter in cubic feet per minute (CFM) by the fraction of particles that the filter catches. The higher the number, the more efficient the purifier is at cleaning the air in your home.

By combining both into one score, consumers can avoid devices that have a great quality filter, but don’t process air fast enough or move a high volume of air but aren’t actually cleaning the air.

For example, if a purifier moves 200 CFM of air and removes 75% of the particles, the CADR would be 150.

Smoke, pollen and dust are tested and given separate CADR scores.

  • Excellent – 240
  • Very Good – 240 to 180
  • Good – 179 to 120
  • Fair – 119 to 60
  • Poor – Under 60

The standard was developed and maintained by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) which determines which third-party testing labs can issue the certification/AHAM seal.

What is a HEPA grade filter?

An air filter that has been manufactured, tested, certified, and labeled in accordance with the high-efficiency particulate air industry-standard removes at least 99.97% of particles from the air that are at least 0.3 micrometers in diameter.

They are used across residential, commercial and industrial settings – including the manufacturing of sensitive products such as food, pharmaceuticals and medical devices.

For reference:

ParticleSize (microns)
Smoke0.01 to 4
Pollen10 to 1000
Dust0.05 to 100
Mold3 to 12
Bacteria1 to 10
Pet dander0.5 to 100

Note that “True HEPA” is a marketing term and simply means that the filter meets the HEPA standard. Terms like “HEPA-type,” “HEPA-like,” “HEPA-style” or “99% HEPA” do not satisfy the HEPA standard and may not have been tested in independent laboratories. While some may come reasonably close to HEPA standards, others fall significantly short.

While great at removing particles, they do not filter out gasses and odour molecules. Some purifiers have an activated carbon (charcoal) pre-filter that can remove volatile organic compounds, vapours, pet, flatulence and cigarette odours from the air.

Best air purifiers of 2020

Our research

5

Research Sources

30

Products Evaluated

18k+

Reviews Considered

9

Hours of Research

Best air purifiers comparison

Levoit LV-H132Winix 5500-2Hamilton Beach TruAirRabbit Air MinusA2GermGuardian AC4300Coway AP-1512HHLevoit LV-PUR131Blue Pure 211+
Best forSmall roomsMoldReusable filterApartmentsValueDustLarge roomsSmoke
Coverage (sq ft)129360160815153360360540
Noise (dBA)25 to 5028 to 58up to 6025.6 to 51.3Up to 5524.4 to 53.827 to 5231 to 56
CADR (Smoke/Pollen/Dust)110/110/110232/245/243Not rated180/200/19399/116/107233/240/246106/131/101350/350/350
Power (Watts)287010025.6 to 615277.83860
Filtration stages33163433
True HEPAXX
IonizerXXXXX
UV-C LightXXXXXXX
TimerXXXX
Price$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
Weight (lbs)6.615.4719.49.4612.315.213
Dimensions (inches)14.7 x 9.8 x 9.715 x 8.2 x 23.613.5 x 8.5 x 624 x 22.8 x 1022.6 x 13.7 x 55.916.8 x 18.3 x 9.614.5 x 18.75 x 7.113 x 13 x 20.4
Warranty1-year1-year limited1-year limited5-year3-year3-year2-years3-years
Total Reviews1,1455,7204,7691,1501,0522,0871,0641,317
Aggregate rating4.64.64.24.74.54.64.64.5

Best for small rooms – Levoit LV-H132 Air Purifier

Pros

  • Super-quiet on lowest setting
  • Ideal for smaller rooms
  • Portable
  • Excellent value for money
  • Simple controls

Cons

  • 46 dB on highest setting (running refrigerator)
  • Approximately $30 for a replacement filter
  • Only 1-year warranty

This is simple to operate. It has a nightlight button, an on/off setting, a filter indicator (expect to replace it every 6 to 8 months), and 3 fan speed settings. Some reviewers say that even with the nightlight feature off, the unit still gives off too much light.

You might think this is a bit basic, but that is part of its appeal. It purifies the air in 3 stages: a pre-filter, True HEPA and activated carbon. It runs at an ultra-quiet 25 db for nighttime use and has an easy to access filter.

This purifier is unobtrusive, portable, easy to use, affordable, and it supports your family’s health inside your home.

Best for mold – Winix 5500-2 Air Purifier with True HEPA

Pros

  • True HEPA filter
  • Traps dangerous mold spores
  • PlasmaWave breaks down pollutants
  • 27.8 dB
  • Ideal for medium-sized rooms

This one employs PlasmaWave technology to break down odour, allergens, spores and other pollutants that linger in the air and create odours.

This device covers rooms up to 360 square feet, so it handles larger rooms, and has a whisper-quiet night mode for use in the bedroom. 

It also has a filter warning light that tells you when it needs changing. Keeping your filters clean is crucial if you want to keep the air clean. 

Other than the slightly higher than average price, the PlasmaWave ionizing technology does produce minute amounts of ozone which can cause breathing issues. That said, Winix’s products are compliant with the standard of the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and only emit ozone at concentrations less than 0.05 parts per million (ppm).

Best reusable filter – TruAir Air Purifier by Hamilton Beach

Pros

  • Permanent reusable filter
  • Can be vacuum cleaned
  • Excellent value for money
  • Ideal for bedrooms and offices
  • Ultra-quiet

Cons

  • 1-year warranty
  • Non-HEPA quality filter

The controls are simplicity itself. A single dial controls the on/off function and the 3 speed settings for the fan. That’s it! And the filter casing removes so that you can get the vacuum cleaner in there to remove all the particles from the filter safely. This saves you spending out a lot of money to buy replacement filters. 

The filter is non-HEPA grade, so not as effective the others on this list, but it still captures 99% of dander and particles and spores from the atmosphere. That should be enough to satisfy most users.

It sits vertically or horizontally and is compact, so it shouldn’t take up too much space on your desk. This purifier is effective when used in the bedroom, the office, or even the college dorm. 

The only downside other than the quality of the filter is the warranty, which only covers you for 1-year, which is shorter than the 3 years that seems to be the industry average.

Best for pets – Rabbit Air MinusA2 SPA-780A

Pros

  • Effective against odor and pet dander 
  • Freestanding or wall mounted
  • 24/7 technical support
  • Smartphone controlled
  • 5-year warranty
  • 6 purification stages

Cons

  • Very expensive
  • Replacement filters cost approximately $100
  • Settings are confusing

This is a world away from the Levoit in terms of simplicity and available features. It also has the strictest filtration process of any of the purifiers featured. This makes it the ideal candidate if you have pets and want to control dander and odors. 

The 6-stage filtration process on this purifier is impressive. You get a pre-filter, a medium filter, a HEPA filter, a customized filter to capture toxins and remove odor and pet dander, an activated carbon filter, and a negative ions filter. 

It has an air quality indicator to tell you exactly how clean the air is so you can relax knowing your family is protected. It also has a filter replacement indicator. On top of that, it has a mood light, an auto pollen sensor, and a negative ions button (this is an optional setting that may produce ozone). 

Negative ions attach themselves to positive airborne particles, making them too heavy to float in the air and they fall to the floor to get vacuumed away.

And the fact you can control this purifier from anywhere means that you can put the kids to bed and start the purifier from the comfort of your chair when they are asleep. However, all this technology and the largest coverage area on this list comes at a very steep price.

Best for allergies – GermGuardian AC4300 Air Purifier

Pros

  • Added bacteria and virus protection
  • Energy Star rated
  • Excellent value for money
  • Activated charcoal filter removes odours
  • 3-year warranty for peace of mind

Cons

This one also has 3 layers: the pre-filter to trap large parties and extend the life of the True HEPA, and an activated charcoal layer. It only covers 153 sq.ft., but it’s an ideal choice for the bedroom or dorm room. 

If you are looking for added security against allergies, this model is equipped with a UV-C light specifically designed to kill airborne viruses and allergens. It also has an antimicrobial agent applied to inhibit the growth of bacterial and mildew on the its surface. 

It is a quiet purifier, generating whisper-like white noise that could even aid sleep.

We chose this as the best for value, not because it was the cheapest but because for the money you spend, it competes well with the others on the list.

Best for large rooms – Levoit LV-PUR131 Air Purifier

Pros

  • H13 True HEPA
  • Intelligent sensors
  • Ultra-quiet
  • Energy Star certified

Cons

While it is rated for 360 sq. ft, it can clean a massive 900 sq. ft. over the course of an hour 1 hour or 500 sq. ft. of space in 33 minutes.

It also has intelligent sensors, an auto-mode, and is ultra-efficient with energy usage. It operates at 27 dB in the lowest fan setting and you can turn off the LED light so you can have it running in the bedroom or nursery without causing a disturbance. 

This purifier provides solid performance and features for a good price.

Best for smoke – Blue Pure 211+ Air Purifier

Pros

  • Very high 350 CADR
  • 3-stage filtration
  • 2 washable pre-filters
  • Energy Star rated
  • Quiet operation for nighttime use

Cons

  • Not a True HEPA filter
  • Pricey
  • 1-year warranty

This one captures wildfire smoke and neutralizes it! If it can handle that, it is going to filter out tobacco smoke easily. It also has an activated carbon filter that absorbs smoke odors, so it leaves the room smelling fresh. 

It has 3-stage filtration that consists of a pre-filter to capture large particles, an activated carbon filter, and a particle filter using their HEPASilent™ technology that removes 99% of common airborne PM2.5 particles that are 2.5 microns in diameter and smaller such as allergens, mold and dust mites.

It is AHAM rated for 540 sq. ft. of coverage making it great for use in large kitchens, living rooms and offices.

It operates at 31 dB (library) when on the lowest fan speed, which makes it an ideal purifier for overnight use in the bedroom. It is also Energy Star rated, using just 60 watts.

Best for dust – Coway AP-1512HH Air Purifier

Pros

  • True HEPA filter
  • Dust CADR of 246
  • Automatic air flow adjustment
  • 4-stage filtration

Cons

  • Very expensive

This filter scores impressive CADRs of 233 to 246 and covers a room size of 360 sq. ft.

The 4-stage filtration includes a washable pre-filter, an odour (carbon) filter, a True HEPA, and an ionizer to clean and freshen the air using negative ions (which, again, may product small amounts of ozone). The airflow speed can be set to adjust automatically based on the air quality detected by the sensors or you can set a one of 3 speeds on a 1, 4, 8 or 12 hours timer.

This model is a stylish, low-profile purifier that fits most modern decors. It runs at 24.4 dB on the lowest fan speed, so you can place it in your children’s bedroom without disturbing them. 

Bottom line

Levoit LV-H132Winix 5500-2Hamilton Beach TruAirRabbit Air MinusA2GermGuardian AC4300Coway AP-1512HHLevoit LV-PUR131Blue Pure 211+
Value53424353
Ease of use54534444
Support33354434
Features45453543
Cansumer Rating4.33.843.83.8443.5

What to consider when looking for an air purifier 

Certifications

Energy Star

The Energy Star logo indicates that the purifier is 40% more energy efficient than a standard model which is important if you intend to run the unit 24/7.

AHAM Verifide

The seal indicates that the unit has been voluntarily tested to confirm its Clean Air Delivery Rate and recommended room size by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers. Units with this mark can be compared by these metrics. Be wary of claims made of these metrics for units without the seal. They should not be compared head-to-head.

Filter type

Mechanical

Air is forced through a dense mesh of fibres by the air cleaner’s fans. They range from washable foam pre-filters that only catch larger particles to pleated HEPA filters that capture 99.97% of particles that are at least 0.3 micrometers in diameter.

They do not filter odours or gases and need to be replaced every 6 to 12 months or so , depending on what type they are, where you live and how you live. If you live in the city, near polluted roads, have pets or live near a smoker, you are going to swap the filters more frequently. They can cost of $5 to $100 to replace.

Activated carbon

Activated carbon (charcoal) filters are made of granulated or powdered block carbon that has been treated with oxygen to make it more porous and give it a high surface area that can absorb some odour-causing molecules.

They are often used in air purifiers to complement a HEPA filter’s particle catching abilities in order to trap odours, smoke and some volatile organic compounds (VOC) that the HEPA might miss.

They are not effective for radon, formaldehyde, ammonia, or nitrogen oxide and need to be replaced every 3 to 6 months at a cost of $40 to $60 each.

Ozone generators

We do not recommend purifiers that rely primarily on ozone-generating methods, but some come with optional functions that produce trace amounts of ozone which should be left unused.

While ozone is a naturally occurring gas found in the upper atmosphere that is necessary for life on earth, it is also created at ground level when sunlight reacts with air pollution and is one of the components of smog.

Health Canada advises against using indoor air cleaners that generate ozone in your home to prevent. Their residential indoor air quality guideline recommends a maximum exposure limit of an average of 20 parts per billion (ppb) over an 8 hour period. While levels in most Canadian homes are are under this limit, additional indoor ozone generation increases the risk of overexposure.

For reference, California Air Resources Board (CARB) requires that purifiers only emit ozone at concentrations less than 0.05 ppb and the US Food and Drug Administration’s limit is 50 ppb for medical devices. This is 2.5 times the Health Canada level.

Acute exposure of healthy young adults has been found to result:

  • coughing
  • irritation of the:
    • eyes
    • nose
    • throat
  • chest discomfort
  • shortness of breath
  • decreased lung function

Prolonged exposure has been found to decrease lung function and increase respiratory symptoms including pain upon deep inhalation and worsening of asthma and bronchitis.

Electronic

Electrostatic precipitators (usually referred to as “ionizers”) are a type of filter that uses static electricity to charge fine particles in the air so that they stick to the plate or filter inside the purifier – removing them from the air.

We do not recommend them as they have the potential to produce trace amounts of ozone.

Ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI)

Another function some purifiers have is a built-in ultraviolet C (UV-C) light which they claim kills microorganisms (eg. bacteria, molds, viruses).

UV-C light is a form of radiation found in sunlight that can damage DNA (rendering microorganisms inactive) and sterilize surfaces. However, to be effective, the ‘dose’ of the UV light must be high enough. The lamp must be powerful enough and air must be exposed for long enough – minutes to hours rather than the less than a second of most portable air purifiers.

Some UV-C lamps also have the potential to produce trace amounts of produce ozone.

Low-pressure UV lamps emit radiation at 254 nm and also at 185 nm. 185 nm is the longest wavelength of mercury light which will ionize oxygen and produce ozone. In a process called photolysis, the light reacts with oxygen (O2) to break it into atomic oxygen, a highly unstable atom that combines with other oxygen molecules to form O3 (ozone). Lamps made of soft glass or regular quartz allow the 185 nm UVC to pass through.

UV-C has a wavelength of 100 to 280 nm 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, so light between 100 and 185 nm has the potential to produce ozone. However, some publications define Vacuum UV (UVV) as below 200 nm and UV-C as 200 to 280 nm. It is this discrepancy that leads some resources to claim that “UV-C” cannot produce ozone – which is only true if you assume the second definition.

Many UV-C air purifiers and germicidal lamps are doped with titanium to absorb the 185 nm emissions, but confirming this and its effectiveness can prove difficult.

For these reasons, we do not recommend purifiers with UV-C unless it is an optional feature.

Reusable

These filters last much longer. You can either wash or vacuum them to clean out the dust, pollen, dander and other debris that they have caught. If you are frugal and/or environmentally conscious you will like the fact that there is no ongoing need to buy replacement filters.

Some argue that by vacuuming the filter or washing it in soapy water, you do not entirely remove the contaminants and risk polluting the air in your home in the long run.

HEPA class

HEPA classRetention (averaged)
E10> 85%
E11> 95%
E12> 99.5%
H13> 99.95%
H14> 99.995%
U15> 99.9995%
U16> 99.99995%
U17> 99.999995%

(“True”) HEPA filters are very effective at removing contaminants from your home. They dramatically improve the air you breathe and reduce the risks you have of trapping particles that cause allergies and colds.  

Coverage area

Consider the space that you want it to purify. Most have a maximum coverage of about 200 to 300 square feet. Some will go as high as 800 square feet but when you go above that, you are talking about spending serious money, running into the thousands of dollars.

Noise levels

Credit: FAA

It might seem insignificant to talk about noise levels for small home appliances, many use their air purifiers around the clock and/or in the bedroom so it’s important to know that you’ll be able to live (and sleep) with it. Though some use the sound generated as an alternative to a white noise machine.

The decibel ratings for air purifiers differ significantly. As a rule of thumb, the larger the unit, the noisier it is.

The sound levels also vary by setting. For example, the Levoit purifier jumps from 25 dB at the lowest fan setting which is the equivalent of rustling leaves, up to 46 dB at the fastest setting roughly that of a running refrigerator.

To minimize noise, run the unit on high when you’re away and turn it down when you’re in the same room or purchase one that is able to cover a larger area than you need so you can run it on a lower setting around the clock.

Additional functions

Other features offered by some purifiers that may be of interest include: 

  • Washable pre-filter
  • Air quality sensors to tell you the air quality and expected time before the filter needs to be changed
  • Filter service indicator
  • Carrying handle and wheels
  • Timers so you can set and forget
  • Remote control
  • WiFi connectivity so that you can operate them with a smartphone app

Warranty

Warranties range from 1 to 5 years. The duration tells you how confident the manufacturer is with its product. A shorter warranty indicates a lack of confidence because they are not standing by their product and are quick to walk away. 

What are volatile organic compounds (VOC)?

Volatile organic compounds is the name given to a broad category of natural and human-made organic chemicals that exist in the form of gasses in the air inside our homes and can be virtually undetectable. They have a low boiling point at room temperature which causes them to quickly and easily evaporate from a liquid or solid form into the air and is why they are called “volatile”. Health Canada classifies VOCs as organic compounds that have boiling points roughly in the range of 50 to 250 °C (122 to 482 °F).

Most scents and odours are VOCs. They include emissions from the burning of wood, gas or tobacco, fumes from paint, cleaning products, hair spray and perfume and off-gassing from furnishings and building materials. One of the most common VOCs is formaldehyde which is a colourless gas with a sharp bitter smell found many building materials including plywood, glue, foam insulation and even drapes.

While most VOCs are present in small amounts inside a home, some are dangerous to human health. Short-term exposure to high levels can cause breathing issues, headaches, asthma and ear, nose and throat irritation. Chronic exposure to low levels can have long-term health effects, though researching their impact is difficult since the symptoms are slow to develop.

An active carbon filter can capture these gasses and absorb them, removing them from the air you breathe. 

What does air change per hour (ACH) mean?

Air changes per hour is the number of times an air purifier can cycle through a complete change of air in a given sized space in an hour. The more air changes it completes within that hour, the more effective the purifier can be at keeping your indoor air pollutant-free. 

It’s worth noting that you will never achieve the manufacturer’s ACH rating because they conduct their tests under ideal circumstances and frequently do so with the filters removed from the purifier. It increases the airflow, which pushes up the ACH rating.

With a filter in your machine, the ACH slows because it acts like a barrier to the free flow of air. 

What does cubic feet per minute mean?

Cubic feet per minute (CFM) is the measurement of air volume passing through your purifier. 

Much like air changes per hour, it is calculated under near perfect conditions by the manufacturers. The higher the CFM, the more efficient your machine is at purifying the air in the room. 

References

What to read next

Over to you

How would an air purifier improve your life? What parts of your home do you think need the cleanest air, and why? Let us know in the comments below!

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