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What to look for when buying an air purifier for your family, according to experts

Looking for an air purifier? Here's what to keep in mind.
father and child in living room with air purifier and dog
/ Source: TODAY

Even though you can't see them, there can be plenty of particles floating through the air in your family's home at any given moment. Whether you're dealing with excess dust and allergens or are concerned about bacteria and viruses, an air purifier can help filter your indoor air and make breathing a bit easier.

Finding one that works for your family's needs and budget isn't exactly easy, so Shop TODAY consulted medical experts for their insight.

How to shop for an air purifier

Not sure where to start your air purifier search? It helps to understand what they do in the first place.

"The most basic and effective air purifiers typically consist of a fan and a filter of some kind. The fan moves air from the room through the filter/air cleaner installed in the device," said Brent Stephens, professor and department chair in the department of civil, architectural and environmental engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Most air purifiers filter a wide variety of air particles, including outdoor particles that find their way inside and indoor particles generated by people, pets and appliances.

"Particles may include anything ranging from dust, fungi and fibers to bacteria, viruses and allergens," said Richard Shaughnessy, director of research and manager of The University of Tulsa's indoor air program.

An air purifier is only as good as its filters, and the experts Shop TODAY talked to all suggested looking for a purifier with a HEPA filter.

"HEPA filters are supposed to be able to remove 99.97% of particles measuring 0.3 microns in diameter," said Dr. Angela Wang, a pulmonologist based in California.

Why are air purifiers a good idea for families?

Keeping an air purifier on hand isn't a bad idea if you've got a few kiddos running around.

"Children face additional risks from air pollution because their lungs are growing and because they are very active and breathe large amounts of air," Stephens told Shop TODAY. "Air pollution has been associated with reduced lung growth in children, respiratory symptoms and other effects."

If you want your purifier to work properly, make sure to replace the filters regularly and also take some time to consider where to place it in your home.

"I recommend HEPA air cleaner devices for children with allergies, particularly to use in a bedroom or rooms that a child spends a lot of time in," said Dr. Marianna Sockrider, chief of pulmonary clinics at Texas Children's Hospital. "You have to match the air cleaner capacity to the size of the room. You also have to keep it running and do proper maintenance to clean filters."

Air Purifiers to Try:

Looking for an air purifier for your family? The options below are certified by either the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers or the California Air Resources Board.

1. GermGuardian Air Purifier with True HEPA Filter and UV-C Sanitizer

GermGuardian's air purifier has five speed settings (including a quiet mode that's perfect for nurseries) and a HEPA filter that handles dust, pollen, dander, spores and allergens with ease. Plus, it's got a UV-C light that helps remove viruses, germs and bacteria from the air.

2. Bissell MYair Purifier

This affordable purifier is nice and compact, so it's perfect for storing in a nursery, a kid's room or any number of spots in your family's home. It features a three-in-one HEPA filter, a fan with low and sleep modes, and an optional night light.

3. Blueair Blue Pure 411 Air Purifier

In order to be effective, air purifiers have to run regularly — and that can eat up a lot of energy. Luckily, this one from Blueair is Energy Star rated and also eco-friendly thanks to its recyclable filters. The activated carbon filter traps odors and a washable pre-filter keeps other small particles like dust and pet hair from floating around.

4. Partu HEPA Air Purifier

With so many kids starting the school year off at home, a pint-sized air purifier that fits on their desk isn't a bad idea. PARTU's compact purifier has a three-stage filtration system that features a pre-filter, a HEPA filter and an activated carbon filter, and it sucks up particles as small as 0.3 microns. There's also a fragrance sponge located right below the air outlet, so you can add essential oils to make your home smell and feel clean.

5. Levoit Air Purifier with H13 True HEPA Filter

Levoit's popular air purifier has an impressive 4.7-star rating on Amazon and works in rooms up to 300 square feet in size. The energy-efficient purifier is compact and has a built-in handle that makes it ideal if you plan on moving it into different rooms from time to time.

6. Medify Medical Grade HEPA Air Purifier

This affordable option from Medify has a medical-grade H13 filter and can clean up to 470 square feet in an hour. It also has three fan speeds and a lifetime warranty on manufacturer defects.

7. Winix 5300-2 Air Purifier with True HEPA

The activated carbon filter in this Amazon bestseller reduces volatile organic compounds (VOCs), household odors and airborne particles, while the HEPA filter traps airborne allergens and smoke. Winix's air purifier also features PlasmaWave air cleaning technology that helps filter out airborne bacteria and viruses.

8. Dyson Pure Hot + CoolHEPA Air Purifier

Ready to splurge on a multitasking air purifier for your family? Dyson's hot/cool model doubles as an air purifier and a heater/fan. The sealed HEPA filter traps airborne particles while a built-in air quality sensor automatically adjusts the fan speed. It's particularly useful for removing common allergens, mold spores and dust.

9. Filtrete Extra Large Room Air Purifier Console

Have a large gathering area in your home where the family tends to congregate? This extra-large air purifier from Filtrete cleans rooms up to 370 square feet with the help of a HEPA filter that tackles 97% of airborne particles like bacteria, viruses, dust, mold and pollen. Other useful features include a filter change indicator that alerts you when it's time for a new filter and soft-touch controls that are easy to operate.

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