Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Asthma Health Center

Font Size

Are Home Air Cleaners Worth the Money?

Consumer Reports Rates Popular Home Air Cleaners
By
WebMD Health News

Sept. 6, 2005 - The product testing group Consumers Union says even the best home air cleaners may not be worth the money when it comes to improving your health.

In a report published in the October issue of its magazine, Consumer Reports, the group rated the effectiveness of the popular room air cleaners and whole-house air cleaning devices. Though a few performed well, many air cleaners tested, especially room models, scored fair or poor in at least one of the group's four cleaning tests for dust and smoke.

Some of the best selling tabletop models, including those marketed by Sharper Image and Oreck, were rated as "not recommended" by the testing group. Both models were "ionizing" air cleaners that use electrostatic precipitators to trap air pollutants.

Consumers Union Vice President and Technical Director Jeff Asher, PhD, says the cleaners that performed the worst either had no fan to move air through the device or had fans that were inadequate.

"If an electronic precipitator has a small fan or no fan at all, it is probably not a good bet for removing particulates from the air," he says.

The tabletop models that had strong fans were noisier than the other models, but they also tended to work better, Asher says.

Continuing Battle

In an October 2003 report, Consumers Union researchers concluded that many of these devices do a much poorer job of cleaning the air of dust and smoke than their advertising suggests. The report led to a lawsuit against the consumer group by Sharper Image Corp, which makes the top-selling Sharper Image Professional Series Ionic Breeze Quadra SI737 (and its similar S1637 model).

The suit was dismissed on First Amendment grounds in 2004, and in May of this year Consumers Union came out with a report questioning the safety of many table-top air cleaners, including the Ionic Breeze.

The testing group contended that the product, along with a few other tabletop air cleaners, emitted harmful levels of ozone, which can actually aggravate allergies and asthma.

Sharper Image is now offering a catalyst for the Ionic Breeze Quadra SI637 designed to reduce ozone. Consumers Union is in the process of testing the updated device.

"But even if it reduces ozone, you'd still have an air cleaner that does little to clean the air," the newest report states.

Manufacturer Responds

In a statement released in April, Sharper Image founder and CEO Richard Thalheimer defended the Ionic Breeze, noting that the product was rated highest in customer satisfaction in an independent survey of air cleaner owners.

"I am at a loss to explain the motivations behind what I perceive as an unfair assault by the Consumers Union, an organization we admired," he wrote. "... There should be no question that the Ionic Breeze is a proven effective air cleaner."

When Is Your Asthma Worse?

When Is Your Asthma Worse?

Take the WebMD Asthma assessment to get Personalized Action Plan

Start Now

Today on WebMD

Distressed woman
Slideshow
Woman holding an asthma inhaler
Article
 
Get Personalized Asthma Advice
Health Check
asthma overview
Slideshow
 
Los Angeles skyline in smog
Slideshow
man in a field with allergies
Slideshow
 
Woman holding inhaler
VIDEO
Slideshow Allergy Myths and Facts
Slideshow
 
Man outdoors coughing
Article
Lung and bronchial tube graphic
Article
 
10 Worst Asthma Cities
Slideshow
runner
Article