Looking for a relief from allergies and asthma? Many people have turned to searching for air cleaners (also known as air purifiers), one of the three air improvement strategies discussed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). However, as soon as you start your search, it’s painfully obvious how many choices there are when it comes to air cleaners. Here’s our buyer’s guide that compares the important factors of the two major types of air cleaners:

  • Portable, which you can place in any room of your home.
  • Whole-home, which are installed into your HVAC system’s return ductwork.

Cleaning coverage While some portable air cleaners can be sized for larger rooms, they can still only clean one room at a time (typically the bedroom or living room) The cleaning coverage of whole-home is unmatched because it cleans all of the air that goes through your supply duct and recirculates it back into your home.

Winner: Whole-home

Price Portable air cleaners usually cost less than whole-home air cleaners. However, if your allergies are really bad or you have multiple allergy sufferers in your home, you might want multiple air cleaners in various rooms of your home. But buying multiple high quality portable cleaners, wouldn’t be as cost efficient as a whole-home air cleaner.

Winner: Depends on your needs. While more people can afford portable air cleaners, severe allergy or asthma sufferers save money by installing one whole-home instead of multiple portable air cleaners.

Installation difficulty There’s not much “installation” involved with portable air cleaners. You plug it in, and you’re good to go. However, a whole-home air cleaner needs a professional to install it into your duct system in order for it to work correctly, adding to the upfront cost.

Winner: Portable

Maintenance Most whole-home and portable air cleaners have filters to replace. Generally, whole-home air filters require more work to replace the filters, but you have to replace them less often. The inverse is true for portable air cleaners which are easier to replace, but you need to change them more often. Of course, this varies from brand to brand, so it’s hard to say which one is absolutely better.

Winner: Draw

Noise level According to the EPA, tests by Consumer Union found that “the largest portable air cleaners were the noisiest on their most effective high speed settings.” Whole-home air cleaners are quieter because they’re in your air ducts and don’t have a noisy fan unit.

Winner: Whole-home

Space taken up in your home Space is more of an issue than you think, especially with some of the larger stand-up air cleaners. If you have multiple portable units, you’ll have more to vacuum around and they could hurt the aesthetics of your home. Whole-home units are conveniently located in your air ducts, so they’re out of sight and out of mind.

Winner: Whole-home

Need more information? After you determine if you want a portable or whole home air cleaner, you need to find the filtration type that fights the allergens that trigger your allergies. Learn more about air cleaner filtration types by reading this guide from the EPA: Residential Air Cleaners (Second Edition): A Summary of Available Information. 

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