BBB: 3 tips for buying an air purifier

Milwaukee, Wis. – Concern over air quality, combined with an anticipated increase in time spent indoors because of weather and coronavirus, is leading people to some creative solutions for better indoor air quality. While some people have taped furnace filters to box fans and other solutions they may have read online, many have invested in more traditional solutions, such as purchasing an air filter or purifier. 

One option is upgrading the air filter in the furnace or heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) unit. HVAC and furnace filters are relatively inexpensive and are typically replaced at least semi-annually. Upgrading to a higher quality filter can provide the benefit of better indoor air quality.

However, some might not have access to the HVAC filter or want a more active filtering option. Portable air purifiers (also known as air cleaners) may assist in these situations.

Portable air purifiers are easy to install by plugging the unit into an electric socket, available with many types of filtering options, and operate whenever they’re turned on. Yet, because air purifiers are new to many people and the sector is experiencing a relatively new demand for such products, many people aren’t sure where to look.

According to the EPA, while air purifiers or filters can remove viruses, by itself, the devices cannot protect people from exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19. The EPA does say that using air purifiers, or opening the windows, can be useful in collaboration with the CDC’s recommendations. It is also important to note that neither of these options will eliminate all the air pollutants or viruses in your home.

Here’s what to consider when choosing a portable air purifier:

1) Ask the question, “what type of air purifier do I need?” There is a large variety of types of filters that address different needs. Some air purifiers use a High-Efficiency Particulate Air rated filter or HEPA filter, which is a type of filter that claims to remove at least 99.97% of any airborne particles. Other units might add multiple filter layers to address odors. Some portable air purifiers even use heat or ultraviolet light to kill particles within the air. A little research online can show you what might be the best option for your needs.

2) Research and determine the best spot for the unit. Portable air purifiers are designed to purify the air in one room. While many use them in their bedroom to help with air quality while sleeping, some might prefer one in their living space or office to help with cognitive function. Most air purifier listings online and on the packaging will tell you the recommended room size and how often the unit will run. Consider the noise levels in relation to where the unit will go. For example, if you would like one for a bedroom, it might be preferable that does not have a loud fan.

3) Think about the long-term costs. Consider the cost of replacing the filters and running the air purifier. Some portable purifiers have multiple filters that can get expensive to replace. It is also a good idea to also consider the costs of electricity to run the unit. It could be surprising how different the long-term costs of a purifier might be.

BBB offers these tips to find a trusted company when purchasing an air purifier:

  • Research reviews for companies online. Read beyond the personal reviews or testimonials on a company’s website. Look at reviews on to gain a broader picture of a company’s overall reputation before purchasing.
  • Beware of prices that seem too good to be true. Scammers often lure in their victims with prices they don’t want to pass up, but you might end up paying for an air cleaner that never arrives, or the unit you receive might be different from what you purchased.
  • Confirm the company’s physical address. Some websites may list a fake address, and others might not list an address at all. If you’re unable to confirm the company’s physical address, it could be a scam.
  • Pay with a credit card or another secure payment method. It’s possible that you could follow all the tips and still fall victim to a scam. There is more protection using a credit card or some other form of secure payment.
  • Check with BBB. Find trustworthy companies at

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Report scams to BBB Scam Tracker.For more information or further inquiries, contact the Wisconsin BBB at, 414-847-6000 or 1-800-273-1002. Consumers also can find more information about how to protect themselves from scams by following the Wisconsin BBB on FacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube.