I was prompted to write this review for two reasons: allergy season has kicked into full swing as I type this; and Consumer Reports magazine's May issue states that a previous air cleaner I reviewed can be harmful to your health. In Tape Op #25, I wrote about the Sharper Image Ionic Breeze air purifier, liking it for its absolutely-silent operation and its ability to keep dust out of my racks. To the contrary, Consumer Reports measured the Ionic Breeze's performance and stated that it's no better than gravity at removing particles from the air. I've been an avid subscriber to CR for 15 years, but I don't always agree with CR's lab results. For example, they recommend loudspeakers by comparing frequency response plots and bass measurements taken in an anechoic chamber-not how I'd choose a pair of speakers. Moreover, I purchased a washer and dryer based on an excellent rating in CR, but I doubt the machines were used with real loads outside of a lab, or CR might have noticed that the machines do a fantastic job of twisting clothing so tightly that the creases sometime become permanent (especially with jeans). But, if CR talks safety, I don't like taking chances. So I'd suggest that anyone with an ionizing air cleaner, like the Ionic Breeze, read the May issue of CR, and make sure you ventilate your room so that ozone doesn't build up to harmful levels.
Although ionizing cleaners are the only option if you need a portable, truly noise-free purifier, there are many choices if noise isn't an issue. A few years ago, I purchased two IQAir HealthPro air cleaners for my home, one with the Plus option. The regular HealthPro has a two-stage filter: a pre-filter for removing large particles, and a second "HyperHEPA" stage for particles down to 0.01 microns in size. The Plus model adds a third filter for removing gaseous chemicals and odors. I purchased the IQAir purifiers after doing extensive research, including talking to allergy sufferers and professional allergists. Each Spring, I suffer from allergies even when I'm inside a fairly clean room, and my symptoms always seem worse when I'm trying to sleep. With a HealthPro running in my bedroom for a few hours before I get into bed and throughout the night, my symptoms pretty much disappear.
A number of the HealthPro's design traits are worth mentioning. The purifier is almost 3 ft high, and because air and dust enter near the bottom and clean air exits out of the top, it's very efficient at circulating air. Each of the modular filter stages is easily replaceable, and the more expensive HyperHEPA and gas filters don't need to be replaced as often as the pre-filter. (The expected lifespan of the HyperHEPA filter is 2-4 years, and a digital readout displays current filter-life based on hours of operation and air quality.) A handle on top and castors on the bottom make for easy transportation. And the included remote allows you to cycle through the six fan-speeds w/o getting up. Furthermore, build quality is excellent, and the warranty is for five years. The HealthPro is expensive ($600 street), and unfortunately, it does make noise. But if you're an allergy sufferer or you just want the cleanest air possible, it's well worth it. With the remote, you can switch the HealthPro to high speed between sessions and turn it off (or to low) during takes. (HealthPro $735 MSRP, HealthPro Plus $835; www.iqair.com)