Portable Air Cleaners

Sales of portable air cleaners have skyrocketed. Americans bought nearly three and a half million last year. Sharper Image dominates the market — in large part due to the brisk sales of its Ionic Breeze line. The company's success has encouraged others to come out with imitators. Consumer Reports just tested air cleaners — including the highly-advertised 350 dollar Ionic Breeze Quadra.

"How clean and fresh is the air you're breathing right now?"

This five-minute infomercial for Sharper Image's Ionic Breeze Quadra promises to clean room air with its "exclusive … technology"

"Clean air can be the difference between living comfortably or being miserable. Sharper Image introduces the ultimate clean air solution. The patented Ionic Breeze Quadra."

Consumer Reports just evaluated Sharper Image's Ionic Breeze Quadra along with 17 other portable cleaners. The tests were performed in a sealed chamber.

To evaluate how quickly the machines can remove tiny particles from the air, testers use fine dust and cigarette smoke — substances used in standard industry tests. Air cleaners that do a good job removing these should be effective on a wide range of particles.

In this test, a small measured amount of smoke is injected into the room.

This machine counts the number of particles in the air and measures the size of those particles.

Consumer Reports' David Pittle says many portable cleaners have no trouble clearing the air quickly.

"For example, the Friedrich air cleaner that we tested cleared the air at a very rapid rate. It reduced the pollution levels in the room to nearly zero within a half hour."

But it was a different story with the Ionic Breeze Quadra.

"In the same test, the Ionic Breeze Quadra had a very slow rate of cleaning. And when we tested it over a longer period of time, its cleaning performance did not improve."

And tests show two other room cleaners that work like the Ionic Breeze — the Honeywell Environizer and the Hoover SilentAir 4000 — also rated poor in cleaning performance.

"It's important to emphasize that our tests are conducted in a sealed test chamber. In a home environment normal air exchange creates a constant influx of pollutants. Our tests show, and independent experts confirm, that these air cleaners don’t work fast enough to be effective."

For that reason Consumer Reports says these three air cleaners are not worth buying.

Consumer Reports says two good choices for room air cleaners are the Friedrich (PRON: FRED-rick) model number C-90A that costs 500 dollars and one from Whirlpool for 270 dollars. It's Whirlpool model number AP45030H0.


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