Best Air Purifier for Pets


Following an in-depth comparison of more than thirty consumer air cleaners by (me) an indoor electrical room air quality engineer, we’ve determined that the best air purifier for pets and allergy sufferers, and #1 pick, is the Austin Air Healthmate Standard ($538.99).

The decision was based on pre-filter quality (to catch large particulate like dust and hair), HEPA filter class (based on the European Norm), carbon filter grade and specifications (for odor and gas control), and an analysis of the motor implemented and its effectiveness moving air across the multi-staged filter arrangements. The machine’s pre-filter effectively captures large pet dander before moving air through the activated carbon and HEPA filter array which works exceptionally well, eliminating smells that your hairy companion might track in and filtering finer particulate in the air.

Best Air Purifier for Pets

How We Choose The Best Air Purifier for Pets

Pre-filters help remove larger particulate from the air stream prior to more precision filtration. They’re often reusable and washable, and external to the higher-grade carbon and HEPA filters installed inside of a home air purifier. The main benefit of pre-filter inclusion in an air purifier design is that larger contaminants in the air are restricted from passing on to the more advanced filters and that increases the life and efficiency of expensive filters meant to remove the things that matter.

Pre-filters are relatively cheap to manufacture and cheap to include as a component in an air purifier and as such we believe the exclusion of such a feature demonstrates poor design. All of our top picks include pre-filter configurations, some of which are part of the activated carbon filter.

Pet odors are another issue that we wanted to ensure our top picks addressed. To do this, some form of an activated carbon filter needed to be a part of the filtration process. Activated carbon, or charcoal, filters adsorb odors by trapping molecules inside extremely porous carbon substrate. Since our top picks focus solely on the best air purifier for pets, we didn’t weigh our decision based on the quality of the carbon media used, but rather only the inclusion of a carbon filtration step. Air purifiers intended for use as smoke eliminators, or volatile organic compound (VOCs) removers require high-grade, activated carbon media to clean an environment more effectively.

HEPA, or High-Efficiency Particulate Arrestance, filters are a crucial component in any air purification equipment. They function as the finest line of defense in the filtration process, filtering out a minimum of 99.97% of particulate matter that is 0.3 microns in diameter (to put that in to perspective, a human – or pet’s – hair is approximately 100 times larger in diameter). Using the aforementioned European Norm as a guideline to classify HEPA quality, we began our analysis by ensuring that air purifiers which made our list met a rating of at least the standard E12 classification. Purifiers using HEPA filters exceeding our baseline were rated more highly, with those combining multiple, high-grade purification technologies rated considerably higher.

Finally, motor quality and machine construction were considered to ensure that each air cleaner had sufficient power to move each manufacturer’s rated volumetric air across filter arrays. This is critical to performance because without enough power, air cleaners can’t optimally force flow through filters. Our top picks all demonstrate high airflow rates equating to powerful motors capable of pulling air into the machines and through filters as advertised. Typically, motor specifications and/or air flow information isn’t something that air purifier companies publish. More commonly, coverage area and maybe air changes per hour (ACH) are marketed to demonstrate product effectiveness. These numbers are usually reliable indicators of machine power although we’ve found some with grossly inaccurate claims so always do your own homework.

ACH numbers are the best way for a machine’s effectiveness to be gauged and compared. Plainly, ACH is the amount of times a purifier completely filters the air in an advertised square footage space within one hour. So for example, if a machine’s ACH is 5 and the machine is marketed as being able to purify spaces as large as 500 sq ft, then the machine will completely filter all of the air in a 500 sq ft area 5 times in one hour. Now, there’s a bit more to ACH than this simple explanation. Room height is assumed to be seven feet in ACH calculations. So for spaces in your home that have higher ceilings, the advertised ACH will not be accurate. There isn’t an optimal ACH rate. It’s only a way to measure and compare filtration power. If you’re looking at two purifiers with the same square footage rating and one has a higher ACH its a more capable unit.

Why You Should Buy an Air Purifier for Pet Dander

We all love our pets, but did you know that certain elements found within pet dander, saliva, urine, and fecal matter can be the cause of allergic reactions, or irritate asthma sufferers? Also, shedding pet hair creates an environment in which pollen and mold spores can live if undisturbed.

Most medical resources suggest that asthma and allergy sufferers remove pets from their home if irritation becomes a consistent problem, but we realize that this option isn’t always ideal. The best air purifier for pets will help owners mitigate the risk associated with pet allergens by removing harmful contaminates from the air.

The EPA lists indoor air quality as one of the leading contributors to individual health and wellness in the United States. Long-term effects from poor air quality have been suggested as having a potential to cause respiratory diseases, heart disease, some forms of cancer – and in extreme cases – death. Everyone reacts differently to indoor air pollutants though, so it’s important to consider your unique situation in relation to the information provided here and elsewhere. Having said that, pet owners can live healthier lives by using air purifiers in areas frequented by their furry friends.

#1 Pick Editor’s Choice/Best Air Purifier for Pet Odors – Austin Air Healthmate Standard

The Healthmate Standard HM 400

Price: $539 | HEPA Class: H14 | Coverage: 1,500 Sq Ft | Auto Mode: No

WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Austin Air’s Healthmate Standard takes a no-BS approach to air purification with components that are top quality in the industry.

So why is the Austin Air Healthmate Standard our top pick? What makes it the best for this consumer application? Simply put: it’s an industrially designed air purifier that beats most others in its class with respect to the variables we found most important.

The machine’s pre-filter, activated carbon and zeolite filter, and HEPA filter have been combined into a cylindrical, one-piece filter array that can easily be removed and replaced from the bottom of the machine when needed (although a new filter array should last an average user approximately three years). The Healthmate’s HEPA filter is industrial-grade, rated as H14 on the European Norm scale and retains 99.995% of particulate measuring 0.3 micrometers in diameter.

Build quality is superior and the machine isn’t an eyesore like some. Austin uses a purely mechanical filtration process for filtering air (devoid of ionization or ultraviolet treatments) and the motor we tested pushes air through the machine without straining. At full speed, the machine can be a bit loud (approximately 65 dB), but with this kind of performance it’s understandable. We recommend running on high for the first three to four hours after installation and then setting to medium for continued operation.

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#2 Pick Best Air Purifier for Pet Allergies and Asthma – Airmega 400S

1484424430_854_best-air-purifier-for-pets Best Air Purifier for Pets

The only air purifier we’ve seen with dual HEPA filters.

Price: $711 | HEPA Class: H13 | Coverage: 1,560 Sq Ft | Auto Mode: Yes

WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: The most connected, “smart,” high-performance air purifier for pet allergies and asthma.

Airmega manufactures some of the most attractive and tech-savvy air purifiers on the market, and the 400S is the company’s MVP. If you’re looking for a high-performing air purifier for pet dander, this is an excellent buy.

Unlike many other air purifiers, Airmega’s units pull air through two separate intakes utilizing individual motors and carbon/HEPA combination filters. The machine’s side panels can easily be removed for cleaning and replacing each filter box. Just like the Healthmate, this machine comes loaded with an industrial-grade HEPA filter rated as H13 and retaining 99.95% of airborne particulate.

It’s a great looking machine that’s well built and nice to look at – probably the most attractive air cleaner we’ve review yet. A mechanical filtration process ensures that contaminants are captured, and because the unit uses two separate motors to drive the suction fans on either side it’s capable of operating more quietly than others rated for the similar coverage areas. Smart features on the device enable users to control the unit and monitor indoor air quality from their smart devices.

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#3 Pick Best Pet Dander Air Purifier – IQAir’s HealthPro Plus

1484424430_638_best-air-purifier-for-pets Best Air Purifier for Pets

An awesome air purifier for most applications

Price: $899 | HEPA Class: E12| Coverage: 1,125 Sq Ft | Auto Mode: No

WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: IQAir’s HealthPro Plus has been rated as a top performer in more of our application-specific reviews than any other air purifier.

We’ve discussed how much we love IQAir’s HealthPro Plus in the past, but never regarding pet dander. An excellent machine for nearly every application, the HealthPro Plus performs exceptionally well for pet related pollutants due to its unique combination of filters, internal sealing system, and build quality.

The HealthPro Plus includes a pre-filter, granulated activated carbon and impregnated activated alumina filter, and E12/H13 HEPA filter. Filters are installed in individual filter housing segments from top to bottom. The HEPA filter’s class varies between E12 and H13 depending on the machines airflow setting (airflow rates below 112 cfm keep the filter classified as a medical-grade H13, while higher flow rates reduce efficiency to E12).

IQAir uses a doubled-walled housing, rubber vibration padding on the motor, and an “EvenFlow” air diffuser to reduce noise created from operation and from our examination all of these features seem to work well. Just like our other top picks, the HealthPro Plus doesn’t use ionizers or UV to treat air, but rather works its magic through a completely mechanical purification process. Air is pulled from the bottom of the machine and suctioned through the filter arrangement until clean, purified air is released from the top (EvenFlow Diffuser).

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Key Factors to the Best Air Purifier for Pets

Pre-filter

  • Pre-filters are a necessary part of the filtration process when dealing with indoor animals. Large particulates in the air, like hair, can cause efficiency and lifespan reductions in carbon and HEPA filters.
  • Regularly clean your air purifier’s pre-filter to ensure maximum airflow through the primary filter array.

Carbon filter

  • Pets stink; it’s not their fault, just part of being a four-legged friend. An air purifier using an activated carbon filter as part of the overall air filtration process with help to reduce, or even completely eliminate, nasty odors from cats and dogs.
  • If you have an animal of the feline variety, try keeping your litter box close to the purifier – we’ve heard from air purifier owners this helps quite a bit.

HEPA filter

  • An absolute must for any kind air purification, HEPA filters remove the smallest of air particles from the air.
  • HEPA filters help to prevent the spread of bacteria, pollen, dust mite feces, and even fleas if used in conjunction with a HEPA vacuum cleaner.

Airflow

  • Air suctioned through an air purifier needs to be properly suppressed from escaping the machine until it has been completely processed through the filter array. Leaks between the intake and exhaust reduce a machine’s effectiveness exponentially, in some cases nearly completely nullifying the use of a machine at all.
  • In addition to ensuring internal seals are a part of an air purifier’s design, airflow patterns created by an air cleaner are important too.
  • Some machines unintentionally create air loops which recirculate air that’s just been cleaned – poor efficiency. Our analysis of intake and exhaust ports considered the optimal airflow design based on each machine’s unique physical characteristics.

Features To Look For

Automatic Mode

  • When coupled with an air quality sensor, an automatic function works well to ensure airflow settings are adjusted based on airborne pollutants detected.
  • We know it sounds odd, but some machines feature an “automatic” mode that’s controlled by a timer function only which isn’t truly automatic. Timer functions are convenient for setting machines to day/night cycles, but not as a true “set it and forget it” option.

Filter Indicator

  • While nearly all air purifier filters have a lifespan between twelve and thirty-six months (lifetime use varies greatly based on filter assembly and materials of construction), it isn’t easy for us busy folks to remember when it’s time to change our filters.
  • A filter indicator automatically detects changes in airflow across a filter and provides an audible or visual indication that filter efficiency has decreased and a new filter may be required.

Noise

  • You’re going to live with your air purifier so noise is an important aspect to consider. Most cleaners aren’t that loud on lower settings, but some can get a little fussy when turned up. Expect powerful units on maximum airflow settings to create between 80 and 90 decibels (think blender on a medium setting).
  • If you’re planning on sleeping near your machine this point becomes even more critical. All of the machines on our list can be used comfortably without sacrificing quietness in your home.

Coverage

  • Maximum treatable area demonstrates a machine’s ability to not only effectively purifier a certain volume of air, but also the sheer suction power that a machine has available. ACH is a great number to refer to especially when comparing multiple units although, unfortunately the ACH number isn’t always advertised. When in doubt, go larger. If you require treatment of a space that’s 500 sq ft, it’s better to purchase a machine capable of treating 700 sq ft than one built for 499 sq ft.
  • The greater the suction, the more air being moved across the filter array, and the more effective a machine is at removing stubborn particulate.

Mistakes to Avoid

This really needs to be reiterated: without the incorporation of a pre-filter an air purifier meant to help against pet dander could be less effective due to carbon and HEPA filter blockage by larger particulates. Always check to make sure a pre-filter is part of the machines design for this application.

It may be tempting to try out a less expensive product, but be very cautious. We’ve found that many machines priced under $150 USD are often just too weak to properly pull in air around them.

One method that some less powerful machines will incorporate into the filtration process is ionization. Air ionizers charge particles so that negative and positive attractions retain impurities in the air, and while this technology can be used very effectively – most consumer products that feature ionization just don’t perform as they should. Another issue with ionizers is that they produce ozone which is a respiratory irritant at specific parts per million. Again, some machines utilize ionization very well – but you’ll need to do your homework carefully.

What Else You Should Think About

When composing this piece, we had quite a bit of feedback regarding just removing animals from the home, but as pet owners ourselves we realize that sometimes that isn’t a reasonable solution to the problem. As additional steps to combat allergies caused by indoor pets, consider using hypoallergenic shampoos, as well as regularly vacuuming with a vacuum that incorporates a HEPA filter of its own.

Doing these things in combination with running the best air purifier for pets works well to eliminate irritating sources of allergies that can hide in your home. If you’re looking for an air purifier to treat a wider variety of pollutants, check out our air purifier comparison article as a general guide on the subject.

Our top pick as Editor’s Choice/Best Air Purifier for Pets, Austin Air’s Healthmate Standard is an excellent choice for reducing airborne pollutants that could be causing asthma attacks and/or irritating allergies. We’ve personally tested this unit and it’s one of the best units for consumers with animals in their home!


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