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Breathe Easier: Guide to Air Purifiers for the Home in China

Oct 26, 2013 By Kate Williams , Comments (10)     Add your comment Newsletter

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Take a deep breath and relax. This phrase could be considered an oxymoron when it comes to breathing in the air in China, as rapid urbanization and industrialization have led to serious air quality issues throughout the country. No one is immune from hazardous air here—it's in our homes, our cars, everywhere we go. So next time you decide to hunker-down indoors and beat the haze, think again; the air quality in your home could be just as bad. Though we may not be aware of it, air pollutants can easily concentrate in our homes, presenting us with a genuine area of concern that deserves serious attention. Even top government officials in China aren't taking this issue lightly when it comes to their personal health. According to a 2011 New York Times report, the homes, offices and even cars of top-ranking officials have been equipped with air purifying systems. Should you decide to follow suit, the suggestions below will help you choose the right unit for your home.

Breath Easier: Guide to Air Purifiers for the Home in China

What to look for in an air purifier

1) Avoid “harmful” units
Don't throw caution to the wind when picking out an air purifier for your home. Some of the contraptions out there can do more harm than good. One type you definitely want to watch out for is “ionizing” or “ozone generating” air purifiers. A Consumer Reports publication revealed that these devices do a poor job of cleaning the air and can even expose users to potentially harmful levels of ozone, posing serious health risks. Be sure to check whether a machine produces ozone before making a decision and always consult online resources for the most up-to-date information.

2) HEPA certification
So we don't want ozone, then what? Well, the purpose of an air purifier is to remove particulate matter from the air. A major difference among air purification units is the size of particulate matter they are able to filter. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers particles less than 2.5 microns in size to be the greatest health danger to the general public. The smaller the particle, the more likely it is to penetrate your lungs and cause permanent damage. Therefore, it is important to understand the filtration ability of an air purifier. A HEPA (high efficiency particulate absorbing) filter is regarded as one of the best types of filter on the market. It is capable of removing 99% of small air particles 0.3 microns and larger. In general, the stronger the filtration ability of the machine, the more effective it will be in improving indoor air quality. That being said, a finer filter is not always the answer unless the unit has a stronger motor to push the air through the filter, so do your research ahead of time and test the model before you buy.

3) Which “bells and whistles” do you need?
Some higher-end units have added features that go above and beyond the normal removal of particulate matter. Certain purifiers use ultraviolet light to sterilize germs, bacteria, mold, viruses and other microorganisms—a feature often sought by people with compromised immune systems.
Others are specially designed for odor and gas removal, using an additional carbon filter to remove gas molecules from the air that are otherwise missed by the HEPA filter. Of course, with added features, comes added cost, so you'll want to decide on which features you need and how much you're willing to spend ahead of time.

Effective use of an air purifier

1) Positioning
The effectiveness of an air purifier depends on the environment in which it is being used. Proper positioning of the unit within your home will ensure optimal performance. Placing the purifier in a corner allows it to trap airborne particles and keep the room air fresh and clean. Placing the unit near the door can assist in filtering particles as they enter your home. As a general rule, keep the purifier in an area with good air flow so that it can filter as much debris out of the air as possible. More detailed instructions on positioning units in the home can be found here:

2) Coverage
It is also important to consider the size of the area to be purified so that you can select the appropriate unit to handle the job. Different models have different size capacities. Generally, air purifiers are marketed with room size ratings to consult. Before you start shopping, measure the size of the area you want to purify. It is important to take this aspect seriously; if the unit does not have enough power to handle the area, the air will not be effectively purified; conversely, if the unit is too powerful, you're likely wasting your money.

3) Replace filters regularly
Replacing the filter in an air purifier is essential in maintaining desired results. This is also an important price consideration, given the high cost of replacement filters. High-end units can run anywhere from 500 RMB and up every 6 months for filter replacement, and the cost is even higher for more specialized filters. For lower-end models, filters cost around 200 RMB every 6 months. Over time, these costs will add up and is important to consider when making a purchase. An air purifier is only as good as the filter within it.

What's available and where to purchase

1) Availability in China
Getting your hands on an air purifier in China isn't a problem. The biggest challenge is finding the right model that can meet your needs and fit your budget. Most big-name chain stores and supermarkets carry a selection of air purifiers. Common household brands such as Sharp, Philips and Panasonic all feature a variety of air purifiers ranging from 800 RMB up to 10,000 RMB. As for Chinese brands, Yadu and Midea have a variety of models from 1,000 RMB up to 4,000 RMB. For most shoppers, mid-range models (1,500-3,000 RMB) will offer the best balance between features and cost. Mid-range models from Yadu and Philips have both fared quite well according to consumer reviews online. If you have a higher budget to work with, Blueair, IQAir and Alen are all excellent choices that are available in China… albeit at a price tag that could exceed 10,000 RMB. Note that Blueair and Alen have a more favorable price than IQAir for comparable performance, based on reviews.

2) Bring it from home country?
Some might consider bringing an air purifier with them from their home country to save money, although this may not be the best idea. The difference in voltage may need to be addressed, as it can often result in the use of unnecessary energy as well as under-performance and possible mechanical damage. You will also need to deal with the trouble of getting the unit safely to China. While units may be more expensive to purchase in China, it may be best to make the purchase here anyway, so as to avoid the above-mentioned hassles.

3) Should you get a personal assessment?
When buying an air purifying unit, the most important thing is to assess your personal needs. An air quality test can help you identify the contaminants in your home and help you to target the proper remedy. It may be worth hiring a professional to do an assessment of the air quality in your home. Alternatively, you can purchase an indoor air quality test kit to perform the assessment yourself. The following website is a great resource regarding indoor air quality testing: No matter what you decide, it will be a worthwhile investment. There is nothing more important than your health. 

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Keywords: Air purifier China guide China home air quality Air pollution in China guide

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10 Comments ( Add your comment )


Since we are not super rich expats, we settled for a mid-range Philips. Guess it's working pretty well so far as we have no allergy symptoms whatsoever - until we go outdoor.

Nov 20, 2012 16:56
Mr. Martel

That was honestly an incredibly useful article. I had been wondering about the actual utility of such machines for some time. Thanks. :)

Nov 20, 2012 20:40

yes the first really useful article in a while

Nov 20, 2012 21:38

Maybe only american need these sorts of contraptions. We Europeans just use air conditioners (unless of the heavy indoor smooking), and this is only if and when required. no allergies, no asthma, no prescriptions. we are healthy.

Nov 22, 2012 03:26

"We Europeans use air conditioners?" Where, in Europe? ha. You apparently haven't been to China to see what passes for air conditioners (or air!) here. A/Cs here are barely filtration devices. They're more like mold generators.

Nov 22, 2012 18:10

"Note that Blueair and Alen have a more favorable price than IQAir for comparable performance, based on reviews."

Don't let the price difference fool you. IQAir is the only one that actually meets their efficiency and filtration claims....actually - they exceed their own published numbers. I'm not affiliated with IQAir but we recently produced a video for them and I have seen the testing first-hand. The IQAir units are more expensive for a reason; They're better. I have zero doubt about this. We have one in our home and wouldn't trade it for anything else, especially in Beijing. I can literally smell the difference in the air the moment I walk in from outside. They aren't cheap - but what's worth more to you? My family's health is worth far more.

Nov 22, 2012 06:23

ps; I think it's worth noting that author (or editor?) of this article chose the IQAir HealthPro 250 to be pictured at the top of this article.

Nov 22, 2012 06:32
chinese scouser

Was he also on a commission I wonder?

Nov 23, 2012 03:35

Obviously!! -Blueair and Allen must have paid well to point out that they are less expensive than IQAir.

Nov 28, 2012 21:52

if some other entities were purified the air wouldn't be a problem

Dec 24, 2015 08:10

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