The word “work” needs clarification. All air purifiers do something. The worst of them do little more than consume electricity. The word work here should mean “clean the air.” Again, this statement is a little general. Cleaning the air can be further defined as the ability of a given air purifier to remove air pollutants such as particles, odors, gases, volatile organic compounds, and microorganisms. A poor purifier at work would be one that removes almost nothing from the air. An excellent purifier at work would remove almost all of the air pollutants from the air. Research what your air purifier will remove and compare with other brands to get additional validity.
For some people the question really is “how do I know my air purifier is working?” For many of us, answering this question is difficult. If you place a decent air purifier in a polluted room you will notice the difference over time. If you place a decent air purifier in an average room, you may or may not notice the difference. If you place a decent air purifier in a clean room, it will be hard to notice the difference. The reality is that we may or may not actually see or notice any difference even though the purifier is doing a great job.
My best advice is to make a list of everything you can think of relating to your current air situation. Make the list before you buy the new air purifier. Your list could include smells you notice, particles you see, known contaminants you have, and how you and your family feel. Then after you get your new air purifier and run it for a while, look back at your list and see if any of the conditions have improved. Improvements may be difficult to quantify, so make the list and look for small changes.
The truth is air purifiers do work and a good air purifier does clean the air. Do some research and compare enough models until you feel convinced you are picking the right one. Do not be fooled by good marketing and do not think that all air purifiers are created equally. Do the right amount of research and you will get an air purifier that will serve you well for many years.
Written by Tom Pardee, is a retired air purifier industry insider who currently writes articles and maintains a public website enhancing awareness of indoor air pollution and common air purification solutions.