When we use an air purifier, it can be hard to measure its performance. The particles that reduce air quality are often so microscopic that the human eye can’t see them. Purifiers are easy to operate and require only occasional maintenance, so they can leave you wondering if it’s doing its job.
So how do you tell if an air purifier is working to improve the air quality in your home?
In this blog, we’ll give you some tips to make sure your unit is working its best so you can experience the full benefits of an air purifier. Most of these suggestions will require you to physically inspect your purifier for signs that it is either malfunctioning or clogged.
You should regularly inspect your air purifier to ensure it is working optimally. You don’t need to check it every day. However, getting in the habit of checking at least once a week is a good idea.
Perhaps the simplest method to ensure proper operation is to check for airflow. Note that many air purifiers automatically adjust their fans based on the level of contaminants it detects in the air. When the indoor air is clean, the purifier may blow little air at all—this is done to make them more energy-efficient.
You may have to manually change the fan setting for your purifier if it adjusts airflow automatically. We use the low setting to check ours. You should be able to feel a light breeze coming from the vents if the purifier is working correctly.
Your fan should also operate quietly. If there are obstructions from contaminant buildup, your purifier may operate louder than usual. It is hard to tell early on, but over time you’ll know if your air purifier is working differently just by how it sounds.
Your air purifier also will never be completely silent. If it’s on, you will hear the fan. If the gentle whirr of the fan blade isn’t present when manually adjusting the speed, your purifier’s fan may have failed. Contact the manufacturer for support.
Monitor the Filter Service Indicator
All air purifiers have filter service indicators of some kind, either on the device, within its app, or both. Word of caution: these lights come on automatically at preset intervals, and not for a malfunction with the purifier. Just because the light is on it doesn’t necessarily mean the filter needs replacing, or the air purifier is no longer working.
When the filter service indicator comes on, take a moment to manually inspect the filters, and make any necessary steps to correct issues.
Manually Check the Filter
One of the easiest ways to tell if an air purifier is working is by manually checking the filter. Your HEPA filter and pre-filter will show signs of age and wear. You can tell if an air purifier is functioning if you can see dust, hair, and debris in the filter, but make sure there’s not enough to clog it up. If your HEPA filter is too dirty, it may be time to replace it.
Please note: You can clean the pre-filter inside an air purifier. However, do not try and clean a HEPA filter as the fine dust or bacteria may be released back into the air if you do attempt to clean it.
While the interval for replacement will vary based on the environment where the purifier is and how often it’s used, generally every six months, you’ll need new filters. A slightly dirty filter is okay and perfectly healthy. However, a heavily soiled filter drastically decreases your purifier’s capability to clean the air.
Remove and replace these filters when they get to this point. After doing so, check for proper air circulation to ensure you have installed the filters correctly. If you feel no air circulation, ensure that you completely removed any extra protective covering or plastic from your new filters. Hey, it happens.
Extra tip: Filter replacement is a great time to check and clean your dust sensor. Since this is a fragile and vital part of your air purifier, refer to your instructions for safe methods to do so. The cleaning process varies from purifier to purifier, including what cleaning agents are safe to use.
How to Tell If an Air Purifier Is Working with an Indoor Air Quality Monitor
Most air purifiers have a built-in air quality monitor/indicator, which helps optimize the airflow of the purifier to clean the air efficiently. But it’s not giving you an exact reading of your air quality, so it won’t help you measure the performance of your unit.
The best way to test if your air purifier is working is to run tests with an independent indoor air quality monitor. These devices will provide real-time analysis of the air quality in your home so you can measure precisely how well your air purifier is performing.
If you still think your air purifier is not working correctly, the problem might be the size of your model. Ensure when you purchase yours that it is rated to cover an area larger than the room or space where you plan to use it.
An air purifier will remove VOCs, dust mites, and other allergens and improve the air quality in your home. However, they aren’t maintenance-free—you’ll need to develop a regular maintenance schedule to ensure proper operation.
If you’re still having problems after these steps, and especially if they happen early on, contact the manufacturer for support or return it to the store you got it from. Top air purifiers come with warranties, but they’re often only for a year—so time is of the essence if you have a faulty unit.
Do you have other tips for ensuring your air purifier is operating optimally? Share it with us in the comments.