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AirDoctor review: Does this top-of-the-line air purifier’s performance justify the price?

We liked that this sleek air purifier fit right in with our home's décor.
We liked that this sleek air purifier fit right in with our home's décor. (BestReviews)

Even if you exercise, eat right, and get the proper amount of sleep, airborne irritants like allergens, smoke, and pet dander can still have an effect on your overall health.

An air purifier presents an easy solution -- but how do you know the air purifier you purchase really does all it promises to?

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AirDoctor claims to be the first affordable, professional-quality air purifier for homes that can remove 100% of particle pollution as well as the vast majority of toxic chemical compounds resulting from off-gassing of building materials, carpets, paint, furniture, and more.

We wanted to see if this particular model stood out in a fairly saturated market and lived up to its own advertising hype, so we put it to the test in a variety of real-life situations. Here's what we found out.

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How we tested the AirDoctor

We tested the AirDoctor in an area with extremely poor air quality due to wildfires. We placed two units in a large home (4,000 square feet) with four pets. We also tested it among allergy sufferers.

First, we wanted to see if the AirDoctor could cover a large area. And in addition to determining whether it could eliminate airborne allergens to help reduce allergy symptoms, we wanted to test whether the device could remove smoke and pollutants from wildfires.

How the AirDoctor works

The AirDoctor is an air purification unit that features an UltraHEPA filter that the company claims is 100 times more effective than an ordinary HEPA filter because it's meant to trap ultra-fine particles as small as .003 microns in size. A HEPA filter can only trap 99.97 percent of particles that are 0.3 microns in size. As a point of reference, a single strand of hair is 50 microns.

The device has a three-stage filtration system: filter one removes dust and animal hair; filter two removes gas, ozone, and volatile compounds found in the home, such as formaldehyde; and filter three is the UltraHEPA filter. The AirDoctor is a sealed system that claims to filter 100% of the air that passes through the unit. It uses fans that are reportedly 30% quieter than other air purifiers.

When running in Auto-Mode, the AirDoctor assesses the air quality of a room and automatically adjusts the fan speed to achieve the optimum airflow for filtration. When a filter needs to be replaced, a light lets the owner know that it is time.

How to set up an AirDoctor

The unboxing and setup couldn't have been easier. Upon its arrival, we carefully removed the AirDoctor from the box. We found that the filters were protected by plastic packaging, which needed to be removed, and certain parts of the air purifier were kept immobile with tape, which also needed to be removed.

After we were certain that the filters were properly in place and there were no stray packaging materials inside the unit, we plugged it in and turned it on. We thought the AirDoctor was a nice looking device - sleek and unobtrusive with easy-to-understand controls.

AirDoctor operation

As sophisticated as the AirDoctor is, it was refreshingly simple to operate. We appreciated that the unit had a built-in sensor that constantly evaluates the quality of the air, removing the guesswork from the task of maintaining safe, clean air.

Centered on the front of the machine, near the top, is an illuminated ring. When the ring is blue, it means the air quality in your home is good. When the ring is orange, it means the air quality in your home is moderate - no longer good. When the ring is red, it means the air quality in your home is poor.

The air purifier automatically adapts to the status of the air quality by increasing or decreasing the fan speed. When the ring is blue, AirDoctor operates in normal mode, which was impressively quiet. If the ring turns orange, the fan speed increases to draw more air through the machine. When the ring is red and the machine is operating at its highest level. We found that it can be fairly noisy - roughly as loud as a portable air conditioner.

While some users reported they were not fond of the louder sound of the high-speed mode, we were appreciative of the increased volume because it served as an auditory cue that the air quality was less than ideal. We felt that an occasionally loud air purifier was a reasonable trade-off for clean air. That said, it can become annoying when the unit runs at the highest speed for any considerable amount of time.

AirDoctor air quality

The manufacturer states that the AirDoctor is strong enough to filter all the air in a 900-square-foot room three times every hour. Using just two units in a 4,000-square-foot house is pushing the AirDoctor a little harder than it's designed to run, but we found that the units still did a good job of cleaning the air in the entire house. Allergy sufferers experienced fewer symptoms -- despite sharing the space with pets -- and those sensitive to smokey air pollution from wildfires could breathe much better, even on extremely polluted days.

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Using PurpleAir, a laser particle counter that measures particle pollution in the air, the home had an air quality index (AQI) that was between 150 and 200 with windows open. This is considered unhealthy air - in this range, individuals shouldn't engage in any activity that will require heavy breathing for prolonged periods of time. However, with the windows closed, running two AirDoctors overnight, the indoor AQI dropped to between 40 and 50, which is considered clean air requiring no breathing restrictions.

How to change AirDoctor filters

Without fresh filters, an air purifier can't function at optimum levels. The AirDoctor has a main filter, a carbon filter, and a pre-filter that's attached to the carbon filter. While it sounds like it could be a hassle to keep track of three filters, the machine monitors itself and lets you know when one of the filters needs changing, so keeping the machine in peak operating condition is simple. Additionally, while filter life is dependent upon usage, the carbon filter should last roughly six months and the UltraHEPA filter should last approximately one year for the average user.

When it was time to change the filter, a little red light went on next to either the carbon or the UltraHEPA filter (or both). At that time, we simply opened up the front of the unit, popped out the filters, unpacked the new ones, placed them inside the machine, and closed the air purifier. The pre-filter doesn't need to be changed, it can simply be removed and washed.

AirDoctor pros

One of the best features on this unit is the air quality indicator - you can see what the indoor air quality is with a single glance. The machine is also excellent at removing pet dander from the air, which we found helped to alleviate allergy symptoms more than cheaper air purifier models. The AirDoctor was somewhat effective at removing odors, but it can take a while.

It did efficiently clear the air of dust, smoke, and pollen. The setup is easy, and having a visual indicator that notifies the user when it's time to change the filter was a feature we greatly appreciated.

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AirDoctor cons

Cooking can trigger the unit to jump into the high-speed mode, which can be annoying. Fortunately, there's a manual override that can be used in such situations - just remember to switch the unit back into Auto-Mode when dinner is done.

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Bottom line

In our testing, the AirDoctor definitely improved air quality, even when used in a larger space than the brand recommended. When we started using the air purifier, we noticed a substantial reduction in congestion due to household allergies like pet fur and dander. It also made a substantial difference in dealing with smoke from wildfires in our area. Usually during wildfire season, we all experience symptoms like sore throats and headaches, but with windows closed and the AirDoctor running, our sore throats go away.

While the AirDoctor may cost a little more than other air purifiers, if you have someone with allergies in your home - or you live in a wildfire region - we think it's more than worth it. This product does live up to its own advertising hype performance-wise. If you're serious about giving yourself and your family clean air to breathe no matter the conditions, consider the AirDoctor.

Allen Foster is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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