Austin Air HealthMate Review
- The addition of Zeolite as a key component of the gas filtration media. Carbon removes the vast majority chemicals from the air but one important and relevant chemical it cannot remove is formaldehyde. Zeolite, unlike carbon, actually has the ability to bond to and remove formaldehyde from the air. Note that if you do have issues with formaldehyde you definitely want to remove the source of that formaldehyde from your home and do your best to ventilate as best you can as well. But, if there are some trace amounts of formaldehyde left in your home, this Austin air unit has the ability to actually remove it from the air – most other air purifiers on the market that only have carbon filters do not.
- 15 lb. of gas filtration media. Most air purifiers on the market have 1 lb. or less of such media. The 15 lb. of activated carbon and zeolite in the HealthMate’s combination filter allows it to remove unwanted gases much faster and take much longer to saturate – meaning the filter has to be replaced much less often to still be effective.
- Simple control panel – single knob for three fan speeds
- Simple design. Air quality meters on less expensive air purifiers are low quality and their corresponding auto modes are often ineffective. This unit foregoes such a meter and such modes with a more simplistic design.
- Most durable unit we tested – this made in the USA air purifier is extremely durable with a hard metal shell encasing all internal components.
- While it excels in gas filtration this unit is a below average option for particle filtration – removing particles like dust, smoke particles, etc.
- Energy efficiency is slightly below average – likely because of the much greater quantity of gas filtration media. It takes energy to push air through all that media and still get up to 250 CFM of output. Although max. power draw of 94.6 watts is still very reasonable, top rated units at same output draw between 60 to 70 watts.
|Particle filter type||HEPA|
|Gas filter type||Carbon and zeolite mixture|
|Output||Approx. 250 CFM|
|Air Movement||outer grille > white fabric pre-filter > medium filter > carbon/zeolite > HEPA > through center of filter up and out of unit|
|Number of fan speeds||3|
|Size||23 in. tall x 15 in. wide x 15 in. deep|
A step by step breakdown of the Health-Mate's performance.
Air Processing Performance
In a 150 sq. ft. test environment the Austin HealthMate took 29 minutes to lower room particle concentration from 10,000 particles per cubic ft. down to 1,600 particles per cubic ft. Given additional run time (at least an additional hour of run time) the unit could not lower room particle concentration any further than 1,600 particles per cubic ft. This was as low of a room particle concentration as it was able to achieve.
This result was an outlier in our testing. Both the Winix 5500-2 and Coway Mighty process air just as quickly as the Austin – at a rate of 250 cubic ft. per minute (250 CFM). The Winix took only 9 minutes and the Coway took only 10 minutes to lower room particle concentration from 10,000 down to 1,000 particles per cubic ft. Given an indefinite amount of additional run time, both the Winix and Coway were able to get room particle concentration all the way down to 100 particles per cubic ft. – a far cry from the 1,600 particles per cubic ft. of the Austin.
So, why did the Austin perform so poorly in our testing? We have two theories:
1. the high speed at which air exits the Austin HealthMate
Maximum outlet air speed for the HealthMate was measured at 32.8 ft/s. For comparison, maximum outlet air speed for the Winix 5500-2 was measured at only 21 ft/s. The HealthMate’s high outlet air speed would make it more likely for the outlet air to move over the walls and the ceiling of the 150 sq. ft. test space at a high speed, with the potential of disturbing particles that had already settled on those surfaces. When settled particles are disturbed they become airborne. This process increases the air particle concentration. It’s quite possible that the HealthMate was continuously disturbing settled particles, making them airborne, and thereby increasing the air’s particle count just as quickly as it was removing particles from the air in the test environment.
2. the HealthMate’s extensive gas filtration media
The HealthMate features a gas filter that contains 15 lb. of carbon and zeolite. Most other air purifiers on the market have gas filters that contains less than 1 lb. of gas filtration media. It’s quite possible that some of the very large quantity of gas filtration media inside of the Austin is continually loosened and picked up by the air that it pulls through its filters, thereby increasing the particle count of the air that it has to process and thereby increasing the particle count of the air that has already been processed and exits out of the air purifier.
Note that what we’ve outlined above are only theories attempting to excuse the Austin’s poor performance in our particle testing.
The bottom line is that this unit did perform poorly in our particle testing and this makes it a poor choice if particle filtration is a priority for you.
The HealthMate features a single very heavy cylindrical combination filter. The filter is comprised of several “layers”. Each “layer” represents a different filter type. From the outside of the filter to the inside:
Layer 1: a medium particle pre-filter
Layer 2: an activated carbon/zeolite mixture (gas filtration)
Layer 3: a HEPA filter (particle filtration)
The Austin HealthMate is equipped with a HEPA filter for the purpose of particle filtration – removing particles like mold, smoke, dust, etc. The unit’s HEPA filter is wrapped around the inside of its single combination filter. Air moves through the outside layers of the combination filter before it moves through the innermost layer – the HEPA filter. Right after it’s pulled through the HEPA filter the processed air moves through the center of the cylindrical combination filter and up and out of the air purifier’s outlet.
HEPA filtration is the industry standard for particle filtration. Everything from budget priced sub $100 air purifiers to $1000 top of the line units are equipped with HEPA filters for the purpose of particle filtration.
Thus, at least theoretically, the HealthMate doesn’t offer any better particle filtration than many budget air purifiers but it also doesn’t offer any worse particle filtration than top of the line units. Why? Because it’s equipped with exactly the same type of particle filter – a HEPA filter.
In practice, we saw earlier that the HealthMate doesn’t lower particle concentration nearly as fast or to the same extent (the same low concentration) as other HEPA equipped air purifiers with similar output (CFM). However, this is not because of its particle filter type. A HEPA filter removes 99.97% of particles that travel through it. The HEPA filters inside the better performing Winix 5500-2 and Coway Mighty have this efficiency and so does the HEPA filter inside the Austin. The reasons why the Austin performed poorly in our testing have nothing to do with its particle filter type. Rest assured that you’re getting the industry standard filter for particle filtration when purchasing a HealthMate – a HEPA filter.
The HealthMate may not be the best option if particle filtration is a priority for you but it’s the very best option on the market if gas filtration is important to you.
An air purifier’s gas filter removes unwanted gases like VOCs and odors. Most other air purifiers on the market have one of two different types of gas filters. The first type is a fibrous filter coated with carbon. This is the less effective type of gas filter. It’s also the type of gas filter you’re most likely to see in budget air purifiers in the sub $100 range.
The second type contains actual carbon pellets but not that many of them – maybe 1 lb. of carbon at most. This type of gas filter is more effective than the fibrous type described earlier, but it doesn’t remove unwanted gases very fast and it also saturates quite quickly because of the low quantity of gas filtration media it holds (1 lb. at most). This type of carbon filter isn’t nearly as common as the fibrous type. Examples of units that have this type of gas filter include the Winix 5500-2 and Rabbit Air BioGS 2.0.
The HealthMate has an altogether different type of gas filter. Its gas filter is sandwiched between a medium filter and a HEPA filter in a single combination filter. The gas filter portion of the combination filter contains 15 lb. of carbon and zeolite. Not only does the HealthMate’s gas filter contain a much greater quantity of gas filtration media than most other gas filters (15 lb. compared to a max. of 1 lb. in most others), but it also contains an addition chemical – zeolite (compared to only carbon in most others).
The large quantity of gas filtration media inside of the HealthMate allows it to remove unwanted gases much faster and for a much longer time than the gas filters inside most other air purifiers on the market.
Gas filters remove unwanted gases by bonding to them. More specifically, the carbon and zeolite inside the HealthMate’s gas filter bonds to different gases to remove them from the air.
The high quantity of carbon and zeolite provides a large surface area with a multitude of bonding sites for carbon/zeolite to bond to unwanted gases. This is why the weight of the gas filter is important. 15 lb. of carbon/zeolite provide for much greater surface area (and many more bonding sites) than 1 lb. or less of carbon.
The addition of zeolite allows the gas filtration media to bond to a greater variety of chemicals. Not all chemicals readily bond to carbon. Formaldehyde is one of such chemicals. So, while formaldehyde would pass right through the carbon filter in most other air purifiers, it bonds to the zeolite inside of the Austin’s gas filter.
The bottom line: if you’re looking for an air purifier to filter gases, you can’t do any better than the Austin HealthMate.
The Austin HealthMate’s combination filter is seated at the very center of the air purifier. Air travels through the metal grille on all four sides of the air purifier through this combination filter (that includes a medium filter, gas filter, and HEPA filter) and up and out through the center of the air purifier.
Seated between the cylindrical combination filter and the metal grille on all four sides of the air purifier is a fabric pre-filter. The pre-filter acts to remove large particles and fibers so that they don’t saturate the combination filter prematurely.
Most air purifiers on the market are also equipped with pre-filters for the same purpose – removing larger particles so that they don’t saturate the more expensive to replace HEPA filter prematurely.
Top rated units like the Coway Mighty and Winix 5500-2 are equipped with metal mesh washable pre-filters. Budget units tend to have a fibrous carbon filter that doubles as a pre-filter.
The Austin Air HealthMate processes about 250 cubic ft. of air per minute (250 CFM). This allows it to be used in rooms up to about 300 sq. ft. In rooms any larger than 300 sq. ft. the air purifier won’t be able to lower room particle concentration fast enough and to sufficiently low levels.
Top rated units like the Coway Mighty and Winix 5500-2 also have an output of approx. 250 CFM. They too, are recommended only for rooms up to 300 sq. ft.
Smaller budget priced units like the very popular GermGuardian AC4825 have a lower output – usually in the 100 to 150 CFM range (the GermGuardian’s output is approx. 140 CFM). Such units are recommended for rooms up to 150 sq. ft.
The HealthMate’s energy efficiency is below average. The unit draws 94.6 watts of power on its highest fan speed. For comparison, the Winix 5500-2, with exactly the same output (250 CFM), draws only 54.8 watts on its highest fan speed.
On lower fan speeds its even less energy efficient. On low, it still draws 51.3 watts of power with an output of approx. 50 CFM. This gives it a CFM/watt ratio of 0.9 on low fan speed.
The Winix 5500-2 draws 5.5 watts at an output of approx. 65 to 70 CFM on low fan speed for a CFM/watt ratio of 11.9. This means that the Winix is more than 12 times more energy efficient than the Austin on low fan speed (11.9 is more than 12 times 0.9).
Note that while the Austin isn’t very energy efficient compared to other air purifiers, it’s power draw is very reasonable compared to other popular appliances. On high fan speed at 94.6 watts of power draw it draws only slightly more power than the typical ceiling fan (60 to 70 watts) or a small LED TV (80 watts).
The HealthMate performed quite well in our noise output testing. On high fan speed it was measured at 66.5 dB of noise output. For comparison, the Winix 5500-2 was measured at 67.5 dB and the Coway Mighty at 66.1 dB. Almost all of the air purifiers we tested (even lower CFM units) were measured in the 60 to 70 dB range on high fan speed.
On low, the HealthMate was measured at 42.4 dB. Both the Winix and Coway were measured at 40 dB. While 42.4 dB is slightly more than 40 dB, it’s still very quiet. Rest assured, you can run this unit on low fan speed with very little noise output.
The HealthMate excels in gas filtration. The other major positive for this unit is its durability.
All Austin air purifiers, including the HealthMate are made in the USA. Most other air purifiers are made in China (Winix units are made in Korea).
The HealthMate’s outer shell is a hard durable metal. Most other air purifiers are almost completely made of plastic. Consider how the HealthMate weighs a whopping 47 lb. The Winix 5500-2 is just about as tall and wide (although about 7 inches less deep) as the Austin and weighs only 16.5 lb.
The HealthMate features a minimal design with a single knob that turns the unit on/off and is used to select one of three different fan speeds. Most other air purifiers have a complicated control panel with many more features – good if you want extra features but bad for long term reliability (more features that can break over time).
The HealthMate also comes with a 5 year warranty. For comparison, the Coway Mighty comes with a 3 year warranty while the Winix 5500-2 comes with only a 1 year warranty.
Ease of Use
Again, this unit features a very simplistic design. There’s a single knob that controls all settings and there’s no lights that turn on/off to show you which settings are selected.
Because of its metal casing this unit is very heavy. It weighs 47 lb. For comparison, the Winix 5500-2 with similar dimensions weighs only 16.5 lb. The Winix and most other air purifiers also comes with a handle. The Austin does not. The Austin does have wheels that allows it to be pushed instead of picked up while most other air purifiers do not have wheels.
Most other air purifiers on the market come with these three features:
- a timer
- at least one auto mode and corresponding air quality sensor and display
- an ionization mode
Certain units, like the Winix 5500-2, also come with a remote.
The HealthMate comes with none of these extra features. It has three fan speeds. That’s it.
Looking at the HealthMate’s approx. $500 price point, you might expect it to be a poor value. But it’s actually far from it.
First of all, this unit gives you two things you won’t find on most other air purifiers on the market:
Unmatched gas filtration
15 lb. of gas filtration media with the addition of zeolite to the mixture to remove even more chemicals from the air
a fully metal outer casing, made in the USA, etc.
The unit does have below average energy efficiency, but it’s overall power draw is still very reasonable – under 100 watts on maximum fan speed.
The unit does have a very expensive filter but
the filter contains 15 lb. of gas filtration media
15x more than you find in most other filter sets for most other air purifiers
the filter contains a greater quantity of particle filter (HEPA) media also
much more than what you find in most other filters sets for most other air purifiers
We estimate that the Austin’s combination filter should last about four times as long as the HEPA/carbon filters inside most other air purifiers (including top rated units like the Coway Mighty and Winix 5500-2).
The Austin’s filter costs about $240 to replace. Since it lasts about four times longer than the filters inside other air purifiers we can divide that number by four for an apples to apples comparison. $240/4 = $54. This puts filter replacement cost for this unit in exactly the same range as it is for units like the Coway Mighty and Winix 5500-2 – in the $40 to $60 range.
In other words, if you need to replace the filters inside your Coway Mighty once a year, this costs you between $40 to $60. All other things being equal (air quality, run time, etc.) you would need to replace the Austin’s filter only once every four years under the same conditions. The total cost at the end of those four years would be $240. But the yearly cost equates to $54 – in the $40 to $60 range just like the Coway.
All of this is to say that the HealthMate is actually a very good value. Yes, it is expensive and so is its filter. But, upon closer inspection, these costs are either justified (superior gas filtration and durability) or not as much as they may appear to be at face value ($54 yearly filter replacement cost compared to $40 to $60 for top rated units).
Our bottom line recommendations.
If gas filtration is very important to you the HealthMate is well worth its price. It has 15 lb. of gas filtration media with the addition of zeolite to the mixture. It’s also very well built, made in the USA, and so on and so forth.
If particle filtration is your primary concern – i.e. allergens, pollen, mold, etc. – then you can get away with a much less expensive air purifier. Currently we recommend either the Winix 5500-2 or the Coway Mighty as the best air purifiers overall (reasonable gas filtration with superior particle filtration).
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