Bedroom Air Purifiers


A bedroom air purifier needs to

  • be quiet and
  • have a control panel with LEDs that can be turned off

The good news? All top-rated air purifiers on the market fit the first requirement. They can all be very quiet.

The bad news? All top-rated units do not fit the second requirement. The best air purifiers on the market do not have a control panel with LEDs that can be turned off. They do everything else really well but often have control panel lights that cannot be turned off.

With that in mind, let’s talk about LED illumination first.

LED Illumination

If you absolutely need an air purifier with LEDs that can be completely turned off there are several options on the market. The problem? While all such options have this ability, they have other shortcomings that keep us from recommending them to most users.

The Honeywell HPA series is one of those options.

The HPA100, 200, and 300 all have a dimmer switch that allows you to set the LEDs to high, low, and most importantly turn them completely off. This means you can run these units on any setting – at any fan speed - with all control panel illumination completely turned off.

The problem? These units just aren’t very good air purifiers otherwise. They’re loud, energy inefficient, and a poor value. These are more than enough reasons for us not to recommend them.

Levoit’s line of air purifiers (eg. the LV-H132 and LV-PUR131) have the same problem.

Most Levoit units also have a dimmer switch that allow you to turn all their control panel LEDs off. However, they suffer from several shortcomings including low processing power (this allows them to only be used in very small rooms), especially considering their price, poor durability, and poor value. Again, these are more than enough reasons to keep us from recommending them.

The bottom line here is that among all the units we’ve tested so far, units that have lights that can be turned off all have major shortcomings otherwise.

And those shortcomings are so significant that we cannot recommend them even if you absolutely need to turn off all the control panel lights of your potential bedroom air purifier.

In evaluating the rest of the options out there we find that almost all units have LEDs that cannot be turned off. All we can do is look at how the LEDs are implemented:

  • are they especially bright LEDs?
  • are there a lot of LEDs?

With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the two air purifiers we recommend as the best air purifiers currently on the market. Both of these units do everything else really well – they’re energy efficient, quiet, have great processing power, and they’re a terrific value. But they don’t allow you to turn off all their control panel lights. So let’s see how they do according to the two new requirements we laid out above.

A comparison of two top rated units – the Coway Mighty and Winix 5500-2

The Coway Mighty has a small green LED for most settings and a large air quality LED (the round circle on the far right of the control panel).

The Winix 5500-2 has white LEDs that light up for most settings, the “PLASMAWAVE” text light turns on/off when you turn on/off the ionizer, the air quality LED is a horizontal bar light that cannot be turned off.

Unlike the Coway, the Winix does feature a sleep mode. Selecting this mode turns off all lights EXCEPT the light that shows that sleep mode is activated (a moon with z's coming out of it) - this is a white LED that cannot be turned off.

On this mode the unit cannot be controlled manually. It’s automatically set to the lowest fan speed the current air quality in the room allows for (the unit is also equipped with an air quality sensor to make this determination).

Do note that the Winix isn’t the only air purifier on the market that features a sleep mode. And this feature works much the same – full auto mode with no manual control – on all other air purifiers on the market with this functionality.

The problem here is twofold:

  • A single light still illuminates even when sleep mode is activated (the moon)
  • We don’t recommend you run the unit on sleep mode, even when you’re sleeping

We don’t recommend sleep mode for the same reason we don’t recommend all other auto modes. We go over the reasoning for this recommendation here. The bottom line is that only by running the air purifier on manual mode can you ensure the best air quality possible at all times.

Instead of setting the air purifier to an auto mode (like sleep mode) we recommend you run the air purifier on the highest fan speed possible with a corresponding noise level you can tolerate. This is the only way to ensure maximum air cleaning and therefore the best air quality possible.

For example, you’re likely to be just fine with the noise level of the Winix when it’s set to its third highest fan speed. We would recommend this fan speed while you’re sleeping if you’re sensitive to noise. And you can only set it to this fan speed manually.

The verdict

Between these two top rated options, the Coway is definitely the better option in terms of having less lights, less bright lights, and less obtrusive lights.

But what if you really like the Winix but cannot tolerate its control panel illumination in a dark bedroom? What if you really like the Coway but you cannot tolerate its lesser but still present illumination either?

Illumination fix

If you buy a top-rated unit for your bedroom and absolutely cannot stand its lights, you can always put black tape over the LEDs.

These are very basic appliances. Most users will only really need to adjust one setting – fan speed. This means you could tape over the air quality LED, the Winix’s “PLASMAWAVE” text, etc.

You can also tape over the fan speed LEDS because you should be able to easily set fan speed by ear.  Fan speed is easy to adjust – just press the fan speed button repeatedly to cycle through different speeds. You’ll be able to tell the actual speed by the noise that the air purifier makes. The turbo setting will make the most noise while the lowest fan speed will make the least noise.

Another option is to rotate the air purifier away from you while you’re sleeping. The direction from which the air purifier intakes air and even outputs air makes very little difference to its performance. In other words, the air purifier will be able to clean the air in your bedroom just as well whether you have its control panel pointed towards you or away from you.

If you use this method the Winix is actually the better option as its control panel is slightly vertical. The Coway’s control panel is completely flat so you won’t be able to rotate its lights away from you.

Noise output

Air purifiers do produce noise but thankfully most of it is simply a clean white noise - a wind noise, if you will.

That being said, even this clean wind noise will likely be too loud for a bedroom setting - while sleeping - on the air purifier’s highest fan speed.

Most air purifiers we tested were measured to produce noise in the 40 to 50 dB range at lower fan speeds with a big jump up to the high 60 dB range at maximum fan speed. While the 40 to 50 dB range should be comfortable for most users, the high 60 dB range is likely to be uncomfortable for most users in a bedroom setting while sleeping.

The end result? You’ll likely need to run the air purifier you end up buying on anything but maximum fan speed if you’re using it in your bedroom at night while sleeping.

Why is this important? Because most room size recommendations you’ll read elsewhere (manufacturer square footage recommendations, for example) make such recommendations based on running the air purifier on maximum fan speed. We just showed you how you likely won’t be using the air purifier on maximum fan speed in your bedroom at night while sleeping.

With all of this in mind, here are our recommendations if you’re buying an air purifier for your bedroom:  

For smaller bedrooms (under 150 sq. ft.)

Buy a top-rated unit like the Winix 5500-2 or Coway Mighty.

Tape over its lights or rotate it if necessary.

Run it on its highest setting before bed to get particle concentration in the room as low as possible.

Run it on its second highest setting (or lower depending on your noise tolerance) while you’re sleeping.

For larger bedrooms

Buy a top-rated unit like the Winix 5500-2 or Coway Mighty.

Tape over its lights or rotate it if necessary.

Follow the same fan speed guidelines as above. However, do note that particle concentration in the room will slowly go up overnight.

If you have extreme sensitivities (to particles like pollen, for example), you may need to run the unit on its highest setting overnight. Chances are, you won’t be able to tolerate the noise. If that’s the case, purchase an additional unit and run both at a lower fan speed.

Two top rated units on their second highest setting equate to about 200 CFM (cubic feet per minute of air processing power) which is only 50 CFM less than one unit on its highest setting. The difference, in terms of noise, is that two units on the second highest setting will barely go above 50 dB. One unit on the highest setting will get close to 70 dB. In the former case (multiple units) you will also have slightly better distribution of clean air throughout the room because you’ll be running two inlets/outlets at different parts of the room.

You won’t pay any more for filters for two units than you will for one. There’s the same amount of particles in the room either way. One HEPA filter will saturate with those particles twice as fast as two HEPA filters. In other words, running one unit you’ll have to replace the filter on that one unit twice as fast as running two units and replacing the two filters for those two units. The end result is that filter replacement cost will be equal, whether you run one unit or two units in the room.

Note: in either case (small or large room) shut the door to “seal” it. This will go a long way in helping to lower room particle concentration more effectively and more efficiently.

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Comments (1)

Walt Dockerysays...

the wirecutter review claims the coway mighty lights can be turned off by holding the ionizer buttom for 3 seconds.

Consumer Analysissays...

They are correct. Since the writing of this guide, Coway has updated the Mighty to include this functionality.