Tower Air Purifiers

tower air purifiers

Most tower air purifiers on the market fall into one of these two categories:

  • HEPA filter units made by GermGuardian
  • Permanent filter units made by Honeywell

Between these two options, we recommend GermGuardian over Honeywell units.

1. GermGuardian units

- Have HEPA filters

HEPA filter tower units like the GermGuardian AC4825, for example, offer the same high level of particle filtration as HEPA filter units that feature a more traditional design. They do, after all, use the exact same type of filter – a HEPA filter. HEPA filters have to be made to a certain standard to be called a HEPA filter. That standard is that they have to be able to remove 99.97% of particles 0.3 microns or larger contained in air on one pass through the filter. HEPA equipped GermGuardian units meet this standard.

Honeywell units

- Most have permanent filters

Permanent filters do not need to be made to the same standard as HEPA filters.

With permanent filters there’s no standard at all. The manufacturer can choose to make one tower unit more or less effective than another. And that’s exactly what happens with Honeywell units. Some are more effective at particle filtration than others.

This is only one of many reasons we don’t particularly like permanent filters. There are many other reasons also. For a complete rundown see our guide on permanent filter air purifiers.

2. GermGuardian units

- Are mostly smaller and lighter

Honeywell units

- Tend to be taller and heavier

One of the main perks of a tower air purifier is its small footprint. So chances are, if you’re looking for a tower air purifier, this may be important to you. GermGuardian units generally do this better than Honeywell units. They’re more compact – that is to say they’re generally smaller and lighter.

3. GermGuardian units

- Are mostly cheaper

Honeywell units

- Are generally more expensive

Several GermGuardian units are under $100. Honeywell units tend to be more expensive. Many are upwards of $200. Honeywell is hoping that you pay the higher initial price based on the fact that their units have permanent filters – so you don’t have to worry about filter replacement costs.

But, as we talked about earlier, HEPA filters are simply much better filters. So yes, you are paying for a replacement but that replacement is necessary to have the superior filter. Buying a new filter, you also don’t have to clean it, and you can be sure that it’s going to be just as effective as a brand new filter (because it is a brand new filter). After cleaning a permanent filter you never know for sure how effective it is compared to when it was brand new.

The one downside of

GermGuardian units

- They don’t work very well as fans – many don’t necessarily blow air forward very well and they also don’t oscillate

The GermGuardian AC4825 pushes air forward slightly but more so to the side.

The GermGuardian AC4300 (another popular unit)  doesn’t even have a front grille but rather has outlets on the sides to completely push out air to the sides.

Honeywell units

- Most do blow air forward and most do oscillate

Directional air flow (blowing air forward instead of upward) and oscillation are critical components of any fan.

But here’s the thing: neither the direction the air is blowing (directional air flow) nor the fact that it’s constantly changing (oscillation) affects air purification

And these units are, of course, first and foremost air purifiers.

Our testing shows that, in terms of air purification, it doesn’t matter much whether an air purifier outputs air upwards or forwards. And so it follows that it also doesn’t matter if that direction is constantly changing as it does with oscillation.

Air is a gas that constantly wants to go toward equilibrium. That means that as soon as clean air with low particle concentration comes out of the air purifier it immediately distributes throughout the whole room while air with high particle concentration swoops in. Whether the clean air is going upwards, forwards, or backwards, or changing direction the clean air is going to distribute equally throughout the whole room. *

The end result? Both the air’s direction and the fact that it’s constantly changing – via oscillation - has no impact on the unit’s ability to purify air.

Directional air flow and oscillation does, however, make the air purifier a better fan. But again, these units are first and foremost air purifiers. They come equipped with filters that need to be replaced (at least GermGuardian units). They have to push air through these filters. This makes them much less effective fans than they would be without filters.

Not to mention the fact that they’re much more expensive than fans.

Our recommendation

If you do need both a fan and air purification we would recommend getting a fan and air purifier separately. Or if you absolutely want both in one device – we would begrudgingly recommend a Honeywell unit. The Air Genius 5 would be our recommendation.

If you really only want a tower unit for the form factor – not for it to double as a fan – we would recommend the GermGuardian AC4825. It’s definitely one of the better GermGuardian towers on the market. It provides sufficient output – CFM – for rooms up to 150 sq. ft. and at a great price – it normally retails for under $100.

If you’re looking for a tower unit for larger rooms up to 300 sq. ft. there really aren’t any options on the market. Larger GermGuardian units – larger than the AC4825 – are physically larger but don’t have much more output – maybe 10 to 20 extra CFM at best. The Air Genius 5 has about as high of an output as you’ll find in a Honeywell tower unit and it won’t work in larger rooms either.

So, if you need an air purifier for a larger room (larger than 150 sq. ft.) you’ll need to move away from the tower form factor and get a unit with a more traditional design.

Top rated units fit the bill here. See our general buyer’s guide for the latest list of top units.

* This also means that you cannot use a tower unit and point it directly at you in a large room, expecting it to blow clean air on you for you to breath in. Unless you put your nose directly up to the grill of the air purifier and breathe deeply the clean air is going to distribute throughout the whole room well before it gets to you for you to breathe it in – even if you’re close (for more on this topic see here).

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