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Buying an Air Purifier in Singapore: A Handy Checklist

Buying an Air Purifier in Singapore: A Handy Checklist

Buying an air purifier in Singapore is fraught with challenges and hidden pitfalls if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for.

air purifier buying guide

Reports out of Indonesia indicate that those pesky little PM 2.5. particles are heading Singapore’s way again this year and, if last year’s smog-fest is anything to do by, we’re in for a lethal cocktail of murky badness.

If you didn’t invest in an air purifier last year or, worse still, you bought one that was as effective as Donald Trump’s foreign policies, now is the time to get smart in the smog and stock up before the stores are raided and you’re left with zilch. However, buying an air purifier can seem like somewhat of a dark art. With the various models and functions on offer, it can be very difficult to get to grips with what technology you need and what may do more harm than good. Worse still, there’s a plethora of marketing jargon slapped on air purifiers that may lead you to think you’re buying the real deal, while really you have nothing more than a fan with a two-bit filter stuck to it.

Here’s an overview of some of the jargon you will come across when hunting down that ideal air purifier and what it actually means for you and your baby.

Buying an Air Purifier in Singapore: The Jargon Every Parent Should Understand


The filter part of your purifier is the important bit that is responsible for actually trapping the dangerous particles and removing them from the air. A prefilter is a special filter that can capture particles that are 1 micron in size and larger. Look for a prefilter than is proven to remove those tiny-but-mighty PM 2.5 particles that make Singapore’s air so nasty when the haze strikes.

HEPA Filter

According to the US Department of Energy, High Energy Particulate Air (HEPA) filters can remove a massive 99.97% of airborne particles. So, if you’re serious about cleaning the air your breathe, a HEPA filter will be top of your list. However, it isn’t quite that straightforward. There are, in fact, several types of HEPA filter and you need to have your wits about you to avoid being misled. When you’re looking for a HEPA filter, ideally, you want a TRUE HEPA. To earn the label True HEPA, an air purifier must demonstrate the ability to at least 99.97 percent of particles .3 microns in size.

You may find air purifiers advertised that are described as HEPA-type purifiers. Basically, this is a marketing ploy that is described to mislead you. To be credible, the filter rating must tell you two things:

  1. The percentage of particles the filter will retain AND
  2. The particle size class in microns.

If you see claims such as:

“HEPA-type filtration system that is proven to trap 99.97% of dust and allergens,” you should give it a miss. What dust specifically? 99.97% of dust particles over 1.0 micron in size? What allergens? Can it actually deal with PMI 2.5?

If the spiel that comes with the air purifier doesn’t tell you EXACTLY what size particles in what percentage the purifier can deal with, leave it on the shelf. Chances are someone is trying to mislead you. Similar vocabulary that should ring alarm bells are:

“high-efficiency filter” (What actually does high efficiency mean?)

“HEPA filter” (If it was a TRUE HEPA filter the manufacturer would be keen to tell you)

“99 percent HEPA” (What about the other 1%? Remember, you’re looking for a filter that can remove 99.97 % of particles below 0.3 microns, not something that bears 99% resemblance to a TRUE HEPA filter).

“HEPA-style filter removes particles as small as 0.3 microns,” (In what percentage? How reliable is it?)

Ionic Air Purifiers

Ionic air purifiers are very different to HEPA air purifiers. They work by releasing tons of negatively charged ions into their air. These ions connect with any particles that are floating around the room, making them negatively charged too. The whole process repeats; negatively charged stuff connects with negatively charged stuff until, eventually, all the particles that have stuck together become so heavy they fall to the ground. Ta Da… they are no longer in the air you breathe. This all sounds great. However, there is a slight problem. The pollution is actually still in the room and can be stirred back into circulation by a gust of wind or an over-enthusiastic sneeze at any time. What’s more, in the process of releasing all these negative ions, the purifier also produces Ozone. According to the American Lung Association, ozone is most certainly something you don’t want floating around baby’s room. You can read more here: ozone pollution.

If there are small people living in your midst (or pets), you should probably give air pruifiers that emit ions a miss. According to EPA, (US Environmental Protection Agency), even “relatively low amounts of ozone can cause chest pain, coughing, shortness of breath and throat irritation.” Consumer Reports magazine investigated ionizers in 2003 and found that they resulted in practically, “no reduction in airborne particles”. In fact, according to EPA, ionizing and ozone air purifiers can actually cause more threat to health than good. If all that wasn’t enough for you, California has banned the sale of all air cleaners that emit ozone. For more about this, see the California Air Resources Board site.

Ultra Low Penetrating Air (ULPA)

ULPA filters are the big daddy of air purifiers. They were developed for use in hospitals and are now available in self-contained home air cleaners at a hefty price. They contain filters that are an intercut web of micro-fibers that trap 99.99% of 0.1 micron particles. If money isn’t an issue for you, an ULPA air purifier should be top of your list: the Singapore haze won’t stand a chance against these bad boys.

Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR)

The CADR should be clearly displayed on any air purifier you are thinking of buying. You should find three numbers: one for tobacco smoke (10 to 450), one for pollen (25 to 450), and one for dust (10 to 400). The higher these numbers are, the faster the purifier will clean the air and reduce these pollutants. A CADR above 350 is excellent and a CADR below 100 is probably not worth buying. CADR is typically certified by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers. To ensure the figures are accurate, look for an air purifier that bears the AHAM-verified symbol.

Asthma and Allergy Friendly

This is a relatively new certification from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation that confirms the air purifier actually reduces allergens as opposed to redistributing them. Not many units have earned this prestigious title yet, but it is still worth keeping an eye out for it.

CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute)

The amount of air, in cubic feet, that flows through a given space in one minute. 1 CFM equals approximately 2 liters per second (l/s). 

ACH (Air Change per Hour)

The ACH is the number of times an air purifier can filter the entire volume of air in the prescribed treatment space within one hour. Air purifiers that can clean the air in a space at least four times per hour are best. A rate of four air changes per hour also ensures that the air purifier thoroughly cleans the air and filters out as many microscopic particles that can do the most damage.

Buying an Air Purifier Checklist

air purifier checklist

Have you got any top tips for buying an air purifier in Singapore? Have we missed any important jargon from our lowdown? Please leave a comment and fill us in!


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