Shopping For Top Rated Air Purifiers in Shanghai

How to shop for top rated air purifiers: a Shanghai expat's guide

So, how to choose a suitable machine to combat Shanghai pollution? In our Shanghai Pollution article, we discussed some issues related to buying air purifiers in Shanghai.

Here we will go more into the technical details of air purifier machines and offer some advice on how to use them.

A first suggestion is to buy air purifiers in Shanghai as quickly as you can. When air pollution spiked here in late 2015 and early 2016 sales of air purifiers in Shanghai soared 300%, causing some air purifier stocks to run out, and prices to increase. 

We have a list of suppliers of air purifiers in Shanghai for you to compare, as well as useful resources and related news items at the end of the article. 

It is quite clear from experts that good quality air purifier machines should include a HEPA filter, aka "High Energy Particulate Arresting" to improve your indoor air quality.

HEPA filters remove a minimum of 99.97 percent of particles down to 0.3 microns, therefore including PM2.5 and much smaller particles. The PM2.5 size particle is considered the most hazardous to our health, as it is small enough to breathe deeply into our lungs and enter our bloodstream.

More Air Pollution Solutions

Many machines claim to use a HEPA 'like' or 'type' filter, but do not meet HEPA standards. Don't be fooled by brands that claim to filter more than 99 percent of the air. It might sound good, but if the 1 percent that gets through is all the dangerous particles then it is not effective. So make sure to purchase a machine with a true HEPA standard or above filter.

Some chemical fumes, gases, smoke particles, viruses, and bacteria are much smaller than PM 2.5 so will pass through HEPA filters. It is important, therefore, for your Shanghai air purifier to also have a carbon filter.

When air is pulled through the air purifier, the activated-carbon filter holds on to toxic chemicals including:

  1. VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), such as formaldehyde, emitted from furniture and building materials.
  2. cigarette smoke, 
  3. emissions from burning of fuels such as sulphur dioxide, nitrogen, lead
  4. pollen
  5. toxins emitted by household cleaning products

Choosing the Top Rated Air Purifiers

Important points to compare when purchasing an air purifier in China:

  • The filters, and their efficiency to remove PM 2.5 and other pollutants.
  • Energy efficiency – most quality machines use much less electricity than air-conditioners, so won't cause a huge increase in your power bill, even when using four or five machines around your home left on continuously for 24 hours a day.
  • Area Coverage – Make sure you get a machine big enough to clean the whole room. One interesting thing to consider is buying two cheaper smaller capacity machines for each side of the room rather than one large more expensive machine (especially as you are recommended to place the machine in the corner of the room).
  • Duration for replacement of filters. This can make a big difference to the cost of operating a machine over its lifetime.
  • Lights – sensitive sleepers report being irritated by the bright LED lights. Some machines have the function of dimming or turning off the display panel.
  • Noise – Most machines are slightly noisy on high setting, but low to medium settings are quite reasonable and can also produce a calming mild background noise to help you sleep.
  • Ozone emitting air purifiers – this technology was common in the past, as an active way to destroy pollutants in the air, but has largely been discredited due to health concerns. 
  • Ionizer – some manufacturers (mainly Japanese) offer this function, which turns a passive air purifier machine into an active machine. Instead of just cleaning the air which passes through the purifier, they create combined positive and negative ions which are then showered around the room attaching themselves to various particles in the air and oxidizing them. Various germs, bacteria, viruses, mold, and odors are killed in this way. It is important when choosing such a technology to make sure it does not produce ozone. Sharp’s Plasmacluster technology ensures ozone emissions are well below allowable levels unlike older model ionizers used in some air purifiers.
  • Ultraviolet air-purifier technology – Used to kill bugs, viruses and bacteria. Some machines use this technology to further sterilize the air inside the machine, whereas other machines claim it can sterilize the air actively throughout the room. Such bulbs need to be replaced thereby increasing cost. 
  • Humidifier – Air-purifiers also dehumidify the air during their operation. This can be a great extra benefit during the humid summer months, but an issue during the dry winter season. Some suppliers recommend you buy an extra humidifier to be used in the winter, while some manufacturers, such as Sharp, have machines that include a combined humidifier.
  • Pre-filter – some machines offer one or more pre-filters to filter out large particles before air passes through the HEPA and carbon filters. This can extend the HEPA filter lifespan. The pre-filter will get quite dirty and require cleaning or changing, a simple and cheap task, after just a few weeks of operation in China, proving its effectiveness.
  • Housing and wheels – some offer steel housing, while others use plastic housing, which has advantages and disadvantages for mobility, durability and other considerations.
  • Automation – some machines offer many automation features, such as air quality sensors that can give you an indication of the level of dust and odors in the room. Such sensors can be helpful to automatically adjust the speed depending on room air quality, or tell you when it is time to change filters.
  • Air-cleaning capacity – how many times the air in the room can be circulated through the machine and cleaned in one hour (air-flow rate).
  • CADR resultsClean Air Delivery Rate-  this is one attribute tested by the Shanghai Quality Inspection and Supervision Bureau for approving air purifiers to go on sale in Shanghai. Overseas, however, some experts consider this an important attribute while others point out its weakness in determine the quality of an air purifier.
  • After sales service – the better quality the machine the less you will need this, but it is still a consideration.
  • Price – Unfortunately, air purifiers in China are much more expensive than in the West. The author bought an IQ Air in Canada for RMB 6,000, whereas in Shanghai it costs about RMB 14,000. Apart from the top of the line IQ Air from Switzerland with its many extra layers of filters, the top selling air purifiers in Shanghai include Blue Air from Sweden with its unique HEPASilent™ technology, selling between RMB 3,500-7,000, Alen Air of the US selling between RMB 4,000-7,000, the Japanese machines from Sharp with their Plasmacluster Ion technology and built-in humidifiers selling between RMB 2,000-4,500, and the Philips air purifiers selling between RMB 2,000-5,000, all depending on room size.

Inexpensive Cheap Air Purifiers in China

DIY Air Purifier

An American expat, Thomas Talhelm, and his company, Smart Air, have been promoting their Do It Yourself (DIY) cheap air-purifiers to the expat community around China.

Instead of buying an expensive air-purifier in China, this company recommends buying your own HEPA filters and strapping them to a fan. Their own test results show that PM2.5 levels in the room will be reduced as effectively as when using the more expensive purifiers.

Smart Air sells the kit for you to assemble yourself, or describes how you can purchase the parts on your own. This very smart idea gives those on lower budgets a way to reduce the PM levels in their homes and therefore is a great contribution to make cleaner air more affordable for everyone in China.

However, their inference that this method proves other air-purifier companies in China are “trying to pump people for insane profits” is a bit simplistic. The original Smart Air product is only a HEPA filter and does not include the activated carbon and other filters found in the more expensive models. Adding such filters to the Smart Air product will increase the price. Without the casing it can also be noisier than other air purifier machines. 

Smart Air recommends the standard HEPA filters they provide be changed within less than 2 months when operating 24 hours a day while the long-life true HEPA filters in the more expensive air-purifiers in China, when combined with pre-filters, only need to be changed once every 2-5 years according to their manufacturers.

Air Purifier Rental Model

Another Shanghai expat startup, Mila, has come up with its own subscription model for renting air purifiers in Shanghai. This could be a cost effective choice if you are in Shanghai for just two years.

Cheap Chinese Air Purifiers

As the air purifier market in China grows and matures, foreign brands have been reducing their prices in the last two years. As well, there are more and more Chinese brand air purifiers coming on to the market for under RMB 1,000.

Unfortunately, few of these have good English service so it is hard to tell if their technology is as good as established Western brands. We include some in the list below. 

Air Purifiers Fail Quality Tests in China

In early 2016 a report from the Shanghai Quality Inspection and Supervision Bureau showed that several cheap Chinese air purifiers, including some models made by Xiaomi, had failed quality tests.

Consumers were reminded to look at the packaging to make sure instructions for coverage area, clean air delivery rate (CADR) and noise index are clearly marked.

Further tests of air purifiers around China conducted by the national General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine in the first half of 2016 found that one-quarter of the them were substandard. The failed models were mostly smaller local Chinese air purifier brands. 

These national tests included tests conducted in Shanghai which found air purifier models manufactured by, sold by, or branded Mitsubishi, Baomi , Novowater, ReFinAIR, Somputon, Zhejiang Benyuan Appliance, LongYea, were substandard for different reasons.  

Points to Consider For Operating Top Rated Air Purifiers

  • Make sure to remove sources that cause indoor air pollution, such as furniture or paint which emit formaldehyde. Removing such sources is just as important as using top rated air purifiers.
  • It is recommended to have your indoor air quality tested in Shanghai by a professional company that can discover sources of air pollution in your home.
  • Cheap indoor air quality monitors are becoming easily available in China. Consider picking up one of these so you can monitor your own indoor air quality.
  • Although top rated air purifiers are more effective in cleaning indoor air when windows are closed, from time to time you should still open the windows to ventilate the room with new air. So keep an eye on AQI readings to let you know the best time to ventilate.
  • The machines should not be too close to walls. Check the product manual for best positioning of the machines.
  • When first turning on the machine, put it in the high position for 30 minutes to effectively cleanse the room's air, and then switch to medium.
  • The air purifier should be kept on 24 hours per day for best results
  • Make sure to check and change the filters when required.
  • Before turning on after a period of non-use, first check to make sure the machine and filters are clean.
  • Low setting is often not sufficient to keep the room air clean, so medium to high is preferred.

Air Purifier in Shanghai Supplier List


Air Purifier Brands in Shanghai

Chinese Air Purifier Brands

Indoor Air Quality Testing in Shanghai

In The News

China issues draft of new National Standard for Air Purifiers

Top rated air purifiers and pollution face masks sell fast in Shanghai

Shanghai Expat Company Mila Comes up with new way to market its air purifiers

Dutch Expat in Shanghai builds own air purifier:

Shanghai University develops new air purifier technology
Imported air purifiers in China:

Air Purifier Shanghai

There is a lot of choice when you're looking for top rated air purifiers in Shanghai

More help with the Shanghai Expat lifestyle