Tower of light
About 2.5 feet tall and a foot in diameter with an all-white body and gray display, you might want to stick the $500 PuriCare in a corner, but regardless of where you put it, it won’t be ignored. A ring on top glows green, yellow, orange, or red, depending on your air quality. The display also lights up, with information about particulate matter in white. Buttons on the display let you change the fan speed, set a sleep timer, turn off the illuminating light, power the device on and off, cycle through more information about the air quality, and reset the countdown time after you’ve replaced the filter. (The filters cost $100 and need replacing yearly.) A light will turn on here, too, when it’s time to get a new filter. To make the device bedtime-friendly, you can put it sleep mode so the fan stays quiet, and you can turn the light off. It can clean the air in a room 217 square feet in size.
On the back of the tower, there’s a multi-colored handle. Pull it out, and you’ll see three color-coded, snapped-together filters. You pull them apart to clean or replace them, then nestle them back in the cubby. It’s a pretty simple process.
There are quite a few places you’re not supposed to put the purifier, like within three feet of a TV, five feet of lighting equipment, or four inches of a wall.
There’s a sticker on the tower that you’ll probably want to leave in place. It will help you decipher the information displayed when you press the indicator button. It gives the “PM density” of different particle sizes, so you know whether it’s smog, smoke, or dust setting off warning bells. PM10 indicates the air quality for dust particles smaller than 10 μm (micrometers), PM2.5 is smaller than 2.5 μm, and PM1.0 is smaller than 1.0 μm. That translates to soot, dust, pollen, and mold for PM10; car exhaust or wood-burning fires for PM2.5; and fuel-burning byproducts from power plants, vehicles, wood-burning stoves, wildfires, cooking, and candles.
Even if you don’t live in a particularly smoggy city, indoor volatile organic compounds can be pretty harmful.
“Particles can vary in size, shape and composition,” an Environmental Protection Agency spokesperson told Digital Trends. “EPA is especially concerned about particles that are 10 micrometers in diameter or smaller, because these particles are inhalable. Once inhaled, particles can affect the heart and lungs and in some cases cause serious health effects.”
Each of particulate size has a corresponding rating of “dust density” on the tower’s label: 0 to 54 for very good (green) for PM10, all the way up to over 255 for very bad (red). The numbers are 0 to 12 for very good to 56 and over for very bad for PM2.5 and PM1.0. Even if all these numbers are in the very good range, the tower will still turn red and the display will say “odor” if the tower is near, say, a litter box. That’s somewhat alarming, and even if the smell is really bad, a yellow warning would probably suffice.
Fresh air (not the Terry Gross kind)
While it’s helpful to get visual confirmation that the purifier is doing something, it’s hard to know what to do with that information. If you notice a sudden spike in particulates of a certain size, it’s hard to know if it’s something you’re doing or an outside offender. Thus, it’s hard to know if you should change your behavior or close the window.
During testing, the tower turned red quite often, but due to odor and not dust (darn kitty litter). We didn’t notice a major uptick in red or yellow alerts when Seattle was covered by haze thanks to nearby wildfires. However, we sprayed canned smoke (used for testing smoke alarms) a couple feet away and a few seconds later, the tower lit up red and all three types of PMs were out of the good zones. Most of the time during our month-long usage, the ranges for the all-particulate matter were in the very good category. When we pulled the filter out for cleaning, it was still quite clean.
The PuriCare is certified by the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Resources Board and by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. The AAFA tests purifiers to see if they meet its asthma and allergy friendly certification; the purifier must remove 75 percent of allergens and the filter must retain 50 percent of those removed (as opposed to just redistributing them back in the air). The PuriCare’s three-part filter captures “invisible air pollutants & allergens while reducing VOCs, odors, and formaldehyde,” removing 99.97 percent of airborne particles as small as 0.3 microns, according to LG.
“The effectiveness of an air cleaner depends on how well it collects pollutants from indoor air (expressed as a percentage efficiency rate) and how much air it draws through the cleaning or filtering element (expressed in cubic feet per minute),” said the EPA spokesperson.
The organization has a list of things to consider before buying an air purifier, and it’s important to remember that they’re not medical devices.
LG offers a one-year parts-and-labor warranty for the PuriCare. There’s a 10-year warranty for the motor.
Quiet and aesthetically pleasing, the LG PuriCare makes you feel like it’s working hard when it starts to glow. How hard it’s actually working is a littler more difficult to decipher. There’s no end to air purifiers that promise to rid you of allergies. For a relatively small price but powerful enough to clean a 390-square-foot room, we like the Honeywell 50250-S ($175), despite its squat design. If you’re looking for a little more insight into your air quality, the Airmega is big, boxy, and app-controlled. The 300S ($650) has a 1,256-square-foot coverage area, and you can control it with Alexa. Not pricey enough? The $799 Molekule claims to destroy pollutants, rather than just trapping them. The LG PuriCare’s small coverage area is the biggest drawback to this device, so look elsewhere if you’re looking to put it in a big space.
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