TL;DR: The GermGuardian AC5300B 28″ Air Purifier is our pick for the best air purifier for pet dander
The HEPA filter is the industry’s gold standard when it comes to air filtration. It is a mechanical filter that traps pollutant particles by forcing the air through a fine mesh.
The HEPA filter is usually part of a multi-stage filtration system in an air purifier, but it is usually the filter that’s doing the heavy lifting.
The HEPA filter is also key to removing pet dander in the indoor environment. We will be exploring and learning more about the HEPA filter, and then follow up with the reviews of some of the best air purifiers for pet dander.
These are the best air purifiers for pet dander on the market that we will be reviewing:
- Coway Airmega 400 Smart Air Purifier
- Levoit LV-H134 Tower Pro HEPA
- GermGuardian AC5300B 28″ Air Purifier
- Hathaspace Smart True HEPA Air Purifier
- Medify MA-40 Air Purifier
What is a HEPA filter?
High-efficiency Particulate Air filter, or HEPA filter, is an efficiency standard for air filter. According to the EPA, a HEPA filter is a pleated mechanical air filter. A mechanical filter works “by forcing air through a fine mesh that traps harmful particles”.
A HEPA filter should theoretically be able “remove at least 99.97% of dust, pollen, mold, bacteria, and any airborne particles with a size of 0.3 microns (µm).”
There are different grades of HEPA filters. They are graded based on their efficacy to remove particles more thoroughly and the size of the particles that it can filter.
A standard HEPA (or true HEPA as some brands call it) is able to remove 99.97% of particles down to 0.3 microns in size. Another common grade of HEPA filter is the H13 HEPA filter. This filter is able to remove particles down to 0.1 microns in size.
The H13 HEPA filter is the more superior option, but the overall efficacy of the air purifier depends on other factors as well.
How to maintain HEPA filters
According to WebMD, a HEPA filter should be able to “remove most airborne particles that might make allergies worse.”
But it is also important to remember that these particles can settle on clothing, furniture, upholstery, drapes and such.
So while an air purifier captures airborne particles, vacuuming both the floor and above ground surfaces will help to maintain good air quality. Washing bedding, upholstery and draping frequently will also help to keep pet dander and allergy at bay.
Clean out the pre-filter frequently. We recommend at least once a week, during your weekly deep clean.
The pre-filter is the machine’s first line of defense. It captures larger particles such as pet hair and lint. Cleaning the pre-filter often will increase the longevity of the HEPA filter.
It also helps the HEPA filter to operate optimally. Look out for air purifiers with pre-filters that can be cleaned, either vacuumed or washable, but ideally both.
And lastly, always remember to replace the HEPA filter as often as the manufacturer’s guideline. Aim for the lower threshold if your home has multiple pets.
Some air purifiers have a built-in replacement indicator which shows when your filter is ready to be tossed out and replaced. Others don’t, so you’ll need to keep track of it manually.
How CADR alone doesn’t tell the full story
The Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) needs to be understood with the size of room, in volume. There are 2 components to look out for.
One, the recommended square footage relative to the CADR. The CADR is Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM)’s standard for measuring an air cleaner’s efficacy.
The organization also provides a rule of thumb to gauge the efficacy of an air purifier. It is called the ⅔ rule.
The ⅔ rule states that the ratio of the CADR to the square footage covered should be at least ⅔. So if you’re comparing 2 air purifiers’ CADR, the numbers on the CADR alone is not indicative of its efficacy.
You’ll need to do a bit of calculation.
Divide the CADR (in cubic feet per minute, CFM) by the square footage of the room. Anything below 0.667 will not pass the AHAM ⅔ rule.
Two, look at the volume of the room, not the square footage alone. All the ratings (ACH and CADR) on air purifiers are calculated based on the standard ceiling height of 8 feet.
These ratings take into account the volume (length x width x height), not the area (length x width) of the spaces. So for living areas or attic with irregular ceiling height, you’ll need to do some calculation yourself. This is to gauge if the air purifier will be suitable and effective for the space it would be purifying.
I like how the brand Medify demonstrates how you can adapt their products to your home setting. Most brands would mention the square footage the air purifier would be able to cover, and classify them based on that.
But Medify points to something that’s key to understanding how the performance indicators (CAGR, ACH) are calculated. Air purifiers will perform optimally only if the size of the room matches up with what they are capable of.
As an example, an air purifier that is advertised to handle rooms up to 500 square feet, can also handle 1000 square feet, but just at a lower rate of performance. And similarly, if the performance at 500 square feet is insufficient, then reducing the square footage of the space will solve the problem instantly.
It is important to have some basic understanding of how the air purifiers filters work. And how to adapt the standard rating to your unique situation. Both will help you pick an air purifier that’s right for your space. With that, let’s review the top 5 air purifiers for pet dander that we’ve picked out.
Average air purifier for pet dander in very large spaces
This Korean air purifier comes with a 3-stage filter. The first stage is a washable pre-filter. And followed by the Max2 filter – a combined activated carbon and a true HEPA filter. The true HEPA filter is a must for removing pet dander from circulating in the air.
The Coway Airmega 400 Smart can handle spaces up to 1560 square feet / 145 square meter. It would be a great option for open concept living area, where there are no walls separating the different areas.
It would also be an excellent choice if your ceiling height is more than the typical 8 feet / 2.4 meters. The Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) or air change per hour (ACH) is calculated based on the typical ceiling height in most American homes, which is 8 feet.
Both CADR and ACH are based on the volume (length x depth x height), not area (length x depth), of the space. So high ceilings give a greater volume, thus requiring an air purifier that can handle a larger space.
When purifying a space of 1560 square feet / 145 square meter, the Coway Airmega 400 Smart only manages 2 times of air change per hour. This is quite low compared to most air purifiers.
This goes to say that you can indeed go beyond the recommended room size, the effect is simply a lower rate of efficiency and reduced performance. The average CADR is 350 cubic feet per minute (CFM).
A 1560 square feet room at 350 CFM definitely does not pass the AHAM ⅔ rule for clean air standards. At 65 W, this air purifier is very energy efficient. It is also a very quiet machine. It operates between 22 and 52 dB.
Pros: True HEPA filter, low noise, very energy efficient
Cons: Very low ACH
Best air purifier for pet dander in large spaces
The Levoit LV-H134 Tower Pro is suitable for spaces up to 710 square feet / 66 square meter. It runs on a 3-stage filtration system: fine pre-filter, true HEPA filter, and activated carbon filter.
A downside to this model is that the pre-filter is not vacuumable or washable. And like all air purifiers, the HEPA and activated carbon filters need to be replaced every 6-9 months.
The inability to clean the pre-filter means that the replaceable filters need to be replaced more frequently. This is not cost effective in the long run.
Although it covers half the square footage than the Coway Airmega 400, the Levoit LV-H134 Tower Pro is double the performance.
The CADR averages at 312 CFM, which still doesn’t pass the AHAM ⅔ rule, but is still twice better than Coway Airmega 400’s CADR.
Where it shines is the number of times the air changes per hour. Even measuring in 710 square feet spaces, the Levoit LV-H134 Tower Pro gives a 4 ACH rating. That means the air changes every 15 minutes.
Again, this is double the performance of the Coway Airmega 400. Between the two models, this is definitely a better choice for large rooms and spaces.
This air purifier consumes only 45 W, which is very efficient and could cost very little to leave it running all day, everyday. The noise level is also accepted, with the highest fan setting generating 54 dB.
The noise level is only at 25 dB on sleep mode. The displays can be turned off completely, allowing you to remove all light pollution at night.
Pros: Good ACH, energy efficient, low noise
Cons: Pre-filter cannot be cleaned
Best air purifier for pet dander in small spaces
The GermGuardian AC5300B 28″ Air Purifier covers the small square footage of space on this list, it is only recommended for use up to 167 square feet / 15.5 square meter.
It delivers powerful performance in a small package. The CADR is 114 CFM for dust, 127 CFM for pollen and 108 CFM for smoke. That is one of the highest CADR to square footage ratio, and it certainly passes the AHAM ⅔ rule. The air change per hour is also quite good at 4.
This air purifier is fitted with a 3-in-1 filter. You can dust the pre-filter with the brush attachment of a vacuum to extend the life of the HEPA and carbon filter slightly. But once the 6 to 8 months are up, it is still recommended to replace the filter.
In addition to the 3-in-1 filter, this air purifier also comes with a UV-C light. The UV-C light kills airborne germs and viruses. This is a much welcomed feature if pet allergy is a concern.
A study on the effectiveness of germicidal UV radiation for reducing fungal contamination suggests that the “fungal levels following UV operation were significantly lower”.
At the highest fan speed and with the UVC light on, this machine runs at 55 W. It is not efficient considering how small a space it is covering. This will hike up the cost of running it 24/7 considerably.
The sleep mode on this air purifier has a white noise option that many find helpful for getting a restful night.
Pros: Good CADR and ACH, germicidal UV-C light
Cons: High energy consumption
Best air purifier for pet dander in a small to medium room
The Hathaspace Smart HSP001 has a 5-in-1 filtration system. The nano cold catalyst filter removes larger particles like pet dander, and that’s followed by activated carbon filter and then antibacterial filter.
Next is the true HEPA filter and lastly an ozone-free ionizer. The ionizer feature can be toggled off if need be. None of the filter layers are vacuumable or washable.
You would need to replace the filter entirely every 4 to 6 months. The air purifier covers spaces up to 350 square feet / 32.5 square meter.
The air change rate per hour is quite low, at 2 times per hour. And the Clean Air Deliver Rate (CADR) is averaging at 165 CFM. 165 CFM for a 350 square feet room does not pass the AHAM ⅔ rule for clean air standards.
You can still improve the situation. If you’re using this air purifier in a smaller room, both the ACH and CADR would improve drastically.
Based on my calculation, a 248 square feet room would boost ACH to around 3 times per hour, and it would pass the AHAM ⅔ rule. We should always keep in mind how to read these indicators and how we can adapt them to what we need.
This air purifier is very quiet, measuring between 21 to 43 dB. Making it probably one of the quietest machines on the market. It is also very energy efficient to run. It consumes between 22 to 40 W of power only.
However, this low electricity bill is balanced out by the replacement filters purchases. Because you can’t clean them, it reduces the longevity of the filters. The recommended filter replacement frequency is also higher than many other brands.
Pros: 5-in-1 filter, ozone-free ionizer, high energy efficiency, very quiet
Cons: Poor ACH and CADR, filters cannot be washed or vacuumed
Best air purifier for pet dander and allergies
In their sales material, Medify shares how their air purifiers will perform in rooms of different sizes.
For the Medify MA-40, it delivers only 2 air change per hour (ACH) in an 800 square feet / 74 square meter room. But will deliver 4 ACH in a 400 square feet room / 37 square meter room.
The CADR is at 330 CFM. And that CADR in a 800 square feet room will not pass the AHAM ⅔ rule, but will pass the rule if it’s used in a 400 square feet room.
All of Medify’s air purifiers are outfitted with medical grade H13 filters. H13 filters are able to filter 99.9% of particles down to 0.1 microns. A true HEPA will only filter down to 0.3 microns.
Although pet dander can be filtered out by HEPA filters, those who suffer from allergies would benefit from a H13 filter. The air purifier runs on a 3-stage filter: a pre-filter, H13 filter and carbon filter.
One of the major downsides of the Medify MA-40 is the noise level. In fact, all Medify models are one of the loudest machines on the market.
The MA-40 air purifier measures at 66 dB at its loudest setting. While most residential air purifiers hover around 50+ dB at most.
As a reference, from a comparative example of noise level guide, noise level at 60+ dB is comparable to “Conversation in restaurant, office, background music, Air conditioning unit at 100 feet.” The energy efficiency is mediocre, operating at 68 W.
Pros: Medical grade H13 filters
Cons: Loud, mediocre energy efficiency
The GermGuardian AC5300B 28″ Air Purifier is our pick for the best air purifier for pet dander. It is catered for small spaces, and does it very well.
It has one of the highest CADR, and passes the AHAM ⅔ rule with room to space. It also boosts a 4 times air change per hour on a 167 square feet room.
The pre-filter can be vacuumed and that increases the longevity and maintains the performance of the filter for a longer period. It also comes with a germicidal UV-C light.
One of the GermGuardian AC5300B’s major flaws is it consumes significantly more energy than other models covering similar square footage.
The noise level is quite good overall, and there is an option to turn on white noise for those who need it to fall asleep. It is a great option for keeping pet dander at bay. It has true HEPA filters and has good performance indicators (CADR and ACH).