Alen A350 Air Purifier Review by Garth Wernsman
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I couldn’t say whether the Alen A350 is the best air purifier on the market for the money. It’s always practically impossible to single out one product as the best value. But if there were such an award, it would be in the running.
The A350 is smallish: 18.5″ W x 17.5″ H x 8.2″ D. It weighs a modest 16 lbs. The result is you can stick this unit just about anywhere in the room you want.
Here, the only limitation is the need to have the front air intakes clear, an easy criteria to satisfy in almost all homes. The unit can be wall mounted, too. It is kind of cool and handy if you need that.
Alen chose not to include CADR ratings, but their room size rating can still be helpful. The Alen A350 is rated to cover up to 750 square feet. For many air purifiers, you probably have to cut that figure by 30%-50% to get a real-world estimate of what the unit can actually handle. In the case of the A350, it’s pretty close (assuming you don’t have high ceilings or lots of odd nooks in the room).
Alen is not only well-known for the conservatism of their ratings, but has an equally well-earned reputation for good efficiency. So, if they tell you the model will cover that area, it’s a good bet they will. Fortunately, we don’t have to rely on their word alone. Real-world use shows it’s true. One reason is the ample maximum CFM (Cubic Feet Per Minute) this model offers: up to 203 CFM. For a mid-range model like the A350, that’s a healthy amount of air volume.
4-Stage Filtration System
Of course, those figures mean very little if the air going through the unit isn’t filtered much. That’s one reason that CADRs – which are biased toward high airflow – tell only part of the story. In this case, the wider story involves a well-made filter system that really purifies what comes in.
That starts with a good washable Pre-Filter. Its role is to remove the largest particles (big dust bunnies, pet hair, and the like). It does some filtration but the chief purpose is to help the other components do their jobs better, especially the HEPA.
What escapes the Pre-Filter will be caught by the HEPA filter. It also removes dust, allergens, and other common home pollutants. The HEPA material in one version is silver-coated and electrostatically charged, a feature not present in all mid-cost models.
Next in line is a substantial Activated Carbon filter. That’s a fairly common element in air purifiers also, and its presence tells you only a little bit. What’s important is how much carbon is in it: 1 lb. Beyond this official number, which is far from the largest on the market, observation and testing shows it works well.
It achieves considerable removal of VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds). Those produce foul odors and cause irritation for many allergy sufferers and sensitive individuals. Their efficient eradication is a blessing, and a nice surprise in a modest model that doesn’t have any UV “zapper” to break them down, like the A375.
There is, however, an Ionizer pumping out negative ions. These ions combine with particles in the air making them larger and heavier. The larger size makes them easier to trap. Due to the larger weight they tend to float more readily to the floor or carpet, where they can be vacuumed up or sucked in by the air purifier. They also attach more readily to positively charged surfaces where they stick, harmlessly waiting to be wiped off.
I have to give the company credit, there are few units as simple to care for as the Alen A350. The 3-in-1 style filter does everything – combining Pre-filter, HEPA, and Activated Carbon layer in one. Simple to replace but they’re also a bit more costly to replace. Around $60-$90, currently, on Amazon.
This all-in-one filter might seem like a downside, since some filters typically need to be changed more often than others. It’s somewhat like the old color ink printers that required you to change the whole cartridge when you really only ran out of 1 color.
The Alen A350 comes standard with the HEPA-Fresh Filter (BF25A), as Alen calls it. It’s $59 (currently). It’s the plain vanilla of the bunch, but even in this elementary style it does a fine job.
If you want extra protection you can choose for one of Alen’s more advanced filter units. The next step up is the $69 HEPA-Silver Filter (BF25A-Silver), the silver ion-coated version mentioned above. It is designed for additional bacteria and virus removal. Test results demonstrate a 99.99% kill rate on E. Coli and Staph Bacteria.
The most costly version is the HEPA-Odor Cell Filter (BF25A-MP), which goes for $89. This filter features Alen’s patented MCP Smoke & Odor Powder technology. An exclusive concentrated powder uses a molecular conversion process (MCP) to change smoke and most cooking & bathroom odors to be removed on contact as the air passes through the air purifier. Perfect for getting every last spec of odor out of your home generated by cleaning products, smoke, kitchen and more.
The company recommends filter replacement about once every 6 to 12 months, which is probably accurate for most homes. That puts the running cost of this model in a higher range than average for this air purifier price point. On the upside, it’s certainly low-maintenance. It takes seconds to pop out and replace the filter and anyone can do it, even those with less dextrous hands like the elderly or arthritic.
Controls & Display
One other thing that makes the A350 easy to use is the control panel. It’s not the most elaborate around – techno-geeks will not be impressed – but it could hardly be simpler to operate.
The speed button (there are four settings) requires only a light tap. Better still, you get a good physical feedback so you know you’ve tapped it. If there’s any doubt, the panel just above shows clearly – in the form of a clear “bar chart” – what speed is active.
Likewise, the panel shows whether the ion generator is working. The button to turn it Off / On is right near the others, with the same good feedback. Also, you can clearly see on the panel when the system suggests the HEPA filter needs replacement.
There is a “programmable” timer but don’t be misled by the first word. It’s nothing like the programmable features on your phone. It’s uber-simple and allows you to set the unit to come on up to 12 hours before. So, if you wanted to start it at high speed before you got home from work, for example, you could.
The sound level at the high setting might be perceived as noisy by some users. The specs (and testing) suggest that those individuals must be pretty sensitive.
- Speed 1: 38 dB (whisper)
- Speed 2: 47 dB (white noise)
- Speed 3: 61.5 dB (a normal conversation)
- Speed 4: 64.5 dB (a regular square fan, set on high)
The highest level is definitely noticeable, but it’s not normally on continually for very long. If you got a big rush of pollutants – someone smoking, or just having cleaned the house with consumer products like Windex, for example – it would be needed for about an hour at most. Otherwise, the second level is fully adequate in average circumstances.
The Alen A350 is not suitable for all homes. It’s a mid-range unit that will clear up to 750 square feet and has a relatively simple filter system. But for a mid-level model – in terms of both features and cost – it offers high quality construction and really good efficiency. Real-world users are, not surprisingly, generally very happy with this one.