Austin Air HealthMate Air Purifier Review by Garth Wernsman
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Most home air purifiers have pros and cons. The Austin Air HealthMate is unusual in that both those are on the extreme side of things. The pluses are really outstanding and the minuses are a little worse than usual. Let’s dig in to the details to see why…
Construction – Very Good But Not Great For Everyone
The Austin Air HealthMate is a big rectangular box, making it look somewhat clunky. But the problem is more than just its plain appearance. That’s admittedly a subjective consideration and not very important anyway.
The true difficulty is it makes placement a little challenging. Corners are the natural spot, limiting your options. Increasing that challenge, it’s a fairly large unit: 14.5″ x 14.5″ by 23″. It weighs a whopping 45 lbs with the filter installed. Mitigating that problem slightly, the HealthMate has caster wheels, so it’s not really difficult to move the unit from one place to another.
More seriously, with only a 3-speed control switch there are no other controls or indicators. Even forgetting that people just like to adjust things and to know what’s going on, the drawback is more than just a failure to satisfy the itch for something high-tech to play with. The ability to tailor your air purifier to personal circumstances is important. Seeing how it operates in those various modes is, too.
Still, the HealthMate is well made – surprisingly well made for a unit not at the top of the line – and that is important. It’s not the cheapest air purifier by any means; it’s only near the bottom of the premium scale, not the total scale. Those truly cheap units are correspondingly cheaply made, and don’t deliver what allergy sufferers and others need: pure air. The HealthMate does, in spades.
4-Stage Filter System
By contrast with those cheap units (and giving some due credit to Austin Air), the Healthmate does a superb job of clearing a room and keeping it clear. Smoke, animal dander, pollen, and dust simply won’t be around in great concentrations after a few hours of operation.
Better still, the HealthMate has a unique filter design that does an excellent job of clearing gases and VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds). Paint fumes, household cleaning products, and more can irritate lungs, eyes, and nasal passages even among those who aren’t particularly sensitive. The HealthMate reduces them to concentrations below normal concern, and does it fast.
The reasons are actually worth exploring in depth. The 360-degree intake system draws air into all sides of the HealthMate, passing it through a 4-stage filter…
Stage 1. A large particle pre-filter removes particles easily seen by the naked eye such as dust, hair and pet dander.
Stage 2. Another pre-filter removes small to medium size particles such as molds, spores and pollen left intact by the first pre-filter.
Stage 3. In this stage an Activated Carbon and Zeolite blend removes chemicals, gases and odors. It extracts all sorts of particles and doesn’t let them go. Inside the filter unit are 15 pounds of activated carbon crystals. Blended with the Zeolite, that allows the HealthMate to adsorb over 3,000 different VOCs and odors, both the common and the unusual.
Technical note: “Adsorb” means roughly to stick to a surface, just what you want in a filter. “Absorb” – note the “b”, not a “d” – means to draw them in. Sticking on the surface eliminates them from the air, but still allows the filter to be cleaned. If they were sucked in, like a sponge, they’d be much harder to get out, shortening the life of a filter since it would require rinsing.
Stage 4. Accompanying the Activated Carbon and Zeolite is a True Medical-Grade HEPA filter with over 60 square feet of very ‘hungry’ material which removes bacteria and many viruses.
- Stage 1: Large particle pre-filter (removes dust and hair)
- Stage 2: Small particle pre-filter (removes molds, pollen)
- Stage 3: Activated Carbon/Zeolite (removes chemicals, VOCs, ammonia, odors)
- Stage 4: Medical Grade HEPA filter (removes bacteria and many viruses)
Unfortunately, the unit sports no filter replacement indicator. You replace it when you observe the amount of air flow has been reduced. That observation is, naturally, not one you can carry out with great accuracy without special instruments. The lack is simply a weakness in the design.
Maintenance + Costs
One small downside is that the HealthMate features a combined HEPA/Carbon/Zeolite unit. Meaning: it’s replaced as a unit. That’s similar to the color ink cartridges that required you to replace the whole thing, even though you were only out of yellow.
Still, the expected lifetime of these filters and their relatively modest cost makes that a small issue. They’re rated at 5 years and reviews at Amazon and elsewhere suggest that’s not hype. Austin has a good reputation for straight talk and that’s borne out here.
Keep in mind, though, that the figure assumes a fairly standard home environment. Daily heavy smoke, abnormal concentration of paint fumes, excessive humidity leading to unusually high mold concentrations, and high dust levels will naturally pull that number down a bit. Still, even if one lasted only three years the replacement cost and effort is not bad. The Austin Air Healthmate Replacement Filter with Pre-filter is about $200. High, but not that much considering how seldom you have to change it.
Using the brush attachment of your vacuum cleaner works great to remove dust buildup on the 360-degree intake system while a soft dampened cloth can be used to clean the other surfaces.
What will this unit add to your electric bill? Keep in mind that electric rates vary so much, as does the amount of daily usage due to variations in fan speeds. So I’m only able to give you a rough idea… The specs show that this unit operates on 135 watts on the highest fan speed setting.
Let’s imagine the worst case scenario… If the HealthMate runs continuously at the highest setting for an entire month (31 days) your consumption would be 100.44 kWh. At average electric utility rates (let’s take 12 cents/kWh) you’ll add about $12 a month to your electric bill – once again that is if the unit would run continuously on the highest fan speed.
Of course, what counts most is how a home air purifier performs. The Austin Air HealthMate will not disappoint anyone on that score.
Vented all along the bottom, the HealthMate draws air from 360 degrees. The exhaust is on the top, so it won’t blow any uncleared dust into the air.
It draws a LOT of air, too. The HealthMate is rated to run in rooms as large as 1,500 square feet. That rating is probably a little exaggerated, but not by an outrageous amount, judging by many reviews and real-world tests.
Regrettably, while it’s sucking that air, it’s not very quiet. The ratings are:
- 50 dB(A)@48 cfm on low,
- 55 dB(A)@180 cfm, and a truly noisy…
- 66 dB(A)@400 cfm on high.
[Note: cfm stands for Cubic Feet per Minute.]
As you can see by those cfm figures, though, the HealthMate moves a lot of air, as we said. For this reason, the relatively modest CADR estimate of 220 is a bit misleading.
Does it include a Warranty?
The Austin Air HealthMate comes with a 30-day no-questions-asked money-back guarantee taking away all the risk. If you’re not completely satisfied with the HealthMate, you may return it for a full refund – that is within 30 days of purchase. After that the unit is backed by a 5-year warranty on materials and workmanship. The filter cartridge comes with a 5-year pro-rated guarantee.
What Are Others Saying?
This air cleaner has received rave reviews from its many customers. It has an excellent positive-to-negative review ratio at Amazon. That number is now about 17-3. That means there are only 3 customers who didn’t like this unit, rating it 1 or 2 stars, while 17 customers gave this unit 4 or 5 stars. Read the full reviews here. Some real-buyer comments may be of interest…
- “Best I’ve ever owned”
- “Even eliminates cat litter odor”
- “I have COPD and this unit did a World of Good!”
- “The best air filter I ever bought – worth the money!”
- “Very solid performing air purifier”
- “Upfront cost worth the long term savings”
The Austin HealthMate is a first rate machine at a very non-first rank price. Those who want a super quiet unit will want to consider carefully, however. Overall, this is a great unit for allergy sufferers or anyone who just wants clean air without the need for regular home air purifier maintenance.