Breathe a Little Easier With the hOmeLabs x Popular Science Air Purifier
Popular Science and Aterian just introduced a co-branded air purifier, and I tested it. Here’s what happened.
Everyone’s heard of Popular Science. The esteemed and iconic brand—owned by Recurrent Ventures—recently partnered with Aterian, a tech-based product platform, and their first co-venture is the hOmeLabs x Popular Science Air Purifier.
With its strong focus on clean air and sustainability, it was only natural that BobVila.com would want to see what this air purifier was all about. So, I tested it. I subjected the hOmeLabs x Popular Science Air Purifier to various airborne contaminants and used an air-quality monitor to see whether it was cleaning the air.
My tests were not scientific—I don’t have access to a lab—but I introduced airborne pollutants, including smoke and particulate matter (dust), to test the air-cleaning ability of the hOmeLabs x Popular Science Air Purifier. Then, I used an air-quality monitor to determine whether the air purifier reduced the number of airborne pollutants. Read on to learn how the hOmeLabs x Popular Science Air Purifier performed in my hands-on tests and find out what I felt were its strongest and weakest points.
The hOmeLabs x Popular Science Air Purifier: At a Glance
- Simple to set up
- True HEPA filter
- Offers 3-stage filtration
- Soothing blue night light
- Slightly noisy on high speed
- Not suitable for large rooms
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What is the hOmeLabs x Popular Science Air Purifier?
Like other air purifiers, the hOmeLabs x Popular Science Air Purifier works by drawing in air from the room, filtering out the impurities, and then expelling the clean air back into the room. By running an air purifier for hours—or days—eventually, most of the air in the room will have passed through the unit.
The hOmeLabs x Popular Science Air Purifier comes with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter that’s designed to remove up to 99.97 percent of airborne particles as small as 0.3 microns in size. For comparison’s sake, human hair is approximately 70 microns thick.
The purifier also comes with a prefilter that traps larger airborne particulates to keep the HEPA filter from clogging too quickly, and it contains an activated-carbon filter that helps remove smoke and other odors from the air.
How easy is the hOmeLabs x Popular Science Air Purifier to set up?
Right out of the box, I was impressed with the purifier—it features a smooth white cylindrical shape that is much more attractive than the old boxy purifiers I’m familiar with. It stands 12.5 inches high and measures just 8 inches in diameter. It came with a sticker on top that explained how to remove the bottom section of the unit (it twists off) and then how to remove the protective plastic covering from the filter inside. That took about 2 minutes to complete, and then the hOmeLabs x Popular Science Air Purifier was ready to use.
No additional setup was necessary; I just plugged the unit into an electrical outlet and pressed the power button on the top to start it. When I held my hand near the bottom of the unit, I could feel the air being drawn into the machine. Likewise, I could feel the air blowing out at the top of the unit.
Is the hOmeLabs x Popular Science Air Purifier easy to use?
Using the hOmeLabs x Popular Science Air Purifier is a breeze (pun intended). All the touch-sensitive controls are located on the top of the machine, and I was able to choose from three speeds. At the lowest speed, the purifier emits a soft, gentle hum that’s barely noticeable. I could also ignore the sound when it was set on medium speed, but when I turned the purifier to the highest speed, it was louder than I liked. I would compare the noise level to that of conversation in a room, and it was slightly distracting.
Fortunately, most situations that call for running an air purifier on high speed, such as quickly removing pollen or dust, will be temporary. After the air purifier runs on high for a while, most users will likely turn it down to low to maintain the clean air level.
How efficient is the hOmeLabs x Popular Science Air Purifier?
Testing the air purifier presented somewhat of a challenge since I didn’t have access to a lab or a controlled environment to measure its effectiveness. I had to make do with setting up my own tests.
I used an IQAir AirVisual Pro air-quality control monitor to determine whether the number of airborne particulates dropped during the test phase. I placed the hOmeLabs x Popular Science Air Purifier and the monitor on the floor of a small closet, plugged them both in, and turned them on. I shook a dirty (very dirty) dust mop in the air above both and watched the readout on the air-quality monitor. Within a few minutes, the readout on the monitor spiked, indicating the detection of a high level of airborne particulates. I closed the closet door and checked again after 30 minutes. The monitor readout had dropped to normal levels.
Still, I couldn’t be sure the dust hadn’t just settled on the floor; in fact, I could see a layer of dust on the floor, so I put a small fan in the closet and turned it on low to recirculate the dust. I left all three (fan, purifier, and monitor) running for over an hour. Then, I checked again. The readout on the monitor indicated the amount of particulate matter in the air was at a safe level, and after turning the fan off, no dust layer formed on the floor. To me, this indicated that the hOmeLabs x Popular Science air purifier was working.
I then opened the unit and checked the internal filter. It was no longer clean; I could see a dense layer of dust and dirt on the filter. Following the directions, I washed it and replaced it.
I also tested the purifier on smoke by intentionally burning some grease in a skillet and then running the purifier to dissipate the smell. I couldn’t be sure about the effectiveness of this test. The smoky smell lingered for a couple of hours, and whether it would have lingered longer had I not been running the hOmeLabs x Popular Science Air Purifier is anyone’s guess. I couldn’t make a judgment on smoke and odors, but I feel strongly that the purifier worked well at removing particulate matter.
Does the hOmeLabs x Popular Science Air Purifier have any safety features?
The air purifier comes with a child lock on the top that keeps little hands from turning the unit on or off or changing speeds. I could lock the controls simply by pressing and holding on the Child Lock button for 3 seconds. This feature worked well, and I feel as though it’s an essential addition for homes with young children.
The hOmeLabs x Popular Science Air Purifier also features a soothing blue night light that was just bright enough to see where I was walking when the bedroom was dark, but not so bright that it was annoying.
Is the hOmeLabs x Popular Science Air Purifier worth the money?
This co-branded air purifier sells for $69.97, and after testing the unit, I feel as though that’s a reasonable price, especially for homes with allergy sufferers. While the unit is not designed to remove volatile organic chemicals from the air, it does remove particulate matter such as dust, pollen, and pet dander, which are all primary triggers for allergies.
The price seems about midrange compared to other air purifiers on the market, and it features a true HEPA filter, which is essential in removing pollutants. While I found a lot of competing models on the market, this is the only one endorsed by Popular Science, and that was a top selling point for me.
However, it is meant for relatively small rooms. In the manual that came with the unit, I found that the air purifier is recommended for rooms of about 80 square feet, which is about the size of a small bedroom or nursery. A bigger unit would likely be necessary for larger or multiple rooms.
Where to Buy the hOmeLabs x Popular Science Air Purifier
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The Best Air Purifiers
With its sleek design and true HEPA filter, the hOmeLabs x Popular Science Air Purifier ranks right up there with the best air purifiers for home use. It’s nice and quiet at the lowest speed, and I’m convinced that it removed most of the airborne dust and particulates I introduced into the air by shaking a dirty mop. Due to its compact size, the hOmeLabs x Popular Science Air Purifier could easily qualify as a portable air purifier.