Reviews

Shark Air Purifier Review: Is This the Best Air Purifier on the Market? We Tested it to Find out!

Shark’s 3-in-1 air purifier excelled in my hands-on tests. Find out if it deserves a spot in your home.
Glenda Taylor Avatar
Shark Max Air Purifier with True HEPA next to table in room
Photo: Glenda Taylor for Bob Vila Photo: Glenda Taylor

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Heightened awareness of allergens and toxins in the air we breathe has boosted the popularity of air purifiers for homes and businesses. Several dozen brands have flooded the market, all claiming to remove pollutants from indoor air. To determine which of today’s top models really live up to the hype, I tested some of the best air purifiers, and the Shark air purifier took top honors.

Shark is well known for making tech-savvy home appliances, and I’ve had the good fortune of owning a couple of the company’s vacuums. I was expecting good things from the Shark air purifier, and I wasn’t disappointed. I don’t have access to a professional lab to scientifically test all the features of an air purifier, so I set up an experiment booth in a closet and tested the abilities of several air purifiers to remove airborne particulates and smoke. I also measured the level of noise the purifiers made during operation.

Keep reading to discover why the Shark air purifier earned the top spot in the lineup. Also, find out what I liked best about this machine and what I wish the manufacturer would have done differently.

The Shark HC502 3-in-1 Max Air Purifier with True HEPA: At a Glance

Rating: 9/10

Woman measuring the noise from a Shark air purifier
Photo: Glenda Taylor for Bob Vila

PROS

  • Digital readout shows overall air freshness and room temperature
  • Features an added heating element to warm air in cold rooms
  • Comes with its own built-in air quality monitor (Clean Sense IQ)

CONS

  • User must remove the plastic filter cover before turning the machine on
  • This model is louder than some of the other air purifiers tested
  • Remote control uses line-of-sight technology, which limits functionality

Get the Shark air purifier at:

What is the Shark air purifier?

The three benefits of the Shark air purifier are purified air, purified heated air, and purified forced air (fan). I liked this comfort-centric design because I want neither cool air blowing on me during the winter nor hot air blowing on me during the summer—yet I want to purify the air in my home year-round. I tested the Shark air purifier during a bitter February cold snap, so its ability to heat the purified air was a real perk.

Like other top air purifiers, the Shark comes with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter that removes up to 99.98 percent of airborne pollutants as small as 0.1 microns. For comparison, human hair is about 100 microns thick.

The Shark air purifier removes several types of pollutants, including pet dander, dust, allergens, smoke, and fumes, in an area of up to 1,000 square feet. It also comes with a digital readout that indicates the freshness level of the air in the room. Since I was using a separate air quality monitor during the tests, I could compare the accuracy of the Shark’s built-in monitor.

Close up of shark air purifier remote functions
Photo: Glenda Taylor for Bob Vila

Is the Shark air purifier challenging to set up?

It wasn’t difficult to set up the Shark air purifier, but one crucial step all users must take before turning the unit on is to remove the plastic wrap from the internal filter. This requires removing the front grille cover, pulling out the plastic-wrapped filter, and tearing away the plastic. Failure to remove the plastic could damage the machine. Fortunately, Shark puts warnings in several areas, so this step is hard to miss.

Other than that, setup is as simple as plugging the Shark air purifier into an outlet and pushing the Start button on the control panel. The nifty thing here is that the round control panel is also a remote control—it snaps off for use. The only downside is that the remote uses line-of-sight technology, so I had to stand in front of the machine and point directly at it for the remote to work. That’s a relatively minor issue, but it does mean the remote won’t work if the user is in a different room.

Close up of humidity and temperature readings from Shark max air purifier
Photo: Glenda Taylor for Bob Vila

How loud is the Shark air purifier while it’s running?

The Shark air purifier wasn’t the quietest of all the models we tested, but it’s not obnoxiously loud. On High, the unit registered 59 decibels, comparable to the sound of riding inside a car going about 60 miles per hour. However, on Low, the purifier registered just 28 decibels, which is as quiet as a whisper. Even when it was running on High, I wasn’t too bothered by the sound because it’s similar to a hum—after a few minutes, I naturally just tuned it out.

If the sound becomes an issue, I suggest running it on High when necessary to remove pollutants quickly. After an hour or so, turn it to Low to maintain the air freshness in the room. One note here—I stood about 3 feet away from the purifier when I took the decibel readings. Users who are farther than 3 feet away will find the noise level is reduced.

Inner filter of Shark Max air purifier
Photo: Glenda Taylor for Bob Vila

How well does the Shark air purifier remove pollutants?

This is where the Shark shines! After removing all the contents in my test closet and wiping down the ceiling, walls, and floor to ensure they were relatively dust free, I tested each of the air purifiers.

I started by positioning the Shark in the center of the closet next to the air quality monitor, and then I shook a dirty rug above both of them. Within about 20 seconds, the monitor registered an unsafe level of particulates in the air. I turned the Shark on High and closed the closet door to let it do its thing. After allowing the Shark to run for 30 minutes, I took another reading. According to the monitor, the airborne particles had already dropped to within a safe level.

Next, I tested the Shark’s ability to remove smoke. I lit five incense sticks in the closet and closed the door. After giving the incense 15 minutes to smoke up the closet, I took a reading. The monitor indicated hazardous levels of fumes, specifically elevated levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). I turned the Shark on High and closed the door.

At 30 minutes, I took another reading, and the levels were still slightly elevated but close to being back in the safe zone. The incense odor was milder, but I could still smell it. I took another reading 30 minutes later, and the levels had returned to the safe zone. There was still an odor of incense, but it was only slight.

Is the Shark air purifier right for you?

At the time of this writing, the Shark air purifier sells for around $450. That’s on the pricey side for an air purifier—even one that performs as well as the Shark 3-in-1 model. For those who are looking for a combo model like this one that also heats the air, this air purifier could be the right choice. It certainly was nice to have heated and purified air during testing.

The digital readout on the front is handy—most air purifiers don’t offer this feature. It let me know, in general, whether the air in the room was safe or not. It’s not as detailed as an air quality monitor, but it’s helpful.

Shoppers who only have a small room to purify might find this unit to be a bit too much. For less than half the price of the Shark, one could buy a quality air purifier plus a space heater. Ultimately, air purifier the choice depends on budget and room size. Regardless, the Shark air purifier is certainly a powerful performer.

Where to Buy the Shark HC502 3-in-1 Max Air Purifier with True HEPA

Get the Shark air purifier at:

Meet the Tester

Glenda Taylor is a product tester and writer specializing in the construction, remodeling, and real estate industry. She and her husband own a general contracting company, and Taylor is experienced in both residential and commercial building applications. She tests a wide range of power tools as well as other home improvement, household, and lawn-and-garden products.

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Glenda Taylor

Staff Writer

Glenda Taylor is a BobVila.com staff writer with a background in the residential remodeling, home building, and home improvement industries. She started writing for BobVila.com in 2016 and covers a range of topics, including construction methods, code compliance, tool use, and the latest news in the housing and real estate industries. 

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