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The best air purifiers for wildfire smoke, according to out test

If there's wildfire smoke outside, do not to leave your home and build or buy an air purifier — our guide will teach you more
By
Updated on November 23, 2023
Written by
Danny Ashton
Danny is the founder of HouseFresh and has been writing about air purifiers and indoor air quality since 2010. He is our lead tester, conducting all the tests we use to evaluate air quality products. That is why you will always see his name attached to our reviews.
wildfire air purifier header

Wildfires in 2023 led to the average American inhaling more smoke in the first eight months than during any previous full year.

As the tinted red skyline of New York City showed the world, even areas that are generally not at high risk of wildfires had to deal quickly with the pollution created by wildfire smoke from Canada many hundreds of miles away.

By early July 2023, a study showed that the average American was exposed to nearly 450µg/m3 of PM2.5 pollution, which is the same average indoor PM2.5 levels experienced by someone living in rural India

 “Wildfire smoke is a serious issue with many tiny particles in the air that need removing before they enter the body. High-performing HEPA-based air purifiers need to be big to remove these pollutants quickly. That is why each air purifier we recommend for wildfire is much larger than those we recommend for minor issues such as household dust or cooking odors.”
— Danny Ashton, HouseFresh Founder & Senior Writer

  1. In our home lab of 728 cubic ft, we light an incense stick to generate particle pollution and VOCs.
  2. We set up our trusted Purpleair Indoor Sensor with the latest Bosch gas sensor to track levels of PM1ug/m3, PM2.5ug/m3 and PM10ug/m3 and VOCs in the air.
    purpleair
  3. We switch the air purifier to its highest speed and measure how long it takes to get our room air quality down to PM1 level to 0.
  4. We use an energy meter to measure precisely how much electricity is used when running the unit at the lowest and highest fan speed settings.
  5. We track sound levels emitted by the air purifier at different fan speeds with the help of a commercial sound meter.
    sound meter

Our in-house experiments allow us to compare the performance of many different brands and models, even when manufacturers don’t share lab performance data.  Unlike many big media sites, we review every single air purifier included in our guides and share all our performance data for each device. To date, we have tested the performance of over 50 different air purifiers.

Wildfire smoke generates tiny particulate pollution (PM1, PM2.5 and PM10), odor (VOCs), and other gasses.  The most dangerous pollutants are tiny particles measuring 1-10 microns, which can pass directly into the brain and bloodstream. Hence, we need to make sure that we do what we can to remove these particles before we breathe them into our bodies.

But before we jump into the full guide, let me clarify that the top two options on our list are air purifiers you can make at home without the need to buy any fancy appliances: the Corsi-Rosenthal Box and a simple DIY air purifier. 

In the long-term, investing in an air purifier unit will make sense — especially if you suffer from regular issues with indoor air quality or live in an area prone to wildfires. But not everyone has the means to buy a powerful air purifier and wildfire smoke can accumulate very quickly, so the best solution is to get something to clean your air ASAP and that you can afford.

If you have the budget to invest in an air purifier for the long run, then make sure to skip the first two options on the list. You can use the table of contents on this page to jump to our number three pick.

So, without further ado:

1. Best overall: Corsi-Rosenthal Box 

For those reacting to the immediate threat of wildfire smoke, you can quickly protect yourself by making a Corsi-Rosenthal Box

It was created by engineers Richard Corsi and Jim Rosenthal in August 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic to reduce the viral particles in indoor environments using items that many Americans will already have in their homes. While designed for COVID-19, the Corsi-Rosenthal Box can still help remove the dangerous tiny particles created by wildfire smoke.

You can build your own Corsi-Rosenthal Box with a box fan, 4 HVAC MERV 13 filters, cardboard and duct tape. This homemade air purifier will keep even a large room clean of air pollutants. 

The fact that this air purifier can be built using items you already have in the home is the main reason this is my number one choice air purifier for dealing with wildfire smoke.

As with all the air purifiers we review here at HouseFresh, we built our own Corsi-Rosenthal box and tested it in the same 705 cubic ft test lab. I was impressed when I saw it was able to bring down the levels of PM1 to 0 in 25 minutes. This is the same time it took the $900 IQAir Healthpro Plus 😲 And it was faster than the Honeywell HPA300 and Winix 5300-2.

The Corsi-Rosenthal box does need you to do a bit of work to put it together, but it’s relatively simple, and while it takes up a large amount of floor space, its air cleaning performance is worth it. 

Tip

Be sure to make sure you use HVAC filters that are at least MERV-13. I used the BNX Tru filters MERV 13 and the Hurricane 20 inch box fan in our Corsi Box, but you can use any 20-inch box fan and filters as long as they are MERV-13 or higher grade.

SPECIFICATIONS

HouseFresh Rating:★★★★★
Time to clean our test room:25 minutes
Air purifier technology:HEPA Merv 13
Recommended room size:680 sq. ft.
Clean air delivery rate (CADR):Estimated: 247 CFM (419 m/hr)
Dimensions (in inches / in cm):20L x 20W x 20H inches (50L x 50W x 50H cm)
Weight (in pounds / in kg):10 lbs (4.5 kg)
Noise level (low – high):49 – 54 dB
Filter life:6-12 months
Estimated energy consumption:$52.56 (it pulls 50.1 watts when running at its top fan speed)

2. Best budget DIY Option:  DIY Air Purifier

The DIY air purifier uses a box fan, a HEPA filter and duct tape — its performance is not as good as the Corsi-Rosenthal Box but it will help in the short term when you can’t leave your home. 

A ton of marketing jargon in the air purifier industry can make you think that air purifiers are a super complicated technology. But the reality is air purifiers are essentially just a fan and a filter. 

You can read our full guide and review of the DIY Air Purifier, but in simple terms, you just attach a MERV-13 filter to a box fan and let it get on with removing pollutants from the air. 

We tested our own DIY purifier in the same 705 cubic feet home lab and found it took 84 minutes to bring the PM1 level down to zero. This means this air purifier will be good enough to keep a smaller room (150 sqft) clean but it will struggle with larger spaces.

If you don’t have more than one filter, this is a good option, but as it still uses the same amount of energy and creates the same level of sound, you are better off making the larger Corsi-Rosenthal box if you can. 

SPECIFICATIONS

HouseFresh Rating:★★★☆☆
Time to clean our test room:84 minutes
Air purifier technology:HEPA Merv 13
Recommended room size:150 sq. ft.
Clean air delivery rate (CADR):Estimated: 89 CFM (151 m/hr)
Dimensions (in inches / in cm):4.5L x 20W x 20H inches (11.4L x 51W x 51H cm)
Weight (in pounds / in kg):8 lbs (3.4 kg)
Noise level (low – high):49 – 54 dB
Filter life:Every 6 months
Estimated energy consumption:$52.56 (it pulls 50.1 watts when running at its top fan speed)

3. Best high-end option: Levoit EverestAir

For those wanting to get their hands on the best air purifier on the market right now for dealing with wildfire smoke, look no further than the EverestAir from Levoit. 

It’s not cheap at nearly $600, but in our testing of over 50 different air purifiers, this was the fastest-acting purifier at removing PM1 particles from our 705 cubic feet test lab. It cleaned our test room in an ultra-speedy 13 minutes which was even higher than our previous winner, the Levoit Core 600S which achieved a clean room in 15 minutes. When it comes to wildfire smoke, the speed of removing particles is super important as the faster they are removed, the lower the risk of these airborne particles entering your body via the lungs and nose and causing damage.

Unlike our budget pick below, the EverestAir also brings a ton of smart features like app support and auto-mode with its onboard sensor, which we found was as accurate as our Purpleair industrial-grade sensor. 

It even has the design aesthetic of a well-made Apple device, which stands out against competitor brands that look like a photocopying machine.

Due to its highly efficient fan, even at its lowest speed, it could still remove all the PM1-sized pollutants in 33 minutes without making any noise. Unlike te DIY air purifier options, the EverestAir also comes with a large pelleted activated charcoal filter, which means it can also remove the odors and gasses released from wildfire smoke. 

SPECIFICATIONS

For those happy to invest, the EverestAir is currently the best air purifier for wildfire smoke in 2023.

HouseFresh Rating:★★★★★
Time to clean our test room:13 minutes
Air purifier technology:3-Stage Filtration (Pre-filter for large particles, main filter for airborne particles, high-efficiency activated carbon filter for odors and gasses)
Recommended room size:558 sq. ft.
Clean air delivery rate (CADR):360 CFM (612 m3/h)
Dimensions (in inches / in cm):18.9L x 8.5W x 23.2H inches (48L x 21.6W x 58.9H cm)
Weight (in pounds / in kg):20.7 lbs (9.38 kg)
Noise level (low – high):24 – 56dB
Filter life:12-15 months
Warranty:2 years
Estimated energy consumption:$87.25 per year
Country of manufacture:China

4. Best budget option: Levoit LV-H133

The LV-H133 is an affordable, high-performing air purifier without any fancy smart features or a showy design aesthetic.

The LV-H133 is another residential air purifier, similar to the EverestAir above, but without any fancy smart features or a showy design aesthetic. The LV-H133 will clean the air from wildfire smoke without breaking the bank. It retails for just over $200 but can go on sale for less during Amazon Prime Day deals and other periods. 

Our performance test matched the Corsi-Rosenthal box: The Levoit LV-H133 cleaned our test room of all PM1 pollution from thick incense smoke in under 25 minutes. The LV-H133 comes with a pre-filter to capture large particles, a main filter to deal with tiny smoke particles and activated charcoal pellets in the filter like the EverestAir that will help to deal with gasses and odors from wildfire smoke.

Like any high-performing air purifier, the LV-H133 is large but takes much less floor space than the Corsi-Rosenthal box. If you are looking for an affordable air purifier you can get off the rack, you should definitely consider this unit. I promise you will be happy with the performance of the LV-H133 at dealing with the pollutants and smells created by wildfire smoke without the large price tag of the EverestAir or the hassle of building your own Corsi-Rosenthal box.

SPECIFICATIONS

HouseFresh Rating:★★★★☆
Time to clean our test room:25 minutes
Air purifier technology:3-Stage Filtration (Pre-filter for large particles, main filter for airborne particles, high-efficiency activated carbon filter for odors and gasses)
Recommended room size:442 sq. ft. (5 ACH)
Clean air delivery rate (CADR):274 CFM (466 m³/h)
Dimensions (in inches / in cm):12.5L x 12.5W x 23.6H in (31.8 x 31.8 x 60 cm)
Weight (in pounds / in kg):21 lbs (9.5 kg)
Noise level (low – high):25 – 54 dB
Filter life:6 months
Manufacturer’s warranty:2 years
Estimated energy consumption:$52.56 per year
Country of manufacture:China


Other units we tested but don’t recommend for wildfire smoke:

  • Levoit Core 300: We love this budget air purifier, but it will be too underpowered to deal with a severe issue like wildfire smoke. You are much better off spending a little more for the Levoit LV-H133, which still has the same air-cleaning power as the Corsi-Rosenthal box.
  • Austin Air Healthmate: This air purifier has a large amount of carbon (15 lbs), but its particle removal could be better considering its price of over $700. Wildfire smoke generates a ton of particulate matter, so you need better performance than the estimated 150 CFM, which took 37 minutes to remove all PM1 particles from our test room. 
  • Blueair Blue Pure 211+: Big media sites regularly recommend this air purifier, but it uses an ionizer that you can’t turn off that potentially can bring ozone into your environment. Considering that many non-ionizer units are available, there is no need to recommend this device for wildfire smoke.
  • AROEVE MK01: This popular cheap air purifier on Amazon could not fully clean our air of incense smoke even when we left it for 5 hours, so it would be useless with the particulates generated by a major wildfire.

Tips for protecting yourself from wildfire smoke

As we saw in New York, wildfire smoke can travel hundreds of miles from the source of the fire, so it’s important to be aware of the problem even if you don’t live in a high-risk zone. 

Using a DIY air purifier like the Corsi-Rosenthal box or buying a unit like the Levoit LV-H133 is a great way to remove particulate pollution, but there are other things you can do to reduce the risk of wildfire smoke in your home.

  1. Seal up: Wildfire smoke can pass through any gaps in your home, so seal up any spaces around windows and doors. Close any vents and outdoor intake dampers if you have a central AC. 
  2. Mask up: If you have to leave your home or use any rooms that don’t have air purifiers, then be sure to use an approved face mask and, if possible, also wear goggles as wildfire smoke can irritate your eyes. 
  3. Recirculate: You will still want to use your AC as temperatures will rise due to wildfire smoke, but you will want to enable the “recirculate mode” as this will mean it won’t pull polluted air from outside. 
  4. Run air purifiers 24/7: Wildfire smoke is a severe issue, so you will want to ensure that this smoke is continuously removed from your home air, as even when you seal windows and doors, it will still find a way to enter your home air. Smart Air showed in their experiment that pollutants will increase when you switch your unit off, so be sure to keep it running until the wildfire risk is over.  
Tip

For more tips, be sure to check out our in-depth guide from Jeff on how to protect your home from wildfire

About HouseFresh

Most guides for air purifiers are written by freelance writers working for large media companies who say all the right things but often don’t perform in-depth performance tests, leading them to recommend products for commercial reasons. 

HouseFresh is 100% independent and not part of a large media company, and we buy all air purifiers we review with our own money. More importantly, we share all our findings and data via our in-depth reviews. If you have any questions that we haven’t covered in this wildfire smoke guide, then be sure to email me directly: danny@housefresh.com

At HouseFresh, we have been reviewing air quality products since 2010. In all these years, we learned not to rely on manufacturers’ claims and the ever-so-glowing marketing materials. That is why we buy products with our own money, so we can write unbiased reviews after we’ve had enough time to evaluate air quality products in our home lab. Every unit we recommend has been thoroughly tested to assess its performance, energy consumption, and noise levels emitted in real-life environments. If you have any questions about our testing process for different types of air quality products, just drop us an email at hello@housefresh.com.
About the author

Danny Ashton

Danny is the founder of HouseFresh and has been writing about air purifiers and indoor air quality since 2010. He is our lead tester, conducting all the tests we use to evaluate air quality products. That is why you will always see his name attached to our reviews.