The price of clean indoor air in every country

By
Updated on May 17, 2024
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.

The home should be the safest place a family can be. But no lock and key can keep out the effects of air pollution. Aside from the unbound nature of motor and industrial pollution, one-third of the world’s population uses air-polluting stoves and fuels to cook meals. This latter pollution alone causes around 3.2 million deaths each year, including nearly a quarter of a million children under five.

While deaths of this nature are in slight decline, air pollution from fossil fuels and industrialization continue to take a bigger toll. And while the effects are more pronounced in other parts of the world, the U.S. is no exception. Americans spend around 90% of their time indoors, where pollution is often up to five times as dense as outdoors.

But another level of inconsistency exists in the cost of coping with bad air. The price and accessibility of air purifiers and electricity vary considerably around the world. To find where it’s cheapest or least affordable to keep indoor air fresh, the team here at HouseFresh identified an affordable, effective and widely available air purifier and calculated the cost of buying and running it in every country for a year.

We found the cost of buying or importing three Levoit Core 300 air purifiers in every country (with these units, one could filter the air of a three-room, 680-square-foot home). And then, we added the local cost of running these three units 24/7 for 365 days a year for each territory by using the unit’s energy consumption rate and the average local electricity prices.

Key findings

  • Clean indoor air is most expensive in Ghana, where it costs $1,852 to maintain clean air in a home for one year.
  • Keeping the air clear of pollutants at home is the cheapest in Thailand ($434/year).
  • The U.S. has the cheapest clean indoor air in North America ($482/year).
  • In the UK, keeping the air clean in a home for one year could cost up to $815 (£655).

How much does each country pay for clean air at home?

We found that six of the ten countries with the most expensive clean air are in Africa and two (Cambodia and Afghanistan) are in Asia. Moreover, 23 of the 30 most expensive countries are in either Africa or Asia. 

However, Asian countries also comprise eight of the ten lowest-cost markets for fresh household air. The United States ($539) and Serbia ($515) are also among the ten cheapest spots.

The most expensive place of all is Ghana in Africa. Here, it costs $1,852 for one year of clean air; that’s 3.8 times as expensive as in the U.S. This is mainly due to the cost of buying the air purifier in the first place. Of the ten most expensive countries, Burkina Faso and Belize stand out for earning their places with high energy costs rather than expensive hardware.

As our next graphic illustrates, Ghanaians are also coping with high levels of PM2.5 — fine particulate matter. This matter can come from industrial, automobile or domestic sources and consists of particles that are under 1/30th the diameter of a strand of human hair. Desert dust is a particular issue during the dry season in Ghana, but motor vehicles are also to blame. A policy shifting car users significantly towards public transport, walking and cycling could save up to 5,500 premature deaths every year.

Iraq has the world’s highest PM2.5 levels and is among the 26 most expensive countries for clean indoor air. Iceland has the lowest PM2.5 levels (from countries with available data). However, volcanic activity can make matters worse — spewing ash and gasses that break down to PM2.5 scale within a month. Unfortunately, we found that Iceland also is one of Europe’s most expensive countries for air purifiers.

The most and least expensive countries for indoor clean air by continent

The annual cost of purifying the air at home varies by at least $600 on every continent. Our following maps reveal the cost disparity across the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa.

North America

The Caribbean countries of Belize ($1,534) and the Cayman Islands ($1,300) stand out as North America’s most expensive markets for home air purification. The set-up costs are over $100 higher in Belize, but Cayman Islanders pay $0.42/ kWh for electricity — nearly twice Belize’s rate ($0.22).

Fortunately, Belize has relatively low PM2.5 levels of around 5.6 μg/m³. By comparison, the North American country with the highest PM2.5 levels is Mexico, with Mexico 19.5 μg/m³.

The United States ($482) has the cheapest air purifier costs on the continent and the sixth cheapest globally. A decent purifier can cost as little as $100 in the U.S., although with electricity costing $0.17/kWh, the process isn’t as cheap as it might be. America’s PM2.5 concentration averages around 8.9 μg/m³.

The effects of air pollution in the U.S. are far from even. One study found that “the harmful effect of fine particulate matter on life expectancy is especially pronounced in states with both very high levels of income inequality and very large black populations.”

South America

We found three South American states with a four-figure price tag on that first year of clean indoor air: Argentina ($1,328), Colombia ($1,228) and Brazil ($965). Argentina suffers from particularly expensive set-up costs, while Colombian families pay around 3.4 times as much for electricity.

Particulate levels are notably higher in Colombia. Around 8% of deaths in Colombia are linked to water and air pollution, with parts of ​​the Aburrá Valley and the Bogotá towns of Puente Aranda, Carvajal and Kennedy among the worst affected.

Venezuela ($554) is the cheapest South American country for clean indoor air. The country benefits from low set-up costs and modest electricity prices of $0.09/kWh. However, climate change-induced extreme weather events, illegal mining and deforestation contribute to an ongoing environmental crisis in the country.

Europe

Substantial energy costs and an air cleaner price that’s around twice or more that of the U.S. push several European countries into the four-figure area. Liechtenstein ($1,055) has the highest overall price for clean indoor air. This can be attributed to electricity costs of $0.51/kWh — the second highest in the world next to Ireland.

Sandwiched between Austria and Switzerland, Liechtenstein has a permanent population of just 40,000 people. Although Liechtenstein’s fine particulate levels are towards the lower end of the scale (8.3 μg/m³), levels of atmospheric ammonia — an agricultural byproduct — continue to outpace efforts at reduction.

The UK ($815) has the 14th highest price of clean indoor air in Europe. As with Liechtenstein, this is mostly due to phenomenally high electricity costs ($0.44/kWh – the 4th highest in the world). The UK’s PM2.5 levels slightly outstrip Liechtenstein’s at 8.9 μg/m³.

The UK government’s air pollution targets (10 µg/m³) are twice as high as the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends (5 µg/m³) – and the target is not set to be met until 2040. In 2020, nine-year-old Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah became the first person in the UK to have her cause of death listed as air pollution. She died from an asthma attack in 2013, having grown up just 25 meters from the busy South Circular Road in south-east London.

Asia

Countries across different Asian regions are among the world’s most expensive for clean indoor air. But the most expensive by a significant leap is Cambodia ($1,645). Cambodia has among the highest set-up costs in the world and not insignificant electricity rates of $0.15/kWh.

The Cambodian government launched a “Blue Sky Campaign” in 2023 and has reduced the number of wildfires while introducing cleaner fuels. The country’s rural population has long suffered from the effects of agricultural fires and waste incineration, and 95% of the rural population uses harmful cooking methods and fuels.

However, Asia is also home to some of the cheapest countries for clean indoor air. Home air conditioning set-up costs in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and Malaysia are among the lowest in the world, and with low-moderate electricity costs, too.

Thailand ($434) is the cheapest country in the world overall for clean indoor air. This is fortunate as the country suffers from severe air pollution, with over 10 million Thais seeking treatment for pollution-related illnesses in 2023.

Africa

Africa is home to the two most expensive countries for clean indoor air: Ghana ($1,852, see The price of clean indoor air around the world, above) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo ($1,801). Ghana is expensive primarily due to the cost of air purifiers, while Congo has the most expensive filters in our study.

Congo is Africa’s most polluted country. Air pollution alone reduces life expectancy in Congo by 2.9 years, compared to what it would be if the country met World Health Organization guidelines.

Despite ongoing poverty across much of Africa, there are no African countries among the cheapest in the world for clean indoor air. Africa’s cheapest countries are Algeria ($568) and Angola ($556), but there are 11 Asian countries that are cheaper, as well as the United States, Canada, Venezuela, Luxembourg and Serbia.

Angola has cheap purifier set-up costs and electricity at just $0.02/kWh. However, Angola’s cheap energy is available to only a few homes. Some 57% of urban homes and 90% of rural homes are not connected to the grid.

How to make your own air purifier

A decent, shop-bought air purifier will combine engineering know-how with dependable materials and expert awareness of the scientific and regulatory factors at play. But if you prefer to build your own hardware, or find yourself at home on a bad air day with no working purifier to hand, it isn’t too hard to put your own basic machine together. Here’s how.

  • Box fan
  • MERV 13 filter
  • Strong tape     
  • Scissors
  • Screwdriver

Step 1: Buy materials

The main things you might not have at home are a box fan, HEPA filters and strong duct or gaffer tape. Make sure the filters you buy are large enough to cover the whole fan without stretching past the edges.

Step 2: Remove the speed dial from the fan

Needless to say, make sure to unplug the fan before you start removing parts. Turn the dial to the fastest speed setting before pulling it off with your hand or pliers.

Step 3: Remove the front grill from the fan

With most box fans, you should be able to unscrew the grill — but if it’s molded, use metal cutters.

Step 4: Stick the MERV 13 filter on

Place the filter carefully on the front of the fan and make sure there are no gaps around the edges. Stick it down with the duct tape.

Step 5: Switch it on

The fan will suck air through, catching pollutants in the HEPA filter. You should change this filter at least twice a year.

Tip

If you want to build your own DIY air purifier, you can find more detailed instructions here.

The increase in wildfires and other air pollutants makes an air purifier more than an annoying expense — they are an essential part of the modern home. That’s why it’s important to ensure you’re getting the best one for your needs (for example, one that deals with construction dust well) and that can keep your indoor air as clean as possible for the minimum necessary price.

SOURCES

To determine the cost of clean indoor air worldwide, we calculated the cost of buying and running three Levoit Core 300 air purifiers (with two filter changes per unit) for a year in every country.

To research the cost of Levoit 300 units and filters, we first sourced prices for countries that Levoit operates in and hence could order directly from their website. For other countries, we sourced prices from local popular online marketplaces. For the remaining countries (particularly the African countries), we manually gathered data on the cost to import a Levoit Core 300 air purifier using local importers.

The cost to run these three units 24/7 for 365 days a year was calculated by factoring in energy consumption (35.5 watts per hour at speed level 3) and the average electricity prices in every country, sourced from globalpetrolprices.com.

These prices are in USD and are correct as of April 2024.

We decided to use the Core 300 for this research because it is a widely available air purifier (with a significant CADR of 145 CFM) that we can confidently say will be able to clean the air in rooms as large as 219 sq. ft. According to the performance tests we conducted when reviewing the Levoit Core 300, this is one of the best-performing low-priced air purifiers available on the market right now.

We accounted for three Levoit Core 300 units in order to cover an entire household, guaranteeing clean air in important areas such as the kitchen (where cooking generates particulate matter), the bedroom (where having an air purifier can remove allergens and improve sleep) and the living room or other living areas (where air purifiers can remove pet hair, dust, pollen, allergens and reduce the risk of exposure to airborne viruses).

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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.

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