Air purifiers, as essential as they have become over time, haven’t evolved in terms of the filtration technology in play. Depending on the type of implementation and thereby the filter types, there would definitely be a pre-filter, a HEPA (or high efficiency particulate air filter) and perhaps a carbon filter to further eliminate the odours, after dust and pollution particles as small as 0.3 micron has been dealt with. Or the designs, except British tech giant Dyson’s efforts.
That’s where Israeli tech company Aura Air is doing things differently, for one, with a reworked filter implementation and air purification technology. And a design that’s wall mountable too, something very rare for air purifiers. The question we intend to find an answer to is, whether a purifier as compact as this really work well in larger indoor spaces (such as the living room and drawing room combinations) in highly polluted Indian cities (Delhi NCR gives us a good chance to factor in the latter).
Based on costs, Dyson and Blueair have competition
But let’s talk costs first. The Aura Air purifier that we’re reviewing here is priced at ₹37,500. That very much places it in competition with Dyson and Blueair (this is a well-known Swedish air purification company), at least in terms of the potential customer audience. Dyson’s purifiers are priced ₹27,900 onwards while Blueair’s Classic series is priced upwards of around ₹25,000. That’s the initial outlay.
There will be the recurring cost of the filter. In this case, you don’t need to separately buy different layers (a lot of purifiers separate the pre, HEPA and carbon layers, which adds to cost and clutter). Instead, it’s just the Ray Filter, as the company calls it. This costs ₹5,000 and lasts around 6 months. This would be at par with the Blueair Classic’s particle filter costs as well as Dyson’s HEPA and carbon filter combination.
Good things in small packages?
If we are to rely on conventional wisdom, the larger the air purifier’s form factor (that directly co-relates with larger air intakes, the size of the filter the air runs through and finally the fan that blows the air out), the better it’ll be able to spread the purifier air across larger rooms. The comparatively compact size (in terms of the overall footprint) and Aura Air’s uniquely limited height means the fan has been redesigned, while the air vents may need to push out air rapidly.
To a certain extent, these are able to. The Aura Air takes in the air from a vent on the front (it is more on the top, but is multi-directional intake), with a prefilter taking care of capturing the larger dust particles. The air then runs through the three-layered Ray filter, which is where airborne germs, bacteria, virus and mould are cleaned out from the air as it passes through. The next stage is the release of negative ions in the air in the room, which attach with the dust and pollutants to bring them lower than the typical breathing height. Finally, there’s the ultraviolet-C, or UV-C which sterilises the air from really small particles (0.1 micron, for instance), which can also be viruses and bacteria.
Trading pollution for noise?
The problem with this design is that the fan is quite audible even at the slowest modes. The Aura Air app (that’s available for Android phones and the Apple iPhone) gets you the options of a sleep mode, low, high and auto fan speeds, but no manual controls (from 1-10, from instance). We noticed that even if we set this to sleep mode, that’ll automatically switch to the auto mode after a few hours. This air purifier is best placed in a larger room which is active, to drown out the din, but cannot really be used in a bedroom.
That isn’t a problem that Dyson purifiers have when the fan speed is lowered, and neither do affordable options from brands including Philips, Honeywell and Xiaomi.
In terms of purifying the indoor air, this manages to keep the indoor air quality stable around 50 AQI when the outside AQI is around 150. But if the room is (perhaps unnaturally) active, as a living room might be during the daytime, this can increase to as high as 90 AQI. The Aura Air then has to switch itself to Auto mode and power up the fans. At this stage, it takes about 15 minutes for the air quality to settle down around the 40 AQI mark again. In less active room, the AQI can be as low as 10.
While this is a smart purifier, the Wi-Fi connectivity tends to be fairly unstable. The only way to know is by opening the app on your phone, and realising the connectivity has dropped. Sometimes, just powering down the Aura Air for a few seconds does the trick, while at other times, you’ll be forced to do a soft reset. It is just inconvenient, and gives Dyson and Blueair a serious advantage on the convenience and smartness checklists.
Reimagining air purifiers effectively, but quirks are unmissable
There must be a way forward for the attractive design, complete with the premium fabric grille on all sides. The Aura Air can be wall mounted too, though we aren’t sure if it’ll really be an attractive proposition for many homes (visible power cable to factor in), which tend to hide purifiers between furniture or in corners. Walls are meant for art and paintings, after all. Nevertheless, refinements must be done to make the fan less noisy. This filter implementation works well to keep air in a large and active room, well within the very healthy realms, and that’s its primary task.
Yet, it is not a clear black and white, definitive recommendation for the Aura Air over Dyson’s air purifiers, though the design definitely is an advantage compared with boxy Blueair purifiers. That’s till the fan improvements and stable Wi-Fi are fixed, because these foibles get amplified, when a price tag such as this is plastered on the Aura Air box.