Beauty and brains . . . that’s how I’d describe the BreatheSmart air purifier from Alen. I consider myself an “air purifier connoisseur,” having tested dozens of them for this site, giving me the perspective to distinguish the difference in noise, ease of use, bells and whistles, and effectiveness between brands for use in a pet household, and even between units within the same brand.
Here’s what I’ve found, overall: It’s hard at first to tell if an air purifier is working. An air purifier is not like a fragrance plug-in, where you can smell your well-spent dollars at work. An air purifier is more like a computer antivirus protector toiling behind the scenes to protect your software. You can’t see the program running, but as long as your computer is safe, you don’t care about the magic that makes it work.
The proof in air purifiers is not in the pudding, but in how you feel after a few days of running one. I first tested Alen’s BreatheSmart air purifier for a month in the bedroom of my parents' very dusty home in Florida, where I was convalescing after a long battle with Lyme Disease that left me extremely ill. The last thing I needed was to breathe dirty air in my sleep, not to mention all the particles that my three dogs brought in from the yard ten times a day. Windows in Florida are closed all year long, making the inside air more polluted than the outside air.
Here’s something I only tell my closest friends: I’m allergic to dogs. I’m a dog trainer, rescuer, and foster home, and I’m allergic to the furry little buggers. And they sleep in bed with me. Prior to running the BreatheSmart unit, I used sticky strips over the bridge of my nose so I could breathe at night, and when those weren’t enough, I bought a very uncomfortable piece of plastic to shove into my nose—it was far from cute.
A couple of days after running the BreatheSmart air purifier (in about a 250 square foot bedroom), I was able to ditch the sticky strips and horrid nose insert and breathed wonderfully at night for the first time in a long while. Not only that, my allergies are better, and if my allergies are better, I’m sure my dogs’ allergies are better. Dogs have allergies to air pollution, pollen, and mold too.
That’s the “Yes, it works,” testimonial, but even if an air purifier works to clean the air, there can be some drawbacks. Fortunately for the BreatheSmart, it manages to easily clear the pitfalls that plague some other air purifiers.
The BreatheSmart is extremely intuitive and easy to use, almost like Alen took a page from Apple’s book—the BreatheSmart even looks like it could be an Apple branded product with its sleek lines and white uber-modern shape, like a giant iPod, or something you’d find on a spaceship.
All of the buttons are on top and have big, easy-to-read labels (great for seniors, or people like me, seniors-in-training). The unit comes with a peel-off sticker describing the buttons.
- The button to the far left is the “ION” button, which turns on the ionization feature, good for deodorization. This would be a great feature to use in a kitchen or near a litter box or the dog’s bed. I do not turn this on in the bedroom, but would use it if I moved the unit to another room. It’s nice that you can turn the feature on and off.
- The next button is “filter life,” which features three small lights, starting with green, indicating a working filter; when the yellow light appears, it’s time to order a new filter; and when the red light appears it’s time to replace it.
- The next button is the timer: one press for 4 hours, two presses for 8 hours, and three presses for 12 hours. The next press turns the timer off. Easy. Some other air purifiers require a learning curve to use the timer.
- The next button is the coolest one—the power button—not because it turns the unit on and off, but because it’s ringed with light that indicates your air quality: blue for clean air, yellow for moderate particles, and red for dirty air. I have only seen it blue in the bedroom for a few times, then it turns to yellow or red again.
- The next button is speed, of which you have four—low to turbo.
- The final button is by far my favorite—the “auto” button—which is the “set it and forget it” button. It prompts the unit’s sensor to evaluate your air and vary its speed accordingly.
I keep the unit on “auto” all the time, 24 hours a day. When I close the bedroom door and no one is in the room, then I come back after a few minutes, the center button is blue, meaning clean air. When I walk past the unit, it turns yellow and speeds up. When the dogs walk by, it turns red and speeds up more, as it does when I’m folding laundry or making the bed. Any time the sensor detects particles, the unit goes into overdrive collecting them so you don’t have to breathe them.
The BreatheSmart that I have includes Alen’s HEPA-OdorCell filter, making it the ideal unit for pet homes, because, let’s face it, if you have pets, you have odors. For me, the dogs are worth the resulting odor, but the BreatheSmart unit has sucked up all of the doggie smell. Pearl is way overdue for a bath, but that’s not bothering me, and I think it’s because of the BreatheSmart.
In terms of noise, when the BreatheSmart is on the lowest setting, you don’t even know it’s running. The second setting (of four) brings up a little white noise. The third setting’s sound is equivalent to a window-unit air conditioner running on low, but without the rattle—just a smooth, consistent whoosh of air. The final setting, turbo, is equivalent to a window air conditioner on high. Personally, I like white noise in my bedroom, so I’m happy with this unit at any of the settings. I imagine that this unit would work great for odor control in rooms with rodents or rabbits, as well.
Bells and whistles . . . here’s one: There are quite a few lights on the top of the unit, which can be annoying in a dark bedroom, but Alen thought of everything—simply press the power button once and the lights go out, but the unit keeps working exactly as you set it, either on a particular speed or on auto. To bring up the lights again, press the button once to turn the unit off, then again to turn it on—voila, lights! I like the lights during the day (so I can see how dirty my air is!) and then lights off at night.
When the BreatheSmart arrives (in a huge box, by the way, that your kids and/or cats will have a ball with), the filter is separate and you have to install it, which is good because you will know how to change the filter when the time comes. The front of the unit has a removable sticker on it that shows you where to pull on the front of the unit to remove it, and the filter itself tells you how to insert it. Super easy.
One aspect of “air purifier ownership” is changing the filter when necessary, and I find that it’s point of contention among people trying to choose an air purifier, worried about how often they’re going to have to change the filter and about the expense. With the BreatheSmart, I imagine I’ll have to change the filter about every eight to ten months (or when the “filter life” sensor turns red), considering I’m running the unit all the time, which I feel OK about because it’s Energy Star certified, running about the wattage of a light bulb.
I like to think of an air purifier like a pet. You have no issue feeding your dog or cat, taking her to the veterinarian, or buying her beds and toys, right? Then you should have no problem buying a replacement filter once or twice a year. For me, it’s a health and allergy issue—I know that I need to breathe clean air to remain healthy, avoid mold particles (horrible for your health), and not suffer from my dog allergies, and having to buy a filter once a year is a small price to pay for that. Alen has an auto ship program that saves you 10% on filters.
Though I have the BreatheSmart unit in a 250 square foot room, it can cover up to 1100 square feet. Of course, the smaller the space, the more filtration will occur. You can read more of the unit’s specs on the Alen site.
Also, you follow this link you can get the BreatheSmart unit and HEPA-OdorCell filter as a package from the manufacturer for 10% off the retail price. Typically, the HEPA-OdorCell filter is sold separately, bringing the unit and filter to $708.00, but with this link (and any link on this page) both are $566.10 and free shipping until 12/31/13.
A couple cool things about the company, Alen. First, all of their products have a Lifetime Limited Warranty, which is basically unheard of these days. Here’s what they say: “If there is ever an issue with your Alen Air Purifier—either 1 year or 20 years from now—we will repair or replace it, as long as you are maintaining your air purifier by replacing its filter on a regular basis.”
Secondly, they have an Allergy Relief Guarantee. If you’re not satisfied within 60 days they will refund your money and even pay to ship the unit back. That’s the mark of a company who feels strongly that they have a quality product.
Again, by following this link you can get the BreatheSmart unit and HEPA-OdorCell filter from the manufacturer as a package for 10% off the retail price. Typically, the HEPA-OdorCell filter is sold separately, bringing the unit and filter to $708.00, but with this link (and any link on this page) the total for both $566.10 and free shipping until 12/31/13.
About the price . . . you get what you pay for, especially these days. This filter is in the mid range of air purifiers in terms of price. There are more expensive units, but they aren’t necessarily better. I think it’s clear that I’m a fan of this unit, and Alen in general. I’ve been running their A350 Air Purifier (see my review on that unit) in my New York City bedroom for over a year, but I think I’m leaning toward the BreatheSmart as my favorite for a few reasons, not the least of which is that it’s very attractive.
From the Alen website:
- The Alen® BreatheSmart® Air Purifier for smoke and pet odors includes Alen's HEPA-OdorCell Filter
- Guaranteed to reduce allergy symptoms by capturing dust, dander mold and pollen
- Includes Alen's HEPA-OdorCell filter, which combines HEPA with patented MCP odor technology to destroy smoke and pet odors at a molecular level, leaving the air smelling fresh and pure
- Advanced SmartSensor Technology automatically adjusts airflow when it detects allergens and pollutants in your air
- Covers up to 1100 square feet on high, removing 99% of particles greater than 0.3 microns
- Purifies large amounts of air while maintaining a peaceful environment with WhisperMax Technology
- Ionizer charges smaller particles, improving filtration
- Easy on and off front cover for effortless filter changes