I am posting this as a public post in case someone needs the info; so a little back story is in order. I live with severe allergies to cat and dog dander, molds, pollens, dust and dust mites, etc. I have three cats and a dog guide and have so far managed my pet allergies with vigorous regular cleaning, de-allergy treatment of my animals, etc. However, I recently found myself wearing an allergen mask in my home because smoke from my neighbors' leaf-burning project was blowing into my house despite my windows being closed. I had been considering purchasing an air purifier; but that was when I made my final decision. Finding the right machine was going to be important for me--not only did it need to do its job well, but it also needed to be fully usable for a person who is blind.
I bought a little ionizer in 1996 and was fairly disappointed. It is still sitting in my closet, and I have not touched it in years. It has a filter that needs to be cleaned every so often--I cannot tell when the filter is clean or not clean because it is essentially a sponge filter. The machine has an off/on switch but the ionizer is controlled by a button that is just a toggle, and a light comes on to indicate whether the ionizer is running. It leaves a lot to be desired in terms of accessibility. It is also horribly loud--I couldn't tolerate it.
So I went into the project of buying a new machine with a lot of demands. I have cat boxes and a lot of pet dander in the house, so I wanted to see reviews by pet owners. I wanted to find something with accessible controls if possible. And I didn't want to be replacing filters all the time--I can't afford it.
Enter the Hamilton Beach 04383 True Air Allergen-Reducing Air Cleaner. From reading the info on Amazon and other review sites, it seemed that it might fit the bill for what I was looking for. I could spend a lot of money to get a machine big enough to do my whole house; but realistically it might be bettter to run little machines in each room since I can't afford a big machine and since I'm not really dealing with an area that is open-concept. So I started with one machine and thought I'd move it around between the two most-affected rooms and see how it does. Right now that means it is alternating between the leaf-smoke and cat box-affected back bedroom and the bathroom, which also has a cat box in it.
I ran it for a couple of hours in the bedroom last night and then moved it to the bathroom overnight. I slept well for the first night in weeks and woke up rested and ready to get up, no joint pain, no overwhelming depression, no hacking cough. I can actually feel air in my lungs. The bathroom doesn't smell like cat box or mold/mildew at all--I can deal with being in there without feeling like I need to open a window (which is the last thing I need since I'm allergic to everything out there). I had enough energy to vacuum the entire house instead of having to do it in phases. I will move the machine back in here and run it during the dday, and I think I'll get continued improvement over time.
The machine is not overpowering in terms of loudness. I am running it on high at the moment. It is like a fan on the mid setting--it sucks in air from the room, cleans it, then blows it back out, so some noise is unavoidable. On the low setting, I can tell it is on, but it doesn't bother me at all. I wouldn't run it if I was recording something that required absolute silence; but it doesn't generate any more noise than my Netbook fan.
The control is just a knob that clicks into place for each successive setting: off, low, medium, high. Getting the filter out is rather complicated--I really can't describe this well, and I had to do it in order to remove it from the plastic wrap it came in before use. Now that it is out, I think I can just vacuum-brush it for cleaning. We will see. The reviews say that this only needs to be done every few months. I'll know when the air stops getting filtered.
So far, I'm quite impressed.