Home air purifiers used to be relatively uncommon. However the past few years have gone a long way toward raising awareness about the importance of indoor air quality. Between ongoing concerns about mold, the pandemic and its focus on air quality, wildfires and smoke, a rough allergy season, and increased pet adoptions (with all that fur and dander), air quality has become a mainstream concern.
That awareness has meant a growing number of air purifiers for the residential market. I just wrapped up testing on one of the latest, the CAF-Z85US(W) from Toshiba. This is a three-speed smart air purifier with three-stage filtration (including HEPA) that is rated for large rooms. It’s on wheels, so it’s easy to move from room to room as needed.
What This Air Purifier Filters
This air purifier is equipped with pre-filters plus true HEPA filters with activated carbon that are rated to provide 99.97% filtration effectiveness. Following are Toshiba’s specifications for what the CAF-Z85US(W)’s HEPA filter can remove from the air.
- Pet dander and fur
Please note, that I am not equipped to measure effectiveness against substances like mold. This is not a review that includes lab results…
However, as a pet owner and someone with allergies in a home that is equipped with a wood-burning fireplace (not to mention a kitchen that is used by teenagers), I can attest to the fact that this air purifier was indeed effective at removing pollen, dog and cat fur, smoke, and cooking odors in the room it is placed in.
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CADR stands for Clean Air Delivery Rate. This is an industry standard for measuring the performance of air purifiers in terms of how many cubic feet of air they can clean of particles in one minute. The CAF-Z85US(W) has a CADR rating of 312, meaning it can clean 312 cubic feet of air per minute.
This air purifier draws air in from both side vents, pushing clean air out the top. It’s designed to be able to handle a large room of up to 483 square feet. With its CADR rating, that means it would clean the air in room of this size seven times per hour.
Multiple Speeds and Modes
Toshiba offers a variety of speeds and modes on the air purifier’s control panels. There are three speeds, timers, a sleep mode (that dims the glowing LEDs while keeping fan noise to 30dB), and a child lock. Running this air purifier is pretty intuitive.
One of the handy things about the Toshiba CAF-Z85US(W) is the fact that it has a built-in VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) sensor and indicator.
A HEPA filter is not able to remove VOCs — these are essentially pollutants in gas form — but having the indicator is useful, and unusual in an air purifier. I had the Toshiba set up in the master bedroom and noticed the VOC readings would suddenly spike if my my wife or daughter were doing their hair in the bathroom down the hallway. After a few days, I was able to narrow it down to the hairspray they were using. It was apparently loaded with VOCs. After this warning, it made sense to crank up the bathroom exhaust fan while working on hair to get the VOCs out as quickly as possible and minimize exposure.
We wouldn’t have known about this potential without the Toshiba’s VOC sensor.
Note: switching to a different hairspray was clearly not an option.
The purchase price of any air purifier is just one part of the cost equation — and over the long term, the price you pay for replacement filters can easily surpass what you paid for the machine. So what will it cost you to run this Toshiba smart air purifier?
I found the pre-filter warning LED turned red after about three weeks of use. Given all the pets running around the house this was hardly surprising. The pre-filters trapped a good deal of dust and fur. The good news is that unlike some air purifiers, the Toshiba’s pre-filters can simply be vacuumed and washed. You don’t need to buy replacements.
The company says the estimated lifespan of the HEPA filters is six months. That would be assuming normal use. I ran the machine full-time at medium speed for several weeks and the LED indicators on the panel have yet to show the filter life has declined meaningfully. When you do hit that red LED, though, a replacement HEPA filter runs $49.99 and you need to replace them in pairs. So you’re looking at $100 every six months at average use, or about $200 per year in replacement HEPA filters.
That’s a little on the high side. Another air purifier I recently tested charges $199 for a replacement HEPA filter, but it has an estimated lifespan of over four years. However, the Toshiba air purifier itself costs considerably less upfront and not having to pay for replacement pre-filters does help.
It’s worth pointing out that all filters are easy to access. The two side panels connect using magnets. Pop them off and the pre-filters can be removed with spring clips. Beneath those are the HEPA/active charcoal filters which simply pull out.
App and Smart Capabilities
This air purifier can connect to your Wi-Fi network. Toshiba offers a mobile app (for iOS and Android) that includes the same controls as the purifier’s panels, as well as air quality readings. When connected to Wi-Fi, you can also use Alexa voice control with it.
Toshiba isn’t marketing the CAF-Z85US(W) air purifier as a defense against viruses like Covid-19. That being said, studies (including this one published in Nature) have shown that HEPA filters can be effective at reducing viruses in the air since the aerosolized viruses tend to clump around larger particles.
So if you are concerned about adding a layer of protection to a room in your home, this air purifier certainly wouldn’t hurt.
More to the point, I found it proved very effective in fulfilling its claimed ability, scrubbing the air of larger particles that can be a respiratory irritant including smoke, pollen, and pet hair/dander. It also did a decent job of reducing cooking odors when placed in the kitchen.
This air purifier has the ability to move a lot of air, but it has a relatively small footprint and it’s easy to wheel around where needed. If you are looking to add an air purifier to your home that can effectively cover a large room, the $299.99 Toshiba CAF-Z85US(W) is a nice option.
Disclosure: Toshiba provided an air purifier for evaluation purposes but had no input into this review.