Aura Air review: Trades air pollution for noise pollution

Aura Air review: Trades air pollution for noise pollution

The Aura Air air purifier takes a decidedly different approach to scrubbing your home air of airborne pollutants and odors. Unlike competing products that typically sit on the floor, the Aura Air mounts to your wall. And rather than filter air by pulling it through one side of a square or rectangular filter and exhausting out the other, the Aura Air sucks air through a circular filter and exhausts it in all directions.

It sounds like a great idea, and the Aura Air does have several strong features. The problem is that it trades air pollution for noise pollution: It’s extremely loud, even at its quietest setting.

This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best air purifiers, where you’ll find reviews of the competition’s offerings, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping for this type of product.

A fan at the back of the Aura Air draws air through an intake at the front, where a polymer mesh pre-filter traps large airborne particles such as dust and pollen. The air then passes through a round filter—Aura calls it the Ray Filter—which consists of three layers: a HEPA filter, an activated carbon filter to absorb odors, and a cotton fabric filter impregnated with copper oxide to destroy bacteria and neutralize viruses, fungus, and mold.

aura air product 02 Aura Air

This exploded view of the Aura Air shows its washable pre-filter and disposable, three-layer Ray Filter.

Aura says an ultraviolet-C (UVC) LED inside the Aura Air kills bacteria, viruses, and parasites that get trapped in the Ray Filter filter, and the FDA concurs that UVC light is effective for this purpose, although this document reports that as of February 1, 2021, “there is limited published data about the wavelength, dose, and duration of UVC radiation required to inactivate the SARS-CoV-2 virus;” that’s the virus that causes COVID-19 disease. Finally, bipolar ionization technology creates positively and negatively charged oxygen ions that can remove airborne pollutants. Where ionizer-based air purifiers can produce high levels of ozone, Aura says its device produces very low levels of that harmful molecule.

I asked the company to provide CADR (Clean Air Delivery Rate) numbers for tobacco, cooking, and fireplace smoke; for dust; and for pollen, but a representative provided only a single “estimated” CADR of 203, with the qualifications that “this is still being tested” and that the unit’s “max air flow is 350m3 per hour.”

The Aura Air app

aura awair app Michael Brown / IDG

The Aura Air app has its quirks, but it does a very good job of informing you of the air quality inside and around your home.

A collection of sensors inside the Aura Air monitor the quality of air in the room in which it’s installed, and the air purifier uses this information to determine how hard it needs to work. Once you connect the device to your Wi-Fi network, this information is also reported to the Aura Air app on your mobile device (the app is available for Android and iOS). The app is generally well designed, apart from the fact that it presents virtually no useful information on its homepage. It displays a thumbnail image of the air filter with the remaining lifespan of the Ray Filter beneath that. You must drill down into the app to get any more useful information.

aura air app 1 Michael Brown / IDG

The Aura Air app has an odd way of presenting weather forecasts. This screenshot was taken on a Thursday afternoon, so why does the forecast start on Tuesday? And is that the Tuesday past or the Tuesday to come?

Tapping on the thumbnail displays a circular chart that reports indoor and outdoor air quality indexes (AQIs). Indoor AQI is based on the levels of carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2), PM2.5 (particulate matter in the 2.5 micron range), PM10 (particulate matter in the 10 micron range), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

The outdoor AQI is based on the EPA’s national air quality standards and reports on the same pollutants as the indoor AQI, plus the levels of nitrogen oxide (NO2), ozone (O3), and sulfur dioxide (SO2). Both indexes scale from 0 (excellent) to 500 (hazardous). The app provides helpful descriptions of these pollutants, including their impact on human health.