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Portable Air Cleaners Vs. Whole-Home Air Cleaners: Which One Is Right For You?

March 26, 2013

Do you or someone in your family in the Sarasota area suffer from allergies? If so, my condolences. This time of year has to be tough for you, even when you’re inside.

While spring certainly is beautiful season, it’s hard to enjoy it if you’re constantly coughing and sneezing from all the allergens and dust in the air.

However, it doesn't have to be the way. You and your family can enjoy spring by using an air cleaner to remove particulate pollutants from indoor air.

But which kind should you get? In this post we’re going to examine the pros and cons of both the portable air cleaner and whole-home air cleaner and then try to show you which one fits your needs.

Portable air cleaner

A portable air cleaner (also known as a tabletop air cleaner) is a unit that can be taken to different rooms in your home to clean the air for pollutants and allergens.


  • Relatively inexpensive compared to a whole-home air cleaner
  • Does not require professional installation like the whole-home air cleaner does
  • Can be moved into rooms that need the most air cleaning


  • Most portable air cleaners on the market do not effectively remove large particles such as dust, pollen, some mold spores, animal dander, and particles containing dust mite and cockroach allergens (according to the Environmental Protection Agency)
  • Can only affect one room
  • Can be noisy (differs between each unit)
  • While portable, many are large and cumbersome and therefore a pain to move
  • Requires multiple units to get the same effect as a whole-house unit
  • Requires frequent maintenance/cleaning
  • Intrudes on your living space

Whole-home air cleaner

A whole-home air cleaner is installed into your HVAC system’s return ductwork and aids in cleaning the air in your entire home.


  • Effective for cleaning the air in your entire home and not just one room like a portable air cleaner
  • Works out of sight and out of mind since it’s installed your ductwork
  • Most units work silently
  • Requires less maintenance than portable air cleaners


  • Costs more than a single portable air cleaner
  • Most require professional installation which adds to the upfront cost

So, which one is right for me?

There are a few different factors to consider when choosing the one that’s right for you. These include:

  • Budget
  • Where you live
  • If you own pets or not

If you don’t have any pets, live in an apartment, and are on a limited budget, then a single portable air cleaner would be the best choice. However, if you live in a house and you own pets, then a whole-home air cleaner would be a more effective and cost efficient choice.

Need more information?

Learn more about air cleaners by reading this guide from the EPA: Residential Air Cleaners (Second Edition): A Summary of Available Information.

Or you can contact one of our experts and ask any questions you have about air cleaners.

Posted in: Buyer's Guide

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