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Last edit: 10/16/15

3M Filtrete Ultra Clean FAP03-RS Review

Filtrete FAP03-RS air purifier, a sleek and stylish design from major multinational 3M corporation, has achieved significant market penetration, including, and Target stores.

User reviews are generally favorable.

What many buyers fail to notice: FAP03-RS Ultra Clean and it's siblings are not HEPA filtered air cleaners.

3M has developed a new advanced electret (passive electrostatic) filter media, based on their years of experience with particle respirators and furnace filters.

Filtrete is a charged (electrostatic) medium, similar to technology proven effective in the the Blueair brand of air purifiers.

Blueair uses active ionization to charge particulate and filters, whereas in the system utilized in the 3Ms the Filtrete filter acquires it's electric charge from friction as air passes by the rectangular shaped fibers.

This method is effective at attracting and holding medium sized particulates, especially pollen, and 2.0 micron sized dust. Filtrete Ultra Clean Air Purifier

The charging of the fibers means that the spacing of these fibers can be wider and still be very efficient, especially on micron sized and larger particles.

But the larger fiber spacing will suffer efficiency losses in the submicron class, the smaller and most dangerous class of indoor particulate pollutants.

This wider spacing reduces resistance, allowing higher air flow through the filter.

It is the high pressure drop that makes quality HEPA air purifiers so loud.

So the lower pressure using an electret filter allows 3M FAP03-RS to run on higher settings quietly. Electricity costs are also reduced.

It seems like the FAP03-RS Ultra Clean Filtrete Air Purifier from 3M might be worth a closer look.

FAP03-RS is a Strong Blower

3M had introduced a complete line of Filtretes into the overbuilt residential air cleaner market, narrowing the offerings as the economy softened.

AHAM certifies it for rooms up to 310 square feet.

FAP03-RS is AHAM certified for a Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) of

Dust 274,
Pollen 312,
Smoke 197.

A pretty strong blower.

3M's FAP03-RS air purifier seems targeted at seasonal allergy sufferers - it removes pollen sized particles so well.

The average radius of allergy causing pollen is 25 microns, a huge size as par as air purifiers are concerned.

Even smaller pollens go 2-3 microns, still a very large allergen.

More expensive air purifiers focus on much smaller .1 micron sized threats.

While the AHAM room size ratings are always too large, FAP03-RS can reduce pollen, and probably mold spores, from a large bedroom.

3M Internals: One Trick Pony

A 3-speed fan it is widely reported as being quiet, except for the highest setting.

FAP03-RS is very quiet on low speed.

Some users report an annoying hum even at the lowest fan speed, most likely a quality control issue - occasional out of round fans are common in lower priced units today.

The 3M air purifier inhales from the back of the unit and exhausts upward.

The Filtretes have just one filter, there is no prefilter to extend filter life, no screen to catch hair and other large debris.

And no carbon (for odors and chemicals) to slow down the airflow.

Pet owners report filters can get clogged with pet hair rapidly.

A couple user reviews say the lifetime of a filter in a house with pets is only about a month.

All electrostatic air purifiers share a common weakness: as particles build up on the charged surface, efficiency diminishes.

With the metal collector plate style electrostatics, Friedrics, Ionic Pros, and Orecks for example, this means frequent collector plate washing.

But for the Filtrete air purifiers, it means frequent filter replacement, with significant performance degradation as the filter ages.

Dual filter reminder systems are provided.

A true filter monitor senses particle accumulation on the filter, lighting a warning light when efficiency is compromised.

Ultra Clean's filter life analyzer's diagnostic cycle operates on high speed only, communicating through flashing lights in the control knob. There is also a conventional 90 day manual reset countdown timer to que users whose environments have not tripped the analyzer.

Since the dirt is electrostaticaly bound, vacuuming won't restore the filter's effectiveness, although some users report vacuuming the rear of the filter frequently in an attempt to retain airflow rates.

While I do vacuum several of my cheaper air purifiers, I don't think it will extend filter life in the Filtretes. Filtrete Ultra Clean Air Purifier

Replacement Filtrete filter FAPF03 is manufacturer recommended every 3 months.

As noted above, these filters loose efficiency even when they look clean, so 3M isn't just pumping the air purifier as a loss leader for the filters, they really need to be changed often.

Replacement filters are $17 to $22, with some aftermarket brands at the lower prices.

Accessing and removing the filter is easy, the cover panel pops off and reveals the "furnace filter."

Ultra Clean's 15.2 x 8.9 filter is not a standard Filtrete furnace filter size, so they are not interchangeable.

Some aftermarket vendors have offered cheaper filters in this size, buyers should be aware that these do not match the performance of genuine 3M replacements.

The 3M FAP03-RS air cleaner is larger than most buyers expect, measuring 18 inches wide by 9 inches deep by 27 inches tall.

It is portable at 22 lbs.

A Limited Recommended Market

I recommend the Filtrete-based 3M air purifiers primarily for people subject to seasonal pollen allergies, mold allergy, or problems with larger dust intrusion.

Pollen allergy relief calls for sporadic full power burst operations, which FAP03-RS Ultra Clean can provide in medium-sized bedrooms.

Filterete may be worth the filter upkeep costs for these applications.

Filtrete air purifiers are claimed to remove 99.9% of all particulates at the much smaller .1 micron in size that "pass through the filter."

But this builder language - typical of low cost, leaky machines - brings up the issue of filter basket sealing - are fine particles bypassing this furnace-type filter?

Dust and pollen are large particles, so with the additional throughput of the looser filters, more can be collected.

But fine particles, the ones which penetrate lungs and enter the bloodstream to contribute to disease-causing inflammation, are another story.

Therefore people with serious or chronic symptoms should not rely on the Filtrete FAP03-RS Ultra Clean as their sole bedroom air purifier.

3M does not claim FAP03s can remove odors and chemicals.

3M marketing does make many marginally correct statements, such as "better dust and pollen capturing capabilities than any HEPA air purifier in its class."

What class? I think they are referring to other purifiers with similar CADR rates.

The company likes to compare it's products to the (former) "leading air purifier," (Sharper Image Ionic Breeze) a notoriously inefficient particle collector.

Most electrostatic purifiers emit ozone, but the 3Ms are claimed to be ozone free.

Since the electrostatic charge is passively generated, this is very plausible.

Backed by a Dow-30 Company

A 1-year limited warranty is backed by a substantial company with 15 years of experience in the air filtration industry.

3M has been an innovator for over 100 years.


3M FAP03-RS air purifier, though not reaching HEPA performance with fine particles, retains large dust and pollen better than many HEPA air purifier in its price range.

This strong and quiet air cleaner is good for folks with seasonal pollen allergies. FAP03-RS may be the strongest air cleaner I recommend for pollen only.

Buyers should know that they are not getting true-HEPA fine particle removal, and near zero gas and odor adsorbtion.

But if pollen is driving you crazy, try the 3M.

You can find:

3M Filtrete FAP03-RS at


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