Last edit: 10/08/15

Alen T500 Air Purifier Review

Alen T500 Review

Introduced in the fall of 2013, Alen Corp's $299.00 T500 Tower air purifier is an upgrade of the Alen T300.

Alen is a customer focused company, and, while far from perfect, listens to buyer feedback and works to keep customers for life.

What folks liked about the old T300 was its small footprint and portability, while the two piece filter was a customer headache.

So the redesigned T500 is about half the height of its predecessor, and very lightweight, good for blending into decor or installation in small niches.

Residential air quality is a maturing industry, with products, mostly made-in-China, suffering from common-commodity price slippage.

So most companies try to position their brand as a higher-margin "premium" marque, and secure future cash flows from sales of filters.

BlueAir air purifiers and Dyson vacuum cleaners have succeeded in this, while numerous competitors struggle.

One persistent problem with attempts to upscale air cleaner brands is the tenuous production environment in China. alen t500 air purifier

Numerous off-shoring deals have gone bad, a couple brands in the air purifier space, Fellowes and Rabbit Air, are recent victims.

Even when financial stability is attained, spotty quality haunts the China connection, undermining the attempt to upscale a brand.

Alen seems to have cleared this hurdle well.

I credit Alen founder and CEO Warburg "Warb" Lee, who speaks Chinese, with true genius in designing a BlueAir-like product and filter line, and combining it with a warranty plan that smooths the quality irregularities coming from the factory.

T500 is now less than a year old, and a small premium-priced purifier will never reach the sales volume of similarly powered, under-$100 Honeywell, Holmes, and Hamilton Beach models.

So we don't get hundreds of buyer reviews, and those we see are largely influenced by Alen's marketing team.

Pro Reviews

Many shoppers are influenced by the website air-purifiers-america.com, where Alen models rate highest across the board.

Shoppers who do their homework know that this site is owned by Alen.

AllergyBuyersClub's expert testers awarded T500 three and one half stars, a fair appraisal in my view.

Buyer Reviews

Sales volume is modest, as attested to by 13 customer reviews at amazon.com, averaging 4.5 stars.

T500 is Manually Controlled

Alen T500 has no pollutant sensors and no AUTO mode.

I am on the record with my opinion that automatic operation, which I once applauded, is NOT the best way to manage indoor air quality.

So I wouldn't be concerned with the lack of Auto Mode on this small niche product.

Alen prides itself on attention to detail, so the T500 has a clear digital display and easy touch controls.

Where T300 had four fan speeds, T500 has three.

T500's 12 hour timer allows users to control a shutdown at future times, but not restart.

T500 Has No Official CADR

Alen does not participate in the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM verifide) Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) program.

But airflow rates in cubic feet per minute (CFM) are published:

Speed 1: 48 CFM,
Speed 2: 83 CFM,
Speed 3: 130 CFM.

Based on these airflows and the company's claimed filter efficiencies, I estimate a 125 average CADR for the Alen T500.

As you should expect from its small size, T500 is low powered, too low to be a real "room air purifier."

Buyers, almost everyone, seek the impossible - a small economical machine which will produce crystal clean mountain air in a series of connected rooms of over 1,000 square feet.

So of course vendors all claim exaggerated room size ratings, and Alen inflates with the best of them.

Rating a 125 CADR air cleaner for "500 square feet" is a real stretch, I recommend T500 for very small spaces only.

Consumer Reports has set an arbitrary level of 150 CADR for their recommendations.

I say, to achieve healthy air quality, always install air purifiers in a space they can actually handle.

For the Alen T500, I recommend a 125 sq. ft. area, no bigger.

A small bedroom, student dorm, small office, or desktop situation is best.

One air purifier market niche that is under served is travel, where the newly-downsized Alen mini-tower might be a fit.

Measuring 22 inches tall by 6 wide and 10 deep, T500 is at the upper end of travel sizes (airline carry-on, suitcase fit, rental car trunk...), but might be worth a try for folks who need something portable.

Alen designers may have been thinking "travel" air purifier when they shaved weight off the T500, which weighs in at just nine pounds.

T500 Filter Train

T300's stacked filters have been replaced by a taller one-piece design in T500.

A washable and/or vacuumable prefilter uses Velcro fasteners to the main filter.

The standard Alen filter, misleadingly named "HEPA-Pure," is primarily a particle filter, user reviews say odor removal is weak. alen t500 control panel

Buyers planning to deploy T500 in smoking, pet, or other gas-phase intensive environments should upgrade to one of Alen's optional filter upgrades at the outset.

Despite abundant use of the "H" word in Alen marketing, T500 is NOT a HEPA air purifier.

High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) is not a style, type, or construction material, it is an efficiency standard, telling users how good the filter is at capturing particles of a specific size ("99.97% of .3 micron particles").

But consumers almost universally believe that fibers embedded in folded paper mean HEPA.

"HEPA-style" is technically without meaning, but this is pretty much standard industry jargon (BlueAir "HEPASilent" describes a similar filter).

HEPA-Pure and Alen's other trademarks will fool many buyers.

Alen filters use electrostatically charged fibers to achieve less than true-HEPA filtering, and are claimed to catch 95% of particles greater than 0.3 microns.

For buyers seeking relief from common allergens, including mold spores and most pollens, T500's efficiency gap may not matter, as these triggers tend to be relatively large, caught with maybe 99% efficiency by Alen filters.

For more serious health issues, I suggest a true HEPA purifier, with at least 200 CADR, many of which are available in the T500's price range.

Alen projects T500 filter life at 6 to 12 months with normal use, and requires filters be replaced at least annually for continued warranty coverage.

Alen's Smart Filter Life Timer uses an advanced algorithm, not just a calendar, to remind users to replace filters.

One complaint often seen in user reviews is obscure filter reminder reset buttons, so Alen listened and T500 replaces T300's buried reset, which required a paperclip to insert, with an outside one-touch affair.

Like most air purifier vendors, a big slice of Alen's cash flow comes through replacement filters.

Prefilters are attached to every filter option.

T500 HEPA-Pure, MSRP $44, is the standard replacement filter for T500,
HEPA-Fresh, MSRP $49, adds a little carbon for light odor,
HEPA-Silver, MSRP $59, offers tiny silver threads for microbe growth suppression,
HEPA-Odorcell, $89, is the carbon filter for real odor situations.

Negative Ionizer

T500's Ionizer can be manually turned on or off.

Alen calls the ionizer "Ozone-safe," probably because so many shoppers improperly associate ozone with "ionizers" thanks to disinformation from Consumer Reports.

Negative ions are the healthy ones, and cause particulate matter to clump together and fall to the floor or collect on surfaces, a mild air cleaning effect.

Alen dropped the T300's problematic $60 UV lamp and photo-catalyst screen, simplifying maintenance for T500 owners.

T500 Noise Emissions

Alens advertised sound levels are:

Speed 1: 42 dB,
Speed 2: 47 dB,
Speed 3: 56 dB.

This is not a silent machine, many larger air purifiers are quieter.

Installed in my recommended rather small room, T500 sounds will be noticed.

User reviews say low speed is nearly inaudible, second is convenient for continuous use, and high is too loud for sleep.

One consistent consumer gripe is the bright, usually blue, always-on "nightlight" feature which so many designers insist on tacking on to new air purifiers.

I keep saying that blue frequencies interfere with the body's production of the sleep-and-heal hormone Melatonin, but purifier builders ignore me.

Proof that Alen listens to customers, T500 goes dark 15 seconds after the last button is hit, ideal for small bedrooms which would light up like a cheap hotel in the flashing lights of competing purifiers.

Utility

T500 burns 53 Watts on high speed, which makes it narrowly EPA Energy Star qualified (EPA's threshold is 2.0 Dust CADR/Watt).

Using my estimated CADR of 125, we get roughly 2.4 CADR/Watt.

One air purifier issue I see developing is global electrical system incompatibility, with different mains power standards in different countries.

Alen warns buyers NOT to use the T500 on any electrical system other than 120V 60 Hertz current.

Taking the T500 to a foreign country will void the warranty.

Alen Corporate and Warranty

Alen was founded in Austin, Texas in 2006, by Mr. Warburg "Warb" Lee, then owner of Web Stores America, which operates several appliance websites, including air-purifiers-america.com.

Successful from the start, Alen Corp was listed on Inc. Magazine’s "5,000 Fastest Growing Privately Held Companies in the US."

While prices of Alen products and filters are steep, and marketing techniques could be cleaner, I admire Warb's concept of "customers for life."

So Mr. Lee offers a genuine lifetime warranty with the T500.

For many air cleaners I tell buyers to "forget the warranty, it's worthless."

Not true of Alens.

Numerous customer reviews relate stories of replacements shipped, sometimes based on the customers verbal assurance of failure, and maybe just sending in the ID plate off the defective purifier (instead of expensive return shipping).

The replacement is generally not a new T500, and may be returned or refurbished.

T500's are China-built and will have variable quality control, as do most Chinese products.

Buyers should be sure to comply with all warranty requirements, including replacing filters once annually, registering the T500 purchase, and remaining in the country of origin.

Conclusions

Here is the crux of the matter for buyers shopping Alens, frequent and pricey filters and high initial price are counter-balanced by good customer service and a real lifetime warranty.

Alen really does want you as a customer for life, rare in a business whose general time horizon barely reaches beyond the first deal.

The downside is with Alens YOU are paying for the better service (the era of free customer service is long gone), and repeatedly paying premium prices for not-HEPA filters.

Alen products, while "good," are not comparable to industry leaders, like IQAir, as Alen marketing insinuates.

Many Alen buyers have embraced the "customer for life" paradigm, buying multiple Alens and enrolling in the company's auto-ship filter subscription program.

T500 Pros

good travel, student dorm, or office desktop air cleaner
use where space is limited
warranty is more than just words

T500 Cons

alen t500 confusing marketing
price
NOT a HEPA filter
frequent filter changes
high filter costs
low power

Buyers should resist the idea that T500 is suited to larger rooms, and especially not "500 square feet."

I have not tried the T500 as a travel/hotel air cleaner, it's at the upper edge of portability, but I know many are searching for one, maybe the Alen T500 is it.

I recommend the Alen T500 primarily for the niches it fits: small rooms, student dorms, small offices/cubicle desktops, RVs,, etc.

You can browse the

Alen T500 Tower Air Purifier at Amazon.com

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