Coway AP-1009CH Air Purifier Review
Korean exports built by Woongjin Coway began appearing in the US in 2007, under other brand names. Some RabbitAirs, Idylis air purifiers sold at Lowes, and some GE Air Purifiers sold by Sears, were rebranded Coways.
Using a US partner is a common marketing strategy for Asian exporters who frequently lack communication and marketing skills needed to crack the tough North American market. High margins here draw global competitors.
But these contracts for export are winding down, and Woongjin Coway has integrated all its air cleaners under the house brand - "Coway" - with the stated ambition to take the brand global.
Coway dominates the Korean domestic air cleaner market with 40 percent of sales. This considerable installed base supports the company's bid to go global.
Several web pages, with awkward translations from the Korean, make me suspect that penetration of the US market will be more difficult than Coway executives imagine.
Coway has prospered through difficult economic times, using a unique product rental strategy, with stylish products and marketing targeted at housewives,
Following the example of Hyundai Genesis luxury car gamble, Coway has taken a big risk, offering a complete line of air purifiers, up to the $1000 Coway AP-2505CH in the premium class.
Their goal is to simultaneously establish the Coway brand and to steal higher margin sales from premium class leaders.
Hyundai Motor was able to do this, taking sales from European luxury marques as well as more mundane US builders. But Hyundai spent years establishing itself as a value brand automobile before attempting the jump to hyperspace.
AP-1009CH is a middle market product, focused on style, at a price near the top of it's class. Hardly the value proposition we expect from Korea.
Coway's gamble is well financed and heavily marketed, initial goals for the new brand appear to have been met.
The new Coways are offered at respected vendors; AllergyByuersClub.com, AirPurifiersAmerica.com, Amazon.com, and Walmart.com, to name the biggest.
So air-purifier-power.com has purchased a Coway AP1009ch for long term testing, paying $279 plus tax at Fry's Electronics.
This air cleaner will run 24/7 until it quits, updates will be posted here.
Coway's line now includes 7 models;
That is lots of irons in the fire for a new brand to support in today's market, even with Woojin-Coway's deep pockets.
There are also numerous filter options. It is difficult for vendors to support a brand this broad with replacement filters.
In my opinion, Coway execs are gambling big here, betting on securing enough market share to support the broad offering.
Buyers are betting that replacement filters for this wide product offering will be available in two/three years time.
I expect to see fewer models in this lineup by then.
Filter compatibility between models, which to me would be a big plus, is very obscure.
AP-1009CH, the newer model, does not have the depth of detail available with the other Coway models.
The user guide is pretty rudimentary, so we'll be hunting down the specs across the web.
AP-1009CH is Modestly Powered
Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers Clean Air Delivery Rates - CADRs - are cited differently by web vendors.
No Coway appears on the current AHAM page as of 12/21/04, but EPA Energy Star quotes the Coway 1009 CADRs at 186.9 dust, 149.9 smoke, and 203.8 pollen.
So CADRs average 180, making the Coway AP-1009CH suitable for small to medium rooms.
Note the discrepancy between the smoke and pollen CADR numbers, which suggests weaker performance on smaller particles.
I have seen the AP1009CH advertised as suitable for rooms 240-300 sq. ft., but recommend it for 180 sq. ft. This is a passive system, there are no plasma ions, UV, or photocatalytic functions to expand the air cleaner's reach.
3-Stage filter system
Four fan speeds - low, medium, high, and turbo - selectable from the front panel, push air through three filters.
First is the standard clip-in vacuumable and washable prefilter, which Coway calls the "Ultra-Fine Yarn" filter.
Next is the Activated Carbon Deodorization filter, a piece of urethane foam impregnated with activated carbon, said to capture 1 micron particles and remove odors.
Again specifics are rare, but the weight of the carbon in this filter is a few ounces at best, as the filter is borderline transparent.
Also vacuumable, the deodorization filter is claimed by vendors to last up to 3 years, but is recommended for replacement at 12 months in the user manual.
The main filter is a HEPA filter supplied by 3M is said to capture "99.97 percent of germs, bacteria, micro dust, and allergens."
This is an inadequate filter specification. Is this a true-HEPA or not?
3M has produced several not-HEPA filters. Real HEPAs catch 99.97% of particles in the .3 micron size class. The vast majority of bacteria, micro dust, and allergens are larger than HEPA spec.
Coway suggests that when vacuumed gently, the HEPA filter will last up to 3 years.
Coways are Automated
An intuitive interface with a top mounted digital touch panel allows manual control of the AP-1009CH.
Dual pollutant sensors, Dust and Gas, automatically step fan speeds up to three.
The clever pollution indicator and "mood" lamp has four display levels. Blue, light purple, dark purple, and red colors depict decreasing indoor air quality.
Coway offers adjustable sensitivity from the top panel without disassembly. Many automated air cleaners lack, and some have dropped, this nice feature.
AP-1009CH has no remote control.
Coway's line of very stylish air purifiers includes several square-shouldered models, but 1009 is decidedly feminine, with the roundest profile among the Coways. Aesthetics are likely AP-1009's strongest suit.
The prominent round recessed mood light is another of the Freudian-field-day features which combine with flowers and butterflies in the sales literature to say "gender based marketing."
Coways emit no ozone, but my new AP-1009CH had a plastic break-in odor which went away in a couple hours.
The chemically sensitive are advised to avoid this air cleaner, but the outgassing eventually subsides to the undetectable level.
Coway uses a brushless-direct-current (BLDC) motor to achieve very quiet operation - 22.4 dB(A) on silent is ideal for light sleepers.
The stylishly slim Coway AP-1009CH is mid-sized, standing 25.8'' tall, 14.3'' wide, and 8'' deep.
Weighing a petite 13 lbs., 1009 is easily portable.
Low energy use - just 5 Watts in silent speed, and 37.8 Watts during turbo, qualifies the Coway air cleaner for an EPA Energy Star Rating at an economical 4.3 Dust CADR/Watt.
AP1009 automatically stops when the front cover is ajar or removed.
Manufactured in Korea - not China - Coway 1009 is covered by a 1 Year Warranty.
Coway has staying power, but as Sharp Electronics has demonstrated, even corporate giants can be forced to pare product and reduce support in the overbuilt air cleaner market.
Woongjin Coway, USA
At $279, but lacking UV, photocat, or plasmacluster gadgets, Coway AP-1009CH would be more impressive at the value price we expect from Korea. But in fairness, competing Korean "value" products, notably the Winix machines, have come up a bit short.
Beyond the initial purchase price, the pretty Coway is very cost effective, with low energy consumption and maintenance costs.
Stylish and quiet, this slim uniquely-styled air purifier is good for installation where appearances are paramount, like professional offices and amid modern-styled living room decor.
While AP1009CH offers acceptable air cleaning, those with serious health issues might want to keep looking.
Air-purifier-power Numeric Rating
Each of ten factors gets up to 10 points, 100 is perfect and very unlikely.
1. First do no harm; minimal out gassing, no ozone.
Score: 8 of 10, no ozone, but break in odor noticed.
2. Serious gas and odor removal is a requirement if health benefits are expected: Units with real carbon VOC capability rank higher.
Score: 6 of 10, washable carbon filter is pretty light, no oxidizers offered.
3. Quality construction; case, gaskets, seals, and precision fitting eliminate bypassing and assure high efficiency at filtering sub-micron particles.
Score: 7 of 10, questions surround "HEPA" filters.
4. The design maximizes the lifespan of each filter stage by allowing independent filter replacement. Ideally this is combined with electronic filter monitoring.
Score: 10 of 10, 3 independent filters, Coway known for reasonable prices on replacements.
5. Unit has long filter life, low maintenance requirements, and reasonable operating costs.
Score: 10 of 10, cheap to own once you get it home.
6. Purifier produces low noise levels and meaningful air flow rates relative to noise.
Score: 10 of 10, very quiet.
7. Manufacturer has a track record, with many units in the field and a reputation for supporting what they sell. Warranty period and average service life are long.
Score: 8 of 10, warranty is shorter than filter life, but builder has sold lots of home appliances in home country.
8. Purifier is a value in terms of price/performance ratio. Every price range should be included, “models above $1,200 are best”, while true, is not useful to most consumers.
Score: 6 of 10, I'd like this machine better around $200.
9. No dirt; unit and manufacturer should be devoid of class-action suits, high returns, recalls, consumer complaints, and legitimate negative consumer reviews.
Score: 8 of 10, Coway is respected worldwide.
10. Unit is stylish, portable, comfortable, and convenient for consumer use.
Score: 10 of 10, nice looks, easy automatic interface.
Air-Purifier-Power Numeric Rating; 83.
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