Fellowes AP-300PH and AP-230PH Air Purifiers Review

Office equipment maker Fellowes, Inc. brought their "new" air purifier products, AP-300PH and AP-230PH, to the market in the fall of 2011.

Initial appearances of the Fellowes air cleaners were at Staples and Office Depot big box office supply stores.

There has been a spate of disappointments for US vendors working with Chinese air purifier manufacturing partners.

Notable is Rabbit Air, whose top-selling BIOGS series (421A and 582A) was discontinued after a series of overseas quality gaffes could not be resolved.

Rabbit continues to market its Korean-built (Coway) MinusA2 series.

Even Oreck Corp, whose electrostatic air cleaner sales slumped after the Sharper Image ozone debacle, chose a Korean partner (Coway again) to expand into HEPA-based air cleaning.

So I was not surprised to see Fellowes, whose large manufacturing joint venture in China fell apart with suspense, acrimony, and a couple hundred million $USD unaccounted for, choose Winix of Korea for their air purifier experiment.

Winix America is a successful marketer of value-priced air purifiers under its own brand, but also has rebranding deals with Kenmore and Electrolux.

And now Fellowes. fellowes ap300ph air cleaner

Fellowes AP-300PH and AP-230PH are made in Korea by Winix.

Winix has found that their products sell better in the price-sensitive US market if features are cut from the Korean market versions.

Korean shoppers are notoriously quality conscious, while in the American market price is a strong determinant of success.

What Winix has been forced to do to succeed in the US is remove their "ultimate" premium features, (the cassette filter tray and permanent prefilter screen, one or more sensors, and remote control) to hold price.

So the Fellowes AP-300PH is a lightened-up Winix 9500 (the Winix flagship).

And AP-230PH is a rebranded Winix 9300.

For the Fellowes models Winix changed the filter stack and controls, keeping the same chassis, fan, and Plasmawave ion streamer.

Fellowes AP300 is priced around $170, lower than the nearly identical appearing Winix 9500.

And AP230 runs in the $130 area, again below the Winix 9300.

Online Reviews

Like many unknowns entering the congested air cleaner market, Fellowes seeded the review space with product give-aways in return for reviews.

The result is numerous "mom's blog" and Amazon vine program reviews which tend to be a bit rosy.

About 200 online user reviews of the Fellowes air purifiers are available, averaging 4.6 stars.

In the context of the review seeding program, which is acceptable in an environment where a significant percentage of five-star "customer reviews" are paid-for fakes, I found just just one negative review out of 66 at Amazon.

Negative reviews are sometimes posted by competitor's agents, but are the most reliable indicator of product quality in my view.

Programs which acknowledge the "gift" in return for a high probability of a favorable review, and require a disclaimer, are the honest ones today.

In addition, the very similar Winix, Kenmore, and Electrolux air cleaners have a well established positive track record.

Reviewers like the easy assembly of the Fellowes 230 and 300 models, which arrive with the filters wrapped in plastic and instructions taped to the front.

Automated Switching

While two sensors were cut from the three-sensor Winix version, Fellowes air cleaners retain the sensor-modulated fan speed feature. fellowes ap300ph led panel

The Fellowes have four fan speeds: Low, Medium, High, and Turbo.

One air purity sensor, which type, odor or particle, is not specified in Fellowes literature, monitors the air quality and adjusts the fan through the first three speeds when "Auto" mode is selected.

"Turbo," the fastest speed, must be selected by the user.

LED displays on the Fellowes air cleaner's front show air quality and fan speed.

After nine years of reviewing air purifiers, I have changed my earlier views on the desirability of sensor-driven air cleaner automation.

Automated air cleaning is a laudable goal, but its implementation in room air purifiers leaves much to be desired.

I urge users NOT to rely on auto mode settings and value-priced sensors for true information about the air they are breathing.

I recommend the Fellowes air purifiers be run at the highest possible setting consistent with noise and room use.

Many user reviews report failure to relieve allergy symptoms when using auto mode exclusively.

This is especially common where pollens, which require strong air currents to interdict, are the allergen.

Fellowes AP300/AP230 default to automatic operation when powered up, and many users never discover the benefits of manual operation.

One cost cutting measure from Winix was the elimination of the remote control.

Fellowes models kept the filter change indicators, which appear to estimate filter life with a combined timer and fan speed metric.

CADR

Fellowes air purifiers are AHAM certified for Clean Air Delivery Rates as follows:

Fellowes AP-300PH

CADR Test
Rating
Dust191
Pollen200
Smoke201

Fellowes AP-230PH

CADR Test
Rating
Dust150
Pollen161
Smoke156

AHAM rates the AP300 for 300 square foot rooms and the AP230 for 230 square feet.

As usual, I think these room size ratings are way too generous, based as they are on full-time top speed operation.

My general rule is CADR and room size should be at least equal.

I add eight percent to the CADR for the plasma ionizer, which yields 216 sq. ft. room size for the AP-300.

I recommend Fellowes AP-230 for a maximum room size of 167 sq. ft.

Users who plan to use auto mode exclusively should downsize these recommendations even more.

Fellowes "PlasmaTrue" Technology

PlasmaTrue is a dual-polarity plasma ion streamer.

Fellowes literature, like publications of other Winix rebranders, provides few details of the PlasmaTrue's functionality.

This leaves many buyers in the dark, with numerous user reviews asking "What is the PlasmaTrue?"

Fellowes' "PlasmaTrue" is actually the Winix "Plasma Doctor WHO-1300" module.

One curious user reported disassembling his Fellowes AP-300PH to find out what was inside.

Plasma ion streamers emit both positive and negative ions.

These ions combine with airborne water vapor to form hydroxyl radical oxidizers.

These act at a molecular level, attacking airborne chemicals and odors, and killing microbes.

Complete oxidation is claimed to result in small carbon dioxide residues only.

Other oxidizing technologies, notably the photocatalytic methods, can leave partially oxidized byproducts when surface dwell time is too short.

So the two safety strengths of the plasma ion streamer are the ability to permeate the air near the air cleaner and the very short half-lives of the hydroxyls generated.

This local and easily-terminated action makes plasma streamers much safer than the ozone generating "ionizers" (actually electrostatic precipitators, led by Ionic Breeze and Oreck XL) of yesteryear.

But the Fellowes AP-300PH and AP-230PH do not have remote controls, which are the only means to control the plasma streamer.

The missing remote has been a sore point with many Winix buyers.

Users who may be sensitive to the oxidants and want control must buy a Winix model, like the 5500 or 6300, which have remotes to turn the plasma on and off.

Fellowes air cleaners have moderate oxidizing power, less than half that exhibited by newer Sharp Plasmacluster models, so the ability to turn the oxidizer off is less critical.

I routinely use my Winix 5300, purchased before Winix stripped the remote, with the PlasmaWave streamer running.

In contrast, I turn off my Sharp Plasmacluster's stronger ion stream when working or sleeping nearby.

The other thing buyers should know about Fellowes PlasmaTrue is that it cannot perform odor and chemical miracles.

Too many buyers expect the plasma streamers to fulfill marketing hype about full room sterilization and disease interdiction.

Overload the system with odors or chems and you will get partially oxidized byproducts which may exceed the offensiveness of the original pollutant.

Users are advised NOT to use any plasma streamer, including the Fellowes models, to remediate heavy paint or glue fumes without adequate ventilation.

The Fellowes AP-300/AP-230 are designed to deal with normal household odors, not heavy painting or toxic cleaning chemical residues.

Lamentable in the cost-cutting race to the bottom has been the elimination of the negative-ion only feature.

Since the Fellowes PlasmaTrue uses water molecules from the air, there is a drying effect, reported as noticeable by some user reviews.

Filter Train

Carbon Pre-Filter

Again, the Winix "Ultimate" filter cassette is not included in Fellowes' 300/230 air cleaners.

Fellowes versions include two filters, a washable carbon pre-filter to retain larger airborne particulate and some odors.

The prefilter is suited only for very light odors.

It requires changing, perhaps even more often than Fellowes 90-day recommendation, to remain effective.

Fellowes pre-filter includes Winix's "Sanitizing" technology, an antimicrobial additive, to discourage bacteria and mold proliferation in the filter itself.

I don't see the "pre-filter odor" complaints that dogged this filter in its earlier versions. fellowes ap300ph hepa filter

True HEPA Filter

Fellowes AP300 and AP230 have true HEPA filters, but no seals or gaskets around them.

I have seen Fellowes air cleaners advertised with suggestions that "cigarette smoke (is) among the tiny particles that can be safely removed" by the HEPA.

This is NOT an accurate description of the interaction between cigarette smoke and a HEPA filter.

I do NOT recommend the Fellowes air cleaners for cigarette smoking environments, they simply do not have sufficient gas phase capability.

With normal usage, Fellowes True HEPA filter will require annual replacement.

At least Fellowes has priced replacement filters moderately.

Fellowes HF-300 True HEPA Filter is sold for as little as $34.

And Fellowes CF-300 Carbon pre-filter is around $13.

Corresponding filters for the AP-230PH are about $30 and $10.

AP300PH and AP230AH Emissions

Fellowes air purifiers have negligible ozone emissions.

But the always-on plasma ionizer does emit radio frequency energy strong enough to interfere with radio or television reception.

Sensitive or ill persons should avoid close proximity to PlasmaTrue oxidizers.

Fellowes fan noise is barely audible on low, surprisingly quiet on medium, and acceptable on high.

Turbo mode is too loud to watch TV over.

So fan noise is quite good compared to many louder air cleaners.

While a clicking noise is normal for plasma streamers, there are many user reviews complaining of a high frequency buzz coming from the PlasmaTrue module.

A few reviewers say this noise disturbs sleep.

One guy even disassembled the purifier and disconnected the ion streamer, keeping just the traditional fan and filter setup.

A final emissions gripe is the too-bright display panel, which joins a large number of other air purifiers in annoying bedroom users.

Utility and Maintenance

Fellowes AP-300PH air purifier measures 9.8 by 16.5 by 21.9 inches and weighs 19 pounds, almost identical to Winix 9500.

And AP-230PH's dimensions are 9.1 by 13.8 by 18.5 inches, with a weight of 16.8 lbs.

Winix has never designed handles on any of its air cleaners, making carrying a bit awkward.

Fellowes literature recommends placing PlasmaTrues at least two feet from the wall to avoid staining.

But the short power cord doesn't really accommodate this idea.

In all my years of using plasma ion streamers, I have never seen a "black wall effect."

But a recent move out of my Houston apartment revealed the shape of a night stand where a stand-alone negative ionizer slightly darkened the surrounding wall over a seven year-period.

AP-300PH uses six Watts on low and 70 Watts on turbo speed, pretty efficient energy use.

Fellowes AP230 also uses six Watts on low, but just 50 on Turbo.

Maintaining the Fellowes pair is quite easy, but should still be done at least monthly.

One user review mentioned waiting for the filter check light to come on, which took eight months.

Upon dis-assembly they discovered a thick layer of coarse dust occluding the pre-filter.

For better performance, the Fellowes pre-filter should be vacuumed or washed much more frequently.

The sensor port, visible near the control buttons and display when the front panel is removed, should be vacuumed or cleared of dust if auto mode is to work properly.

Manufacturer and Warranty

Fellowes backs the AP-300PH and AP-230PH with a surprisingly long five-year limited warranty.

The very similar Winix units carry just a one-year guarantee.

Winix has a good reputation for reliability, and Fellowes is highly respected, a global office machines manufacturer with customers in over 100 countries.

Fellowes is a privately-held family company, and their brand consistently achieves four and five star user ratings at Amazon.com across a wide range of office products.

I found numerous reports of good customer service from Fellowes.

But the question remains: can Fellowes support these products for five years while other brands retrench and cut warranty payouts?

Fellowes headquarters is at:

Fellowes, Inc.
1789 Norwood Avenue
Itasca, Illinois 60143-1095
630-893-1600

Conclusions - Fellowes AP-300PH and AP-230PH Review

Pros

good power for particle removal
longer warranty than original manufacturer
good value at current discounted prices

Cons

plasma ionizer cannot be turned off
filter life short
carbon filter for light odors only

Judgment

While the missing remote and feature cuts are detrimental, the Fellowes name and long warranty add to my rating, which is essentially the same as these products garnered under the Winix brand.

Fellowes air purifiers will serve relatively clean homes well.

Buyers with big spaces, heavy odors/chemicals, and the environmentally sensitive, could look at purifiers priced a bit higher.

Fellowes AP-300PH is available at Amazon.com.


Fellowes AP-300PH and AP-230PH Rating Scores

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 one point off for always-on plasma ionizer.

2.) Serious gas and odor removal is a requirement if health benefits are expected: Units with real carbon VOC capability rank higher.

Score: 7 of 10, washable carbon filter combined with ion-oxidation system is just for light household smells.

3.) Quality construction; case, gaskets, seals, and precision fitting eliminate bypassing and assure high efficiency at filtering sub-micron particles.

Score: 7 of 10, seals and cassette removed.

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.

5.) Unit has long filter life, low maintenance requirements, and reasonable operating costs.

Score: 8 of 10, short filter life, but Fellowes has lower priced filters.

6.) Purifier produces low noise levels and meaningful air flow rates relative to noise.

Score: 9 of 10, pretty quiet for the power, some complaints of "squeeky" ionizers.

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, Winix is an established brand, Fellowes is a new rebrander offering longer warranty.

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: 8 of 10, good value when on sale.

9. No dirt; unit and manufacturer should be devoid of class-action suits, high returns, recalls, consumer complaints, and legitimate negative consumer reviews.

Score: 10 of 10, Fellowes has a good reputation.

10. Unit is stylish, portable, comfortable, and convenient for consumer use.

Score: 9 of 10, remote was removed, easy interface.

Air-Purifier-Power Review Rating; 84

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