Honeywell AirGenius Air Cleaner Review

AirGenius3, AirGenius4, AirGenius5

"AirGenius" is a new name for Honeywell's long running HFD electronic-filter air cleaner line.

HEPA-filtered air cleaners are noisy and have recurring filter costs.

So there is plenty of consumer demand for alternative technology air purifiers which attempt to run quietly without needing filter replacements.

Kaz, Inc's Honeywell line has included electronic-filtered "HFD" models, which sell well, for several years.

Honeywell HFD's have been quiet-running air cleaners without main filter replacement costs, but never delivered efficient HEPA-grade performance.

In April, 2012, a new batch of make-over HFD models was released, the AirGenius series. airgenius 3

The revised permanent electrostatic grid and slim tower design has sold well enough to gain retail shelf space.

A recent visit to a Target store found both AirGenuis Three (white) and AirGenius Five (black) models on display.

The series is named for the number of fan speeds on each model.

AirGenius 3 (HFD-300), has Sleep, General, and Max speeds, and a $179.99 MSRP.

AirGenius 4 (HFD-310) adds a pollen mode ("Allergen mode") for ten to twenty bucks extra.

HFD323-TGT is the Target Stores version of the Airgenius 5.

There is also another product using the name "Air-Genius," it's a small travel model unrelated to the Honeywell AirGeniuses.

Buyer Reviews

There several hyndred online user reviews, with some negative feedback (common with electronic air cleaners).

Many report allergy relief with the AirGenises.

How Smart is AirGenius?

airgenius 5 buttons AirGenius 5 has a touch sensitive control panel, so the Genius is marketed as a "smart" air cleaner, with "controls that do the thinking for you."

This is mildly misleading Kaz marketing, since none of the AirGeniuses is an automated air cleaner, there are NO sensors or automatic "intelligent" modes.

Airgeniuses Three and Four lack the Touch Screen Controls.

The Five has, you guessed it, five fan speeds: Sleep, Germ, General, Allergen, and Max.

There is an auto shut-off timer on AirGeniuses Four and Five, which shuts down the air cleaner after a given interval.

Five has six available intervals: two, four, six, eight, ten, and twelve hours.

Genius Four has four timer intervals

Air Genius Three has no timer.

There is a filter gauge which depicts dirt build-up on the grid, and a filter indicator light to suggest cleaning.

CADR Rates for the AirGeniuses

AirGenius' HFD honeycomb filter doesn't obstruct airflow like HEPA filters do, producing higher CADR rates.

AirGenius Four and Five have the same AHAM-certified Clean Air Delivery Rates:

Test
Rating
Dust160
Pollen170
Smoke161

For the Genius Three, AHAM-certified CADRs are:

Test
Rating
Dust150
Pollen160
Smoke146

Note that most experts, myself, and Consumer Reports, do not recommend air cleaners under 150 CADR, so the AirGenius family is just borderline.

Room Size Ratings

Air Genius Five is manufacturer-recommended and AHAM-certified for large rooms to 250 sq.ft., where five air changes an hour are said to be provided.

I would lower this room size substantially, to 170 sq. ft., or even less if the user does not scrupulously maintain the electronic filter.

HFD300, AirGenius Three, is AHAM-certified for rooms up to 225 square feet.

Again, a better max room size for AirGenius Three is 160 square feet.

Filter Train

The AirGeniuses use an upgraded version of Honeywell's old "QuietClean" IFD technology.

Contrary to incorrect labeling displayed on several vendor sites, Honeywell HFD is NOT a HEPA filter or a HEPA-type filter.

"HEPA" is a performance standard (retrains 99.97% of .3 micron sized particles), rather than, as is very commonly believed, a type of filter.

Intense Field Dielectric ("IFD") electrostatic filters use strong 8,000 volt fields to attract particles to a honeycomb grid.

Kaz Inc, which owns the Honeywell brand for air purifiers only, trademarks their IFD as "HFD."

Kaz redesigned the honeycomb for the Air Genius series, making it larger and reducing airflow restriction.

In high-quality commercial applications, IFD gets rid of design issues which hurt earlier electrostatic air cleaners (arcing, frequent cleaning, and ozone) by placing a thin layer of non-conducting (dielectric) materials over the grid surface.

In the AirGenius, a standard polyurethane prefilter catches larger particles ahead of the charging gate.

Charged particles then stick to the collection grid's honeycombed cells.

Honeywell's older HFD filters have been acceptably efficient only at larger size ranges, 2.0 microns and above.

AirGenius filters "capture up to 99.9% of particles as small as 0.3 microns."

Astute readers will notice this is NOT the same as "capture 99.9% of .3 micron particles."

So the improved HFD grid is still not up to HEPA standards, but Kaz has avoided telling us just how improved the AirGeniuses filtration actually is.

Sub-HEPA air cleaners tend to accumulate fine particulate internally, necessitating frequent cleaning of the inside of the air cleaner to prevent it from becoming a pollutant source.

There is an optional or replacement prefilter with some carbon to reduce household odors.

To retain effectiveness, the optional odor-reducing pre-filter should be replaced once every 3 months (Honeywell Odor & Gas Reducing Pre-Filter - 2 Pack HRF-K2 $21).

The last item in the filter train is an always-on electronic ionizer, but few details are offered in Honeywell literature.

Oscillator

All Airgeniuses have an oscillating feature that "oscillates to help disperse fresher, cleaner air throughout your room."

This is a marketing gimmick, seriously misrepresented.

I don't doubt that a significant percentage of Honeywell air cleaner buyers are confused between tower style room cooling fans and current tower air cleaners.

Many user reviews laud this feature, until it breaks.

"Oscillation" adds very little to air cleaning performance.

But cheap design, especially the plastic gear train that drives the oscillator, makes this feature undesirable.

Many user reviews of oscillating Honeywells mention noises emanating from the base before the gears fail.

Fortunately, Honeywell has included a button to turn off this gimmick.

I recommend the "off" position, at least in cool weather.

AirGenius Maintenance

airgenius 5 The permanent HFD grid is manufacturer-recommended for washouts four times a year.

I say clean the entire air purifier when this is done, and wipe/vacuum the HFD grid at least once a month.

Particles sized below 2.0 microns may accumulate inside the AirGenius.

I would vacuum and wipe the interior to reduce lower fine particle residual exhaust.

Honeywell recommends washing the grid more often if needed, but not more than once a month.

This represents a big improvement over older electrostatic designs, some of which needed nearly daily washes.

Kaz says to soak the grid for 2-3 minutes, but not longer.

And warns that HFDs are NOT dishwasher safe.

Smokers should expect MUCH more maintenance, and users should not apply solvents, harsh detergents, or flammable liquids to the HFD.

Although discolored grids may still perform well, user reviews of similar HFD Honeywells say baking soda may help remove tobacco stains from HFD grids.

It is very important to completely dry the grid, overnight is best, before replacing it inside the AirGenius.

Wet grids were the downfall of previous generation electronic models, some of which arced and pitted at the contact points.

AirGenius pre-filters should be rinsed by hand with warm water, and dried completely before reinsertion.

Emissions

airgenius grid

Previous HFD Honeywells have had some emissions issues, and AirGenius user reviews mention break-in plastic odors and scents from antimicrobial additives on the prefilters.

AirGenius is ARB Certified to comply with the federal ozone emissions limit (50 parts per billion - PPB).

But user remarks suggest noticeable ozone is produced ("fresh smell").

And 50 ppb is a very loose standard, high enough to admit several air cleaners that were driven off the market by negative publicity on ozone emissions.

As with many previous electrostatic air cleaner reviews, in my opinion, much of AirGenius' odor removal capacity derives from ozone.

There is no no/off switch for the ionizer.

A strong point for the AirGenius family is the low noise output.

However, some buyer reviewers mention annoying electric crackling/popping noises from Air Geniuses.

8,000 volts is lots of energy, and fine dirt or moisture can create bypass circuits

In the dark, user reviewers say they see electric arcing.

High voltage EMFs are obviously present, making the AirGenuis series (and all other electrostatic air cleaners) unsuitable for the chronically ill or environmentally sensitive.

Like many manufacturers, Honeywell has included a blue accent light, but has wisely kept the on/off switch so many cut to save costs.

Utility

AirGenius is Energy Star rated, and compact/lightweight enough to carry.

However, Honeywell recommends a three foot clearance from light colored walls and furniture, anticipating a black wall effect in the electric field.

This will be important in homes with lots of soot (candles, incense, fireplace, freeway close...).

User reviews suggest putting a dark colored throw rug under the AirGenius if the carpet is light hued.

Warranty

Honeywell AirGeniuus is a product sold by Kaz, Inc., which licenses the Honeywell name from Honeywell International, Inc.

Kaz, Inc offers a five-year limited warranty with AirGenius.

But, contrary to most buyer's expectations, normal wear and tear, and filters including the HFD grid, are NOT covered.

Kaz requires proof of purchase, and users pay shipping charges, including $10 for return shipping. or money order for

Quality control on the hectic Asian mainland is spotty, I suggest inspecting the AirGenius immediately.

There are numerous reviews reporting packaging and cosmetic issues with "new" AirGeniuses.

Conclusions - Honeywell AirGenius Air Cleaner Review

Pros

low filter costs
stylish tower design
good for seasonal pollen allergy

Cons

sub-HEPA filtration, fine particle bypassing
electronic arcing and popping
ozone emissions, ocasional plastic odor reports
not a good air purifier for chemicals or advanced allergies
NOT recommended for the environmentally sensitive (MCS)

Judgment

Mold and pollen allergy sufferers may be helped by the Airgeniuses.

Smokers, MCS, and asthma folks may be dissapointed.

After two years on the market, price appears to be softening to just under $200 for the AirGenius Five.

Honeywell AirGenius5 HFD320, $192.98

Honeywell AirGenius5 HFD320 at amazon.com.

Honeywell AirGenius4 HFD310, $156.89

Honeywell AirGenius4 Air Cleaner/Odor Reducer, HFD310 at amazon.com.

Honeywell AirGenius3 HFD300, $134.27

Honeywell AirGenius3 AirCleaner/Odor Reducer, HFD300 at amazon.com.

Review 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: 6 of 10, AirGenius can generate low level ozone, has break-in out gassing and possible electromagnetic emissions.

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, IFD is designed for particle capture only, many reviewers say odors are gone, I say the reason is ozone.

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

Score: 7 of 10, original IFD design is genius, inexpensive Honeywell "HFD" implementation has compromises.

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, a fasdidiously-maintained AirGenius may never need filter replacements.

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

Score:10 of 10, cheap to own.

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

Score: 8 of 10, very quiet when working properly, but electric faults and oscillation make noise.

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: 7 of 10, Kaz is well known, long warranty helps little.

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, do not pay full suggested retail.

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, Honeywell brand leads the big box retail (cheap) air cleaner market.

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

Score: 9 of 10, nice attractiv4e tower, no remote, manually operated interface.

Air-Purifier-Power Numeric Rating; 79

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