Ionic "Breeze" Review
UPDATE: 02/26/08, Sharper Image Declares Bankruptcy
The review below, from 2005, describing a mediocre product supported by a big marketing campaign, presaged the fall.
Ionic Breeze Air Purifier: $200 to $549.95
Extra Collector Plates: $39.95
A truly objective Ionic Breeze Review is a real challenge.
This is a product that is frequently "reviewed", with "reviewers" acting more like cheerleaders or detractors.
There are thousands of websites to view, dedicated to selling, or competing with, the Ionic Breeze air purifiers.
Every type of air purification salesmanship is in evidence. Depending on money flow, people are lining up on both sides of the 50 yard line.
This commercial tug-of-war reminds me of a fraternity football cheer at one university I attended;
I will try to provide my readers with a fair and objective view of the ionic eliptical spheroid game.
Breeze is A Very Successful Team
Sharper Image Ionic Breeze air purifier is one of the most recognized brands in the air purification industry.
The Breeze is the company’s main product, contributing nearly half of sales.
This is America's most popular air purifier with sales over two million units since its introduction in 1998. Millions of customers like it and return to buy another.
The Sharper Image ionic air purifying product is marketed with slick TV infomercials. The design is elegant looking compared to other purifiers, and easily mistaken for a vertical stereo.
I read one blog written by a distraught mom: her kids, eight and ten, insisted that Santa Claus bring them each an Ionic air purifier for Christmas. Saw on TV, they did. Jedi they will not become. Breeze they want. They think it’s a toy.
Whatever else it may be, this is a masterful advertising campaign.
Ionic Breeze Purifier Attracts Imitators and Critics
This success has brought competitors and copy cats trying to steal market share. Running down the Sharper Image ionic air purifier has become a common marketing tactic.
David Oreck has made big gains with his balloon gag on TV, which shows how his machine moves air. Jokes abound: “a 100 watt light bulb has a higher Clean Air Delivery Rate than the Breeze.”
Knockoff ionics like Ionic Pro, reviewed here, can reverse-engineer a Breeze look-alike and sell for 40% of the Ionic Breezes price.
Some, led by the journal Consumer Reports, began to suggest that the Ionic Breeze performs poorly at airborne particle removal.
A round of name-calling and lawsuits followed as Sharper Image executives struggled to support falling sales and shareholder value. The court system supported the critics as rivals increased the Breezebashing and copying.
What a perfect day for football!
So, Mr-Air-Purifier-Power, what’s your view of the Ionic Breeze?
Consumer Reports put several points on the scoreboard with a series of big plays against the Breeze. Air-Purifiers-America.com, which does laser particle counter testing, described the Breeze as "the worst performing unit we tested.”
Consumers are lukewarm with three-star ratings at Amazon.com and epinions.com. There is wide disagreement, either they love or hate this machine. Ordinarily I ignore the five-star "testimonials" when evaluating a product, but in this case they are very informative.
I have read hundreds of consumer reviews of Ionic Breeze purifier products.
My conclusion is that the principal perceived benefits of this ionization machine come mostly from the ozone it produces. Every consumer who reviews it mentions the smell and odor removal first, and then the dirt they can see on the collection plates.
In Consumer Reports tests, Sharper Image units produced 48 parts per billion ozone, just below the 50 ppb standard applied to indoor medical devices. There is no legally binding standard applied to air purification machines.
The recent addition of a catalytic ozone guard did not result in elimination of the ion air purifier's ozone emissions problem.
There are two camps of consumers on the ozone issue, those who know very little and love ozone, and those who know a little more and believe it is dangerous. The most serious misconception among both groups concerns the molecule's persistence.
The half life of ozone in water is around half an hour, which means that every 30 minutes the ozone level will be cut in half if no more is added. This makes it ideal for water treatment.
Ozone has a much longer decay time in air than it does in water. It builds up when these units are left on, oxidizing odors and making that special fresh scent. Many novice air purifier users notice a clean new scent after installing ionizers. Visitors may notice the improved odor and offer compliments. This "fresh air" is the principal rallying point for vendors and satisfied users of this ionizing machine.
This "scent" is the powerful oxidizer ozone, the subject of an entire page of its own on this site. Yes, it destroys odors, kills germs, and smells sweet to some, but it is attacking your lungs, eyes and nasal passages at the same time. A truckload of this stuff would have hazardous material placards.
In technical terms:
the half-life of ozone in air is approximately 72 hours (3 days) at room temperature.Many defenders of ozone misquote this critical fact, using the ozone decay time in water (about 30 minutes) as evidence of safety.
This slow decay time makes ozone uncontrollable by consumers. Professional ozone-shock generator companies have ozone destroyer machines to clean up before rooms are inhabited.
McBreeze: Millions and Millions Served
Yet the fact remains that a very large number of asthma and allergy sufferers report some symptom relief after installation of the Ionic Breeze. Even experienced users of HEPA air purifiers report improvement.
Is that not a contradiction, Professor-know-it-all?
Not to faithful readers of Air-Purifier-Power. They know my steadfast opinion: that asthma and allergy are symptoms of deeper toxicity and are caused by VOC chemicals and new microorganisms as much as by dander and pollen. Maybe the Breezes low level ozone oxidation, which destroys "odors", destroys chemicals and pathogens which disrupt the immune system and contribute to the systemic inflammation at the root of asthma and allergy symptoms.
Maybe it does more good, by destroying toxins and germs, than harm by damaging surface tissues.
Air-Purifier-Power site mantra, repeat after me: Everyone needs protection from toxic gas phase pollutants, everyone needs.....
This is just my layman's anecdotal uninformed and extremely humble personal opinion, of course.
But it does explain how a machine which is only modestly effective at particulate removal can be so successful at reducing symptoms.
There is better oxidation technology available, see my discussion of powerful, but user controllable, hydroxyl radical oxidation in the Sharp Plasmacluster FP-N60CX "best ionizer" review.
While the company is telling the truth when they say Ionic Breeze is not an "ozone generator", I think they are trapped. If this product went to zero ozone emissions, would it still produce the perceived consumer benefits?
The company does warn those with respiratory disease (allergy and asthma: 50% of air purifier buyers) to consult a physician about possible heightened sensitivity to "very low ozone." Sharper Image does not claim the ionizing air purifier is suitable for Multiple Chemical Sensitivity.
This is a positive ion generator: pos-ions are the ones viewed as dangerous in the original ions and health research. Sharper Image has added a negative ion booster to high end models of the Ionic Breeze. Ionic generation at higher voltages means more Electromagnetic Field (EMF) strength, also cited in health research.
A Look Inside an Ionic Breeze Purifier
This air movement, the "Zenion effect", produces the breeze users feel. When the unit is placed in a sunbeam shining through a window, you can see dust moving slowly to the machine from three feet away. Of course, a powerful HEPA, a big Blueair, or a Friedrich would move air quickly from maybe 20 feet.
This slow air movement equals a Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) of about 20. For comparison, the little Holmes HAP242, $30 at Wal-Mart, sports an average CADR of about 60. My favorite ionizer, Sharp Plasmacluster FP-N60CX (CADR 209, see review), moves, ionizes, and cleans much more air than such air purifiers as Ionic Breeze and its many copycats) at a similar cost.
Claimed to clean rooms up to 500 square feet, the sturdy collection grid collects dust particles ranging in size from .05 to 30 microns. While the company describes this as "efficient", and .05 micron seems very small, no actual technical claims of air purifier efficiency are made.
For my new readers: HEPA specification, which I consider barely adequate, is 99.97% of particles at .3 micron. Ninety percent of all particles are smaller than HEPA. Premium air purifiers remove 99-plus% of particles down to .1 micron.
I think this unit has low efficiency, many particles pass right through. Fine particles will accumulate inside the unit, especially when the plates are not kept clean.
I urge anyone unfamiliar with this terminology to look at the articles under the Technology and Indoor Air buttons on my navbar.
Convenient User InterfaceThe control panel, conveniently located on top of the tower, has a power button and four status indicating Light Emitting Diodes (LED).
Some users complain about the red light at night, offering descriptions of makeshift taped-over solutions.
LED displays indicate selected power level and whether the plates need cleaning.
A big plus for the Ionic purifier: if the user forgets to clean the plates, the red light comes on and the unit shuts itself down. This safety feature should be included on every electrostatic model, because they loose efficiency as plates get dirty.
Fouled electrostatic plates can arc and start fires.
Frequent Cleaning Required
The Ionic air purifier uses no filters: the blades are easy to clean, just pull them out and wipe dust off.
To keep the unit working, clean the dust collection blades every four to five days, whenever noise increases, or when the cleaning light comes on.
Collection blades must be bone dry before replacing. Towlettes by 3M are used to wipe the blades. Then the collection blades will be completely dry within a couple of hours. An extra set of blades allows complete drying of cleaned blades.
Another Breeze air purifier plus is the heavy construction of the collector plates, some other units have fragile or sharp collectors.
Internal ionizing wires need cleaning after eight to ten days. This is also easy, just turn the airpurifier upside down so little beads slide up and down the wires. This will stop a humming noise caused by particle build-up on the charging wire.
The manufacturer says to avoid placing the purifier in air near fireplaces (even without fire), oil lamps, candles, soot, or flammable vapors. The company increasingly ships dark colors, to minimize soot staining of the plastic case.
Like all ionizers, the unit can create a “black wall effect” if left too long in one spot.
As is usual with electrostatic models, after a couple months annoying sparking and crackling noises may develop when collector plates and ionizer wires are not kept perfectly clean.
Good Looking, Portable, and Inexpensive to Run
The Breeze measures 29 inches high by 9 inches diameter and weighs only 9 pounds.
The distinctive Breeze styling, convenience, cost of operation, and portability get higher Air Purifier Review scores.
With no filter costs and well built collector plates, this is an economical device to maintain.
Drawing 10 to 40 watts, depending on model selected, the electric bill is negligible.
Some users report damaged units after electrical surges: a surge protector might be a good investment.
The three prong plug is intended for use in fully grounded outlets.
Sharper Image: Good Customer Service
The company offers a five-year warranty, with extremely liberal return and refund policies. I believe Sharper Image's chairman, founder, and chief marketing genius, Richard Thalheimer, is sincere when he offers personal assurances of customer satisfaction.
While the warranty specifically excludes damage caused by failure to clean, the company is known to accept even these returned units and replace warranty claims, even paying return shipping. To implement this policy, Sharper Image has specialty marketing channels for refurbished units. You pay a premium price for the Ionic Breeze, but you get support.
A top of the line Breeze purifier sells for $550. That kind of money could buy a Blueair, or go a long way toward an IQAir, the best purifiers on the residential market.
As a better mid-priced alternative ionizer-based oxidation system, I own, use, and highly recommend the high-tech Sharp Plasmacluster FP-N60CX (subject to warning about oxidation technology).
The bottom line; Ionic Breeze does more good than harm, but is overpriced.
Ionic Breeze Review Rating: 70
Each of ten factors gets up to 10 points, 100 is perfect and very unlikely. Below 70 is not recommended.
1. First do no harm; air purifier has minimal out gassing, no ozone.
Score: 3 of 10, ozone.
2. Serious gas and odor removal is a requirement if health benefits are expected: An air purifier with real carbon VOC capability ranks higher.
Score: 6 of 10, odor removal by ozone.
3. Quality construction; case, gaskets, seals, and precision fitting eliminate bypassing and assure high efficiency at filtering sub-micron particles.
Score: 4 of 10, build quality excellent, particle efficiency low
4. The purifier design maximizes the lifespan of each air filter stage by allowing independent filter replacement. Ideally this is combined with electronic filter monitoring.
Score: 10 of 10, no filter, nice clean-me reminder light.
5. Unit has long filter life, low maintenance requirements, and reasonable operating costs.
Score: 10 of 10.
6. Purifier produces low noise levels and meaningful air flow rates relative to noise.
Score: 8 of 10, very quiet but low air movement, crackling noise reported frequently.
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: 10 of 10, millions sold, good customer service.
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: 3 of 10, high price, effective marketing
9. No dirt; unit and manufacturer should be devoid of class-action suits, high returns, recalls, consumer complaints, and legitimate negative consumer reviews.
Score: 6 of 10, love-hate relationship
10. Unit is stylish, portable, comfortable, and convenient for consumer use.
Score: 10 of 10, IonicBreeze is good looking
Ionic Breeze Review Numeric Rating; 70
Much better air purifier and air cleaning equipment is available;
Blueair Air Purifier Main page, Company Info. Subpages of Blueair, product reviews, are listed below.