Honeywell’s AirGenius line of purifiers are an interesting change of pace from most purifiers sold today. Unlike the top competing products, they don’t use a standard true HEPA filter but advertise similar performance.
In my comparison and review of the Honeywell AirGenius 5 vs true HEPA purifiers I’ll show you how it stacks up against the competition. Although described as an “air cleaner” and an “odor reducer”, it’s actually extremely similar in many ways other products you’ll find when shopping.
There are a lot of details to cover as it’s one of the best air cleaning products I’ve ever owned and reviewed. Read on and I’ll share with you everything you need to know before buying.
I’ll also tell you why it’s one of the best I’ve ever had the pleasure of owning.
- 1 Getting to know the AirGenius 5
- 2 Unboxing the AirGenius 5 and first impressions
- 3 Setting up the AirGenius 5 and first use
- 4 Specifications
- 5 Carrying and moving the air cleaner
- 6 Air cleaning ability and performance vs true HEPA filters
- 7 What kind of filters does it use?
- 8 Removing filters for cleaning
- 9 Filter life and costs – a big advantage!
- 10 Does the AirGenius 5 produce ozone?
- 11 The owner’s manual and reference guide
- 12 Controls and fan speeds
- 13 Noise levels during use
- 14 Accent lighting and brightness levels
- 15 Honeywell vs GermGuardian products
- 16 Final thoughts and review score
Getting to know the AirGenius 5
The AirGenius 5 is one of 3 models in the AirGenius line from Honeywell and offers the most features of them all. If you’re budget-minded, the offering almost the same air cleaning performance for less money.The AirGenius 5 (model number HFD320) is the top-level air cleaner in a family of 3. All 3 share the same physical size and same basic design (including oscillation). However, the HDF320 offers the most options including the highest fan speed available.
While both the HFD310 and the HDF320 provide a recommended 250 square feet of room coverage, the HFD300 is slightly lower at 225 sq. ft. Additionally, the AirGenius 4 is extremely similar to the top model, although without touch controls, fewer auto-off hour selections, and no germ reduction fan speed setting.
If money is tight but you’d love to have one of these air cleaners, consider the AirGenius 3. Its air cleaning performance is identical (aside from being limited in fan speeds). The trade-off is having fewer features, no accent light on the base, and no touch controls also.
Basic design operation
The AirGenius 5 uses a 3-stage air cleaning process to purify the air. Unlike true HEPA air purifiers sold today, it also adds an ionizer field stage to capture additional air contaminants.
AirGenius purifiers are a bit different from competing products sold today in both the air cleaning methods they use and the ability to wash the filters for reuse.
Three stages are used:
- Washable basic (or odor-reducing) pre-filter section
- Permanent washable main filter stage
- Electronic ionizer stage
While stages 1 and 2 are standard in today’s products, what makes this air cleaner design different is that the filters are washable and can be reused. Unless an odor-capturing pre-filter is used (these can’t be washed – they must be replaced).
Both the pre-filter and main filter (called an “ifD” type by Honeywell) can be washed and re-used.
That’s a feature that’s very rare in today’s products, and offers the possibility of saving a substantial amount of maintenance costs over time. I’ll go into more detail about the filters later.
High air flow – just like a fan!
Because of the main air filter’s low-restriction design high air flow is produced – it blows and circulates air much like a fan! That’s very unusual for an air cleaning product as most use HEPA filters which severely restrict air flow.
Additionally, the AirGenius cleaners have an oscillation option which allows circulating the room air even more rapidly.
At almost 27″ (68 cm) in height, it’s definitely not a small product.
Unboxing the AirGenius 5 and first impressions
Much like the other Honeywell purifiers I’ve owned and have tested, mine was solidly packaged and once again showed good quality from the get-go.
I’ve been looking forward to getting my hands on one of these ever since hearing about them, and it was fun opening it up!
The HFD320 ships with recyclable cardboard packaging and is securely held in place. It’s just a little tough to get it out of the box (as the bottom portion was very snug inside) but only took a moment or two. I had to pull it out while holding the bottom of the box.
After opening the box up I removed the plastic outer bag (you must turn the air cleaner upside to untie the wrapping) and moved on to checking out the build quality.
The unit looked great, with no quality issues fresh from the factory. My first impressions were that of a well-made air cleaner that will work well just like the Honeywell HPA series I’ve owned. Good-looking and well-made products are what I’ve come to enjoy from the company.
And certainly I couldn’t wait to power it up and try it out!
How’s the build quality?
Build quality and fit and finish are good. The air cleaner has a nice-looking matter silver trim around the top. Mine was well-assembled and had no quality control issues.
My first impressions were right. I checked out the AirGenius 5 and verified build quality as I like to do when evaluating and testing air purifier products.
There weren’t any issues to mention. Gaps and seams aligned as expected (tightly) with no large spaces or loose body panels. The control panel (on top of the unit) aligns just as it should and looks great.
Note that the air cleaner arrives with a thin plastic protective cover you’re instructed to remove by the included label. However, you can leave it in place if you want to protect the surface. The touch controls work fine with it still on.
The body is a nice satin black color and looks good. The design style is similar to the HPA series of Honeywell air purifiers which feature similar trim, too.
Overall, I’m impressed with the build quality – it gives a good sense of being a well-made product.
Setting up the AirGenius 5 and first use
After removing the air cleaner you’ll need to remove the packaging. Aside from that, it’s ready to go! Included is an additional pre-filter that’s optional and is used for odor and volatile organic chemical (VOC) removal. Unlike the pre-installed pre-filter, it can’t be washed and reused.
Actually, unlike some other brands and models, once unboxed and the packaging has been removed you’re ready to go.
Unlike some other purifiers including the Honeywell HPA series you won’t need to remove filters from their bags before using the cleaner. The AirGenius ships from the factory with the ifD main filter and the ifD pre-filter (both washable) already installed and ready to use.
Optionally at this point you can install the included type K filter (covered in more detail later) if you need odor and airborne chemical trapping ability. That’s an easy task, however: just remove the pre-filter from its bag and swap it with the pre-installed one.
Once the packaging is cleared away, simply pushing the power button brings the air cleaner to an on state. The air cleaner will begin running in mode 3 called “General Cleaning.”
Note that upon initial power-up and first use, a moderate smell will be present for some time due to the fresh filters. Mine unit took a few hours but it went away fairly quickly. That’s normal not just for this air cleaner, but I’ve seen it with other brands as well.
After a number of hours you’ll find it’s not very noticeable any more and it will fade soon.
As you can see from above its one of the more feature-packed air cleaners sold today. It’s rather unusual to have an auto-off timer feature with so many hour selections (6 selections). Most competitors offer about 4 or 5 at the most.
Additionally, the large range of fan speeds is nice.
Carrying and moving the air cleaner
Although the air cleaner is rather large and a bit heavy at 13 lbs, the built-in carry handle on the top rear is great. It makes moving it from place to place much easier. It’s a good feature to have.
Fortunately despite its large size and somewhat heavy weight there’s a convenient feature Honeywell has provided. Just like many of their other air cleaning products, there’s a carrying handle located on the top rear portion of the body.
Note that other manufacturers like GermGuardian provide the same feature on their most popular air purifiers as well.
Air cleaning ability and performance vs true HEPA filters
The Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) ratings label for the AirGenius 5. This is a lab-tested and proven rating of cleaning effectiveness, where a higher rating is better. The HFD320 scored well in all 3 standard tests!
As this is a rather different type of air cleaning product, I can’t stress enough how important it is that the company can back up their air cleaning claims. I say this because as the AirGenius 5 uses a high-flow permanent and washable main air filter, it’s not a High Efficiency Air Particulate (HEPA) filter as most purifiers use.
Fortunately, the company offers lab-proven air cleaning data provided by the industry standard Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) ratings. The CADR rates air cleaning products on 3 types of common air quality problems: tobacco smoke, dust, and pollen.
Essentially, products are tested in a lab environment of a fixed size and the amount of air particulates removed in a given amount of time are measured. This gives a CADR rating where higher is better.
The AirGenius 5 does quite well in all 3 tests! (For reference, some of the most popular air purifiers have CADR ratings of about 100, so that shows you how effective it is!)
AirGenius 5 vs true HEPA filter performance
The AirGenius 5 is rated to provide reduction of 99.9% of airborne elements down to a microscopic 0.3 microns in size – which is nearly identical to HEPA filter performance. (Note that 1 micron, or 1 micrometer, is 1/1,000,000 of a meter in size).
Originally I was concerned about the company’s claims that while it’s not actually a HEPA filter it’s basically just as effective. However, the data backs it up as well as my own experiences.
The biggest difference is that while more particulates may pass through on the first pass, the AirGenius 5’s air flow rate is so much higher that it makes up for the difference. In my testing so far I’ve been very happy with the results.
Ultimately, for the majority of most air quality problems the ifD filter essentially meets the same standards as a true HEPA filter but allows air to circulate faster (hence the higher CADR ratings).
HEPA filters are very dense in construction and restrict air flow quite a bit. In order to have faster air flow, air purifiers using them require even faster and noisier electric fan assemblies.
What kind of filters does it use?
The AirGenius 5 ships with 2 filters pre-installed and ready for use: 1) the washable ifD filter and 2) the general-purpose washable pre-filter. Included in a sealed bag (not shown here) is an optional pre-filter for odor control and capturing VOCs.
From the factory, a general-purpose pre-filter (washable and reusable) is installed as well as the main ifD permanent filter.
The type K filter, should you need odor and airborne chemical vapor control, is included in a sealed bag. The pre-filter is easy to remove and swap. It’s just a matter of opening the rear cover, pulling it out gently, and inserting one back underneath the plastic tabs.
Main filter comparison: AirGenius 5 vs true HEPA filters
The AirGenius 5 (and other models in the same family) use a ifD filter (top) which allows high air flow unlike true HEPA filters (bottom). The ifD filter serves as the main filter and resembles a honeycomb or car radiator in design. True HEPA filters like the one here shown from a popular GermGuardian AC4825 purifier use a very dense fibrous material which restricts air flow.
The main filter is called an “ifD” filter by Honeywell. It’s best described as a “honeycomb” type of design: open passageways through which light can be seen. It’s made of a dense fibrous material.
HEPA filters, however, use filter material densely packed with incredibly small fibers that is folded and held in a rigid plastic frame which snaps into the body.
In the case of the HFD320 (and the other similar models) it’s an effective filtering solution that allows the cleaner to circulate air in the room much faster than most products can. Additionally, it meets the basic requirement of the HEPA standard: capturing elements down to 0.3 microns in size.
At 99.9% efficiency, it’s not quite as good a performer as a HEPA filter (99.97% cleaning efficiency), but that’s extremely close!
Washing and re-using the permanent filter
Honeywell provides an estimated life span for the permanent ifD filter of about 5 years, with 4 washes and reuses per year.
It’s pretty simple to clean: remove it from the unit (when turned off) and wash gently in warm soapy water for 2-3 minutes maximum. Remove and allow to dry fully before reuse.
I found it easy to clean. Having a reusable filter is a nice surprise as so few air cleaners offer that. It’s rare.
The factory installed general purpose pre-filter viewed up close. It’s a mesh-like material that’s essentially similar to open-cell foam or sponge material. It’s good for dust, pet hair, and so on, but can’t absorb odors and volatile airborne chemicals. However, unlike other brands, this one can be washed in warm soapy water and reused.
From the factory the AirGenius 5 comes ready to use with the general-purpose pre-filter section already inserted in the rear cover. It’s mainly good for common air quality nuisances like pet hair and dust (which is a problem where I live, I might add!).
A huge benefit this is its ability to be re-used, as that’s not common for most air cleaning devices sold today in case you weren’t aware. Ordinarily most require buying replacement filters periodically.
Cleaning for re-use is easy: periodically remove it and shake it, vacuum it, or you can rinse it under warm water. Let it dry fully before installing it back in the unit.
Included in the package is a type K pre-filter which can be swapped out with the factory installed pre-filter. Type K filters are used for trapping odors and other airborne chemical substances but must be replaced periodically. They can’t be washed and reused.
Included with the air cleaner is a sealed bag containing a type K (replacement model HRF-K2) filter. If you need odor and airborne chemical vapor absorption for your home, you’ll need to install it in the place of the original one.
The K filters use potassium permanganate calcite to trap some odors and gases and fumes.
Of course, it’s just as good for dust, pet hair, and similar debris as the original but it’s also treated with odor-absorbing materials with a limited life span.
Honeywell recommends replacing this filter about every 3 months if used.
The ionizer section
Ionizers use electrical charge to cause airborne particles to be pulled from the outgoing airflow. As a side benefit, they’re also effective against airborne germs and have been documented to reduce sickness-causing viruses and other microbes.
Unlike other products sold as “air purifiers” that use only an ionizer, the AirGenius uses it as an additional cleaning feature – not the primary one. That’s the job of the first two stages. And accordingly, there are no metal collection plates to clean.
It does, however, produce a tiny amount of ozone which I’ll cover below.
Removing filters for cleaning
Filter removal for maintenance is actually really very simple. You’ll only need to do the following:
- Push on the rear cover release
- Pull the rear cover backwards at an angle
- Remove the permanent filter using the tab shown in #3 above
The pre-filter is really easy to remove from the cover/grill: it’s very soft so just gently pull out one edge from the retaining tabs.
Removing the permanent filter isn’t hard either. Much like the grill, it “hooks” using tabs on the bottom of the filter frame. Pull from the top finger/removal tab and move it out in a downward motion.
Note! The plastic rear cover has a central tab that could be broken if you’re too forceful. Be sure to “swing” the cover out gently when opening the air cleaner.
Filter reminder feature
The built-in filter reminder will indicate when the (estimated) time for cleaning your filters has elapsed. It’s easy to reset as well once you’ve cleaned and replaced the filters.
With the power off, just hold the filter replacement button for about 3 seconds; the indicator will illuminate, indicating it has been reset.
Filter life and costs – a big advantage!
One thing that struck me was the amount of money you can save thanks to its design. For example, most HEPA purifiers recommend a filter replacement every 6-8 months or so depending upon use.
Here’s an estimate of how much money you can save with the AirGenius 5 (assumes a permanent filter life of 5 years, and using the basic pre-filter). I’ll calculate this based on a reasonable average filter replacement cost for most purifiers. Let’s use $27 as a reasonable number:
5 years x 2 replacements per year x $27 = $270.
That’s quite a bit of money – and amazing considering it’s more than you paid for the air cleaner itself! Of course, if you need odor control or chemical vapor control you’ll need to use the replaceable type K pre-filters.
Those sell in packs of 2 for near $15 or so, which is roughly $75 in maintenance costs for 5 years. That’s excellent!
Does the AirGenius 5 produce ozone?
The short answer? Yes. However, no need for worry! It’s a tiny amount and unlike other products I’ve tested, I can’t even detect it. Ozone, when present in sufficient amounts, is usually easy to smell and recognize.
Ionizers work by using high voltage to charge unwanted airborne particulates and draw them out of the air. This, by nature, creates a very small amount of ozone as a by-product. Don’t confuse this with ozone generators which produce heavy amounts of ozone that are bad for you.
According to Honeywell: “This product complies with the maximum allowable concentration of ozone of 0.050 parts per million by volume in a 24 hour period.”
Basically, the AirGenius does not produce unsafe or unpleasant levels of ozone – it’s well below the safe and undetectable threshold for people.
The owner’s manual and reference guide
Owner’s manual quality
I found the owner’s manual to be well done, covering the HFD300 series of air cleaners with pretty good detail. It covers basic operation, safety information, maintenance, and provides a telephone number should you have questions.
Overall it’s clear and well-done, just as I’ve come to expect from other Honeywell purifiers I’ve owned and reviewed.
Built-in reference guide
A nifty little feature, the built-in reference guide is provided to help with basic operations and consumer help contact information. It’s located near the carry handle area and simply pulls right out. Pretty neat! I like this little touch.
One cool little addition I found on the AirGenius is the built-in Quick Reference Guide. When looking down while above the control panel, a small plastic tab can be seen near the top rear of the unit.
Pulling it out reveals a laminated plastic card with basic instructions, a consumer telephone line, and an email address for getting assistance. I’ve seen this on other Honeywell air cleaning products but not on most competitor’s products.
Controls and fan speeds
The HFD320 features touch controls and many options including 5 fan speeds. I found it very easy to use and a pleasure to own and enoy every day. It also features more auto-off hour settings than others. However, there’s no memory feature, so upon powering it off and on you’ll have to set it back to your last selections.
The AirGenius 5 features a very sleek-looking and well-designed touch control panel. Note that several others in the same product family don’t offer touch controls. The AirGenius 4, for example, doesn’t and also doesn’t have as many timer options as the AirGenius 5.
Operating the air cleaner
Using the air cleaner is really simple: just push the power on/off button and it will enter General Cleaning mode with medium fan speed. By default, the oscillation feature is switched off.
Touching any button on the panel rotates through the settings easily. For example:
Purification level (fan speed): Sleep > Germs > General > Allergen > Max. > Sleep
The accent light, located at the base of the unit, is set to high brightness by default. However, it’s not too bright and you may not need to change it. There are 2 brightness levels (as well as off) available.
One complaint I have is that unlike some other models I’ve tested, there’s no brightness dimmer for the controls themselves. I don’t understand why.
Additionally, there’s no memory feature to retain your last operational settings after it’s turned off and then back on again.
Note that the unit doesn’t beep when operated unlike some the nice Honeywell HPA200 and the popular Levoit LV-H132 air purifiers I’ve both owned and reviewed.
Fan speeds and air flow
While Honeywell describes the various operational modes as being correct for particular air quality issues (like germs and allergens) they don’t go into detail about them. I would have liked to know more.
As I mentioned earlier, unique to the AirGenius line is the high air flow rate. I can feel the air blowing from across the room. When oscillating is switched on quite a bit of air is moving.
When set to Max, it’s as if you’re using a small fan in the room. It’s an interesting experience and I have to say I like it. I realize, however, that not everyone wants a large amount of air blowing towards them.
In that case you can simply leave the oscillation setting off, although using it helps circulate and clean air more quickly and effectively.
I’ve owned oscillating air fans in the past, so I’m not unaccustomed to having one in the room. However, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about having an air cleaner behave similarly.
After some time, however, it has really grown on me. Having the air circulate and become fresher by the moment is great. Here’s a short video clip I took demonstrating its operation.
Noise levels during use
I used a great little sound level meter I found at Amazon to measure volume. My measurements were made at 1 meter (3.28 ft) from the purifier.
|Off (Room noise)||39.3|
|Germ Reduction mode||42.7|
|General Cleaning mode||45.5|
|Allergen Reduction mode||48.4|
|Max. Cleaning mode||50.6|
By comparison, competing products are near 55dB or so when on maximum. The AirGenius 5 is nearly 6 decibels quieter which is a fair amount of difference. Even some of the smallest air purifiers are well above 44dB on their lowest setting!
All in all, despite its large size and high air flow rates, it’s one of the quietest air cleaning products I’ve tested.
I’ve been testing the unit in my room where I sleep with it set to Sleep mode. Although I’m sensitive to both light and sound levels, I slept comfortably with it – it’s very quiet!
Accent lighting and brightness levels
A lovely accent lighting feature on the base of the unit is built-in (top) and adds a soft glow around it. I found brightness levels to be good and not TOO bright for my tastes, despite being a sensitive sleeper. The control panel illumination (bottom) is a bit brighter than I would have liked. Sadly, there’s no way to adjust that.
The HFD320 has a great little feature I haven’t seen in other products: there’s a classy accent light at the base of the unit. When switched on, it provides a nice, soft blue glow around the base of it.
2 brightness levels can be selected. Somewhat like the night light provided by the best-selling Levoit LV-H132 it provides a way to find your way to the bathroom late at night.
As part of my standard testing process, I used the air cleaner during my normal sleep sessions to judge both sound levels and brightness in a darkened room. I’m a light sleeper and as such I notice the glow of just about any electronic device. And I’m sure I’m not alone.
The controls are moderately bright. It wasn’t enough to keep me from being able to sleep well, but definitely brighter than I would like.
Oddly enough, other air cleaning products by Honeywell offer a dimmer for the controls – but not this one. That’s unfortunate, but not a big deal when compared to the overall value and quality of the unit.
Honeywell vs GermGuardian products
A general comparison of the AirGenius 5 (left) next to 2 of the best-selling competing products on the market. (Center) the GermGuardian AC4825 medium room purifier and (right) the AC5000 large room purifier. Both GermGuardian products use true HEPA filters.
As you’re likely to run across GermGuardian products as an option when shopping, I’d like to provide some additional helpful information. Comparing the two brands is much harder unless you’ve owned and tested them.
Having owned many models from both brands, I can tell you that the quality of both is comparable. Pricing and value is a bit more difficult to compare, however, because room coverage isn’t exactly the same between competing similar models from the two brands.
Comparing the two brands, in general
Basically, GermGuardian uses true HEPA filters and they’re some of the best affordable air purifiers sold today. With the exception of a few models, they are, however, a bit more “basic” in design: most use simpler controls and have fewer features.
Honeywell, on the other hand, offers models with electronic controls, auto-off timers, and so forth. The HPA series of air purifiers are a good example.
In the case of the AirGenius 5 it’s hard to compare it to current GermGuardian products although the AC5350B with electronic controls and 193 square feet of coverage is one of the closest.
The most significant differences to be aware of between the 2 brands are:
- GermGuardian products offer a UV-C germ killing feature; Honeywell does not
- Advanced features like oscillation and touch controls are available on Honeywell products
- GermGuardian purifiers use true HEPA filters with a slight advantage in air cleaning
- Better warranty length for Honeywell (depends on the model)
Final thoughts and review score
All in all, the AirGenius 5 (model HFD320) is one of the nicest air cleaning products I’ve had the pleasure to own and test. Build quality is great and a nice assortment of features really make it a true winner. It’s also one of the quietest I’ve tested and measured, despite moving so much air.
Having an air cleaner with air flow similar to a fan may not be for everyone, but it’s one reason why the HFD320 has some of the best lab-proven clean air delivery rates and 250 sq. ft. of coverage. It holds its own when compared to true HEPA-based air purifiers, too, with almost the same air cleaning efficiency.
Having washable air filters is a rare and nice money-saving feature, too. Note that I don’t recommend it for heavier smoke or allergy problems, as it’s not quite a effective as competing products in that case.
However, for average homes it’s a fantastic air cleaner that’s well worth your money. While it’s a bit expensive in stores locally, you can find the great buyer reviews and a much lower price over at Amazon.
The Honeywell AirGenius 5 provides near-HEPA air cleaning ability with great features and performance. It's also one of the most quiet air cleaning products I've owned and reviewed. Using an original design, both the main and pre-filters can be washed and reused, saving a good bit of money in maintenance costs. However, it's not as effective for heavy smoke and allergens as some of the top competitors, but it's great for average homes. The oscillation feature combined with the high air flow rate circulates and cleans air in a room quickly and pleasantly. CADR rates are very high; with 255 sq. ft. of coverage it's great for just about anyone. Build quality and documentation are both highly satisfactory as well. Well worth your time and money!
- 99.9%, 0.3 micron air filtering quality
- Washable/reusable filters
- Includes odor/VOC absorbing pre-filter
- 5 speed/cleaning levels
- High air flow
- Great CADR ratings (160+)
- 255 sq. ft. room coverage
- Low (quiet) sleep mode
- Near-HEPA cleaning efficiency
- Below-average noise levels
- Good build quality
- Touch controls
- Accent lighting w/ 2 levels
- Auto-off timer with 6 hour settings
- Oscillation feature
- Filter reminder
- Easy to use
- Carrying handle built-in
- Good owner's manual
- Built-in ionizer in 3rd stage
- Filters are easy to remove and install
- Pull-out reference card
- 5 year limited warranty
- Washable pre-filter can't capture odors/fumes
- No memory feature
- No dimmer or off for control backlighting
- No Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connectivity
- Not currently available in other colors
- Slightly less efficient than true HEPA cleaning
- High air flow fan output not suitable for some
- Tower size design not suitable for all locations
- Controls will be a bit bright for some at night
- No germ killing feature offered