Coway Airmega Icon: An Attractive Easy-to-use Air Purifier
The view outside my New York City apartment window is clouded by a post-apocalyptic haze due to the recent wildfires in Canada. The poor air quality that’s plaguing the east coast of the U.S. is, unfortunately, becoming more common. While staying inside helps, a smoky smell starts to spread in my home as soon as I open a window or door. I've been testing the Coway Airmega Icon air purifier ($649, on sale for $563) for several months under normal air quality conditions and was interested in how well it would perform under these new severe conditions. I was pleased with the results.
The Airmega Icon has a sleek, furniture-like design, so it isn’t an eyesore to place away from walls, where it will operate more efficiently. It uses a washable pre-filter for large particles like pet hair and dust, a HEPA filter for smaller PM2.5 (0.25 microns) particles like bacteria, mold, and pollen, and an activated carbon filter for gasses and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The Airmega Icon has been certified with Clean Air Delivery Rates (CADR) of 173 (Smoke), 194.1 (Dust), and 235.3 (Pollen). CADR ratings represent the number of cubic feet per minute an air purifier can filter. Backed by these CADR ratings, Coway claims one air exchange per hour for rooms up to 1,298 square feet and four exchanges for rooms up to 324 square feet. (Multiply the square footage of our room by 0.66 to see the optimal CADR rating for your room size.)
I tested the Airmega Icon in my approximately 275-square-foot living bedroom, which should perform more than four air exchanges per hour. The Airmega Icon sits a few inches from the foot of the bed and a few feet from three walls, with the air intake unobstructed. It’s good but not an ideal placement, and it is reflective of real-world environments (many people, unfortunately, put their air purifiers in a corner, which limits airflow). I used the built-in air quality monitor on the air purifier and a handheld Igeress Indoor Air Quality Monitor for measurements.
When I began my testing of the Airmega Icon, it had been running for more than 24 hours, and the indoor air quality measured concentrations of PM 2.5 at 17 μg/m3 on the Airmega Icon and 21 μg/m3 on the Igeress – good air quality. The Igeress measurements shot up to 317 μg/m3 when I went outside (where we have a severe air quality warning).
When I left the windows open in my bedroom to let in the polluted outdoor air, the PM 2.5 levels quickly reached 140 μg/m3 on the Igeress before I closed up and turned the Airmega Icon back on. In less than 15 minutes, levels had reduced to PM 2.5 at 64 μg/m3 on the Airmega Icon and 72 μg/m3 on the Igeress. And after 30 minutes, levels had decreased to PM 2.5 at 29 μg/m3 on the Airmega Icon and 37 μg/m3 on the Igeress.
I performed the same test in my 450-square-foot living room with the doors open to the kitchen and bedrooms, knowing it should take longer to clean the air. When I left the door and windows open to let in the polluted outdoor air, the PM 2.5 levels reached 266 μg/m3 before I closed them up and turned the Airmega Icon back on. In about an hour, levels had reduced to PM 2.5 at 72 μg/m3 on the Airmega Icon and 63 μg/m3 on the Igeress. And after two hours, levels had decreased to PM2.5 at 35 μg/m3 on the Airmega Icon and 38 μg/m3 on the Igeress.
While today’s readings are a couple of data points, I’ve been using the Airmega Icon since I wrote my guide on “How to choose the right air purifier for you” for CNN Underscored. It brought me peace of mind through multiple family members’ COVID cases (it’s certified to remove viruses based on Korea Conformity Laboratories testing) and quickly dealt with smoke from many cooking adventures. And it has a wireless charger built into the top, which has come in handy.
In everyday use, the operation is quiet – you won’t know it’s on unless there’s a problem with your air quality. The LED provides an easy read on the air quality, with as good (blue), moderate (green), unhealthy (yellow), and very unhealthy (red), and you can turn the light off as needed. And if you place it in a bedroom, you can put it in sleep mode or program it so it will stay dark and quiet all night. I liked the touch controls that disappeared after a few seconds to leave a clear surface with just the PM 2.5 number, but others were perplexed by where to touch to access them and found them a bit finicky to use.
For maintenance, you need to clean the pre-filter frequently to avoid build-up, but it’s washable. Filter replacement is simple, you remove the magnetic back and pre-filter, and it pops out. The combination HEPA/VOC filter costs $89 and should last about a year before needing to be replaced.
The Coway Airmega Icon is pricey at $649 (on sale for $563) – you can buy a Clorox Large Room Air Purifier that will clean even larger spaces for $149. However, it's in line with other "designer" air purifiers like the Samsung Bespoke Cube ($699) and Alen BreatheSmart 45i ($483). Aesthetically, the Airmega Icon is attractive enough that you won’t mind that it’s visible in your space, so you’ll put it where it can work effectively. It works quickly to clean up indoor air messes like burned toast and is easy to operate and maintain. I highly recommend the Airmega Icon if you’re looking for a modern-design air purifier.
[Image credit: Techlicious]