Pros: Collects dirt from air, kills viruses and germs with UV light, relatively quiet usually
Cons: Initially Expensive for new units, Can be loud when too much dirt collected inside
Well, this year I spent quite a bit of money buying air purifiers to help relieve my allergies. I've tried Hunter HEPA unit but the expense of constantly buying new HEPA filters every 1 to 3 months became extremely expensive in a short period of time. I've heard of the Ionic Breeze from Sharper Image but didn't know what to make of them. One of my best friends had bought two Ionic Breeze Quadra units over a year ago. He said he and his wife felt better with the units on 24/7. He also had no malfunctions with the units as of yet.
I first bought Ionic Breeze Quadra units... 2 of them for my parents' house. After 2 months of use so far, no malfunctions and every week, a good amount of gunk is cleaned from the collection grids. Okay, it seemed to have worked for them... my parents thought they felt better with the units around. The 2 units cost about $550 after tax with free S&H and a free plug in mini ionic breeze bathroom unit. I'm still waiting for the 6% ebates.com discount however.
Well, seeing that the units seemed to work for my parents, I set off to Woodbury Commons in New York State to the Sharper Image Outlet store there. There they had repackaged Ionic Breeze GP units... also known as refurbished or Like-New units. These units ran for 30% off the original price but the second unit would be 50% off the original price. No bathroom Ionic Breeze unit is included however. I purchased this with my AmEx card before the internet pricematching expired. I paid $350 for the first unit and $250 for the second. I had a $30 off coupon as well. I paid $612 for the units after sales tax and the coupon. Using the AmEx Best Value Guarantee, I received a refund of $99.99 dropping the units to $512 for the two... not a bad price at all!
Read my epinion The Art of Buying... Getting your money's worth! to find tips on saving money on your purchases.
The units seem to work as advertised. After a month of continuous use, my sinuses do feel better. The only thing I find annoying is the burning ozone smell around the house when I come back home from work. Otherwise, the collection grid are always very dirty after a week has passed so it seems to work to me.
1) Seems to collect dust
2) UV light to help kill viruses and other germs/fungus
3) Extremely quiet units if you clean them periodically
4) Easy to use and learn
5) Low power usage at 28 Watts with the UV light on
6) Built to run 24 hours 7 days a week.
1) Price for an unit is any condition!
2) Ozone smell
3) Is it really working? My only evidence is the dirt that collects on the collection grid.
If you buy one of these units brand new, it will set you back $499.95 before tax from your local Sharper Image Store. If you buy it off the Sharper Image web store, you may have to pay S&H. Although Circuit City and some Macy's sell the more popular Sharper Image products, I have not seen the Ionic Breeze GP in that lineup. Circuit City and those special Macy's stores do sell the full sized Ionic Breeze Quadra units and some sell the Compact Quadra units.
You can often find coupons for the Sharper Image store and webstore if you look around but these are usually for $15, $20, or even $30 off. On occassion, the webstore will have a 15% off coupon but you pay S&H. If you go through ebates.com (see my epinion The Art of Buying... Getting your money's worth! on how ebates.com works), there offer 6% back although I am still arguing with ebates.com for my last purchase through www.sharperimage.com.
Sharper Image often runs other promotions with the Ionic Breeze units. Currently, buying any Full Priced Ionic Breeze unit will allow you to buy another unit at 50% off the full price. So a second GP unit will cost you a little under $250. Buying two brand new units cost you just under $750 before adding any sales tax and S&H costs. If you buy the full sized GP brand new units, you get a bathroom Ionic Breeze unit for free ($69.95 list as per Sharper Image).
If you happen to be near any Sharper Image Outlet store, you can pick up one that is repackaged/refurbished/like-new. These units run 30% off at $350 and allow you to get the a second refurbished unit for $250 (50% off). These units are usually either returned units with no visible imperfections or units that shipped in damaged boxes that could not be sold in their current state of packaging. All these units are tested before they are repackaged and sold to customers. These units carry the full 5 year warranty that new units do.
If you shop at www.sharperimage.com/outlet, you will find a major surprise. Refurbished/repackaged/Like-New units sell for $249.98 each! There are no additional discounts however. Sometimes S&H is free but you always pay sales tax and you might be able to stack a coupon on top of that. Like-New units have the full 5 year warranty! If you're willing to buy Less-Than-New units, these run $199.98! However, these units have physical blemishes on them, but they do carry the 5 year warranty! Major Update Sometime in February or March 2004, Sharper Image has increased the price on Like-New Models to 30% off but Less-Than-New models are still 60% off!
Style and Function
I bought the Burltech units which are all black with a faux wood top. The controls consist of two knobs, a boost button, and several LEDs. One knob controls the power (on without UV light, on with UV light, and off) and the other controls the airflow (low, medium, and high). The boost button provide 5 minutes of the highest settings which supposedly move the air at a faster rate than the high airflow setting. There is also an LED that lights up if the collection grid is to dirty.
The collection grid is larger than the Quadra grid and requires you to depress the latch to remove the grid for cleaning. The grid is composed of three long blades. You have access to the UV light generators from the back of the unit... but you should be careful not to handle the UV light tubes since hand oils can shorten their life. Replacement tubes cost $20 and supposedly last a year. Some of my friends have been using their units for over a year without replacement.
The unit consumes up to 28 Watts of power with the UV light on and airflow set to high. With the UV light off, the power consumption is about half.
On how much air can it effectively clean... well, Sharper Image states 500 square feet. The unit was supposedly built for use 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. However, I turn it off when I'm not home more than 24 hours. I have run my unit 24 hours a day for 6 straight days with no ill effects.
In the box, you get a videotape about the GP unit, an instruction manual, and an anti-static cleaning cloth.
I'm not sure how to gauge this but every week, the collection grid has collected alot of something dirty. I either clean it with the cloth provided in the box or a Swifter cloth. The cleaning cloth looks filthy every week.
As far as I can tell, my allergies seem to be under better control and I feel better. However, there is no cold hard fact that lets me say the air is cleaner. I just have to trust that the filth I clean off the collection grid every week, Sharper Image's word, and the endorsement by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) means that my air is significantly cleaner than without the Ionic Breeze GP unit.
Note that the Ionic Breeze units do generate a bit of ozone that Sharper Image states is produced in levels acceptable for home use. If you walk into a room with an Ionic Breeze unit, you will notice a burnt smell in the air... that probably is the ozone. I'll assume that Sharper Image's statement is correct and the ozone produced is not in harmful levels since I'm still alive right now.
As for the UV light, it breaks down the DNA of bacteria, mold, viruses, and other microorganisms. It works for the hospital, it should work here!
Cleaning the collection grids is fairly easy. Wipe them down with a dry cloth or the cloth included. If you really want them clean, use a damp cloth or wash the collection grid. Note that the collection grid needs to be completely dry before you reinsert them back into the Ionic Breeze GP unit.
Note if the unit becomes dirty inside, the unit will make some noise... if it is really dirty, it may make hissing and popping noises. Here you should flip the base unit upside down at least twice. The problem is that dirt has collected on the ionizing electrical current wires. There a small glass bends on these wires that help with cleaning when you flip the unit upside down and back again. Every three months you should wipe down the UV light tubes without touching them with your bare hands. Doing this will ensure a long and fairly trouble free life for the Ionic Breeze GP unit.
Warranty and Customer Service
From my understanding, Sharper Image's warranty on the Ionic Breeze units is second to none. Bring it back to any Sharper Image store and they will replace the unit if it is defective. No questions asked really.
On top of that, as long as your unit is under warranty, you can return it and get full credit to upgrade to the next best unit (whenever it becomes available since the GP unit is current top of the line). No worries being left in the technological dust.
On CADR or the Clean Air Delivery Rate
www.cadr.org publishes numbers and certifies air cleaners. The Sharper Image Ionic Breeze units in all flavors are NOT certified by any means. The published numbers are horrible for the Ionic Breeze. However, Sharper Image explains that the Ionic Breeze does not perform well in the CADR tests because the tests are based on high airflow. The Ionic Breeze are low airflow units that are designed to operate over long periods of time.
Don't get me wrong about the CADR numbers... but I tend to believe Sharper Image's statement about the interpretation of the CADR numbers. Most HEPA filters use high speed fans to push air through a filter and therefore obtaining filtered clean air. Most impurities in the air would be trapped in the filter allowing the clean air to flow through the microscopic pores. The Ionic Breeze units will not work effectively with forced high airflow... it wants a steady air movement with time to attract and capture impurities.
Just be careful when interpreting the CADR numbers. The numbers are definitely useful but you have to keep in mind the context of the numbers.
Against traditional fan based air purifiers with HEPA filters?
The Ionic Breeze seems to do the job although direct comparisons between the Ionic Breeze and traditional fan based air purifiers are difficult to do. The traditional HEPA fan based air purifiers may be initially cheaper to purchase but considering that you have to buy a new HEPA filter every 1 to 3 months and the expense of the HEPA filter, in the long run, the Ionic Breeze will likely prove to be the better value.
I think the unit works, but I wouldn't pay full price if I can help it! Buying the unit in Like-New condition is your best bet especially with full 5 year warranties! Less-Than-New units should be considered if you're really under a tight budget.
If you don't care or want the UV light feature but still want an Ionic Breeze unit, look at the Ionic Breeze Quadra unit. I wrote an epinions review here.