By Michael Rudnick
Over the past few years, energy-efficiency concerns have been largely associated with electricity-sapping major appliances. But as energy costs continue to soar, these concerns have trickled down to the air purifier segment.
While air purifiers run on considerably less electricity than large appliances, consumers are becoming more conscious of their energy efficiency because they tend to be used on a 24-hour, year-round basis. Manufacturers are responding to this with a focus on Energy Star-qualified units.
"Energy is becoming more top of mind for anything with a cord," said Chan Tinkle, Blueair's vice president of sales and marketing.
Blueair has tapped into consumers' gaining energy concerns with its new ECO10 air purifier, which the company claims is the world's most efficient air purifier because it operates at high speed on 10 watts of power, compared with the average of 150 to 200 watts of power for competing models.
Blueair is communicating the product's energy-efficiency advantage to consumers via a print advertising campaign that emphasizes the energy savings ECO10 offers over the course of one year versus the average air purifier, and Blueair is working with its retail partners to educate consumers at the floor level.
Vornado, which this year launched its first new air purifier in years, is also keying in on energy efficiency as a point of differentiation. The new unit uses under 40 watts of power, which is less than that used by a common light bulb.
"We think [energy efficiency] is pretty relevant," said Sonia Cox, director of product marketing at Vornado. "People do use air purifiers year-round and 24/7."
Vornado's new air purifier is Energy Star-certified. Cox said that Energy Star certification within the air purifier category is not easy to achieve, adding, "It is a moving target. Every year, those standards get re-evaluated as they [the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency] are pushing manufacturers to use less energy."
The Vornado air purifier's Energy Star certification is featured prominently on the front and side panels of the product packaging, as well as in the owners manual. To further drive the energy-savings point home, Vornado details it extensively on its Web site, Cox said.
Sharper Image claims that its use of ionic purifying technology, as opposed to more traditional HEPA filtration, has helped to lower its products' energy-consumption levels. "Our units consume very low wattage, saving hundred of dollars compared to power-hungry HEPA machines," a company representative said.
Kaz Inc. has stepped on the Energy Star bandwagon in recent years. The company now offers one Energy Star-certified air purifier in its Honeywell QuietClean line, which uses about 43 watts of power, said Cheri Wright, associate marketing director for air purifiers at Kaz. She explained that while energy efficiency is gaining priority in the air purifier space, it is sometimes difficult to achieve an Energy Star certification while ensuring that the unit is powerful enough to effectively purify a room.
"We aim for Energy Star," Wright said, "but first and foremost, it must be effective in cleaning the air."