Electrolux Has Changed My Mind About the Need for an Air Purifier

Electrolux Has Changed My Mind About the Need for an Air Purifier
At Lifehacker, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. BTW - prices are accurate and items in stock at the time of posting.

It’s winter, the constant rain has made everything damp and stinky, and almost everyone I know has been sick this past week. Oh, and COVID isn’t exactly going anywhere. Pretty opportunistic time, I thought, to review the latest air purifier from Electrolux.

I’ve been sceptical of air purifiers, thinking surely opening your windows and staying on top of cleaning would be sufficient. But the Electrolux Ultimate Home 500 Air Purifier might just change my mind. Either that, or it’s doing a good job as a placebo.

Electrolux Ultimate Home 500 Air Purifier

The latest air purifier for the home from Electrolux. It promises a four-step filtration system to capture micro-dust, odours and harmful airborne substances. It boasts a HEPA 13 filter (HEPA stands for ‘high-efficiency particulate absorbing’) that promises to remove up to 99.99 per cent of bacteria and it has been tested for Legionella pneumophila, Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Serratia marcescens.

For just under $500, it promises to remove pollution and dust, circulate clean air and provide a “breath of fresh air for your home”.

Setting up the Ultimate Home 500

As I am a Sydney apartment renter (thanks for your sympathy), I decided testing the Ultimate Home 500 in my small space wouldn’t do you readers justice. So, I packed it up and headed to my parents’ two-storey house.

Electrolux reckons it’s usable in a space of up to 52 square metres. The space I’ve been testing the air purifier in is about half of that, with an open staircase leading to an upstairs area of about the same size. There’s also a hallway off the lounge room that leads to a second, smaller room and a laundry. The lounge room has floor-to-ceiling windows on two sides, with the third side built into the ground (the fourth hosting the hallway and the staircase). In summer, this room is a godsend. But in winter, it can get quite cold.

The room has everything you’d expect from a lounge room, but it also has a gas heater and a Jack Russell named Archie I have come to accept as my little brother (thanks mum and dad).

Electrolux Ultimate Home 500 Air Purifier
Archie performing QA. Image: Asha Barbaschow/Gizmodo Australia

As you can probably tell, the space is ripe for purifying.

The Ultimate Home 500 isn’t small, don’t let my dad’s speakers fool you – they’re about 1.5 metres tall. The purifier stands about 56 cms high and 30 cms wide.

Easy to use, almost too easy

Now you’ve got some context about the room, I’m happy to report setup was easy as pie and its use was just as easy. From carrying the box downstairs, to the Ultimate Home 500 pumping out some clean air, it was almost exactly 10 minutes. This included removing the plastic from the filter, re-inserting it, switching it on and reading the instructions.

Just make sure it’s not behind anything – an air purifier of this calibre takes up a decent amount of floor real estate.

Probably a result of reviewing items for a tech-focused website, but I kind of wanted more from Electrolux here. The air purifier’s screen has a bunch of controls: night mode turns the screen off (so you don’t have a bright light beaming in the dark) and turns the fan down so it’s still on, but not as loud; auto mode allows the air purifier to adjust to the room’s status (that is, if it picks up a bad smell, it will ramp up the fan speed, and return it to low if everything is A-OK); we’ve also got off/on, a dial to turn up or down the fan speed and there’s a display that tells you the status of your room (more on that in a sec).

I feel the addition of an app to monitor the status of the room could be a good idea – a timeline of when the auto setting had to ramp up based on what it could sense, or the amount of power you’re using, or a more smart addition: setting when the Ultimate Home 500 would be on ‘high’ (ie, 20 minutes before you get home) or setting what time bed is so you don’t forget to turn it off at night. There are a number of air purifier stats we data-hungry folk would love to geek out over that Electrolux is missing out on including in its Ultimate Home 500.

Switching it on was a shock

When we turned the Ultimate Home 500 on, boy did we get a shock. The thing was buzzing, like a hairdryer in intensity almost. You can change the fan speed; reducing this right down brought the sound down a little, but it was still working hard. After checking the filter had been replaced properly, we realised it was just because the air quality in the room was….awful. There’s an indicator on top of the Ultimate Home 500 that tells you the air quality.

Blue is very good, green is good, orange is bad and red is very bad. That little bulb was pushing red light through as hard as it could. The screen also displays the air quality index. Air quality is measured using the universal ‘PM2.5 µg/m3 averaged over 1 hour’ rule (which I only learned about after unboxing the Electrolux). With blue, you’re looking at a PM2.5 of 0-15, green 16-35, orange 36-75 and red over 75. Excuse the smudge, but 144? Yikes.

Electrolux Ultimate Home 500 Air Purifier
Archie just wanted to be included. Image: Asha Barbaschow/Gizmodo Australia

Laser particle sensors evaluate the air quality and automatically adjust the fan speeds as conditions change. Leaving it on about 50 per cent (the sound quickly dimmed, too), within 30 minutes the colour had changed from the overly dramatic red to more yellow tint. Another 10 minutes or so and my dad yelled out, “IT’S GREEN!”. The air quality index had a less intimidating number displayed, too. Three hours later, it was sitting at 0.

Hovering over the top of the Ultimate Home 500, you can tell it’s pushing out fresh air. It doesn’t feel/smell dissimilar from breathing through oxygen tubes, but the last time I did that was in hospital quite a few years back, and I can’t ever really remember smelling ‘fresh’ air that wasn’t just an Aussie spring day doing its thing. So, I guess this is what ‘fresh air’ smells like.

Could you tell the change in the air from two hours beforehand? I don’t know. Dad reckons he could. He thinks. It’s hard to tell, really. The room wasn’t stinky, but the cold was giving the illusion everything was damp. Mum and dad have stayed on top of mould this winter, but it would be interesting to see how the Electrolux Ultimate Home 500 Air Purifier goes in an area that has suffered from mould in the past.

The next few days, it was much the same. I blew vape smoke around the air purifier, and within seconds, the sensors had detected the smell and it sent the numbers into the 500-mark. A few minutes later, the light indicator was back to green and hovering around 0-1. It was also picking up the smells from the kitchen upstairs, but not super strong.

Electrolux Ultimate Home 500 Air Purifier
Image: Asha Barbaschow/Gizmodo Australia

Verdict

My parent’s loungeroom was still cold without the heater, but the damp had gone and it felt fresh. It’s quite hard to explain how something can feel fresh, but with me coughing everywhere due to suffering from that flu that’s making the rounds, hopefully the Ultimate Home 500 goes some way to zapping the flu particles before they reach my folks. As they live in an area prone to bushfires, and we head into summer, I am hopeful the Ultimate Home 500 will reduce the smell of smoke and perhaps go a long way to stopping the smell from consuming drying clothes.

I was a little sceptical of air purifiers, and it’s hard to determine if they’re preventing something that isn’t there – I can’t help but draw distinctions to the old adage of “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”. While I’m not saying the Electrolux Ultimate Home 500 Air Purifier is a lesson in philosophical thought, it does raise similar questions regarding proving something is working as it should be. Air quality experts say that, if powerful enough and equipped with a filter, purifiers can effectively filter virus particles out of the air. And I don’t have a good enough reason to dispute them.

If it comes down to aesthetics for you, the Electrolux Ultimate Home 500 is one of the nicest-looking air purifiers I’ve seen, and the colour and design are subtle, and unlikely to stick out like a sore thumb in your lounge room.

I’d like more smarts and it’s quite big, plus you have to purchase replacement filters when this one is full of god knows what. With the filters costing $109 a pop, it’s an expensive initial investment, one with ongoing costs. But it is on the cheaper end of air purifiers we’ve reviewed in the past.

Where to buy the Electrolux Ultimate Home 500 Air Purifier

Bing Lee $498 | Kogan $479 | eBay $479