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Review of: Honeywell 18155 SilentComfort Permanent, True HEPA Air Purifier

It's been about 10 weeks since I bought this Honeywell 18155 SilentComfort Permanent, True HEPA Air Purifier, so I've had time to evaluate it properly. The first thing to understand is this is not an 800 dollar air cleaner.

Why does that matter? One reason I personally don't put a lot of stock in reviews is most reviewers are not careful and consequently their reviews misrepresent reality.

Sometimes, I wonder if they even read the book they reviewed or have actually used the product they reviewed.

Probably the single biggest mistake is they don't review the item in the proper context. You won't have that problem here; my goal is to help you decide if this is a good use of your 150 or so dollars, not how well this stacks up against a system way out of its league and price range.

What prompted me to shop for an air cleaner is I was having dust problems in my desktop computer. For some reason, small bits of dust would stick to the edge of one or another blade of the CPU fan and cause the fan to be unbalanced. Every few days, I'd get this horrible noise and have to shut down, open the case, and carefully wipe that stupid fan. This got to be annoying after a while. The frequent need to do this was starting to cause me to be unbalanced.

Now, I keep a very clean home. I've had allergies my whole life and have worked hard to manage that situation (thus the clean home). But unless you become OCD about dust, you are going to have dust in your computer, refrigerator coils, etc., and you're going to have to clean that up. If that does happens to be a particular kind of pollen or spore that sticks to things, then you get the unbalanced fan problem (some rock bands also have this problem, but for a different reason).

When I was shopping for an air cleaner, I had these requirements:

  • Fairly low-price. I didn't want some $25 piece of junk, but I also didn't want to spend $800.

  • No filter replacement costs.

  • A hush mode (low fan speed mode).

It did not matter to me how many cubic feet the unit was rated for. I just wanted to solve a specific problem. I wanted to try this unit, and if it worked, buy the same one for my bedroom.

So how did this fare?

Obviously, the Honeywell 18155 SilentComfort Permanent, True HEPA Air Purifier met my price criterion or I would not have bought it. There is a pre-filter, which can be washed and/or cleaned with a standard household vacuum cleaner. I'm also capable of making a replacement from a sheet of the same material (available at any hardware store). The HEPA filter is not washable; washing will destroy it. You clean it by vacuuming. Both filters are easy to remove, easy to clean, and easy to reinstall.

On the hush mode, what the heck are those people at Honeywell thinking? Are they all deaf? There is no low-speed mode on this device. You have high speed, very high speed, and what must be blast mode. It's noisy, no matter what speed you run it at. Not rattle rattle noise; the fan is well-designed. It's high speed blower noise, and I do mean high speed. Initially I kept expecting that air cleaner to take off and be airborne. It hasn't, but I did look at pilot jumpsuits just in case.

Update: This unit was defective, thus the very high speed. The control failed not long after I wrote this review. The manufacturer performed a prompt and painless replacement at no cost to me. The replacement unit is MUCH quieter. The notes below apply to the original unit, as far as noisiness and use. The properly working one is still a tad too noisy for the bedroom, though.

So, I can't use it in the office as intended. It's just too noisy. My solution was to put it in an adjacent room, set it on merely high, and hope the clean air circulates. It does circulate, and that solution does seem to be working. And actually, it gives the added advantage of cleaning the air in my office without being in my office to take up space in my office. And I thought only wireless routers could do that sort of thing.

Some people claim they put this in their bedroom and leave it on low. I find that hard to believe, and not just because there's no low setting. Its control panel puts out enough light to guide a 747 down a runway. Well, OK, maybe not that much. But far too much light to permit sleeping with this in the same room, even if you have a total loss of hearing.

Because I was happy with this for the intended use, I bought a small "table top" HEPA unit, also made by Honeywell. I figured that, proportionately, it would be quieter and thus quiet enough to use on low in the bedroom. No such luck. Honeywell's product designers apparently have a real aversion to low air flows through their air cleaners even though this is exactly what customers want so they can put these things in their bedrooms where they most need the clean air.

The only reasonably silent mode is the OFF position, but that defeats the purpose of owning the thing. That small unit does have the ability to shut off its control panel light, which happens when you shut off the ionizer. This doesn't matter, however, because it's off so you can sleep or on to clean the air.

Back to the 18155. If you're looking for a good air cleaner at an affordable price, this is it. If you're looking for something that is more quiet than the OSHA threshold for ear plug use, this is not it (I think on the merely high setting, you might actually be below the OSHA threshold).

Because of the really high output of the fan, this can double as a clothes dryer. Seriously. Hang your clothes on a rack made for that purpose, and set this unit on top of your front-loading washing machine if you don't have a dryer stacked on top of it. Or, if you have the old water-wasting, energy-burning top loader style, then you could still do that but you'd have to shut the lid and put the unit on the washer only when it's not in use for washing clothes. With this in place, you get enough air movement to aid natural, heatless air drying. That's the right way to dry natural fibers (greatly extends their life, versus heating them to an early demise), and you shouldn't be using synthetic fibers if you value your health.

I'm impressed that, with as much air as this fan puts out, the filter isn't blown completely out of the unit or the unit doesn't fly off. Am I underscoring the noise point a bit too much? OK, here's something that helps offset that. Because there's no speed below high, this does clean quite a bit of air. It's noticeably reduced the dust in my home, and that has made a difference in my allergies. So if you can put the unit where the noise won't be a problem, you will find it to be money well spent.



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