Electrolux EL490A Oxygen3 air cleaner

Electrolux, moving on from cleaning your carpets, has turned its attention to cleaning the air in your house with their Oxygen3 air cleaner. It's an understandable move given the increasing presence of HEPA filters in vacuum cleaners and increasing interest in minimising domestic allergens.

The Oxygen3 acts much in the same way as popular bedside "air purifiers", featuring a fan which sucks air through the filters and expels it on the other side. In the case of the Oxygen3 there are three layers of filtration.

The first layer is a carbon pre-filter which extracts large dust particles, hair, lint and so on thanks to its course nature, while the carbon aspect absorbs some of the odours as air passes through. As the active carbon absorbs odour it will need replacing every 3 months to be truly effective, otherwise it will stop extracting those smells.

Behind this carbon filter is the HEPA filter, which will catch particles down to 0.3 microns in size, which is the small stuff that gets through the carbon, and includes the likes of smoke, fine dusts and pollen.

This is the point that many air cleaners stop, but the Oxygen3 has a third line of defence which Electrolux candidly calls "Plasma Technology". Just like Egon Spengler in Ghostbuster, this plasma wave neutalises viruses, bacteria and foul odours that pass by it on the way out of the top of the device. (Unfortunately there is no green beam or zapping noises.)

Accessing the filters is simply a case of pulling the front off the unit and taking them out. Replacement filters are be available from Electrolux. The US prices come out as $45 for the HEPA filter, $10 for the carbon filter. The UK prices are as follows: washable HEPA EF108W £49.99 (wash every 6 months, lasts 3 years); four pack of carbon filters EF109 £34.99 (lasts 1 year replacing filter every 3 months).

It is a pretty big box, 55cm tall, 41.2cm wide and 22cm deep, so it is certainly a noticeable lump sitting in your room. It might be big, but on the up side it is recommended for rooms up to 16 x 20ft (4.9 x 6.1m). It also carries a CADR of 210/212/229 (smoke/dust/pollen), which tells us two things: firstly, that it is AHAM certified, and secondly, that it will be highly effective in removing these elements so long you place it within the recommended room size.

The Oxygen3 is encased in black plastic with a gloss shine, and it does inherently attract dust and finger prints, but it is strangely alluring in its look. It doesn't look ugly or industrial and will fit nicely into a modern home.

Across the top of the face you'll find the controls, with a power button and speed/mode changer, although you'll be most likely to use the remote control that slots neatly into the top for safe keeping.

Power on and you are greeted with blue LED panels giving you a sense of what is happening. You have readouts for speed, mode and "odor" level. An indicator light is also present that tells you when to replace the HEPA filter inside. There is an "Odor Sensor" on the front, which we'll come back to later.

Noise is potentially a concern with any sort of fan-based air filtration system, but with the Oxygen3 it isn't. In auto mode, at the slowest speed you can barely hear the thing. It is quieter than your average fridge, quieter than the overzealous fan on your games console too. However, when the odour sensor gets a whiff of filth, it springs into action.

Yes, the noise level then increases, but even at maximum, in a large room it isn't too distracting. If you don't want it springing to life, you can simply press the "quiet" button on the remote and it enters quiet mode, ideal for night or during movies. This keeps the fan slow, but it still indicates when it can sense an odour.

Of course you can manually change the fan speed too so if you want to turn the air over in your room then you can do that too, perhaps after the boys crash round your place after the pub and all cram into one room.

For daily automatic use, however, the odour sensor will become your new best friend. Start cooking something with a strong odour and the Oxygen3 will spring to life and start pumping air through the filters to neutralise that smell. Ok, so it doesn't mean that you can fry garlic without someone else smelling it - it won't stop the source from smelling, but it will go some way to reducing the length of time that smell lingers in your home.

The odour sensor is pretty quick off the mark too, and comically, a toddler staggering past set off the air cleaner before mummy and daddy had got a whiff of the offending dirty nappy. After a particularly vicious curry the Oxygen3 was doing its bit to stave off the sort of domestic disharmony that can follow an episode of irritable bowel syndrome.

But it isn't a miracle worker. When this reviewer returned from an evening event, the Oxygen3 was silent and the house still had the discerning smell of the fish supper that the wife had cooked. We also found that we could boil a chicken carcass for several hours without the air cleaner thinking there was anything amiss.

Of course from a filtration of allergens it is impossible to test without a laboratory, so we can only trust the certification and testing carried out by Electrolux themselves.

Verdict

Despite its size, we've been living with the Oxygen3 for a month without it getting in the way. The considerate design means it doesn't offend and the ability to keep it quiet when you need to is a real bonus. The odour sensor does work too - it isn't just a gimmick.

Those who suffer from allergies can take reassurance from HEPA filtration. Those who live in small apartments which lack ventilation will also appreciate the benefits of this sort of air cleaner, which might stave off recurring illnesses typical of modern urban lifestyles. It is Energy Star rated too.

At £199 you probably need to be really convinced that you need this sort of air cleaner in your life, but if you think you are suffering from the downsides of poor air quality in your house, it might be just the thing you need.



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