Customer Reviews: Sharp FPA80UW Plasmacluster Ion Air Purifier with True HEPA Filter
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on February 7, 2015
I've had this unit for just a day, so this is a preliminary review based on a minimal amount of time with the unit. For a little background, I have this unit in my bedroom, which is 700 square feet with very high ceilings. I also run an IQAir Health Pro Plus in the bedroom. My main purpose for buying the Sharp was to assist the IQAir during bad air days because the size of my bedroom is pushing the upper limits of what the IQAir can handle.

I use a Dylos DC1100 Pro laser particle scanner to test the effectiveness of my air purifiers. My house is currently running about 400,000 particles per cubicle foot, which is relatively dirty air for my neighborhood. It's a pretty smoggy day out in Southern California today. Running the IQAir I was only able to reduce the particle load to about 160,000. So I set up the Sharp and ran it on high for six hours today. When I came back to test it, my Dylos was showing a reading of 10,000 particles, which is almost a 95% improvement in air quality - not bad!

For my next test, I move the unit down to my office - 150 square feet, so much smaller than the bedroom. The particle count when I first begin the test is 300,000. After ten minutes running the Sharp, the count drops to 25,000. After twenty minutes I'm at 13,600. After forty minutes, it drops to 12,500. It seems to be stuck there. Excellent air quality, according to the Dylos monitor, is 7,500 or below. So 12,500 places it squarely in the "very good' category.

I also tried testing the air coming out of the Sharp by placing the Dylos up right next to the unit. I routinely do this with my IQAir to confirm it's still blowing clean air. The IQAir always shows it is blowing zero particles - completely clean air. With the Sharp, the Dylos tells me the unit is blowing air with between 1,000-1,200 particles between .5PM and 2.5PM in size, but zero particles larger than 2.5PM. So while this air is pretty darn clean coming out of the unit, it is evident that some of the air is bypassing the filters and leaking out of the unit. Taking a closer look at the filters gives me an idea why this may be. Both the HEPA filter and the prefilter are very loose fitting. In fact, the prefilter just flops around in the unit while it's turned off, but then when the unit is on the filter get sucked into place and stays pretty still. I'm guessing there is some leaks around the edges since the filter is not sealed into the unit. I may experiment with some tape to try and tighten up the seal and reduce the bypassing.

The filters come wrapped in plastic from the factory. To remove the plastic you have to remove the cover panel and take out the filters. To remove the panel, you lift it up from the base and pull it out. Doing this was the first indication to me of why this unit cost almost a fourth of the price of the IQAir. The cover is flimsy, held on by some plastic clips on the bottom which look like they could easily snap off. And the entire unit is made of very thin plastic. When I pick it up to carry it from room to room, I hear the filter rattling around, and the unit just doesn't feel like it's solidly put together. I'm guessing this is why Sharp only gives it a one year warranty.

Another noticeable difference between the two units is the filters themselves. The Sharp prefilter looks like a wafer thin piece of foam with some tiny carbon pellets in it. If it had shipped separate from the unit, I would guess that it could easily get damaged in shipping if the box was not particularly well packaged. The HEPA filter looks a bit more sturdy, but it's barely an inch thick and not nearly as well constructed as the IQAir HEPA. To be fair though, the replacement cost of the IQAir filter set is $369.00, substantially higher than the cost of this entire unit.

So my initial impressions of this unit are that it is very powerful - blowing over 300 CFM on high and about 14 decibels quieter than the IQAir on its highest setting. It's obvious that the unit can clear particles from the air very quickly, even in a larger sized room. The HEPA filter is rated to capture particles down to .3 microns. IQAir's HyperHepa filter captures particles down to .003, or 100 times smaller than standard HEPA. From the research I've done, there are actually quite a few particles below .3 microns which can be very dangerous to your health if you suffer from asthma.

As a standalone unit, this certainly does the job of reducing the particle count in the air, and it does it a very respectable noise level for its output. And as a back up unit to assist the IQAir, it has a tremendous impact as an assistant. My biggest concern is the somewhat flimsy feel of the unit, along with the short one year warranty. At some point I will need to order a replacement filter set for this, and the filters cost about $60 for the HEPA and $30 for the prefilter. These are certainly reasonable prices as long as the unit itself holds up. But something tells me I'll be looking for a replacement for this unit in two or three years, while the IQAir will still be going strong 10-15 years from now. So if money were no object and I wanted the best filtration possible, I'd probably buy a second IQAir unit. If you are considering just one unit, and you can't cost justify the IQAir, the Sharp is a very worthwhile investment. If you want something in the under $300 range, I'd say this unit is probably the best one out there that I could find, and I'm sure it will play a very useful role in my household.

UPDATE 2/8/2015

This morning I placed scotch tape around the entire edge of the prefilter to create a tight seal with the unit. Taking another round of measurements with the particle counter, I now show a reading of anywhere from zero particles (both .5PM an 2.5PM) to about 200 .5PM, still 0 2.5PM. It seems to be averaging about 100 particles in the .5PM size. So a few cents worth of tape has reduce the particles coming out of the unit by 90%. Not a bad investment. I probably should have taped the HEPA filter first, but now that the prefilter is tightly sealed, I will just leave it as is and continue to monitor output. I like this unit a lot more now that I see virtually particle free air blowing out of the unit!
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on October 11, 2013
Overall, I'm pleased. If you are trying to get fine dust out of the air, the FPA80UW is a good choice.

The unit is very quiet on low speed - it sits near the bed and I can't hear it at night, which is excellent considering it is moving 70CFM. Medium is louder, but still not annoying if it is in the same room during the day. High is of course quite loud, but it's moving 350CFM at that speed, so you can't expect otherwise. When the speed is set to Auto, it determines the appropriate speed (low, medium, high) based on what level of dust it senses in the air, and it really works. Making the bed apparently puts dust in the air (nothing I can see or smell), because the fan speed will increase to medium or high. The same thing happens if I shake out an article of clothing in the room, even some distance away.

I think the machine is cleaning the air. I put it in a different room each day while I am at work, and the air does seem to be fresher at the end of the day. It is supposed to have three methods of cleaning the air - HEPA filter, ionization, and a granulated carbon filter. Personally, I don't see how the carbon could do much of anything - it's nothing more that a few carbon granules attached at intervals to the pre-filter. If my problem were VOCs, I'd be looking for a different air purifier. The ionization does work, at least somewhat, based on my nose. The HEPA filter works very well.

There are LEDs to indicate fan speed and whether the ion generator is running. There is also a single large LED that turns green, yellow, or red, to indicate air quality. This LED can be turned off at night so as not to disturb you. The two small LEDs (ion and speed) remain on, but are too small to annoy anyone.

The unit had an unpleasant plastic odor when it was first unpacked, but that disappeared after two days.
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on October 3, 2012
I've tried so many air purifiers due to my allergies but realized how ineffective they were after reading an article about how manufacturers claim it catches 99.7% particles (but don't specify the size of the particles). From the Vornado AQS 500 to the Honeywell, they just didn't help at all and I still found myself relying on Zyrtec and Allegra just to alleviate my headaches.

After a month of using the Sharp FP-A8OU-W I can honestly say this is a really good machine despite the high price. Whenever I feel the my sinuses acting up, I hit the quick clean and my symptoms vanish after 10-15 minutes. It's extremely quiet and has an auto-sensor on how dirty the air is. I thought mine was broken because it was constantly green, but when my cats jumped up on it once it switched over to orange (dirty cats!) which was interesting but it still stayed on low. Regardless, I just hit that quick clean when needed and it goes full blast for about 5-10 minutes or so and reverts back to low which is nice. I don't know if that Ion plasmacluster actually does anything but sound cool but I'm not complaining since this is the only air purifier that actually worked for me.
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on September 8, 2012
Amazon did a quick RMA on the first one which worked intermittently. It probably had a circuit board fault.

This unit is in our large bedroom which is carpeted (for now). I suffer from bad allergies to pollen, dust, and molds, resulting in sleepless nights with nasal congestion, drainage, and sneezing.

So far I haven't woken up with congestion since using this machine, but the pollen count has been low. It runs on the low setting which is very quiet, barely audible, and uses only 4.8W (medium is 20W and high 98W). The air in the room always smells fresh and dry, especially when entering.

One thing that applies to all room air purifiers is that you have to keep the doors closed so that it isn't trying to purify the whole house. I open a window sometimes for fresh outdoor air, but I won't do this when the pollen count is high. I might put a spring hinge on the bedroom door to keep it closed.

Along with a routine of clean bed clothes, vacuuming, washing hair in the evening after being outside with lots of pollen, and nasal irrigation with a neti pot at bedtime, this air purifier should really aid in a good nights' sleep.

I'll update this review in the spring when the pollen counts are very high here in northern California.
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on May 21, 2014
If you do not live in a dry area, having a reasonable amount of humidity (water) for this "Plasmacluster" Ionizer to create hydroxyl ions from, then this tech cannot currently be beat. This tech definitely works. The closest competitor are PCO (Photo-Catalytic Oxidation) devices which also create hydroxyl ions although a different process, but they use 10x the power. To be fair, a "good" PCO will also kill more airborne viruses, but apparently they are not all "good" at this point.

Back to Sharp's entry, the FPA80UW and FPA60UW are the same device, except 2 things. First the motor is heavier duty in the FPA80, and both run at low speed at 71cfm but the FPA80 is 2dB quieter, and 2dB in a range that you can tell. So it's worth the extra money, if you are sleeping with this in the bedroom to get the 23dB FPA80 rather than the 25dB PFA60. I can hear the difference. It's worth the money if you need to clean a large area, the FPA 60 won't handle it. Our calculation of Sq. Ft. "CADR", the CFM produced, and reality, lead us to believe the room size in Sq. Ft. is overrated by Sharp Japan, using probably a 7 ft. ceiling as the constant. Keep this in mind if you have 9 ft. ceilings, we figure 7/9 of rated Sq. Ft.. The second thing different, the FPA80 has the dust sensor built in. A nice feature, it seems to sense higher levels of dust as designed, but not a "have to have".

Filters. Sharp has a standalone FZ-A60HFU 1.5" HEPA replacement. You can buy the charcoal foam in rolls. They(edit) did step up and supply part FZ-A60HFU for their units. The Whirlpool and Alen each make superior 2" filter (the filter bay is over 2" deep so it fits), for less $$, that could be made (cut) to fit.

In conclusion, Sharp has a great product and is charging a premium for it.
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on January 11, 2015
I am very happy with this product. Air is fresh and it has a high CADR which I was looking for. I love how there is an
automatic sensor that turns on when the air is dirty. I keep it on Auto and it takes care of my room. Highly recommend this.

Update: Look at the photo. It caught so much dust! I just opened it up and was shocked to see all that! This really works.
review image
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on September 2, 2013
I recently evaluated this unit and the Sharp KC-860U before buying several more FP-A80UW's. I selected the FP-A80 because of value. It offers a good combination of an activated carbon element, a pleated filter, and a 'plasmacluster' ion generator. It doesn't incorporate a high-maintenance humidifier and it offers a good flow-rate for the respective noise levels. I also have an IQ Air Health Pro Plus, to which I can compare this Sharp unit.

The most important thing to understand is that this is a bedroom size unit that will do a good job in a typical suburban house bedroom -- certainly not a whole house.

The activated carbon element in this unit is light and although it's nice to have, you will probably realize a significant benefit from a filter with a much larger carbon load. The IQ Air GC series is a good example, but costly. The "V5" unit the the Health Pro Plus is good for a room, but it's a significantly larger and more noisy than this Sharp unit which simply lacks enough carbon. I built my own attic unit using sheet metal and bulk ctc60 I bought here on Amazon.

The pleated filter on the Sharp is effective, though certainly not as meticulous as the IQ Air HEPA filter. Bear in mind that "HEPA" is a performance rating of the filter media and not the filter unit or system. Laser-particle counter wielding fanatics have proven the IQ Air's superiority as a complete system. But certainly some filtering is better than none and the Sharp offers two advantages: a dust detection circuit that can be set to automatically increase fan speed based on the detection of particles; and a quieter noise level at low speed.

I suppose to compare the noise levels fairly, you would have to evaluate the clean-air delivery rate (CADR) to noise ratio. But "noise" is a subjective measurement and average-weighted "dB" ratings don't tell the whole story. Air filters are not often rated in "sones" either, and people have different opinions on various sound pressure levels at different frequencies. Regardless, the IQ Air HPP on the lowest setting is louder than the Sharp on the lowest setting. Whether it has a higher CADR or is better at any given noise level for any other reason, the IQ Air is louder. Possibly it can be made as quiet as the Sharp if you take out the V5. I don't know, but it's still several times more expensive and a lot bigger than the Sharp -- which is simply to say that if you're looking for something quieter for the bedroom, the Sharp is worth considering.

The plasmacluster technology is interesting. While ion generators could be meaningful additions to air purifying equipment, they have side effects and their overall effectiveness seems questionable. If the technology was totally effective, we would certainly see more significant commercial applications. Sharp PR boasts of an application in the Imperial Hotel, but it certainly has the appearance of a promotional operation. Even ordinary, non 'plasmacluster' ion generators do not have widespread commercial adoption. Sharp's literature is nevertheless certain to point out how many millions of units they've sold to convince you otherwise.

Nevertheless, I 'believe' in the plasmacluster technology. I 'bought it' so to speak, figuratively and literally. While I have no way of objectively evaluating the results I'm getting as a consequence of using the plasmacluster ion generator, I can clearly distinguish one negative side-effect. Running the plasmacluster overnight significantly lowers the room's humidity to a level where it can become irritating -- this is even with the humidifier in the KC-860U running. I had to supplement the KC-860U with an additional humidifier in the room to prevent this. Admittedly, I have very low natural humidity levels.

During the non-heating season, my house typically has 30 to 35% RH. My family is adjusted to living in low humidity. 30% would be irritating to anyone coming from a 50-60% norm, but we're usually not too irritated until it gets down into the teens or "bone dry." Even though I have several hygrometers, including the built-in unit on the KC-860U, the readings vary wildly. They're simply not accurate. More subjectively I can tell you that the plasmacluster unit seems to dry out the room badly. The reason I chose the FP-A80 is because it dispenses with the inadequate humidifier. My home's needs are much greater than the tiny unit built into the Sharp 860U which hardly keeps up with the unit's own demand. I opted for the FP-A80 and some higher output humidifiers that require less frequent maintenance. During the heating season, the demand for humidity is even greater as the cold air is incapable of holding much moisture and when heated, the RH drops to very irritating levels. I have a furnance-mounted 12gpd unit that helps with the extra demand in that season.

I suspect the Plasmacluster's consumption of water-vapour outstrips the 860's humidifier's output on low fan speeds. In order to get enough humidifier output to counter the plasmacluster, you have to run high and loud fan speeds or the Plasmacluster will dry out your air. Of course, this is a good thing if you have naturally high humidity -- in which case you should certainly prefer the FP-A80.

While exactly how plasmacluster works is somewhat shrouded in marketing babble that is more bent on convincing you that it's good than explaining what it actually does in simple and realistic terms that would truly lay it bare, it's apparent that that Sharp is using some kind of plasma streamer to ionize water vapor molecules, the components of which are subsequently dispersed as both negatively and positively charged particles. While I find this explanation insufficient, we can at least be certain that it uses water. That not only means that it will dry out your room, but also that providing adequate water will also make it more effective. Since a humidifying unit like the 860 provides water vapor "at the source," the air passing through the plasmacluster should actually be at a much higher humidity than the room itself after the humidified air is diffused. Does that intense humidity at the source improve the plasmacluster's performance compared to an FP-A80 operating at room-level humidity? I suspect not because once the 860's hygrometer reaches 60% or so, the humidifier shuts off, at which point it would not have any continuing advantage to a non-humidifying unit, even if there was any advantage to it while the humidifier was actually running.

Unfortunately it's not clear with the FP-A80 and 860 units are what sharp calls "25,000 ions/cm3" or "7000 ions/cm3" generators. They advertise some very costly Japanese units as having the higher output generators but don't make it clear where the US models stand. At first I was concerned that I get "more power" because, of course, I want "more" of these things, whatever they are, because if some are good, more must be better! I suspect, but have no concrete evidence that the FP-A80 and the 860U have the higher production generators, but if they don't, I don't really care because they certainly fry enough water out of my air as it is. The costly imports from Japan do not have the value proposition of this FP-A80 at all. In that price range, I would go for IQ Air.
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on November 29, 2015
I've had this air purifier for about a month, and I like it! For now I'll give you my initial impressions, and I'll come back if I have anything to add later.

Some reviewers have mentioned plastic smells. When I first opened the included filters and installed them into the unit, I did notice a very slight odor. However, once I turned the machine on and started using it, there was no smell whatsoever. The air that comes out of this air purifier has no odor that I can detect. I tend to be sensitive to chemical smells, but I'll admit that some people may be able to sense odors that I cannot. The best we can do here is describe our own experiences.

One of the first things you will notice about this model is that it is always processing a significant amount of air, even if it is making no noticeable noise. It's quite impressive. The clean air blows out of the top of the device, so it contributes to air circulation without blowing in your face.

I've had two air purifiers before this one. The first was one of the round Honeywell HEPA models. I bought that one in the late 90s, when HEPA air purifiers were a novelty. The Honeywell was very loud, and I never really felt that it was doing much to keep our air clean. Eventually I think I gave that one away. Back in 2011 I bought a Sanyo ABC-VW24 Air Washer Air Purification System with Electrolyzed Water Technology. That was a very nice device, and I'm still using it. The electrolyzed mist feature doesn't work as well as it used to, but the machine pops into action when smells appear, and it noticeably improves the air quality in our home. Sanyo was acquired by Panasonic, which still makes a line of air purifiers but apparently doesn't sell them in the United States.

The Sharp FPA80UW is bigger than my Sanyo, and it seems to be at least as effective. It doesn't respond to smells as noticeably as the Sanyo but it doesn't have to, since as I said it is *always* processing a significant amount of air--and silently! If you put your ear right next to the unit you can hear some air flow and a very slight sound of small particles of activated carbon rustling in the filter, but this thing is amazingly quiet.

I think it makes sense to get this model over the FPA60UW, unless you are only going to use it in a small room. The two use the same filters, but the FPA80UW can process more air in less time, which means it will make a bigger difference in your air quality.

The thing to remember about air purifiers is that they can't eliminate odors whose source remains present. So no air purifier will get rid of the smell of cigarette smoke if there's a smoker in your home, or the smell of mildew if you have a moisture problem. If you have a damp basement, probably the best thing you can do for the quality of the air in your home is to install a dehumidifier in your basement. Once you have eliminated odor sources, I would strongly recommend this air purifier to help keep your home's air clean.

Finally, when I was shopping for an air purifier I found the following resource to be very helpful: air-purifier-power dot com.
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on June 4, 2013
I thought I was going to die when I first got my cats. It turns out I have been highly allergic my whole life and never knew, WHOOPS!

Anyway this keeps the amount of dust and dander to a minimum in my house, which is not only great for me physically, but it also creates a lot less dusting and cleaning for me. It's not FLAWLESS but coming from a house without an air purifier, I would never go back!

This is also really easy to clean, and its super quiet unless you put it on the high settings, but on auto it's like SILENT. I have it in my living room right behind my couch where I watch TV and it never disturbs sound conversations. The only time it get loud is when it needs to be cleaned, and it will only do that for about 10 seconds, all of a sudden you'll hear the fan kick up into high gear and the little red light comes on that it needs to be cleaned, and then it goes back to normal until you get to it.

I really think this thing is great, it's a lot quieter than my Honeywell HHT-081, that thing started knocking about 4 months into it's life. (I still run it, but in the basement away from me) This thing is as quiet as the day it came out of the box and has earned it's right to the living room!
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on February 10, 2015
* Good particle grabber with excellent airflow. I keep it on the medium setting, 24-7, and it uses only 20watts, which is great.
* Particle sensor is pointless. It needs to run constantly in any case to control dust effectively.
* Plasmacluster I could do without, as it's very questionable if it actually does anything.
* The pre-filter is a joke. Would never ever buy a replacement. It does absolutely nothing after about the 1 week it takes to exhaust the tiny amount of granulated carbon in it. I'm using carbon cloth as a pre-filter. You can use any kind of fiberglass filter material. Buy several yards of it and cut it to fit.
* Vacuum every few weeks to extend the HEPA filter life.
* The replacement HEPA filters are hard to find already, and I just bought this thing.

-- I have two of the Sharp units, and they are for bigger particles and to ease the burden on my IQ Air Health Pro Plus, which is the real star in my living room. Also have an Airpura R600 in the closet where the cat litter is, to control odors. So 4 purifiers total in a 700 sq-ft apartment, and that's about right, with two cats and forced-air heat.

UPDATE: Replacement filters are nowhere to be found. How can I feel good about having bought these 2 purifiers, when now there are no replacement HEPA filters for it? If they are sold out everywhere, then how hard is it to make a few more on the next batch you make, Sharp? 3 stars now. Because it's no good if I can't get a replacement filter.

UPDATE 2: Ok I found a replacement HEPA - $65. However, the HEPA should last a long long time if you use the charcoal pad pre-filter material, cut to fit, and vacuum it every month or every few weeks even better. So upgrade to 4 stars since I found a replacement HEPA. Doesn't get 5 stars because plasmacluster is questionable, dust sensor is useless, and pre-filter is a scam to make money and actually will contribute to soiling the HEPA faster.
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