Practical Mila: Much smarter (and more expensive) than your average air purifier
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Whether you have allergies or just want to breathe the freshest air possible, an air purifier might be a wise purchase. Air purifiers are capable of removing fine particles like dust, pollen, pet dander, and smoke. They have also been shown to capture airborne pathogens such as the virus that causes COVID-19 (at least according to this NASA study which states that HEPA filters are effective in capturing ultrafine particles). That’s not to say you shouldn’t wash your hands or wear a mask when you’re around strangers, but at the very least, an air purifier can give you some peace of mind.
Smart air purifiers have roughly the same cleaning properties as regular air purifiers except with some additional technology added. There is often a companion app that lets you control it remotely or tell you when it’s time to replace your filter. Some let you schedule cleaning cycles for certain times of the day or just give you more data on how clean or dirty your air is. A few are also compatible with smart assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant.
Smart purifiers have been on the market for a few years now – examples include Levoit smart WiFi air purifier, Coway Airmega 400, Winix AM90, Dyson Pure Cool Air Purifier and the TruSens smart air purifier. Some of them are more expensive than their non-intelligent counterparts – the original Molekule costs $ 800 – but not all of them are. The Levoit and Winix, for example, each cost less than $ 200. So far, I’m not convinced that smart air purifiers are much better than the non-smart variety.
The Mila, which debuted last year, could be different. It is not compatible with any smart assistant and it is slightly expensive to $ 360, but it also promises to be a lot more customizable than most air purifiers on the market. After a few weeks of testing I have to say I’m impressed with its ability, so much so that I’m considering buying one.
When purchasing the device, you can choose one of seven pre-configured filters to use with it. The default is the basic breather, which is designed for larger rooms like your primary living space. It includes a HEPA H12 filter optimized for maximum particle filtration. Another filter is called the Big Sneeze, which has an H13 HEPA filter designed for allergens like pollen and dust. However, neither has an activated carbon filter, so they won’t remove volatile organic compounds (VOCs for short) like those found in odious gases.
If you want a carbon filter, consider the Rookie Parent, Critter Cuddler, Home Wrecker, Mama-to-Be, or Overreactor (yes, those are real names), each designed for specific concerns. The Overreactor, for example, has an improved H14 HEPA filter for the filtration of ultrafine particles and a more robust carbon filter targeted for formaldehyde. The trade-off with more powerful filters like these is that they are less effective at cleaning large spaces and therefore are better suited for small areas like bedrooms or studios.
I tried the Basic Breather and the Critter Cuddler, which features an H13 HEPA filter optimized for pet dander; a charcoal filter made for ammonia removal (which I really appreciated for reducing the stench of our litter box); and a washable sock designed to capture fur and larger particles. I like the Critter Cuddler based purely on removing odors, but without our cat I would probably stick with the Basic Breather as it worked pretty well most of the time.
Setting up the Mila is fairly straightforward; all you need to do is plug it in and it will immediately go into calibration mode, where it will automatically assess the size of the room and how dirty the air is. A display on the top of the Mila shows the Indoor Air Quality Index (AQI) as well as the outdoor rating, which it pulls from Purple Air sensors in your neighborhood. There are also physical touch controls, but it’s much easier to use the companion app instead.
From here you can choose to use the Mila in manual or automatic mode; manual is where you set the target AQI and fan speed yourself, while the automobile essentially transfers control to Mila to automatically adjust settings based on your surroundings. Tell Mila which room you are using it in (for example, living room, kitchen, or bedroom), whether you are in an urban or suburban environment, how big your house is and if it is an old or new construction gives Mila more information on how to adapt to your surroundings.
You can customize the Mila even more. For example, you can activate “Bubble Boy Mode”, which prompts Mila to go all out at any noise level to get rid of as many particles as possible. Then there is the ‘Housekeeping’, which basically does the same thing, but only when no one is in the room. The opposite is “silent mode,” which reduces the fan speed when it detects your presence.
There are also room-specific options, including sleep mode (lights off, low fan speed, and controlled fan fluctuations) and nightly turndown service (it automatically turns on an hour before bedtime to ‘clean up’). room depth and reduce nighttime allergies). Additionally, there is a White Noise mode that adjusts the rhythm of the oscillating fans to mimic soothing sounds (Chasing Waterfalls, for example, equals 2.7 air changes per hour, while the meditative state equals 1, 6 air changes per hour). As someone who sometimes turns my fan on just to use it as a white noise machine, I really like this mode.
Thanks to Mila’s different sensors, it also gives you tons of information about the air in your home. It can track particles, humidity, temperature, VOCs, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide. If it detects carbon monoxide in the air, it will beep to alert you. If the humidity is too high, this alerts you to possible mold growth. As someone living in a 104-year-old house near wildfire country, I admit having all of these sensors is reassuring.
Of course, Mila isn’t perfect either. Measuring 12 inches wide by 15.5 inches high, it has a relatively large footprint, especially in a small room. It actually doesn’t look too bad from a design standpoint, but I wish there was a smaller version better suited for a nightstand. Plus, in addition to the expensive machine, the filters themselves cost at least $ 59 each. Unfortunately, it looks like the filters are proprietary, so you’ll probably want to sign up for the subscription service who sends you a new one every six months.
Aside from these issues, the Mila offers great value beyond a normal air purifier. Yes, it costs about $ 100 more than my existing one (and not very smart) Coway AP-1512HH Mighty (which I like by the way), but it also offers a lot more features. If all you want is a simple air purifier, the Mila may be too much for you. But if you want one that’s highly customizable, offers a lot of data about your air quality, and can be improved over time, the Mila is worth a look.