I think most people that read this site would agree on one “cigar bucket list” item: being able to smoke inside your own home or office without the complications of smoking inside of your own home or office. Namely, people complaining about the smoke or smell.
Depending on your situation, this might be very possible, and inevitably, some of you are already doing this. But for most, the issue of smoking inside is very obvious: the smoke. At halfwheel, we’ve made multiple purchases of air purifiers ranging from $150 to thousands of dollars. While each of these solutions had its pros and cons, the air purifiers that are used the most at our office smoking lounge is one of the name brands of air purification: Rabbit Air.
WHAT IS IT?
In January 2021, Rabbit Air introduced its newest air purifier, the A3. It’s a new form factor compared to the company’s MinusA2, previously its most powerful air purifier and one that you have likely seen in cigar shops. From the outside, the A3’s matte black look doesn’t immediately scream air purifier, though in fairness, neither did the MinusA2.
It measures 19.7 inches x 18.9 x 8.4—slightly smaller than the A2—and weighs 20.3 pounds. The front panel is removable—it attaches to the base with magnets—and has an intake that runs down the center of the panel as well as space for air to enter from all four sides as it doesn’t seal flush against the body of the unit. The main unit features an angled top, which is where the buttons and an LED light strip sit, and then the very top is the exhaust where the cleaned air exits the unit.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
The A3 has an MSRP of $749.95.
A set of replacement filters costs $105.95
The app is free.
WHAT’S IN THE BOX?
The A3, one set of filters, and the wall mounting hardware.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
In the most basic terms, the unit has a fan that is placed behind a series of filters. The Rabbit Air sucks in air, which goes through the filters and then out the top of the unit. This is no different than the MinusA2, but more on that below.
As with the MinusA2, the unit has a six-stage air purification system:
- Pre-filter — This is a washable mesh filter that is made to attract larger particles including hair, dust, pollen, bugs or anything else that might get picked up by the unit. This is the one filter that isn’t designed to be replaced, instead, Rabbit Air recommends cleaning it once per month by running it under water and letting it dry.
- Medium Filter — The air then goes through a replaceable filter that is made to capture particles larger than 1 micron that weren’t picked up by the pre-filter. This could include anything such as pet hair, mold or bacteria.
- Carbon Charcoal Filter — This is a filter that has large activated carbon, which is designed to help remove odors, including smoke.
- BIOGS HEPA Filter — Rabbit Air claims its HEPA filters are better than any competitors thanks to its use of electrostatic fibers. These fibers are charged, which helps them catch more particles than a typical HEPA filter, according to the company. Rabbit Air says that it will trap “allergen and particles 0.3 microns in size at 99.97% efficiency and over 99% efficiency for particles less than 0.1 microns.”
- Customized Filter — Like the MinusA2, customers can customize their A3 by selecting from one of four different filters: germ defense, toxin absorber, pet allergy, and odor remover. Cigar smokers want odor remover, though these filters can be changed whenever you replace the filters, meaning if you bought the germ defense filter, you just need to buy a new set of filters and not a whole new unit to tackle the test of removing cigar smoking odors.
- Negative Ions — Like many air filters, Rabbit Air uses electrically charged ions to charge air potables. The idea is that these ions attach to contaminants in the air and those particles are now charged and stick to a surface, like a wall or the ground. While this technology is proven, it’s not as magical—particularly in less aggressive settings—than more standard air purification methods.
HOW DOES THE APP WORK?
It’s pretty simple but effective. Above are some pictures of the setup of the app, which is very easy. It only connects via wi-fi and took just a few minutes to complete the setup.
You can see more of the app in action in the YouTube video above. The app can control all the functions that are included on the touch panel of the unit, plus the ability to control the RGB mood lighting. With both the A2 and A3, my default is to just leave the unit in Auto mode, so the app isn’t really that important for me.
VERSUS THE MINUSA2
The MinusA2 is offered in a variety of options, but at its core there is the 700-square-foot model ($549.95), a 780-square-foot model ($599.95), and a wi-fi enabled 780-square-foot option ($619.95).
While unboxing the A3 it was obvious that the filters are larger than the MinusA2, but I was curious if they were actually any different. As it turns out, they aren’t. And I suspect this means that for people that already have a MinusA2 that is functioning well enough to their standards there likely isn’t a reason to upgrade.
That being said, there are some improvements:
- It’s Smaller Yet Has a Greater Coverage Area — Rabbit Air rates the A3 for rooms up to 1,070-square-feet. The company says that the filtration power is “43% higher than the MinusA2 based on the smoke CADR.”
- Upside Down Mounting — Perhaps the largest upgrade, and one that applies to our halfwheel smoking lounge, is that the unit can be mounted on a wall upside down. The MinusA2 can be wall-mounted, but Rabbit Air says there should be at least two feet of clearance between the top of the unit and the ceiling. Because the A3 can be mounted upside down, this is no longer a limitation for those hoping to mount the unit close to a ceiling.
- Laser Particle Sensing Technology — This is all above my head, but the company says “the air quality particle sensor is based on laser particle sensor technology which can detect PM10 and PM2.5. The app will display a particle density (concentration) for each size.”
- Filter Tracking — The filters now have an NFC tag on them which means that the app can track when it thinks the filters need to be replaced. Fortunately, the A3 will run even if there aren’t any filters inside so you don’t need to be concerned about proprietary filters. That being I’m not sure how many third-party filters there are for the MinusA2, let alone the new A3.
There are some other upgrades: the device definitely appears more modern, the buttons on the unit are now touch-activated and there’s RGB mood lighting for those that want it. The design of some of the filters has changed but I’m not sure how impactful those changes are compared to the fact that the filters are just larger.
WHAT WE TESTED AND DIDN’T TEST
As much as I would have liked to, this review is based on real-world use and not scientific testing. Not only is most of this science way above my head, but we also didn’t really have a practical way of testing the improvement claims. That would have required us to utilize some sort of cleanroom and controlled test, which are all things that seemed a bit too expensive for us to test one air filter.
Instead what we did was to replace one of our existing MinusA2 units—the one that encounters the bulk of the smoke—with the new A3. Neither Brooks Whittington nor I noticed much of a difference in the nearly daily use of the A3. That being said, it’s not like the A2 was struggling before it, so I wasn’t expecting much change there.
There are two things that I did notice. First, the smoke needs to travel less distance before it gets in range of being sucked in by the A3. Some of this is probably due to the more powerful fan but some of this is also due to the new front inlet. It’s a difference of inches, not feet, but it is noticeable. Second, it does seem like the unit is a bit more responsive in toggling between fan speeds in automatic mode.
- It Works Quite Well — So long as the smoke makes it near the unit and isn’t being moved away by something like an A/C vent, the A3 will suck up most of the smoke. Not only that, but because it has two different odor removing filters, the air comes out with very little of the tobacco smoke odor. That’s a big difference compared to cheaper air filters that don’t typically have much in the way of odor removal or absorption.
- It’s Pretty Quiet — We’ve spent at least $6,000 on air purifiers in the last two years, not to mention the costs of filters and installation. The unit that we use the most is the Rabbit Air and it’s for one big reason: the noise, or lack thereof. While the commercial units we own will suck up way more smoke, they are loud, and much louder than the Rabbit Air. The difference in air cleanliness between the A3 and a commercial unit is negligible, but the commercial unit on its lowest setting is exponentially louder than the Rabbit Air on its highest setting.
- The Automatic Sensing Feature Works Well — While this is pretty standard on consumer air filters for this price, it’s nice to be able to just sit down and light up without having to touch anything. The Rabbit Air will automatically adjust once the smoke gets near it and will slow down once I’m done smoking.
- Setting it Up is Super Simple — Not only is the setup process very well explained, but it takes about 10 minutes to set up the Rabbit Air even if you’ve never done it before. Furthermore, the included wall mount requires just basic tools and skills and can easily be done by one person. There’s no need for ceiling mounts or electrical work. Rabbit Air even includes a leveling bubble on the wall mount.
- It Is Easy to Move Around — This is a massive understatement in terms of its importance. What we’ve learned in our smoking area is that the smoke doesn’t always move the same way. In fact, the smoke’s direction in our room will change depending on the outside temperature. Unlike a ceiling-mounted commercial unit, whenever this happens we can just move the Rabbit Air where the smoke is going. Furthermore, this also means if you ever want to take this over to a friend’s house for say a garage poker night, it’s very easy.
- The App is a Nice Bonus Feature — I certainly never needed to have an air purifier that I could control with my phone, but it’s a nice feature. The big selling point here is the ability to check the air filters, though I wish the app would also remind me to clean the pre-filter at its recommended monthly intervals.
- The Mounting Options — Our other MinusA2 is wall-mounted and is not two feet away from the ceiling. It seems to work okay, but it’s nice that Rabbit Air took the time to come up with an easy fix here. That being said, one thing I’m a bit curious about is whether the exhaust vent pointed down will make it more challenging for the smoke to enter the unit versus when it is right side up.
- Five-Year Warranty — I’ve never used it but the Rabbit Air comes with a five-year warranty, which seems pretty generous compared to competitors.
- The Art Panels — Rabbit Air will sell you an optional panel that has iconic artwork instead of the matte black front. I’ve never wanted to have my air purifier depict Van Gogh’s Starry Night, but perhaps there’s some room where that would be a better option.
- I’d Like a White Option — I imagine it’s coming, but I’d like a white unit to mount onto our white walls.
- The Price Point is Getting High — This is a noticeable jump up in price and it’s probably going to make it out of reach for many people’s budgets, particularly given that Rabbit Air is still selling the MinusA2. I think the premium versus the MinusA2 is justified but it’s creeping towards a different product category.
The following are some thoughts I have regarding air purifiers in general. All of them apply to the A3, though none of them are unique to the A3 or other Rabbit Air units.
- There’s a Difference Between “Clean Air” and “No Odors” — This is the reason why the Rabbit Air—and probably any air purifier—isn’t going to be a magic solution for anyone. I have no doubt that if you had a bunch of smoke in a sealed room and placed the Rabbit Air inside, it would get rid of the smoke. Unfortunately, getting rid of the visible smoke is only one part of being able to smoke a cigar without the smoking consequences.
- It Only Cleans the Air That Makes it to the Unit — This applies to all air filters, but the A3 is limited in that it will only clean the air that goes through the filters. In our halfwheel lounge—which isn’t an airtight room—this has been something we’ve had to make adjustments for. Over the course of a cigar, I’ll see the smoke leaving the cigar go up, left, right, angles, etc. It’s just not a consistent flow and it can be affected by any number of things: is the A/C running, is the air temperature outside changing, is the air pressure changing, did the ashtray move, which direction are you blowing out the smoke, etc.
- Once the Smoke Misses the Unit, It Probably Isn’t Getting There — Because the Rabbit Air is a stationary device, it’s limited as to what it can actually reach, particularly outside of a truly sealed room. Every room will be different, but if the Rabbit Air is on the left side of your room and the smoke goes right, I’m not sure—outside of having additional solutions like fans—how the smoke will ever make it back to the unit.
- And Once That Happens, the Odors Will Linger — While some of that dirty air might eventually make it back to the unit, my practical experience tells me that a lot of it won’t. The smoke and the odors it carries will eventually make it somewhere else and it will like settle. This could be a wall, the floor, furniture, etc. This should be self-explanatory, but once the odor is on or inside your furniture, the Rabbit Air isn’t going to be much of use.
- Fresh Air Makes A Big Difference — If I’ve learned anything through our lounge experience it’s that even when the ashtray is placed a foot from the Rabbit Air—or other air purifiers—you still want to have fresh air—air from an outside source—being added to the room. If you don’t have this, you are probably going to have issues.
The obvious competition is one of Rabbit Air’s MinusA2 units, or more specifically, one of the less expensive MinusA2s ($549.95-619.95) and a small fan. I think the combination of the MinusA2 plus a small fan is probably a better use of $750 than an A3 without the fan. The key with both units is getting the smoke to the unit and if you are struggling to get some of the smoke close to the air purifier, a small fan does wonders to fix this problem.
Outside of Rabbit Air’s own offerings, I can’t say that I’ve consistently seen another consumer-focused air purifier marketed towards cigar smokers or used in cigar stores. That being said, I have experience trying to use three other air purifiers—none of which are direct competitors—to try to mitigate cigar smoke.
- Coway Mighty AP-15 ($200) — I’ve purchased these for as little as $120 and while it is highly recommended for general use, it isn’t going to be as effective for cigar smoke. The biggest difference for me is that the odor removal isn’t close at all. While the Coway will get rid of the visible smoke, the air that leaves the unit smells. The Rabbit Air’s cleaned air isn’t perfect, but it’s a very mild odor compared to the Coway. For me, this is a dealbreaker as that means the room that you are in is going to smell.
- LakeAir LA-2000 OC ($1,845) — This is an electrostatic air purifier, meaning you can occasionally hear it zap like a bug zapper. Not only is the fan—even in its lowest setting—quite loud, it’s also only got one intake area. That means if the smoke misses it, the unit isn’t going to do much. Furthermore, once the smoke misses the intake, there’s a decent chance the strong exhaust will push it even further away from the intake. This is a commercial solution that I imagine is designed to work in tandem with multiple units in large spaces.
- Smokemaster C-12 ($2,695) — We replaced the above unit with the C-12, which remains in our lounge. This is a much better solution but is probably overkill for anything short of a cigar lounge. While it’s a lot quieter, on its lowest setting it is still quite loud compared to the Rabbit Air. Properly mounted in a cigar lounge, this unit can work very well but it’s complete overkill for anything short of that. One other annoyance I have with the C-12 is that its filters quickly absorbed tobacco odor meaning that within about a month of use just turning the air purifier on even when not smoking made the room smell like a cigar shop.
- A Note About Other Consumer Air Purifiers — While these will likely be cheaper and have flashier marketing than the Rabbit Air, unless an air purifier is specifically designed for tobacco smoke, I’d stay away. At halfwheel, we are pretty big fans of Wirecutter and you can read its thoughts on a variety of consumer units here. Though once again, I suspect most of these will be a waste of money unless you are just trying to mitigate a situation where you are hotboxing your garage over the winter. If you don’t care about odor removal, the Coway and many other devices like this will probably do okay.
SHOULD YOU BUY IT?
While I don’t think it’s worth upgrading for existing Rabbit Air owners, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the $200 premium over the lower-end MinusA2. Functionally, the unit performs as well as the MinusA2s and I’m willing to take Rabbit Air’s claims that the larger and more powerful air filtration is better. The real question is whether that $200 could be spent better elsewhere and I suspect that buying a small fan to place on the other side of the room to help encourage more of the smoke to make it to the Rabbit Air is probably a better use of that money.