We recently selected Sharp’s “triple action” Plasmacluster as the top model in our air purifier humidifier combination guide. For most users, it beat out more humidifier-oriented units thanks to its stellar purification credentials. But, we received a few questions about the differences among Sharp’s Plasmacluster line. So we decided to create a Sharp Plasmacluster review to clarify the key differences in thier lineup.
|Coverage||347 Square Feet||254 Square Feet|
|Humidification||1.5 Pints/hr||1.3 Pints/hr|
|Dimensions||15.8 x 11.4 x 24.8 Inches||14.9 x 10.5 x 23.1 Inches|
- Auto Mode and Air Quality Sensors
- Plasmacluster On/Off
- “Micron Mesh” pre filter screen
- Washable Carbon Filter Life – 5 Years
- HEPA Filter Life – 5 Years
- Humidifier Element Life – 2 Years
- Warranty – 1 Year Parts and Labor from Date of Purchase
- Energy Star Certified
Dual Action vs Triple Action
When you’re shopping the Sharp purifier line, the first thing you’ll want to decide is “do I want purification and humidification?” If you do… you’ll want to go straight to the triple action options. The dual action models are very similar but lack the wicking humidifier element.
To fill the water tank on the two triple-action models just pull the reservoir from the side of the unit, fill it with tap water, and slide it back into the purifier. When it’s time to refill the purifier will let you know. We really like that the reservoir is mess-free. In many humidifiers a refilling of the reservoir means water on the floor. The thing we don’t love is how small the reservoir is pretty small. In slightly arid homes that isn’t a big deal, but desert dwellers may want to get a more powerful humidifier and a separate purifier.
What is a Plasmacluster?
You may have heard of an ionizer as an air purifier feature, Sharp’s tech is similar… but different. Traditional ionizers emit negative ions to clump small particles into larger ones that either fall to the floor or are easily captured on their next trip through the purifier. Sharp’s Plasmacluster technology releases both positive and negative ions. And Sharp says that a +/- combo is much better at taking out mold, bacteria, and odor.
Is it safe? That’s an important question because some ionizers release an unhealthy amount of ozone. Whenever we ask ourselves that safety question the first place we go is the California Air Resources Board list of certified air cleaning devices. Catchy name, right? Purifiers that make this list are certified to emit ozone concentrations of less than 0.050 parts per million. Which is a lot less than national standards. If it’s on the list we’re confident in the level of safety and ozone emissions.
All of the Sharp Plasmacluster models are listed on the California website’s safe list.
What Kind Mechanical of Filtration is Used
One of the things that trips up some shoppers is Sharp’s use of “3 Stage filtration” and “Triple action.” the latter is used to identify purifiers with a humidifying function. The three “actions” are mechanical filtration, plasmacluster ion technology, and humidification. The “3 stage filtration” refers specifically to mechanical filtration, or the filters within the machine. Sharp equips the entire line, both “dual action” and “triple action” with three-stage filtration.
Stage one is a simple prefilter that traps large particles before they can clog the next. Stage two is a washable carbon filter element that traps odor and other gasses that are too small for even a HEPA filter. The carbon filter isn’t huge like that in an AustinAir purifier, but it is large enough for smaller spaces; as long as they don’t have a serious odor problem. The final stage is a HEPA filter, which is a must have for any purifier we recommend. In fact that’s one of the main reasons it beat out the Venta Airwasher in our humidifier and air purifier all-in-one guide. The Venta is more humidifer oriented and lacks HEPA filtration.
Who are these for…
We think these two units are great for the person who has seasonal allergies, and lives in a smaller sized home or apartment. Sharp’s Plasmacluster technology is also a great alternative to someone considering traditional ionizers. Shoppers who like feature rich or all-in-one products will also appreciate Sharp’s approach to humidification and purification. It’s tough to combine two products into one without making serious sacrifices. And, we think sharp did a great job of adding a humidification feature to a solid product.
We also think that anyone who want’s a bit of automation will like the controls and sensors. The 850 and 860-U both provide passive air quality monitoring. They even keep an “eye” on relative humidity and temperature. A lot of more affordable units are basically either on… or off.
Bottom line; if you are shopping for a purifier that can add a bit of humidity to a room you should definitely consider a Sharp Plasmacluster. But, if you need both a humidifier and a purifier… you may be better served by another product (or two standalone products). This is especially the case if you live in an arid and dusty location.
KC-860U vs KC-850U
Price Advantage: KC-850U
The first difference you will probably notice is the price tag. Sharp’s larger KC-860U is about one hundred dollars more than the slightly smaller KC-850U. That might not sound like a lot, but if you’re on a budget and have a small space to purify/humidify we recommend considering the smaller unit. Especially since that cash could be used to buy replacement filters.
Coverage Advantage: KC-860U
The KC860-U will provide you with an additional 93 square feet of cleaning power. That’s roughly the size of a 10 foot by 10 foot room. We think the price to upgrade is worthwhile if you plan to move or you’re renting your current home or apartment.
You may also want to consider that rooms in newer construction are significantly larger. Affording to the National Association of Home Builders the average master bedroom measures 309 square feet. In new homes comprising less than 2,000 total square feet, average master bedrooms size is 231 square feet. In the same home the other bedrooms measure, on average, 261 square feet. So the 850-U’s real world use becomes pretty narrow. Unless you live in an older home or apartment… with lower ceilings.
Aside from older homes the only place we could recommend the 850-U over the 860 would be in a tiny home or apartment with a bedroom. However, since many of those living spaces are closer in design to a loft or studio… you still may be better served by the larger KC-860-U.
Both humidifying air purifiers use the same humidifier “filter” so there is no clear advantage. At least not when it comes to the year two filter replacement. But, what about the other filters that need to be replaced in year five.
As you can see below, the price for the carbon filter is significant. That is until you divide that price by 5 years and look at the per year difference. At MSRP the difference is about two dollars per year.
Moving to the HEPA filters in the 850 and 860 you will notice a similar price difference. Both are within about ten dollars of one another. And, when you consider that these last for five years you will see that replacement filters aren’t a deciding factor.
Overall Advantage: KC-860U
Since there are really no significant disadvantages to the 860 (aside from the initial purchase price), we’re happy to give the larger unit the edge. Overall, it’s a better choice for almost any space.
Sharp Plasmacluster – Purifier Humidifier Combo Review Final Thoughts
We really like the Plasmacluster humidifier and purifier combination. They’re solid products that combine to really important tools for managing indoor air quality. And, if you are worried about ozone they are very safe products.
However, they are not cheap. If you’re on a budget you may want to consider buying a purifier and humidifier separately. You’ll probably get a better purifier as well as a more capable humidifier for well under the price of either of the Plasmacluter units.
However, with that said, we think these combo units are great if space is a major concern. Their footprint is very small compared to two separate devices.
So what would we do? To be quite honest, in a larger home we would buy a whole house humidifier and one to three individual purifiers. Humidity spreads through a living space without much difficulty. Especially if you can place the humidifier near a HVAC’s return air. That way the humidity has a chance to cycle through your home’s ventilation system.
There are also a ton of great purifiers that cost less than (or roughly the same as) either of the Plasmacluster units. In fact here are a few of our favorites…