Clean air is beneficial to our lungs, blood circulation, heart, and other health-related systems. However, the air in your home may not be clean.
And this is where air purifiers step in.
According to the EPA, the concentration of some contaminants indoors is often two to five times higher than outdoors.
Pollutants such as smoke from tobacco, burning wood, and cooking; gases from cleaning products and construction materials; dust mites, mold, and pet dander all contribute to an unhealthy indoor environment. These dangerous conditions have recently been exacerbated by the presence of wildfires in California and the Midwest—as well as SARS-CoV-2 if someone at home is infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.
Fine particles, such as those found in dust and smoke, are especially dangerous because they can penetrate deep into the lungs. Breathing them in for a few hours or days is enough to irritate the lungs and trigger asthma episodes, and it has also been related to heart attacks in persons with heart disease. Long-term exposure to high particle levels has also been linked to bronchitis, poor lung function, and early death, according to research.
What Air Purifiers Can Do
The air purifiers that score well in CR’s testing prove to be effective at filtering dust, smoke, and pollen from the air in our labs. Multiple research on room air purifiers demonstrates that utilizing HEPA filters reduces particle matter by 50% or more. Filtration resulted in a 30% reduction of coarse particles, such as dust, in a 2018 study of around 130 houses.
In the case of the coronavirus, air purifiers with HEPA filters can capture the virus’s droplets (when people cough, talk or breathe). However, it must continually suck in enough air to decrease virus particles.
What Air Purifiers Can’t Do
An air purifier can only eliminate allergens that are floating in the air. Larger, heavier allergens like mites, mold, and pollen descend to the ground so quickly that air purifiers can’t catch them in time.
How Can Air Purifiers be helpful?
The best approaches to improve interior air quality are to eliminate polluting sources and to ventilate with fresh air from outside. When those measures are insufficient or unavailable, room air purifiers might assist.
Room air purifiers are intended to filter the air in a specific room, rather than the entire house. (A whole-house system is interconnected with a home’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system.) And, while room air purifiers can help reduce indoor pollution, they have limitations.
What to Look for When Buying an Air Purifier
- Replacement filter costs: As a general rule, change pleated filters (or clean those that can be cleaned) every six to twelve months and activate carbon filters every three months. The majority of the units we examine feature an indicator light that indicates when the filter needs to be changed (or cleaned). The price of filters varies greatly: In our tests, large air purifiers ranged in price from $20 to more than $200. Filters with odor-removing carbon can cost up to $50.
- Certifications: There are a few labels you should look for on the packaging. The first is the Energy Star symbol. Air purifiers must operate continuously to be effective, and you should consider the energy cost when shopping. Energy Star certified purifiers use 40% less energy than regular versions.
- Room size: If an air purifier has an AHAM Verified seal, you may be confident that it can manage the recommended room size specified on the seal. However, be skeptical of manufacturer claims. We examined a number of air purifiers that were not fit for the specified room sizes. Check out our ratings to discover what room size range we recommend for each model based on our testing results. Consider scaling up as well: Most versions fit for big rooms (350 square feet and greater) function well at lower (quieter) speeds, which is convenient for watching TV or sleeping.
- Noise: Consider not only how effectively an air purifier functions, but also how well you will be able to live with it. Because these machines should always be running, they should preferably be quiet as well. Other suggestions for reducing noise from an air purifier include: When you’re not in the room, leave the unit on high speed, then switch it down to low when you’re nearby. Alternatively, choose an air purifier that is certified for a bigger area so that it can filter more air even at low speeds.
How to Get the Most Out of Your Air Purifier
- Replace or clean filters on a regular basis. A dirty filter prevents an air purifier from working efficiently. Filters should be replaced (or cleaned if vacuumable) every six to twelve months for pleated filters and every three months for activated carbon filters.
- Place it with caution. If you only have one unit, place it in the room where you spend the majority of your time. That is, for the most part, the bedroom. (Because some units are heavy and clumsy to handle, if you want an air purifier in numerous rooms, you may wish to get a unit for each room.) Place the air purifier in a location where nothing can restrict airflow.
Other Methods for Improving Indoor Air Quality
Regular vacuuming is required. Larger allergens, such as dust mites and pet hair, that settle on furniture and carpets cannot be removed by air purifiers unless they are disturbed and dispersed into the air. To clean floors and furnishings, use a vacuum with HEPA-certified filtration once or twice a week.
In the kitchen, use an exhaust fan. Repeat in the bathrooms and laundry rooms.
Smoking is not permitted indoors. This also applies to candles and wood fires.
Ventilate. On nice days, open your windows to let in fresh, dry air. If pollen or other allergies prevent you from opening windows, use a clean air filter in your air conditioner or forced-air conditioning system.
Reduce your reliance on chemicals. Limit the use of chemical-laden cleaning products, and keep paint, glues, and insecticides away from your living space.
With each day we are experiencing new viruses and diseases. Especially since Covid-19, we must all invest in a good quality air purifier.
Commercial buildings must also invest in commercial grade air purifiers, to ensure that all stay safe and sound.