Can an air purifier clean the air of coronavirus?

Consumer Reports says air purifiers can help, but they’re not a cure-all

SAN ANTONIO – Running an air purifier in your home can help keep dust, smoke and other allergens at bay, but can it protect you against coronavirus? Consumer Reports says the answer isn’t a simple yes or no.

“For an air purifier to be effective, it must be able to consistently draw in enough air to reduce the number of particles containing the virus that persist in the air,” said James Dickerson, chief science officer for Consumer Reports.

The HEPA filters in most residential air purifiers are certified to capture 99.97% of particles that are 0.3 microns in diameter. But the filters also capture both smaller and larger particles even more efficiently, including the coronavirus.

Where you place an air purifier matters. If someone is sick in your home, the purifier should be placed near the ill person, isolated in a separate room. Even then, it’s not a cure-all.

“The faster an air purifier can exchange air in a room, successfully passing it through its filters, the better its chances of capturing the virus-laden particles,” Dickerson said. “Even then, it’s not going to eliminate all of the particles, nor will the filter capture virus that has landed on surfaces in the room.”

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If you’re looking to buy an air purifier for your home, the Blueair Classic 605 for $830 was the best and fastest in Consumer Reports' particle reduction tests, but it’s pricey and noisy at its highest speed.

For less money, Consumer Reports suggests the Honeywell HPA300 for $220. It earned “excellent” ratings at the highest speed and “very good” ratings at the lowest speeds.

You can see how fast an air purifier cleans the surrounding air by looking at its CADR, or clean air delivery rate. Consumer Reports says to choose a model with a CACR of more than 240, which means that a particular air purifier can perform about five air exchanges per hour in its suggested room size.

An air purifier is not a replacement for distancing, masks and hand-washing. And merely opening your windows will allow fresh air to flow in and help clear the air in a room.

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