Should You Continue to Buy Air Purifiers for Coronavirus?

While the end of the coronavirus (COVID-19) is in sight with the introduction of the vaccine, there are still factors to consider – and we all still need to act with caution. One of the ways people have sought to protect themselves is by using air purifiers, which resulted in 57% sales growth during 2020.

In addition to frequent hand washing and wearing masks, the technology can offer protection against air pollutants and other health risks.

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And since COVID-19 is transferred from person to person and can be airborne, you might think an air purifier could reduce exposure. It’s not that simple, however.

Can an air purifier protect you from coronavirus?

No, it can’t.

An air purifier can fight other causes of respiratory problems and improve the overall air quality in your home, but a standard HEPA filter cannot capture and destroy something as small as a virus. Even if the virus were captured, it would likely survive for a while.

A PECO filter power make a difference, but only in a limited way. The method PECO filters use to extract particles from the air can capture incredibly small objects. According to Dr. Mariea Snell, assistant professor and coordinator of online doctorate nursing programs at the University of Maryville, “a PECO filter could remove a virus from the air given its size,” but she adds that “this is not likely. will have a significant impact, given [coronavirus] lives on surfaces for a long time. “

The coronavirus is spread by person-to-person contact and by contact with contaminated surfaces. The best option for fighting the coronavirus is to avoid contact with anyone who may be infected and to use sound hygiene practices. Wash your hands often and wear a properly rated face mask in areas where you might be exposed to the disease.

Understanding the science of air purifiers and viruses

Air purifiers use fans to suck air in and pass it through a filter before expelling the purified air to the other side. They are particularly effective in removing odors and large particles from the air. If you have pet allergies, for example, an air purifier can help capture dander and reduce your symptoms. On the other hand, there is a limit to what an air purifier can capture.

Even the most powerful air purifiers can only capture particles as small as 0.1 microns or larger, and the vast majority of air purifiers will only capture particles 0.3 microns or larger. A micron is a unit of measurement equal to one millionth of a meter, sometimes called a micrometer.

The main culprits of poor indoor air quality exceed this size limit; mold, pollen, and animal dander are all larger and can be captured and removed by a standard HEPA filter. A slight margin of error is why air purifiers claim a 99% efficiency rate.

Viruses are about 100 times smaller than bacteria and typically vary between 0.004 and 0.1 microns. This means that even the most powerful air filters would have a hard time purging a virus from the air.

COVID-19 belongs to a family of viruses called coronaviruses. The 2013 SARS outbreak was also caused by a coronavirus, which was 0.1 microns in size. According to Snell, the size of COVID-19 is around 0.125 microns.

Alen Corporation, the company behind one of Digital Trends’ best air purifiers of 2020, recommended using a filter treated with an antimicrobial coating that is believed to kill mold, mildew, fungi, bacteria. and viruses on contact.

You absolutely want to make sure that you replace the filters regularly.

We also spoke with Dilip Goswami, co-founder and president of Molekule. “Molekule’s PECO technology has been shown to destroy airborne viruses, and we have conducted extensive testing on RNA and DNA-like viruses to demonstrate this,” he said, adding that the company “is currently working with the University of Minnesota to test the technology on a strain of coronavirus.” “

While Goswami’s claims are promising, the company has come under harsh criticism from Wirecutter and Consumer Reports over the past year. Tips Clearhas not tested Molekule’s air purifier.

Finally, we contacted Dyson. According to a representative, Dyson air purifiers will capture viruses, but not destroy them. The virus will stay alive inside the filter for as long as it typically survives.

As numerous scientific studies have shown, viruses can remain dormant for extremely long periods of time. Dyson went on to comment, “You absolutely want to make sure that you replace the filters regularly….”

HEPA vs PECO filters

There are two main types of air filters: HEPA and PECO. HEPA is an acronym for High-Efficiency Particulate Air. PECO stands for photo electrochemical oxidation.

HEPA filters are made from a type of fabric that works like a net. Air is passed through the fabric by a fan. The particles are captured by this tissue, while the now clean air can exit the other side. Over time, particles will build up on the fabric until it loses its effectiveness. This is why the filters must be replaced.

PECO filters work in a similar, but more complex, way. First, the air passes through a kind of “pre-filter” which is coated with carbon. Then it passes through a larger filter which captures and binds molecules to ions, then destroys them.

HEPA filters are not much more efficient than medium efficiency air filters.

What is better? We interviewed Patrick Van Deventer, product manager for Trane indoor air quality products. “According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), HEPA filters are not much more efficient than medium efficiency air filters with a MERV [Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value] score between 7 and 13, ”Deventer said.

“They are also very restrictive and therefore have limited airflow, so they are typically used in small devices such as portable air purifiers and not in central duct HVAC systems. A MERV rating refers to a scale that measures the power of your air filter.

Dyson Pure Humidify Cool Filters

Michael Rubino, indoor air quality expert and president of All American Restoration, added further caveats. “There are air purification technologies that can destroy biological contaminants such as mold spores and viruses (like H1N1 and SARS),” he said. “However, the technology isn’t just HEPA; Air purifiers that use photocatalytic oxidation (PCO) release ions into the air which bind to and destroy these contaminants. Some air purifiers use filtration in addition to PCO, such as Air Oasis iAdaptAir. “

One last note. We have discussed consumer grade air purifiers here, but there are industrial air purifiers that are capable of completely cleaning the air. However, these machines are bulky and usually cost over $ 1,500 (sometimes a lot more).

MERV-13 filters

According to the National Air Filter Association, a MERV-13 filter is capable of removing 90% of particles between 3 and 10 microns in size, 85% of particles between 1 and 3 microns in size and 50% of particles between 0.30 and 1 micron in size.

So, in theory, a MERV-13 filter power be able to filter viruses out of the air, depending on the specific virus. It is important to keep in mind that a MERV-13 filter only removes 50% of these particles from the air, so this is by no means a foolproof method and should not be considered Such as. This is, however, a step towards more efficient consumer grade air filters.

Many advertisements hail the MERV-13 filter as a way to stop viruses, but the truth is more nuanced. While it may be able to stop some viruses, it won’t stop them all, and there is no confirmed evidence that it can stop the spread of the coronavirus. Investing in a MERV-13 filter will improve the quality of your indoor air and significantly reduce the number of allergens in the air, but this should not be taken as a guarantee against disease.

Air purifiers vs. “smart” air purifiers

There are air purifiers, and then there are clever air purifiers. These devices aren’t as smart as you might think – smart assistant compatibility isn’t an important feature. Instead, these air purifiers display a wealth of information that helps you track the air quality in your home.

For example, most air purifiers require you to replace the filter every three to six months. Meanwhile, a smart air purifier may have dedicated sensors that alert you when the filter needs to be replaced, which saves money and improves the air quality in your home; for example, a home with pets may need to replace a filter within three months for maximum efficiency.

Smart air purifiers often have more powerful filters equipped with powerful sensors. Take the Dyson Pure Humidify + Cool, for example, which is equipped with sensors that monitor volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, like benzene, formaldehyde, and toluene. There are other sensors in smart air purifiers that can also monitor carbon monoxide levels in the home, as well as automatically adjust the strength of filtration based on air quality.

Think about it: During the pollen season, when the air quality in your home is affected due to outside factors, your standard air purifier may struggle to maintain the same level of quality. A smart air purifier knows how to increase its filtration strength and fan speed in order to filter out additional particles in the air.

Most smart air purifiers can be controlled through apps. These apps may or may not provide smart control, but they’re almost guaranteed to give you useful information about the air quality inside your home.

A smart air purifier is almost always the best buy, if only for the difference in quality and control. Knowledge is power, and the more you know about the air quality in your home, the better equipped you are to do something to improve it.

The fundamental problem

Even the best air purifier doesn’t solve the basic problem: Like most viruses, the coronavirus is spread by person-to-person contact and by contact with contaminated surfaces. Air purifiers are able to filter the air in a room over time, but viruses tend to travel short distances between people or land and linger on surfaces. An air purifier, even equipped to kill a virus, often fails to catch a virus before it comes in contact with a person or surface.

Air purifiers are always good to have all year round. Coronavirus is not the only concern, as this year’s terrible pollen season has proven. An air purifier can help reduce the impact of pollen and seasonal allergies by eliminating sniffles and putting trees in their place.

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