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COVID-19 has people worrying about indoor air quality, can air purifiers help?

Consumer Reports' experts reveal what a residential air purifier can really do when it comes to cleaning the air.

Running an air purifier is a good idea to keep dust, smoke and other allergens at bay inside your home. But, if someone in your home is sick, can an air purifier help? 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 amount of particles containing the virus that persist in the air,” James Dickerson, Consumer Reports Chief Science Officer said.

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

If someone in your home is sick, they should be isolated in a separate room with an air purifier. Even then, an air purifier isn’t a cure-all.

“The faster an air purifier can exchange air in a room, successfully passing it through its filter, the better its chances of capturing the virus-laden particles. But 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,” Dickerson said.

Consumer Reports says along with the use of an air purifier, people should continue to practice social distancing, wear protective face masks, and follow other guidelines provided by the CDC.

The 830-dollar air purifier from BlueAir is the best and fastest air purifier in CR’s particle reduction tests. However, it’s pricey and noisy at its highest speed. For less money, consider the Honeywell. It scores Excellent and Very Good ratings at its highest speed and lower speed, respectively.

Consumer Reports says you can see how fast an air purifier cleans the surrounding air by looking for its CADR – clean air delivery rate number on the packaging. Choose a model with a CADR over 240. This means that a particular air purifier can perform roughly five air exchanges per hour in its suggested room size. And don’t forget – simply opening your windows and allowing fresh air in can help clear the air in a room.