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From disinfecting sprays to face masks to even touchless garbage cans, there’s no shortage of “essential products” being pushed in the fight against Covid-19. According to medical experts, one additional item that people should be adding to their arsenal is an air purifier.
The best air purifiers (sometimes known as “air cleaners”) help to eliminate dust, pollen, smoke and other irritants from the air, but a good air purifier could also go a long way towards eliminating dangerous airborne germs and bacteria too. The CDC says air purifiers “can help reduce airborne contaminants, including viruses, in a home or confined space.” The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) adds that air purifiers are helpful “when additional ventilation with outdoor air is not possible” (say, when you can’t crack open a window at home or work).
According to the EPA, indoor air tends to be two to five times more polluted than outdoor air, since there is less ventilation and recirculation of air. This is where an air purifier can come in, to ensure that you can breathe easy, despite external stressors.
How Does an Air Purifier Work?
An air purifier works by drawing air into its chamber and running it through a filter that captures germs, dust, mites, pollen and other potentially harmful particles from the airstream. The air purifier will then return the clean air back into your home.
These days, the best air purifiers can also help to absorb or filter out odors, say, from cooking or smoke. Some air purifiers are also equipped with heating and cooling settings, to function as a standup fan or heater when the temperatures change.
What is a HEPA Air Purifier?
The best air purifiers use a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter that better captures unwanted particles from the air.
Standard air purifier filters range from coarse to medium in terms of their design and filtration ability (similar to say, how a coffee filter works). These are among the most commonly used air filters in homes and workplaces today. But according to Kevin Shim, director of Coway US (a home appliance company known for their air and water purifiers), these standard filters, while certainly effective, are not as efficient as HEPA filters. “If you are looking for a high-performance air filter,” he says, “HEPA filters are among the best in the market today.”
While they used to be expensive and difficult to find, HEPA filter air purifiers are used everywhere these days, from homes and automobiles, to aircrafts and medical facilities.
Shim says it’s important to distinguish between HEPA and True HEPA air purifiers to ensure that your needs are met. “Essentially,” he explains, “True HEPA air purifiers capture up to 99.97 percent of particles as small as 0.3 microns, which include a range of allergens and odors. On the other hand, a purifier with a HEPA-type filter is capable of capturing 99 percent of particles that are 2 microns or larger, such as pet dander and dust. While these particles are too tiny for the human eye to see,” Shim cautions, “they are large enough to penetrate your lungs and cause problematic reactions.”
Can an Air Purifier Help With Covid?
Can using an air purifier protect you from getting Covid? The short answer is yes — and no. The CDC says these units can help “reduce the airborne concentration of the virus that causes Covid-19 (SARS-CoV-2), which can reduce the risk of transmission through the air.” Still, the agency is quick to stress that using an air purifier or portable air cleaner is “not enough to protect yourself and your family from Covid-19.” You should still practice regular coronavirus prevention procedures, like washing your hands with soap and water, using hand sanitizer when soap is not available, and wearing a face covering when in close contact with others.
Glory Dolphin Hammes is a Council-certified Indoor Environmentalist (CIE) who worked with the Hong Kong Hospital Authority to provide air purification systems during the SARS outbreak, and worked with the U.S. Olympic Committee to create a safe, clean air environment for athletes during the Beijing Olympics. She says an air purifier is an important item to have in your home or workspace. “Air purifiers can be helpful during the coronavirus pandemic because they can clean the air and circulate clean air in indoor spaces that may have little to no ventilation,” Dolphin Hammes says. “Research has shown that ventilation either through open windows or doors, or through air purifiers, is essential to decreasing transmission rates through dilution.”
Like the CDC though, Dolphin Hammes cautions against seeing air purifiers as an all-in-one solution or quick fix. “I think it is crucial for consumers to understand that not all air purifiers are made the same,” she says, “and not all air purifiers can remove the coronavirus from the air.”
Other Benefits of an Air Purifier
An air purifier doesn’t just target harmful germs and bacteria, it can also be used to help reduce odors around the house and to filter out smoke. “Air purifiers have become top-of-mind to consumers during 2020 especially, as wildfires continue to batter the West Coast, leaving behind significant smoke pollution,” says Shim. That, coupled with the coronavirus’ impact on respiratory health, Shim explains, “has driven consumers to think more holistically about how and what they’re breathing.”
Shim says Coway’s line of air purifiers has seen “record-breaking sales,” as wildfire and coronavirus fears continue in many parts of the country. The North Carolina-based Oransi, meantime, says their air purifiers have been “backordered” for weeks, after seven local school districts bought out their entire inventory due to increasing Covid infection rates in the state.
Oransi, whose popular Mod air purifier removes mold spores, pet dander and smoke, in addition to bacteria and dust, began after its founder sought to find ways to treat his asthmatic son. The company cites data from the World Health Organization, which finds that air pollution is the world’s top environmental health risk. Even without the threat of Covid in the air, a good air purifier will go a long way towards purifying the air in your space, helping to eliminate stuffiness, congestion and nasal irritation. As Oransi states on its site, “We believe everyone deserves to breathe clean, fresh air.”
What Are the Best HEPA Air Purifiers?
Looking for an easy and effective way to eliminate virus-causing germs and bacteria from your air? Here are some of the best HEPA air purifiers to buy online.
1. IQAir Atem Desk Personal Air Purifier
Dolphin Hammes recommends the IQAir Atem Desktop Air Purifier, which uses the company’s exclusive HyperHEPA filters to remove ultra-fine particles down to 0.003 microns. Hammes says the filters are effective enough to remove airborne viruses and particles that are ten times smaller than a virus. What you get: 99% purified air to your personal breathing zone. The unique circular design is great for airflow and everything can be easily monitored and adjusted through the MyAtem app.
This portable air purifier is great for your desk or a small room. It can cover up to 150-square-feet of space.
IQAir Atem Desktop Air Purifier, $399, available at Amazon
2. Coway Airmega 150 Air Purifier
Clean and compact, Coway’s newest air purifier uses a three-stage filtration process to get rid of 99.97% of particulates in the air. The shoebox-sized unit contains a pre-filter, a deodorization filter, and a True HEPA filter to better reduce and eliminate airborne contaminants. An air quality indicator gives you real-time monitoring of the air in your room, and lights on the unit also let you know when the filter needs replacing. The reusable filter slides out easily for cleaning and drying.
Though it’s small in size, Coway says the Airmega 150 can cover up to 214 square feet of space, making it great for a bedroom, office or small studio. We like the “sage green” colorway too, which makes this air purifier a nice alternative to the basic black and white units on the market.
Coway Airmega 150 Air Purifier, $189.99, available at Coway
3. Oransi Mod Air Purifier
Oransi says the Mod has been lab tested to remove 99.6% of particles that are Covid-sized (125 nm) to help keep you safe at home (note: there is no official test for the removal of the coronavirus complete, so Oransi tested the performance of its air purifier across a variety of nanometer sizes that encompass virus sizes). Its True HEPA filter also helps to remove allergens, mold, pet dander and smoke.
The Mod uses a Japanese high efficiency motor and unique cylindrical design to cover a 1,250 square-foot room two times per hour. Monitor your settings via the intuitive swipe-touch glass control system.
The Mod is Energy Star-certified for efficiency, with its super-quiet motor using about 90% less power than traditional air purifiers.
Oransi Mod Air Purifier, $599.99, available at Amazon | See other Oransi models here if out of stock
4. PhoneSoap AirSoap
PhoneSoap is best-known for its UV sanitizing devices, which are great for eliminating bacteria on your phone, keys and small accessories. Now the company is getting into the air purifier game with the introduction of AirSoap, which swaps a traditional filter for a “high-energy ‘Electric Wind’ technology,” that PhoneSoap says is more effective at cleaning the air.
The company says the AirSoap’s advanced purification system — which uses a high-energy plasma field to trap and ionize the air particles that flow through — can trap and kill even the smallest viruses, down to 14.6 nanometers (most disposable HEPA filters can only filter down to 300 nanometers). And while the AirSoap is not marketed as a Covid-killing device, the company says the air purifier is able to capture extremely small viruses like coronaviruses and Influenza, that are usually “too small for traditional filters to capture.”
AirSoap Air Purifier, $399, available at PhoneSoap
5. Samsung Cube
For an effective and gentle clean, you’ll want to pick up the Samsung Cube. Backed by Samsung’s years of research in both technology and design, the Cube uses a three-stage filtration process to reduce and remove irritants like pollen and smoke, while eliminating up to 99.97% of ultra-fine dust.
Samsung says the device is certified to reduce allergies, and it’s safe enough to use in a child’s room or nursery as well. The Cube is whisper-quiet and doesn’t release any wind. Its air quality sensor, meantime, uses a laser to monitor air particles, with instant feedback on the front digital display. Use Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant or Bixby to control the device with your voice, and monitor your settings on the SmartThings app.
What we like: the Cube is a modular design purifier — a single unit covers rooms up to 310-square-feet, but you can also get a second unit to stack, to easily double your coverage.