When Phil Collins sings, "I can feel it coming in the air tonight," he isn't warning you to beware of the virus that causes COVID-19 as you join friends, family, or colleagues indoors this winter.
But it might make you wonder what you can do to reduce the risks in closed environments.
The answer: Use a multifaceted approach. ConsumerLab.com conducted extensive tests on the virus-filtering abilities of air filters. The bottom line is that "portable air cleaners ... cannot protect people when used on their own, but they can be part of a strategy for protecting people indoors when used along with other recommended practices."
Those recommended practices include (temperatures permitting) opening windows, running air conditioners with the outside air vent open, wearing masks, and sitting at least six feet apart.
As for choosing an air-filtering device, HEPA filters are best. (It’s also smart to have far-UVC light as part of the filtration process).
Fibrous filters, including HEPA filters, are rated as minimum efficiency reporting values (MERV) of 1 to 16. Only those rated MERV 11 or higher remove particles 0.3 to 1 micron in size. While those size particles are larger than the virus that causes COVID-19, aerosolized droplets containing viruses are up to 5 microns and may be captured by fibrous filters.
Most HEPA-designated residential air cleaners perform at levels comparable to MERV 16 — with an efficiency of 99% or higher.
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