VANCOUVER -- Concern over COVID-19 has many people worrying about indoor air quality and wondering whether an air purifier can help. Consumer Reports’ experts recently looked into 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? According to James Dickerson, Consumer Reports’ chief science officer, the answer isn’t simple. 

“For an air purifier to be effective, it must also be able to consistently draw in enough air to reduce the amount of particles containing the virus that persist in the air,” he says. 

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

If someone in your household is sick, he or she 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,” Dickerson says. “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.”

If you are looking for an air purifier, the Blueair Classic 605 costs about $1,000, and according to Consumer Reports, was the fastest in particle reduction tests. But it costs a lot and noisy when on the highest speed. 

For less money, there’s the Honeywell HPA300, which costs about $335. It got excellent scores in the tests and very good ratings at both its highest and lowest speeds. 

Along with the use of an air purifier, you should also continue to practice social distancing, wear protective face masks, and follow other public health guidelines. 

With files from Consumer Reports