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Fact Sheet & Resources for Asthma Programs: Choosing Safe, Effective & Affordable Air Cleaners

Air cleaners, sometimes called air purifiers, can help clear out wildfire smoke particles and other asthma triggers in the home—but air cleaners and replacement filters are expensive. See tips and resources to choose safe, effective and affordable air cleaners.

Girl using an inhaler with her family

People with asthma are at risk of exacerbation from wildfire smoke exposure, and the number and length of wildfires in California have been growing in recent years.

Air cleaners, also known as air purifiers, can greatly improve indoor air quality, but they are often cost-prohibitive for low-income families. Navigating the complex field of products is challenging as they vary widely in cost, performance and safety.

PHI’s Regional Asthma Management and Prevention (RAMP), in partnership with PHI’s Dr. Gina Solomon, has developed materials for asthma programs to help their clients choose safe, effective, and affordable air cleaners. These resources may also be useful for families and individuals with asthma seeking to purchase or access air cleaners for personal use:

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how to choose a safe & effective air cleaner

Share the slides on Instagram: Part one and part two

have you considered: How big is the room where the air cleaner will be used? Is it a mechanical air cleaner with no ionizer? Is it CARB (California Air Resources Board) certified?

Share the slides on Instagram: Part one and part two

Why is room size important? Air cleaners are made to clean different sized rooms. So it is important to use one that is powerful enough to clean the amount of air in the room where it will be used.

Share the slides on Instagram: Part one and part two

The clean air delivery rate (CADR) tells you how much air the air cleaner cleans hourly. This is measured in cubic feet per minute (cfm) Use an air cleaner with a CADR up to 200 cfm for a small room, 200-300 cfm for a medium sized room, and more than 300 cfm for a large room

Share the slides on Instagram: Part one and part two

What type of air cleaner is best? Mechanical air cleaners with High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters or filters rated *MERV-13 and higher are best. Many electronic air cleaners have a feature called "ionizers". Ionizers may emit ozone or other byproducts that can irritate the lungs. For air cleaners with an ionizer feature, encourage clients to keep the ionizer turned off

Share the slides on Instagram: Part one and part two

All air cleaners sold in California must be certified by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). It is important to check this because sometimes air cleaners that are not certified are sold in California

Share the slides on Instagram: Part one and part two

Other certifications that might be useful are: Energy Star the product uses energy efficiently. This saves money and helps the environment. Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) the product is independently tested & rated for its ability to clean the air. Manufacturers pay for AHAM to evaluate their products, so an air cleaner may still be good even if it is not certified by AHAM.

Share the slides on Instagram: Part one and part two

Air cleaners and replacement filters are expensive, so it's important for asthma programs to provide them to clients, when possible.

Share the slides on Instagram: Part one and part two

If your program is unable to buy air cleaners, you can inform clients about less expensive options like the DIY box fan: https://bit.ly/3AjpfGl There are very effective air cleaners for $250 or less: https://bit.ly/3NQqwr

Share the slides on Instagram: Part one and part two

Air cleaners work best at their highest fan speed. However, they may also be loud. During a poor air quality day, the cleaner should be on the highest setting for best results. Air cleaners that are above 55 decibels (dB) are quite noisy and will be unpleasant for most people

Share the slides on Instagram: Part one and part two

example of an air cleaner for a small room

Share the slides on Instagram: Part one and part two

example of an effective air cleaner for a medium room

Share the slides on Instagram: Part one and part two

example of an effective air cleaner for a large room

Share the slides on Instagram: Part one and part two

For more information on which air purifier would be right for you, please refer to our "Air Cleaners for Asthma Programs" pamphlet: bit.ly/3NQqwrL

Share the slides on Instagram: Part one and part two

Fact Sheet: Air Cleaners for Asthma Programs

Air cleaners, sometimes called air purifiers, can help clear out wildfire smoke particles and other asthma triggers in the home. Air cleaners and replacement filters are expensive. Asthma programs can help improve their clients’ asthma by giving them portable air cleaners.

Asthma programs can provide air cleaners through grant funds, contracts with Managed Care Organizations, partnerships with regional air districts, and donations & discounts from air cleaner manufacturers.

How to choose a safe and effective cleaner: Consider the following:

  • How big is the room where the air cleaner will be used?
  • Is it a mechanical air cleaner with no ionizer?
  • Is it CARB certified?

Why is room size important?

Air cleaners are made to clean different sized rooms. So it is important to use one that is powerful enough to clean the amount of air in the room where it will be used. The clean air delivery rate (CADR) tells you how much air the air cleaner cleans hourly. This is measured in cubic feet per minute (cfm). Use an air cleaner with a CADR up to 200 cfm for a small room, 200-300 cfm for a medium sized room, and more than 300 cfm for a large room.

What type of air cleaner is best?

Mechanical air cleaners with High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters or
filters rated *MERV-13 and higher are best. Many electronic air cleaners have a feature called “ionizers”. Ionizers may emit ozone or other byproducts that can irritate the lungs. For air cleaners with an ionizer feature, encourage clients to keep the ionizer turned off.

What does CARB certified mean?

All air cleaners sold in California must be certified by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). It is important to check this because sometimes air cleaners that are not certified are sold in California.

Other certifications that might be useful are:

  • Energy Star – means that the product uses energy efficiently. This saves
    money and helps the environment.
  • Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) – means that the
    product is independently tested & rated for its ability to clean the air.
    Manufacturers pay for AHAM to evaluate their products, so an air cleaner
    may still be good even if it is not certified by AHAM.

Other considerations:

  • Cost: Air cleaners and replacement filters are expensive, so it’s important for
    asthma programs to provide them to clients, when possible. If your
    program is unable to buy air cleaners, you can inform clients about less
    expensive options like the DIY box fan. See a construction guide: CorsiRosenthal Cube – Encycla. There are also very effective air cleaners for $250 or less.
  • Noise level: Air cleaners work best at their highest fan speed. However, they may also be loud. During a poor air quality day, the cleaner should be on the highest setting for best results. Air cleaners that are above 55 decibels (dB) are quite noisy and will be unpleasant for most people.

Download the fact sheet for more information, including examples of effective air cleaners for small, medium and large rooms.


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