Fact Sheet & Resources for Asthma Programs: Choosing Safe, Effective & Affordable Air Cleaners
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:
Videos: The Best Way to Use an Air Filter
In these videos, PHI’s RAMP shares tips, in English and Spanish, on how to use your air filter:
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.
- 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.