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Do HEPA AC Filters Help Reduce the Transmission of COVID-19?

Scientists are still learning about COVID-19, even as the pandemic inches closer to a full year of existence. We do know at least two things about the particle that carries the virus: it’s extremely small and it travels through air.

Those facts have raised interest in whether a HEPA-certified filter from Rowland Air might help conquer the coronavirus. Known for its powerful ability to filter out the smallest particles and pathogens, a HEPA air conditioning filter has shown efficiency in making environments healthier. Can it stop COVID-19?

The facts about HEPA filters

HEPA stands for “High Energy Particulate Arrestance.” Filters in air purifiers that receive HEPA certification have undergone extensive testing to meet certain standards set forth by the Department of Energy.

Specifically, they must be proven to capture at least 99.7% of all particles smaller than 0.3 micrometers (microns) in diameter. That’s about 300 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair, far too small for the naked eye to see.

HEPA filters, made from either glass or synthetic materials, trap these tiny particles that would sneak through other filters by intercepting them and diffusing their movement, so they get stuck in the filter surface.

COVID-19 particles and HEPA filters

Particles that carry the coronavirus measure to about 0.125 microns. That’s significantly smaller than the 0.3-micron HEPA standard. So, theoretically, HEPA-certified filters can indeed capture the tiny particulates that carry the COVID-19 virus.

However, there’s still a fair amount of mystery about the nature of COVID-19 particles. What we do know suggests that, while installing a HEPA-certified air conditioner or purifier can certainly help, it’s not a surefire solution that will beat the virus all by itself.

How COVID-19 spreads

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) determined that the COVID-19 contagion is an airborne virus, but not exactly a “free” one. It doesn’t randomly float on jets of air all by itself. Instead, it must attach itself to something to get transmitted.

Moisture droplets are the most common agents that carry the coronavirus. They’re typically distributed by human beings in the course of breathing, sneezing, or coughing. This is why social distancing and face masks are promoted as key defenses against COVID-19: They limit the microscopic exchange of moisture that occurs in all person-to-person contact, even when they’re a couple of feet apart.

Can a HEPA filter help?

The short answer is yes — but not all by itself.

There are still plenty of questions about whether HEPA filters can trap the coronavirus before it becomes infected. Scientists still aren’t certain when that happens during the lifespan of the virus.

Even if a HEPA-certified purifier can grab the virus out of the air, that doesn’t address how COVID-19 most frequently spreads, through human contact with surfaces or other people. What a HEPA-certified air conditioner from Rowland Air can do is help control the atmosphere in one’s home or office and help restrict the movement and spread of pathogenic particles, including COVID-19.

Although it can’t be your only (or even first) level of defense against the coronavirus, when combined with other measures like social distancing and masks, a HEPA device can play a part in reducing the overall risk of COVID-19.

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