Informational Guide

Can Air Purifiers Detect & Remove Carbon Monoxide?

by Josh M

Carbon monoxide (CO) can be extremely dangerous (truly a silent killer), and you need to do everything you can to keep it out of your home. Air purifiers are designed to keep unwanted particles from the air in your home, but there’s some confusion about whether they will work on carbon monoxide. In this guide, we’ll help explain the air purifier carbon monoxide situation, so you know whether a purifier can keep you and your family safe.

Air purifiers are effective at removing unwanted contaminants from your home. They deal with air pollution by passing the air through a series of HEPA filters which attract impurities and improve your indoor air quality. The filtration process can leave you with cleaner air and remove unhealthy pollutants before they reach your body. However, that doesn’t mean they’re 100% effective.

While this process will deal with various volatile organic compounds, it doesn’t work on all gaseous pollutants. If you want to remove carbon monoxide, you need an air purification device with activated carbon filters. Activated carbon has the unique ability to absorb gases because they attach themselves to the carbon. This can remove even trace amounts of gas, smoke, and other pollutants.

If there are low levels of carbon monoxide in your home, then activated carbon air purifiers will remove most of it and leave you with clean oxygen. Just remember that it will only work on trace amounts, and you shouldn’t expect your purifier to deal with all of the extremely dangerous gas.

Detect Carbon Monoxide with Air Purifier

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When Is An Air Purifier Not Effective?

Unfortunately, your standard air purifier HEPA filter might not be effective at removing gas pollutants. Depending on the type of purifier you’re using, the volume of air in your room, and the level of CO you’re dealing with, you may get mixed results. Air purifiers are unlikely to be effective in the following situations:

Major Carbon Monoxide Leaks

Air purifiers can be really effective at removing small amounts of carbon monoxide, but if you have a lot of gas seeping into your home, then they aren’t going to be able to do the job. The purifier won’t be able to clean the extremely dangerous gas from your air supply quickly enough, which means you can end up inhaling it before it can be filtered. This can lead to headaches and dizziness, and if there is enough exposure, it can even cause death. [1]

If you think you have a carbon monoxide leak, or start to experience any of the symptoms, then you should leave your home immediately and consult a professional. They’ll be able to get rid of it quickly and hopefully remove any other gaseous pollutants.

High Levels of Carbon Dioxide

Carbon dioxide is produced whenever something burns, and certain fuel-burning appliances can cause levels to spike. Fireplaces, and other appliances, use a combustible material to provide energy, but if the device isn’t working correctly, it can lead to a build-up of smoke. This can cause damage to your home, and it can be hazardous when inhaled.

An air purifier will remove small levels of CO2 and other gases, but it won’t be able to deal with high volumes of it. If you suspect there is an issue, you need to search for appliances that could produce smoke and check them for any dust or other blockages that could impact the machine. You should also open all windows and doors to improve airflow and allow new oxygen into the room. If the issue persists, you’ll need to contact a professional who can examine the appliances and fix the issue.

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How to Safely Remove Carbon Monoxide From The Air?

Carbon Monoxide Ventilation System

The best way to safely remove CO is using a complete ventilation system which includes a carbon monoxide detector to measure the levels in the air. The carbon monoxide monitor will trigger a series of fans, which are operated automatically and blow clean air into your home. This will help to vent the has and leave you breathing clean air again.

A good quality CO ventilation system will detect carbon monoxide in trace quantities and use filters to remove the majority while directing fresh air to remove the rest. This solution works to keep you and everyone in your home safe.

Both Austin Air and Dyson (who are most well known for their vacuum cleaners) manufacture carbon monoxide ventilation systems that are very effective. Just be sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions and specifications because some ventilation systems can be expensive to run.

Carbon Monoxide Scrubber

CO scrubbers work similarly to an air purifier in that they remove unwanted gas from your home. They use an ion exchange resin that isolates the carbon monoxide from the other molecules and traps it in the machine. This leaves your space free from unhealthy pollutants and prevents you from having to involve a professional every time you report a carbon monoxide leak. [2]

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Considerations When Choosing An Air Purifier For CO At Home

Not every air purifier can deal with CO, and there are a few key aspects you should look out for:

Adequate Size of An Air Purifier

Your air purifier should always be suitable for the space it’s working in, or it isn’t going to be effective. If your air purifier is too small, then it is going to be handling too much airflow and won’t remove all of the impurities.

As a general rule, your purifier should be able to clean the air in a room in about 15 minutes. This rating is described as Air Change per Hour (ACH). Your air purifier will have an ACH rating, and you need to select an air purifier based with an ACH that corresponds to the room size.

To work out the level of ACH you need, you have to calculate the volume of air in your room. There is a complicated equation for this, but you’re probably best using an online calculator to help you. As a general rule, you should look for an ACH rating of 4 or higher. [3]

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Airflow Matches Your Room Size

Alongside the volume of the space, you also need to choose an air purifier that can deal with the airflow. Ideally, all of the air you breathe will have gone through the purifier first to minimize any potential health risks, but that means selecting a purifier that matches the airflow.

In large living spaces which see a lot of use, you’ll have to buy a bigger purifier. In a smaller space, you’ll be able to get away with something smaller. Make sure you consider how much airflow there is so you can avoid spending more than you need to on a huge purifier.

Proper Air Flow Stream

Filters That Can Remove Carbon Monoxide
  • True HEPA Filter
    True HEPA filters are a powerful tool. They can eliminate 99.97% of particles and take out impurities that are under 0.3 micrometers in size. This is pretty much as good as filtration technology gets and is important for taking out all of the pollutants from your air supply. CO and smoke are usually between 0.1 and 1 micrometers, so a True HEPA filter will remove most of the harmful gases and leave your air significantly cleaner.
  • An Activated Carbon Filter
    Carbon filters remove carbon monoxide even more effectively than a standard filter. They attract the gaseous particles as the air passes through, causing them to stick to the carbon and essentially taking them out of the air. Not every activated carbon filter is the same, though, and you should look for a good quality filter with real granules if you want results. Experts tend to say that the heavier the filter, the more effective it will be.
Built-In Detector

Some specialist air purifiers come with a built-in carbon monoxide monitor. This allows the device to track the levels of impurities in the air, help to manage it, and alert you if it gets to dangerous levels. Some brands, like Dyson, incorporate this technology as standard, and if you think CO may be a risk in your home, then it’s worthwhile investing in a purifier that has this capability.

Air Purifiers & Carbon Monoxide Frequently Asked/Questions

Can air purifiers emit carbon monoxide?

No, it is only emitted when there is combustion, and it tends to come from fireplaces, water heaters, motor vehicles, or gas ovens. There’s no combustion with air purifiers, so no CO is produced.

Will opening windows reduce carbon monoxide?

Yes, opening a window will help to improve the ventilation and reduce the amount of carbon monoxide in your home. However, if there is an ongoing leak, you need to find out where the gas is coming from, or it will continue to be a hazard.

How can you tell if there’s carbon monoxide in your home?

CO is hard to detect without specific equipment but look for brown/yellow stains around appliances, a stale smell, or otherwise foul-smelling air. It is a legal requirement for all enclosed spaces with a bedroom to have a CO2 monitor installed. [4]

How do you check for carbon monoxide without a detector?

Stale-smelling air, stains around appliances, soot or smoke blowing back into your home, or a yellow burner flame (instead of blue) are all a sign that there is CO present in your home.

What does carbon monoxide poisoning make you feel like?

The most common CO poisoning symptoms are dizziness, weakness, headache, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. If you feel these symptoms and think there may be a leak, you should leave your home immediately and seek professional medical assistance.

Conclusion

Carbon monoxide is extremely dangerous, and it’s really difficult to detect. Most air purifiers can’t detect carbon monoxide, but they can remove small amounts from the air in your home. This will help to control the air quality, but it won’t protect you if there’s a serious leak. You should always make sure you have a carbon monoxide detector in your home and test it frequently to ensure it’s working.

Last Updated on January 9, 2023

Josh M

My name is Josh and I am obsessed with the HVAC industry. I created this website to help HVAC techs of all levels get the best out of their heating & cooling systems. I have spent thousands of hours studying air conditioners, heaters and home air products so you can learn & buy with confidence. Learn more about the team here.

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