HouseFresh is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Do Air Purifiers Remove Carbon Monoxide?

Last updated November 4, 2022

This post may contain affiliate links.

Author
Author avatar Danny Ashton

Danny as been writing about air purifiers for 10+ years. He is a major fan of home technology, which makes him the perfect person to test and evaluate products for HouseFresh

Our verdict:

Air purifiers can remove carbon monoxide from inside your home, but not every type. Because carbon monoxide is such a dangerous gas, any air purifier must be powerful enough to change the room’s air at least four times every hour. Anything less will not be sufficient. It must also have a quality, True HEPA filter, plus an activated carbon filter made with granules to absorb the carbon monoxide gas on its surfaces.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a hazardous, deadly gas. You can’t see, taste, or smell it, but it accounts for hundreds of deaths in the USA each year.

In this article, you will learn about carbon monoxide, how dangerous it is, how to avoid serious consequences if it is present in your home and whether or not an air purifier can help eradicate this deadly gas.

What is Carbon Monoxide?

CO is produced whenever fuels like gasoline, kerosene, oil, natural gas, coal, or wood are burned. It is generated by items such as:

  • Household gas appliances (ovens, furnaces, water heaters, clothes dryers)
  • Wood-burning stoves and fireplaces
  • Oil or coal furnaces
  • Oil or kerosene space heaters
  • Charcoal grills, or camping stoves
  • Gas-powered equipment, generators and lawnmowers
  • Fumes from vehicle exhaust

CO can build up quickly indoors and can reach dangerous levels. Breathing in CO can be deadly because it reduces your blood system’s ability to carry life-giving oxygen, damaging your brain, heart and other organs, leading to unconsciousness and death.

Most incidents of exposure to carbon monoxide in the home occur during winter, with space heaters being the number one cause. A space heater requires fuel and oxygen to produce heat, and one not vented to the outside will expel the gas it produces into the room, using up most of the oxygen present.

What Happens if I Am Exposed to Carbon Monoxide?

When you inhale carbon monoxide (CO), it attaches itself to the hemoglobin in your red blood cells. The hemoglobin in your blood normally transports oxygen to all parts of your body. When carbon monoxide enters your bloodstream and attaches to the hemoglobin, it effectively blocks the supply of necessary oxygen, creating problems for your health and possibly even death.

According to the CDC, each year in the United States, accidental CO poisoning:

  • Kills more than 400 people
  • Sends an additional 20,000 people to emergency rooms
  • Hospitalizes more than 4,000 people

Carbon monoxide has been called “the silent killer” because you can’t see, smell or taste it, and it can reach dangerous levels very quickly leading to death. Anyone asleep or unconscious (from drinking too much alcohol) may die from CO poisoning before they have any symptoms.

Low-Level Exposure If your exposure to CO is low, then you may experience symptoms such as:

  • Headaches
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Weakness
  • Being confused
  • Nausea
  • Disorientation
High-Level Exposure In addition to the symptoms above, you may also experience:

  • Lose consciousness
  • Your vision may be affected
  • Have trouble with coordination
  • Feel anxious or depressed
  • Start to vomit
  • Have pains in your chest or suffer cardiac arrest
Long-Term Exposure If left untreated, exposure to carbon monoxide can lead to significant, long-term health problems, usually when you have been breathing extreme levels of CO or low-level exposure over a prolonged period, including:

  • Brain damage
  • Loss of vision
  • Seizures
  • Heart attacks
  • Death

When it comes to low-level exposure, you may not suspect CO as the cause of your symptoms because they are similar to the flu. If you feel better when you leave the premises, but your symptoms return when you re-enter, CO might be the cause.

5 Ways To Prevent CO Poisoning in Your Home

Carbon monoxide poisoning can be prevented. You can protect yourself and your family members, including pets, by understanding the symptoms and knowing how to prevent it.

1. Install a carbon monoxide detector. The best place to install the CO detector is close to your bedroom to ensure it will wake you if it goes off. Do not forget to replace the CO detector after five years.

💡 Pro tip: Consider purchasing a CO detector with a digital screen. This will show the highest concentration level of CO in your home.

2. Service your heating system, cooking appliances, and water heater. If they are powered by gas, wood, or coal, have them serviced by a qualified service company each year.

3. Make sure gas appliances are vented correctly. Any horizontal vent pipes from, for example, a water heater should be on a slight incline as they head towards the outside.

4. Never use a generator inside the home. In case you’re wondering, that includes the garage, or the basement.

5. Make sure gas appliances have a seal of approval.  This should be from a national testing agency like Underwriters’ Laboratories.

Will an Air Purifier Remove Carbon Monoxide?

Some air purifiers will get rid of carbon monoxide, but you have to choose the right kind. This involves ignoring the advertising claims and concentrating on the specs. 

It must be able to change the air in the room at least four times per hour. This is calculated based on the room’s square footage, and an average ceiling height of eight feet. CADR ratings are designed to measure the amount of smoke, dust, and pollen that a filter removes in one minute. A higher CADR rating means better filtration.

The first step is to determine how much cubic feet of space will the air purifier need to clean.

In order to get this number, all you have to do is multiply the length, width, and height of your room together. 

That number is going to tell you approximately how many cubic feet of air your purifier needs to be able to clean each minute in order for it to be effective in that space.

Just to give you an idea of the range of ‘ideal rooms’ and CADR scores for different air purifiers in the market:

Air PurifierIdeal RoomCADR (CFM / m³/h)
Alen BreatheSmart 75iUp to 1,300 sq. ft.347 CFM (589 m³/h)
IQAir Healthpro PlusUp to 1,125 sq. ft.330 CFM (560 m³/h)
Levoit 600SUp to 635 sq. ft.410 CFM (697 m³/h)
Levoit Core 400SUp to 403 sq. ft. 260 CFM (442 m³/h)
Taotronics AP003Up to 322 sq. ft.226 CFM (384 m³/h)

Once you have found an air purifier that will change the air in the room every 10 to 15 minutes (four times per hour), then you should concentrate on the filters needed.

A True HEPA Filter can remove up to 99.97% of contaminants down to 0.3 microns in size, but carbon monoxide is a gas and is smaller than 0.3 microns. As a result, it will pass straight through the HEPA filter. However, if you suspect there is CO present, there is also the likelihood of smoke. Smoke is between 0.1 and 1.0 microns and the HEPA filter will trap the majority of it.

To get rid of the gases, including any carbon monoxide, the purifier needs an activated carbon filter to finally trap them. Not just any activated carbon filter, but one that is made with granules. A complete breakdown of how activated carbon works can be found here.

The Top 3 Air Purifiers For Carbon Monoxide

We have three recommendations for air purifiers that may be suitable for removing carbon monoxide (CO). They are:

Best Overall
Best Overall
Best Budget Option
Best for Large Spaces
Style
IQAir HealthPro Plus Air Purifier - Medical Grade HyperHEPA filter for home large room up to 1125 sq ft - for Viruses, Bacteria, Allergens, Asthma Triggers, Smoke, Mold, Pets, Dust, Odor, Swiss Made
Alen BreatheSmart 75i Large Room Air Purifier, Medical Grade Filtration H13 True HEPA for 1300 Sqft, 99.9% Airborne Particle Removal, Allergies, Odor & Smoke Air Purifier, Long Filter Life, White
Air Purifiers for Home Large Room, H13 True HEPA Filter for Large Room Cover 1500 ft², Air Cleaner 3 Speeds, Air Quality Monitor Sensor, Child Lock, Sleep Mode, CADR 420 m³/h, Remove 99.97% Pollutants
Pros
Top performance with 300 CFM and the ability to remove odors with 5lbs of activated charcoal
The simple operation of the touch panel. A light touch of one button is all you need
$80 for air cleaning performance that is normally at the $200 range
Cons
Price is at the top end for 300 CFM
You can’t hide it away
Not easy to find on Amazon – most people will be forced to buy directly or go with third-party sellers
CADR
N/A
347 / 590 m³/h
226 CFM / 384 m³/h
Filter Technology
HyperHEPA and V50-CELL gas and odor filter
H13 True HEPA and Activated Carbon
H13 HEPA and activated carbon pellets
Recommended Room Size
1125 sq. ft.
1300 sq. ft
322 sq. ft
Weight
35lbs
27 lbs
18 lbs
Price
$899.00
$769.00
$59.99
Best Overall
Best Overall
Style
IQAir HealthPro Plus Air Purifier - Medical Grade HyperHEPA filter for home large room up to 1125 sq ft - for Viruses, Bacteria, Allergens, Asthma Triggers, Smoke, Mold, Pets, Dust, Odor, Swiss Made
Pros
Top performance with 300 CFM and the ability to remove odors with 5lbs of activated charcoal
Cons
Price is at the top end for 300 CFM
CADR
N/A
Filter Technology
HyperHEPA and V50-CELL gas and odor filter
Recommended Room Size
1125 sq. ft.
Weight
35lbs
Price
$899.00
More Details
Best Budget Option
Style
Alen BreatheSmart 75i Large Room Air Purifier, Medical Grade Filtration H13 True HEPA for 1300 Sqft, 99.9% Airborne Particle Removal, Allergies, Odor & Smoke Air Purifier, Long Filter Life, White
Pros
The simple operation of the touch panel. A light touch of one button is all you need
Cons
You can’t hide it away
CADR
347 / 590 m³/h
Filter Technology
H13 True HEPA and Activated Carbon
Recommended Room Size
1300 sq. ft
Weight
27 lbs
Price
$769.00
More Details
Best for Large Spaces
Style
Air Purifiers for Home Large Room, H13 True HEPA Filter for Large Room Cover 1500 ft², Air Cleaner 3 Speeds, Air Quality Monitor Sensor, Child Lock, Sleep Mode, CADR 420 m³/h, Remove 99.97% Pollutants
Pros
$80 for air cleaning performance that is normally at the $200 range
Cons
Not easy to find on Amazon – most people will be forced to buy directly or go with third-party sellers
CADR
226 CFM / 384 m³/h
Filter Technology
H13 HEPA and activated carbon pellets
Recommended Room Size
322 sq. ft
Weight
18 lbs
Price
$59.99
More Details

Final Thoughts

For an air purifier to be effective in dealing with small amounts of carbon monoxide, it must have two important components. A true HEPA filter, and an activated granule carbon filter. It should also be capable of cleaning the air in a room at least four times per hour to have any effect on the air quality.

But, you should be aware of the fact that no air purifier will remove anything but trace amounts of carbon monoxide, and if you have a serious CO leak then you should vacate the premises and call the emergency services.

Last update on 2022-12-05 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API