Now that we’re closing our windows we can still take several precautions with the air in our homes.
Open windows. Yes, just leave them open and deal with it.
Take that familiar annoyance for New Yorkers: the clanky radiator that overheats apartments even on the coldest days of the year. It turns out that the prodigious output of steam-heated buildings is the direct result of theories of infection control that were enlisted in the battle against the great global pandemic of 1918 and 1919.
The Board of Health in New York City ordered that windows should remain open to provide ventilation, even in cold weather. In response, engineers began devising heating systems with this extreme use case in mind. Steam heating and radiators were designed to heat buildings on the coldest day of the year with all the windows open.
You have to be crazy to live in New York anyway, so go for it.
Air purifiers. Those who have looked into these devices say they can help, but they are hardly a panacea. The EPA says:
When used properly, air cleaners and HVAC filters can help reduce airborne contaminants including viruses in a building or small space. By itself, air cleaning or filtration is not enough to protect people from exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19. When used along with other best practices recommended by CDC and others, filtration can be part of a plan to reduce the potential for airborne transmission of COVID-19 indoors.
Consumer Reports says:
We spoke with air quality and virology experts, and asked CR’s own experts to weigh in. The consensus is that while air purifiers probably don’t offer much protection in most circumstances, they may be worthwhile in a few specific ones.If someone in your household is sick with COVID-19, running an air purifier in their quarantine room may help protect other family members or caregivers. The same goes for healthcare workers who are self-quarantining when they come home.
Consumer Reports rates various air filters as do other sites. It depends on your level of comfort with risk and caution. (I bought one.)
Humidity. When cold, dry air comes indoors and is warmed, the relative humidity indoors drops by about 20%. Such a drop in humidity makes it easier for airborne viral particles to travel, according to immunologists.
Their review concludes that studies in mice suggest that a relative humidity of 40–60% is ideal for containing the virus. “That’s why I recommend humidifiers during the winter in buildings,” says the study’s senior author.
Buy an inexpensive humidity gauge online. Too much humidity isn’t good, they say. You can reduce it with a dehumidifier. Aim for 50 percent.
You can increase it with a humidifier. Or you can just boil water on your stove, let the shower run, or place containers of water around the house, including the baseboard heating unit.
Now take a deep breath.