Our weather may be hot and humid now, but autumn is on its way. As the air outside gets colder, we tend to seal our homes to keep heat in and increase the efficiency of our HVAC systems. Unfortunately, a house that is completely sealed can mean an increase in indoor air pollution and reduced air quality.
We spend a lot of time talking about air filters on our blog, mainly because they are one of the easiest ways to help combat indoor air pollution. HEPA filters get the bulk of the press, though – they’re known as being the “best of the best” when it comes to reducing indoor air pollution and contamination due to bacteria and viruses. But do every day homes need this level of protection?
Before considering a HEPA filter for your home, here are some things you should know.
HEPA Stands for “High Efficiency Particulate Air”
The term “HEPA” is thrown around a lot, and most people don’t know what the acronym actually stands for. There are actually a few other definitions of the acronym, including “High Energy Particle Arrestor”, but they all boil down to one meaning: cleaner air that is free of dust, dirt, mold spores, pollen, pet dander, and other allergens. HEPA filters are made to be as efficient at their job as possible – they remove tiny particulate matter with an astounding success rate, leaving the filtered air cleaner and free of most pollutants.
HEPA Filters Are Made With Glass Fibers
Part of the reason these filters are so efficient is the material they are made with – very thin glass fibers. The structure of these fibers is specifically designed to allow air to pass through, while drawing particles to stick to the fibers. What’s even more amazing is that the filters actually have a few tricks to capture particulate matter. Particles that don’t adhere to the glass fibers due to a collision can be attracted either to the glass material itself or to other particles that are already captured by the filter. Through its ability to attract, the HEPA filter is all the more efficient at cleaning the air.
HEPA Filters Capture Very, Very Small Particles
How small? Extremely tiny! True HEPA filters are required to remove 99.97% of particulate matter that is at least 0.3 microns in diameter. For the rest of us, that’s 0.000012 of an inch across. This means that not only will dust, dirt, and most allergens collect in the filter, but most bacteria and viruses in the air will be collected as well. However, the HEPA filter does have its limits…
HEPA Filters Won’t Help With VOCs
Gasses, such as those found in Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), and odors can often pass through the filter without trouble. This is why most HEPA filters come with some sort of carbon absorption component, which can help to deal with these sources of air pollution in your home.
The best way to protect from VOCs, however, is to not have them enter your home in the first place. Always be aware of what cleaning products you are using, as well as any home improvement components that might involve fumes that would cause a drop in indoor air quality.
HEPA Filters Aren’t For Everyone
For those suffering with severe allergy issues, asthma, or a compromised immune system, HEPA filters may be worth the investment. The cleaner air can mean a better ability to breathe, fewer bad reactions to allergens, and a lower risk of bacteria or viruses floating around in the air. But for most people, the extra expense may not be worth it.
True HEPA filters can be pricey, and for most households, a high MERV rated pleated filter will do the job without the additional cost.
Not All HVAC Systems Can Handle True HEPA Filters
Think that a HEPA filter is right for your home? Double check with a professional before you run out and buy one for your HVAC system. Not all systems can handle the level of filtration that these filters provide – while they do allow for air flow, they can still reduce the level of free-flowing air in your HVAC system, causing some major problems. A professional will be able to confirm that a HEPA filter will work with your HVAC system, or offer information on altering the system to be able to handle the higher level of filtration.
Don’t despair if you can’t install a HEPA filter through your home’s climate system. Separate air purifiers are available that are either free standing, or can be attached to your home’s HVAC system in such a way that it prevents maintenance issues.