How many of us really pay attention to the work our HVAC filters do? Most of us know the importance of regularly inspecting and replacing furnace or AC filters, but you may be surprised by some of the pollutants those filters actually capture and remove from your breathing air.
Here are some of the most common indoor air pollutants, and ways that air filters can eliminate them.
Indoor air pollutants fall into two major categories: particles and gases. Particles include solids, suspended liquids, and combinations of solids and liquids. These particles can range in size from microscopic to visible to the naked eye. Here are just some of the particle pollutants that can be found in the average home:
- Pet dander
- Mold spores
- Dust mites
- Smoke and other fumes
Gas Pollutant Sources
Pollutants that fall into the gaseous category generally aren’t visible, although some can be detected by smell. While hundreds of in-home gaseous pollutants have been detected, the most common sources are:
- Tobacco smoke
- Auto exhaust fumes (typically from attached garages)
- Building and remodeling materials
- Cleaning products
- Art, craft, and hobby materials
Although filters do not remove any of the gas pollutants, there are solutions to reduce them such as a Heat Recovery Ventilator system.
Types of Air Filters
There are two basic types of air filters for your home: mechanical and electronic. You may already be familiar with the most basic of mechanical filters — this is the type of filter your furnace uses. While furnace filters are primarily designed to protect the inner workings of your HVAC system, they also capture larger particle pollutants. That’s one reason it’s so important that you inspect and replace your furnace filters on a regular basis.
The effectiveness of HVAC filters is determined by their MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) rating, an industry standard that compares filters. To some extent, the MERV rating will determine which pollutants that filter will capture. However, there are limitations, which is why some homeowners prefer to install an electronic filter.
Electronic filters, also called Electronic Air Cleaners(EACs), are generally considered the gold standard for clean indoor air. They are electrically powered and generate a static charge that captures more particle pollutants than mechanical filters. These are add-on units to your HVAC system and in some cases, may require additional ductwork. However, once installed, they are generally easy to maintain and provide top indoor air quality. That may be especially important if members of your household have allergies or other health concerns.
Portable Air Filters
For some homeowners, another option is the use of portable or room air cleaners. These come in both mechanical filter and electronic models — some combine those technologies. They're small and can be moved from room to room. However, they can only clean the air in a single room and may require frequent changing of filters.
If you’re looking to improve the indoor air quality in your home, you may want to consult with your local HVAC pros. They’ll be happy to assess your current system and suggest upgrade options to best suit your family’s needs, as well as your finances.
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