The importance of changing air filters in the home is something that many people tend to underestimate. Air filters are either disposable or reusable, and you’ll need to replace or clean them every one to three months. They will help in improving the efficiency of your heating and cooling system as well as your indoor air quality. If someone in your household suffers from allergies or asthma, you want to be sure to replace or clean them more frequently.
What Are HVAC Air Filters?
While air filters are one of the most vital components of your heating and cooling system, they’re often overlooked. They often look like a large cardboard box, and are usually made of a spun fiberglass material framed in a cardboard frame. Air filters can also be made from cloth or pleated paper.
They catch different kinds of contaminants and particulates that could affect your health. Some of the most common pollutants they trap include dust, dirt, pollen, mold spores, fibers, lint, hair, animal fur, bacteria and other microorganisms. Typically, filtration occurs when air is brought back to the HVAC equipment to be conditioned and circulated again. The air then passes through the filters where the particulates and contaminants are removed from it.
Air Filters & Your Allergies
It’s a common misconception that regular HVAC filters can protect you against allergies. In actuality, to avoid allergy attacks you’ll need special air filters. The purpose of standard HVAC air filters is to prevent dust from entering the equipment and keep it performing efficiently. These filters help remove dust from the air when replaced or cleaned regularly, but they do little to capture the microscopic particles that trigger allergy symptoms.
Standard Paper Filters Can’t Catch Allergens
You typically use paper filters in furnaces and air conditioners. These filters are made to trap larger particles, such as dust that can settle on the motor and fans. If you don’t replace the filters, dust can accumulate, reducing the efficiency of your equipment. The contaminants will also get circulated through the ducts and blown back into your home.
High-energy particulate air filters, or HEPA filters, are designed to trap very small particles and allergens, helping to keep your indoor air clean. These filters are made from densely-packed layers of glass fibers. High-quality filters can trap at least 99 percent of dust, pollen and dust particles in your living spaces.
You Need to Replace the Filter More Frequently
It’s essential to understand the importance of changing air filters in the home and when it’s best to do so. Compared to ordinary paper HVAC filters, a HEPA air filter requires more frequent replacement, especially during allergy season. You may need to change it at least every other month or sometimes even sooner, depending on your area. Your HVAC technician can help you determine the best replacement schedule based on your equipment and location.
There’s More to It Than Choosing the Right Filter
It’s not enough to choose the right filter to minimize allergens in your indoor air. You also need to make sure that your HVAC system is clean. Make it a habit to have your equipment cleaned at least once a year. Doing so will prevent dust from building up on the blower fans and in your ductwork.
The air you breathe indoors can cycle through your HVAC system up to seven times every day. Insufficient maintenance and not replacing the air filter regularly can lead to the build-up of dust, pollen and even mold spores on your equipment. A skilled HVAC technician can help keep your HVAC system in top shape with regular inspections and maintenance. They can also suggest a furnace inspection checklist to help you better care for your equipment.
Not All Air Filters Are the Same
Air filters offer different levels of efficiency. The better the quality of the filter, the more contaminants they can remove from your indoor air. Minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) ratings usually indicate the efficiency and performance of air filters. Standard MERV values range from 1 to 16. These numbers indicate how well filters work at removing pollutants from the air. A filter with a higher MERV rating can catch more contaminants.
Filters with MERV 1-4 are the most common kind, and provide a basic level of filtration . MERV 6-8 filters offer good filtration and are typically used in homes. If you’re looking for higher-quality filters, consider ones with rated MERV 9-12. These filters can capture particles that are 1 micron or larger. Moreover, the best standard filters available are ones with rated MERV 13-16. They can get rid of very small particulates 0.3 microns or larger.
What Are the Best Air Filter for Allergies?
Experts recommend a permanent electrostatic filter with a rating of MERV 8 and microns 1 for those with allergies. This kind of filter captures particles in the air with self-charging fibers. They can also catch smaller contaminants without getting dirty too quickly. These filters have washable versions, but when you clean them, be sure that they’re completely dry before placing them back where they go.
Another type of filter you should consider is a disposable electrostatic filter with a MERV 10 rating and microns 1. They’re like washable filters, but you can’t reuse them. There are also HEPA filters with MERV 14-16 ratings and microns up to 0.3. These filters can trap 99.97 percent of airborne particles. Because these filters can capture a lot of particles, they tend to clog a lot faster. When not replaced, they can restrict airflow and put a strain on your HVAC system. Moreover, it’s not advisable to use HEPA filters if they’re not made for the kind of equipment you have. Keep in mind that the wrong filter can increase your energy bills and even harm your HVAC system.