A Comprehensive Guide to HEPA Filters
Gagne’s heating and cooling experts answer questions about HEPA filters, air purification and how to reduce allergens in your Alpharetta or Atlanta-area home.
Ever heard the term HEPA when talking about air filters?
It may sound familiar to you, or you may be wondering exactly what their purpose is and if they are necessary for your home. High Efficiency Particulate Air filters are often used in air purifiers and vacuum cleaners as well as in residential and commercial air conditioning systems.
The following guide will give you more information, answer questions you may have, and help you determine if HEPA filtration could be beneficial for you.
Who invented the HEPA air filter?
As with many inventions, there is not one person in particular who can be given sole credit for inventing the HEPA air filter. Rather, it was developed by an accumulation of people over the years.
As a way of trapping tiny, dangerous radioactive particles, fiber based air filters were developed during the Manhattan Project when the world’s first atomic bomb was produced. Then, in the 1960’s, German brothers developed inexpensive air conditioning filters to reduce the soot particles produced by coal-fired stoves. These same brothers founded a company called IQAir, which has been a pioneer in air filtration since its inception.
In 1966, Kenneth W. De Baun patented the first pleated air conditioner filter.
Can HEPA filters reduce allergies?
When it comes to air pollution, most people imagine it being outside. In actuality, the insides of our homes are also full of pollutants that can seriously affect allergies as well as asthma. Pet dander, dust mites, pollen, mold spores and other tiny particles infiltrate your home on a regular basis.
Using proper HEPA filters can aid in trapping these nuisances and alleviating many symptoms for allergy sufferers. Although the filters can help tremendously, WebMD also offers a variety of other helpful hints for reducing allergens in the home:
- Wash bedding in hot water frequently.
- Vacuum often.
- Wipe countertops regularly.
- Keep pets outside.
- When pets are inside, don’t allow them near your sleeping area.
- Put plastic allergy protection covers over mattresses.
- Use high efficiency furnace filters.
- Use roll up shades instead of curtains or draperies.
- Replace carpet with tile or wood floors.
For more ideas on reducing allergens in your home, read: Managing Allergens for Better Indoor Air Quality
How do HEPA filters work?
A HEPA filter is a type of mechanical filter that traps harmful particles such as pollen, dust mites and pet dander by forcing air through a fine mesh and not allowing the allergens to escape back into the home. It can also remove many toxic microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses and mold spores. A genuine HEPA filtration system will channel 99.97% of particles at .3 microns (300 times smaller than the average human hair). In a nutshell, HEPA filtration traps dust several hundred times smaller than a regular filtration system can.
A HEPA vacuum system should send over 90% of the airstream through the filter. If it isn’t doing this, then it’s basically rearranging the dirt in your home. True HEPA systems have very powerful suction motors that can pick up the particles much easier.
According to explainthatstuff.com, in a typical HEPA filter “you can see the white, paper-like, HEPA fiber material folded and wrapped around like a concertina under the orange plastic top and bottom case. The folding greatly increases the area of the filter in contact with the airstream—effectively improving the filtration without reducing the airflow.”
What things should I consider before making a HEPA purchase?
When deciding on a HEPA purchase, check to make sure that the filter says it is a true or absolute filter. Avoid buying one that says HEPA “like” or HEPA “type.” Ensure that the vacuum has a very powerful motor and actually picks up the dust rather than rearranging it.
Can HEPA filters be used in air conditioning systems?
Most HEPA filters are used in commercial HVAC systems, such as hospitals and schools. Many residential air conditioning systems do not produce adequate airflow to overcome the air restriction caused by a HEPA filter. If you decide that you want to install a HEPA filter, you need to have it done professionally. Using these filters in your air conditioning system requires incredibly diligent maintenance. Regular upkeep is important because problems can arise from reduced airflow through the system when the filters become dirty.
At Gagne Heating & Air Conditioning, we’re here to help answer all of your questions regarding HEPA filtration as well as other indoor air quality concerns. Give us a call today to speak with one of our friendly Atlanta AC specialists.