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What Is a HEPA Filter & Do I Need One?

Your HVAC air filter is the single most important factor when it comes to your home’s indoor air quality. Because your heating and air conditioning are constantly recirculating the air in your home, any floating particulates will bed pulled through this air filter, and thus be strained out. However, not all air filters are created equal, and not all air filters are capable of the same level of cleaning and purifying that others can manage. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing because not every home needs to have air that’s as clean and sterile as a hospital operating room.

However, one trend that we see show up from time to time is an emphasis and renewed interest in HEPA air filters. Most people don’t exactly know what these filters are, but they know they work well and that they are interested in them. To help you better understand what a HEPA filter is and give you the info you are looking for about them, our experts will take a deeper look at how this technology works and what it could mean to have one in your home.

What Is a HEPA Filter?

If you have ever bought a vacuum or an air purifier, you have probably seen the word “HEPA” slapped in big, bold letters on advertisements for particular products. However, few people know what that actually means. HEPA is short for “high-efficiency particulate air,” and it is a designation given to any air filter that is capable of trapping 99.97% of airborne particulates sized 0.3 microns and below.

HEPA filters are not new technology, and in fact, have been around since as far back as World War II. Scientists developed HEPA filters as a solution to capture radioactive particles released during the creation of atomic bombs as a part of the Manhattan Project. Today, they are used to protect and sterilize the air in some of the most sensitive environments on the planet, such as cleanrooms, operating rooms, and so much more.

The majority of HEPA filters are constructed from glass fibers that are woven in such a way that they create a twisting and turning maze that particles and air must navigate through. Most larger particles simply are not small enough to fit between the woven fibers, however many of the smaller particles that are still can’t get through because they often stick to the glass fibers in the filter anyway. This can include some of the smallest particles in the air, including bacteria and mold spores.

Finally, you might see some products advertising themselves as “True HEPA” products. This doesn’t mean much, but often refers to the difference between European and American HEPA standards. European HEPA only requires filters to stop 85 percent of particles while American standards require 99.97 percent. Many other riffs on the HEPA name are not recognized by any regulatory body and are therefore purely marketing tools.

Do I Need a HEPA Filter?

The prevalence of the HEPA name makes many people believe that cleaning their home with a HEPA filter can only help them. After all, if they can buy a HEPA filter for their vacuum cleaner, why not for their HVAC system? The truth is that most HVAC systems are not built to handle a HEPA filter, and that HEPA filters are often an expensive and detrimental change to your HVAC system.

Because of the extra straining power of a HEPA filter, most HVAC systems lack the power to properly and adequately pull air through this type of filter. This causes serious pressure imbalances that damage blower fans and fan motors. In fact, the leading causes of blower motor damage are lack of maintenance and using too strong of an air filter. Even if your motor can handle the strain, the majority of motors burn far more energy forcing air through a HEPA filter than they do a regular one, and that means extremely high energy bills.

Finally, HEPA filters themselves are generally rather expensive. In fact, HEPA filters can be anywhere from three to four times the cost of a standard air filter of the same dimensions, and some run even higher! When you consider that you will need to change a HEPA filter more often because they strain more debris out of your air, you can see how this investment might add up.

If you do struggle with indoor air quality, a whole-home air purifier system is typically the better choice. The team at Bay Heating & Air Conditioning can discuss your air purifier installation project and present you with some options that will benefit your home the most while also offering incredible value.

Call the local leaders in indoor air quality at Bay Heating & Air Conditioning! Dial (440) 294-4954 today.