What is a HEPA filter, and do you need one in your home? If you’ve heard of HEPA but aren’t sure whether your HVAC system has one, needs one, or could even use one, take a look at the top high-efficiency filter questions homeowners have.
Are HEPA Filters and Other HVAC Filters the Same?
To better understand the differences (and similarities) between the two categories of filters, you need to start with what a HEPA filter is. HEPA filters are:
The acronym HEPA stands for high-efficiency particulate air filter. While the name may sound complicated or jargon-filled, this means the filter is highly efficient at removing airborne particles.
- Able to remove small particles.These filters can remove airborne particles as small as 0.3 microns, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In comparison, a low-efficiency traditional filter removes particles between 3.0 and 10.0 microns.
- Able to remove microorganisms.Why do you need to remove small-sized particles from the air? These particles often include microorganisms, such as mold, viruses, or bacteria.
- Able to remove more particles.According to the EPA, a HEPA filter could remove 99.97 percent or more of airborne particles. A low-efficiency filter may only remove up to 20 percent of these contaminants.
Even though HEPA filters and other types of filters remove different sizes of particles in different quantities, they may look similar. If you’re not sure whether a filter is a HEPA or not, talk to a professional. A qualified HVAC contractor can inspect your current filter and help you to find the best type or model for your home’s needs.
Do You Need a New Filter?
Your HVAC system already has a filter. But now you have concerns about how well it removes pollutants from the air. Is a HEPA filter really necessary? More specifically, is a new filter necessary?
Before you answer this question, you need to learn more about your home’s current filter. Some filters, such as electrostatic models, are reusable. Other filters, such as pleated paper, require replacement. If you don’t have a reusable filter:
- Look at the current filter’s age.If you haven’t replaced the air filter since last year’s pre-season service, chances are it’s clogged and ready to go. While no universal filter change time frame exists, most systems need a new filter every two months or more with constant use.
- Consider how often you use the system.The more you use your heater (or AC in the summer), the more often you’ll need to change the filter. If you use the heater every day, you may need to change the filter more than once every two months.
- Inspect the filter.You can see larger particles, such as dirt or pet fur, on the filter. Remove the filter and inspect it for signs of wear or buildup.
Now that you know you need to change your filter, take the next step and choose a HEPA or other type of model.
Why Choose a HEPA Filter?
The primary reason to choose a HEPA filter is its superior ability to remove high amounts of smaller-sized particles from the air. According to the EPA, a high MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value) filter rated at 14 can remove 1.0 to 3.0 micron particles at a rate of 90 percent or greater. Compare this to the HEPA’s ability to remove 0.3 micron particles at 99.97 percent.
If you have or a household member has allergies, asthma, or other similar sensitivities, a HEPA filter can help to clear the air and reduce respiratory issues. A HEPA filter can also decrease the number of microorganisms in the air for a healthier home.
Why Not Choose a HEPA Filter?
With the ability to capture smaller and smaller particles the media the filter is made of acts as a restriction to the airflow in the system. If the filtration sizing and restriction is not accounted for you may be causing premature ware and tare and possible equipment failures. Often times an upgrade to HEPA filtration systems include ductwork modifications that allow for larger filters. This step needs to be looked at by a professional trained in proper filtration sizing.
Does your HVAC system need help to filter the indoor air? Contact Advanced Heating & Cooling for more information.