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Choosing Your Air Filter: Navigating The Confusing World Of Air Cleaners

We all want to do everything we can to ensure that the air we breathe in our homes and office environments is clean and healthy. Luckily, there are now dozens of consumer products now on the market that work to filter air and reduce the presence of indoor pollutants. These air cleaners may be purchased as portable units that fit easily you're your living space, or in the form of in-duct systems to be installed as part of your HVAC system (the industry abbreviation for your heating, ventilation and air conditioning system).

With such different types and so many products available for us to choose from, how to decide which is best? Let's take a look at the basic categories of air filtering devices and what each group offers:

HEPA Filters

HEPA stands for "high efficiency particulate air," and a HEPA filter is basically a sieve that collects offensive particles so they won't circulate in the air. HEPA filters are highly effective, trapping nearly one hundred percent (99.97%) of pollutants down to a size of .3 microns (to give you a sense of scale, a human hair is about 70 microns in diameter).

These filters are so good at cleaning air that they are often considered the most efficient of all filtration units. But don't rush out to buy one yet-there are a few important factors to consider. HEPA filters need to be replaced frequently, which makes sense when you consider that they function by trapping contaminants. Depending on the cost of filters and the frequency with which you need to change your particular model, this can be an expensive choice. Moreover, HEPA filters are good at cleaning the air within small spaces, but they are not a home-wide solution. Of course you could place a filter in each room, but this may not be practical.

Still, if you want a great bang for your buck, HEPA filters are a terrific choice and very, very effective. Just keep the above considerations in mind when choosing one (or several) portable filter units for your home.

Pleated Filters

These may also be called "media" filters. They are similar to HEPA filters but are pleated, or folded, with the result that they are substantially less effective. A pleated filter will trap as little as half the particles as a HEPA filter, but it will do well with containing larger particles. So, for example, if your main problem is dust, this may be a good choice for you.

Electrostatic/Electronic Cleaners

Whereas HEPA filters physically block and remove pollutants, requiring replacement of filters, electrostatic or electronic cleaners work in a slightly different way. These units contain electronically charged plates that impart an ionic charge to floating air particles, causing them to be attracted to the plates (remember high school science class?) and forced through what is known as foam pre-filter.

You won't have replace the plates contained in these units, but you will have to wash them periodically to clean them of debris and buildup. If you don't, you run the risk of the particles getting re-re-released into the air. A clean and well-maintained unit will keep down the amount of dust, mold, and bacteria in your home environment.

Cleaners with Activated Carbon

Filter and electrostatic cleaners grab offending particles from the air, but a different technology is needed in order to rid your living space of odors and invisible chemical contaminants. That's where carbon comes into the picture-some air cleaners are sold with mats of activated carbon, which pulls these teeny molecules out of the air to keep it squeaky clean. Note that many electronic filters do contain carbon filters.

Charcoal Filters

A charcoal filter, or any air cleaning device that contains a charcoal filter, can be very useful if you battle unwanted odors in your home environment. This is because charcoal is a porous substance with a great capacity for trapping gases with offensive smells. Charcoal, when used in a filter, may be treated with chemicals in order to enhance its ability to eliminate odors from the air.

Hybrid Filters

Simply put, hybrid filters are filters that are combinations of multiple types of air filters. For example, a popular type of hybrid filters involves both an electronic charge, as described above, as well as a pleated fabric to capture and collect particles in the air. This can be a good all-around solution to your clean air concerns, but just be sure to keep the filter itself clean, otherwise it won't function properly.

In making your decision, choose based on the amount of space you wish to treat, as well as your largest areas of concern. For example, if you smoke or live in a place where the air has been exposed to smoke, you may wish to use a filter that removes odor as well as particles. If dust is your main concern, then a pleated filter may do the job for you. Whatever you choose, you will be well on the way to a healthier and happier home environment!

Understanding the differences between the kinds of home air filters and purifiers is critical to improving the quality of your indoor air quality. For more information please visit .


If you are looking for a Boulder County air conditioning contractor please call us today at 303-800-HEAT(4328) or complete our online service request form.

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