We have explored elsewhere the important work that an HVAC system does. In essence, it functions as the lungs of a building.
In many ways, it is just as important to the building as your lungs are to your body.
Your nose and throat work as a filter for what can and can’t enter your lungs. Similarly, your HVAC system has one or more filters that also keep out pollutants and help keep you – and the whole system – healthy.
Those systems vary in their effectiveness, their cost, and their purpose. Here is a short guide to make sure you are getting the quality of filtration you need for your circumstances.
Fiberglass filters are filled with a thread-like material that is coarse to the touch. By forcing air through this mesh, large particles of dust, dirt, or other pollutants are trapped in the fiberglass. The air that enters the heating chamber or cooling chamber and is then blown through your vents is much cleaner.
Some fiberglass filters are treated on one side with sticky residue. This residue collects pollutants that otherwise might have gotten through the fiberglass filters. That makes these filters slightly more effective.
These enhanced filters are generally efficient enough for typical household use.
Pleated Material Filters
Pleated filters resemble handmade fans. They are paper or fabric, fluted or folded to better capture pollutants.
These come in different levels of effectiveness, as determined by the number of visible folks. Having more flutes makes the filter more effective because it allows for greater capture of allergens and pollutants, while allowing sufficient airflow to keep your system blowing efficiently.
Electrostatic Air Filters
Electrostatic air filters generate a charged surface area that help trap additional pollutants in allergens.
Despite the title, these air filters do not need to be plugged in nor do they use electricity. Instead the way they are constructed generates an electrostatic charge as the air is forced through the layers.
For people who can make a slightly larger upfront investment, and who don’t mind a little bit of extra upkeep involved in periodically cleaning these filters, electrostatic air filters are a good investment in your air quality.
HEPA filters are the highest quality filters the average consumer would need to buy. Recommended specifically for people who have severe allergies or other medical conditions that require the highest level of air quality, HEPA filters trap almost all pollutants.
HEPA filters are very effective, and very expensive. The average homeowner who does not have an underlying health condition would be unlikely to benefit from or notice a difference from the far less costly other options.
In some situations and additional filter is added either in the HVAC system or somewhere else inside a home environment. This filter uses UV light to kill microorganisms that might otherwise get through all other sorts of filters.
Few homeowners need the benefit of this expensive cutting-edge filtration system.
A word about washable filters
Some of the fiberglass, pleated, or electrostatic filters are washable. Among these, only the electrostatic filters truly retain their effectiveness after one or more washings. Chin the other types of filters should be done only in cases where frugality is an important consideration.
While some homeowners have the time and energy to invest in maintaining washable filters, there are many inexpensive options that don’t require this level of maintenance. Active homeowners will find that changing your filter on the appropriate schedule is enough HVAC maintenance for them.
There is little benefit in washing most filters.