Replacement Air Filters
Air filters remove materials from the air. Usually a fibrous mat of materials, air filters are designed to catch particulate matter. As more and more material accumulates on the filter, the filter begins to lose its ability to allow air to flow through. This reduces the efficiency of the air filtration system, requiring more energy to filter the same amount of air. Some air filters can be cleaned, but many types of air purifier require replacement air filters.
Why Replace Filters?
When an air purifier filter gets filled with material that has been removed from the air, it begins to lose its ability to process air. This is why air purifier filters need to be replaced or cleaned regularly.
An air purifier for a home works best when the filters are in good condition. If the filter gets blocked, more energy is required to move the same amount of air. In fact, the filter can become so clogged that so little air gets through that the air purifier is unable to overcome the rate of contaminant generation. When this happens, the air purifier is no longer effective.
How to Replace Filters
Filters may be placed at the intake of an HVAC system in order to prevent damage and malfunctions to the heating, cooling, or humidity control systems.
Make sure to only use a recommended replacement air filter when replacing a used-up filter, as there are many different parameters that go into designing an air filtration system. There are obvious features, like the dimensions of the filter, and there are qualities that might not be clear. For example, it might not be readily apparent how much static pressure a filter is designed for.1
Additionally, some filters mostly catch material that is 3 microns, or three millionths of a meter, in diameter or larger. This is important for preventing material from fouling an HVAC system, but isn’t enough to remove the kinds of particles that cause health problems in humans.
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Some air filters can be cleaned and reused, but you should check the manufacturer’s instructions for a particular air purification system. Many air filters have a cleanable pre-filter, a mesh that catches the largest particles such as pet hair and prevents them from clogging subsequent filters. Do not assume that every filter can be cleaned and reused. For example, activated carbon filters cannot simply be rinsed off and used again.
Depending on the air filter, installing an air filter backwards can either have no effect, negative effects, or it could result in the filter having a shorter lifetime. If the filter is already dirty from use and is simply turned around so that the clean-looking side is now facing the incoming air, all the particles that were caught previously could now be released into the air. If the filter is new, the results of a backwards installation may come down to how the filter is constructed. Some filters may clog more quickly if installed backwards due to the arrangement of fibers.
Air filters catch dirt, dust, and soot from the air. If the air filter is running all the time, it is constantly catching particles from the air. This adds up, and the dirtier the air that an air filtration system has to filter, the faster the filter will get dirty.
Air filters can become clogged over time, reducing their efficiency. This will cause the air purifier for your home or HVAC system to use more energy to move the same amount of air. If the air filter becomes clogged enough it can actually become too difficult for the air purifier to move air through, which will cause it to cease working.
A MERV rating, or Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value rating, is a measure of a filters ability to remove different size particles from an air stream. The standard is published by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers. The HEPA filter standard, or High Efficiency Particulate Air filter standard, is published by the United States Department of Energy. Even the most demanding MERV ratings do not come near the level of filtration that a HEPA filter can achieve. MERV filters are useful as pre-filters for an HVAC system, but are not particularly good as air purifiers.2
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Master Air Purifier Sources:
Air quality sources: Air purification/filtration process sources: HEPA, UPLA, and MERV filter sources:
Air quality sources:https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.est.5b01236
Air purification/filtration process sources:https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/air-purifiers/buying-guide/index.htm
HEPA, UPLA, and MERV filter sources:https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16517004/