Air Filters & Your Allergies: Quick Facts You Should Know
HVAC air filters are an essential part of any heating or cooling system. Far from setting it and forgetting it, air filters need to be replaced or cleaned on a regular basis. This is a simple HVAC maintenance task homeowners can tackle themselves. As always, knowledge is power, so read on to learn more about HVAC filters, how they work and how they can help or hinder those who suffer from allergies. Need top service for top residential air conditioners? The team at Dial One Johnson Plumbing, Cooling and Heating is fully qualified to take care of all your HVAC needs. Give us a call at (972) 362-9801 or visit us online to schedule an appointment today.
The Ins and Outs of HVAC Air FiltersIndoor air is full of pollutants. From dust and pet dander to pollen and cooking gas particles, our HVAC air filters help capture and trap airborne contaminants, preventing them from circulating back into the air we breathe. Air filters help improve indoor air quality while keeping your HVAC system and air ducts clean. Air filters can be disposable or reusable. In either case, they need to be replaced or cleaned every 30–90 days, depending on your climate and lifestyle. Filters are typically made from spun fiberglass, cloth or pleated paper contained in a cardboard frame. Printed on the frame, homeowners can find information like the filter’s size and measurements. This is useful when replacing filters, as you’ll need to find one that fits your unit. Most home improvement stores carry standard HVAC air filter sizes. It’s wise to take a picture of this information on your old filter before getting rid of it.
How Do Air Filters Work?Air filters are located in your unit’s air return registers. Some homes will have only one return register, while larger homes and segmented spaces may have multiple returns. Each one should contain an air filter. Return registers suck air into the unit to be conditioned, rather than expelling air into the home. In doing so, air passes through the air filter before entering your unit, making HVAC air filters your first line of defense for keeping pollutants out of your unit and out of the air you breathe.
What are MERV Ratings?The Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rating on an air filter measures how efficiently it can capture contaminants. Standard MERV ratings range from 1–16. Higher numbers indicate that an air filter can capture smaller particles, and therefore, more of them. That doesn’t mean homeowners should get the filter with the highest MERV rating, however. Air filters with MERV ratings of 1–4 are common and provide basic air filtration, while those with MERV ratings of 6–8 are often found in top residential air conditioners and offer good filtration. Those rated 9–12 are considered high-quality air filters, while those in the 13–16 range can get rid of extremely small particles. Anything above a MERV rating of 16 is typically reserved for specialized systems, like those in medical settings. A residential unit would actually struggle to suck air in through a filter with such a high rating, so it’s best to stick with those in the 6–16 MERV rating range, depending on the level of filtration you’re after.
HVAC Air Filters and AllergiesThose who suffer from severe allergies can benefit from high-energy particulate air filters, better known as HEPA filters. While paper HVAC air filters can effectively trap larger particles, like dust, HEPA type filters can trap smaller particles and known allergens, such as dander, pollen and tobacco smoke by-products. To help prevent allergies, try the following:
- Keep HVAC equipment clean year-round and schedule professional cleanings/tune-ups twice a year
- Replace air filters frequently, especially during known allergy seasons
- Practice source-control by removing allergens from the home whenever possible. This includes dusting, vacuuming and grooming pets often
- Improve indoor air quality by increasing ventilation and allowing outdoor air to enter the home
- Run ceiling fans on a low setting to help circulate air throughout the home, allowing your air filters to capture contaminants that may otherwise linger
What is the Best Air Filter to Prevent Allergies?Finding the right air filter to suit your HVAC system, household and needs may take some trial and error, but it’s a worthy endeavor. Our experts recommend the following air filters to help prevent allergy flare-ups:
- A permanent electrostatic air filter with a MERV rating of 8 and microns 1. This filter utilizes self-charging fibers to capture miniscule particles. Washable versions of this filter are available, just be sure to let it dry completely before replacing them in your unit.
- A disposable filter with a MERV rating of 10 and microns 1.
- HEPA filters with a MERV rating between 14–16 and microns up to .3. HEPA filters capture more contaminants, which means they become clogged faster and will need to be replaced more often.