Among the best and easiest ways to protect the air quality in your Las Vegas, NV, home is by regularly changing your air filter. Standard HVAC air filters sieve out large, airborne particulates, like dust, textile and carpet fibers, hair and fur. However, while standard air filters provide limited air quality benefits, they’re largely designed to protect heating and cooling equipment. If you or someone else in your household has a chronic respiratory illness, terminal illness or compromised immunity, you may need a more effective way to remove allergens, pathogens and chemical contaminants from your indoor air. High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters are a popular choice. Read on to find out what HEPA filters are, how they work and what you need to know about installing them.
HEPA Filters and Filter Ratings
All HVAC air filters manufactured and sold throughout the United States have maximum efficiency reporting value (MERV) ratings. MERV ratings run from one through 20 with one being the lowest possible rating and 20 being the highest. Standard HVAC air filters usually have MERV ratings between just six and eight. With their slightly larger mesh and smaller surface areas, there are many small-sized contaminants that standard air filters can’t reliably collect, including mold spores, dust mites and animal dander.
All HEPA filters have MERV ratings of 17 or greater. These filters have significantly larger surface areas, tighter mesh and other features and attributes that allow them to capture particulates as small as 0.3 microns.
The Drawbacks of Increased Air Filtration
There’s a good reason why HVAC equipment manufacturers present their products with relatively low-performing, standard air filters pre-installed. Not only are these components low in cost, but they’re also designed to offer optimum airflow. Their larger mesh makes it easier for furnaces and air conditioners to draw air in and move it. Each time you increase your HVAC air filter’s rating, you decrease airflow in your HVAC system. This makes it best for homeowners to seek a good balance between optimizing indoor air quality (IAQ) and HVAC performance.
For HEPA filters, the resulting decrease in airflow is so significant that various system modifications must be made to accommodate them. HEPA filters are also many times thicker than standard filters and must be installed in ducting rather than the normal filter compartment. In short, you can’t install a HEPA filter on your own. In addition to air duct improvements, most HVAC systems require air balancing and other interventions to prevent heater and AC stress, short-cycling, icing and overheating.
How HEPA Filters Work
HEPA filters have dense, pleated designs. They’re also five to eight inches thick. Their dense construction and enhanced thickness prevent the escape of micro-fine allergens and contaminants by capturing them directly or neutralizing them. These attributes also allow for the diffusion of many gaseous contaminants, such as the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are constantly off-gassed by building materials and released during cooking projects. Gas molecules collide with one another while moving through HEPA filter mesh and eventually become trapped. Although HEPA filters cannot remove all gaseous contaminants, they do limit their concentrations significantly.
What To Expect When Getting a HEPA Filter Installed
The highest MERV rating that residential HVAC systems can accommodate without modification is 13. Thus, if you intend to have a HEPA filter installed, your installer will place it in your HVAC ducting as part of a whole-house air filtration system or as a media filter. Some whole-house air filtration systems with HEPA filters include germicidal UV lights or, in the case of HEPA-equipped air scrubbers, sanitizing solutions. With these additions, HEPA filters can remove or deactivate bacteria, viruses and other pathogens measuring 0.2 microns or smaller.
During these appointments, HVAC technicians turn off heaters and air conditioners, modify air ducts as needed, establish electrical connections, and install HEPA filters as standalone units or as part of air scrubbing or air purification technologies. When finished, they test HVAC systems and their new accessories before performing air balancing to optimize airflow.
Is a HEPA Filter Right For Your Home?
HEPA filter installation typically requires ductwork modifications and air balancing to ensure optimum performance for all HVAC equipment. However, it should also include pre-installation air quality testing. Before making any changes to your existing infrastructure, it’s important to determine whether the changes can help you meet your IAQ goals.
Air quality concerns are often specific to the building and household. For instance, if you have pets, no landscaped areas in your yard, active construction nearby or residents with severe health issues, you’ll need greater air filtration than a home and household usually provide. Your choice in interior paint, flooring, flooring adhesives, solvents and other building materials matters, too. Factors like poorly capped sump pumps, slab leaks and ill-maintained, fuel-combusting appliances can also add gaseous contaminants and other toxins to your indoor air.
Your System May Just Need Some Maintenance and Repairs
Integrated HVAC accessories like air scrubbers, air purifiers and HEPA filters are meant to address static IAQ concerns. These are air quality issues that always exist in homes and cannot be mitigated or managed in other ways. For instance, if you have indoor pets and a resident with severe pet allergies, installing a HEPA filter and leveraging various containment strategies could help. If you live near an active smoker and often have smoke odors and secondhand smoke enter your home, installing a HEPA filter as part of a whole-house air filtration system could solve the problem.
However, in many instances, poor IAQ is the result of fixable issues. For example, if you have high levels of radon in your living environment, you might need a tighter-fitting sump pump cap or slab leak repairs. Mold and mildew infestations are usually the results of slow and hidden leaks behind water-reliant appliances or drywall. Some homeowners even find that they need to be more consistent in scheduling preventative HVAC maintenance and change their standard air filters more often.
How IAQ Assessments Help
Indoor air quality assessments identify the specific toxins present in homes. They also quantify these contaminants and pinpoint their most likely sources. By scheduling an IAQ assessment first, you can avoid installing costly HVAC accessories that you may end up not needing in the long term. There are also times during which IAQ assessments determine that homeowners will achieve the best results by installing whole-house humidification or dehumidification equipment instead. With the data they supply, IAQ assessments help homeowners and HVAC companies make informed decisions and take needs-specific approaches to IAQ improvement.
Signs You Need Additional IAQ Support
Unchecked IAQ concerns can affect the health of building residents in multiple ways. While dust mites, dander and pollen are associated with sneezing, wheezing and general respiratory distress, they can also cause skin rashes and general skin irritation, dry, watery, or itchy eyes and fatigue. VOCs and other gaseous contaminants can cause low energy, nausea and depression.
There are also visual cues of the need for additional IAQ support. If you have large amounts of dust on your indoor surfaces despite regularly vacuuming, mopping, dusting and sweeping, there’s likely large amounts of particle debris in your air. If you have to change your standard HVAC air filter more than once a month, this is also an indication that you need better IAQ control.
We offer exceptional heating, cooling and plumbing services. We also provide duct sealing and indoor air quality assessments. If you want to know more about installing a HEPA filter in your Las Vegas, NV, home, get in touch with BEST Air Conditioning Plumbing Repair now.