For allergy sufferers, springtime isn’t simply about the joys of warmer weather. It’s about asthma, hay fever, watery eyes and sinus issues. Seasonal allergies are common, affecting about 50 million people in the U.S., according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, and poor indoor air quality is one the top five environmental health risks identified by the Environmental Protection Agency. Although you can’t keep yourself in a bubble all season, you can take steps to rid your home’s air of as many allergens as possible using the latest in air purification technology.
Types of Filtration Systems
The two most common types of filtration systems are whole house air filters and portable air filters. Portable filters clean the air in a single room while whole house filters, installed in the HVAC ductwork, can handle an entire home.
Portable systems are pricier, ranging between $50 and $850, with an annual operational cost of up to $200. Whole house filters have a lower upfront cost since they work with existing HVAC systems, but since they require a new filter every one to three months, these costs can add up over a long period of time. Whole house systems must meet certain installation requirements, and, depending on type and size, most cost between $20 and $80.
Types of Air Filters
One way to understand the efficiency of a filter is to look for the minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) rating, which measures how well it removes airborne particles. MERV scores range from 1 to 20. The higher the score, the better the filtration.
- Fiberglass filters are the most common and comprised of layered fiberglass fibers that trap large particles. These are inexpensive but not the best for allergy sufferers, scoring between 1 and 4 on the MERV scale.
- Polyester and pleated paper filters trap 80 to 95 percent of particles 5 microns and larger. They rate between 8 and 13 on the MERV scale.
- High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters remove 99.97 percent of all particles above 0.3 microns, catching mold spores and even bacteria and viruses. Many HEPA filters have a MERV rating of 14 to 16.
- Electrostatic filters feature self-charging electrostatic cotton/paper fibers that attract and trap small particles using static electricity. There are disposable and permanent options that have MERV ratings that range from 1 to 4.
New Air Filter Technology
These newer filters feature some of the latest air conditioning technology in the industry.
Ultraviolet Air Purifiers
These filters kill airborne particles — including germs and mold — with rays of ultraviolet light that incinerate them as they pass, doing away with traditional filters that need replacement. You can use these pricey systems in either residential HVAC systems or portable purifiers, but be aware that they don’t catch many common allergens such as dust.
Ionic Air Filters
These use negatively charged ions catch even the very smallest air particles, and they are extremely quiet. On the downside, they don’t trap larger irritants like dust, and the ionized particles land on surfaces in the room and can easily find their way back into the air. They also emit ozone, which can irritate sensitive lungs.
What’s Right for You?
Using existing HVAC systems to install a more efficient air purification system is a cost-effective choice if you’re looking to improve your long-term indoor air quality. Choosing the best filter depends on the size and capacity of your HVAC system and your needs as an allergy sufferer. Look for high MERV ratings, and consider the pros and cons of each filter type.
Don’t let allergy season take you by surprise. Get your home springtime ready now. The professionals at Cox Heating & Air Conditioning can work with you to improve your home’s indoor air quality by helping you choose the best air filtration system for your needs.