High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters are one of the most popular filters used by homeowners to keep the air in their home clean and prevent reactions to seasonal allergies. If you’re looking to clean up the air in your home, keep reading to find out if a HEPA filter is the right choice for you.
What makes HEPA filters unique
HEPA filters were first used in hospitals and nuclear power plants to protect people from harmful airborne particles and illnesses. Today, they’re used in vacuum cleaners, air purifiers, and whole-house-air-filtration systems to purify the air for consumers across the globe. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), what makes HEPA filters unique is their ability to “remove more than 99 percent of all airborne pollutants 0.3 microns or larger.” A micron is a microscopic particle, less than 1/25,400 of an inch long.
Pros of a HEPA Filter
Reduces allergy and asthma symptoms: Thankfully, particles like dust, dander, and pollen that cause allergy symptoms are large enough for a HEPA filter to catch. According to the EPA, HEPA filters used in portable air-purifiers and heating, ventilation, and cooling (HVAC) systems can help reduce allergy and asthma symptoms.
Produces no byproducts: Other air purifying products like ozone, ionizers, and PECO all emit a harmful byproduct into the air. Unlike its competitors, HEPA simply filters the air without adding any byproducts to it.
Commonly available: HEPA filters are found in a variety of home appliances including whole-house air filtration units, portable air purifiers, and vacuum cleaners. This means finding an appliance that contains a HEPA filter and is labeled “Absolute HEPA” or true “HEPA” is easy to do. However, be aware of labels that say “HEPA-type,” “HEPA-like,” or “HEPA-style.” These will not filter as thoroughly as a true HEPA filter.
Won’t remove every particle: Unfortunately, HEPA filters will not remove pollutants from the air that are smaller than 0.3 microns, including viruses, some bacteria, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are household items like hairspray and ammonia that are too small for a HEPA filter to eliminate. Airborne mold spores are large enough for a HEPA filter to catch. However, having moisture in your air filter can allow the spores to grow. This will spread mold throughout the filter and possibly your home. To reduce the spread of mold, replace your HEPA filter at least as often as recommended by the manufacturer. If mold continues to grow, consider an air purifier with an antimicrobial pre-filter to trap and destroy mold spores before they can reach the HEPA filter.
Requires frequent replacement: HEPA filters trap most of the particulates in the air. This means they tend to clog faster than more porous filters. You can expect to change HEPA filters at least twice as often as non-HEPA filters. However, HEPA filters typically last two to three years.
Can be difficult to clean: The shape and size of your air purifier may make it difficult to access the HEPA filter and clean it. This means some HEPA filters are washable and others aren’t. Unfortunately, a dirty filter can lead to moisture build-up and mold growth.
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