Houston Heating, Cooling, and Electrical

Benefits of Filtration Systems, and Should We Do Anything Different Amid Quarantine?

Can air filters help during quarantine?

You air conditioner’s filters are responsible for keeping the air inside your home as clean as possible. They do this by removing particles from the air, including microscopic particles that are only microns in size. This constant filtering reduces the number of airborne particles in the home, so even if your family is stuck inside due to quarantine, they can still get fresh air.

Air filters aren’t considered a primary tool in preventing illness, but they can fill a valuable supporting role by reducing the impact that airborne pollutants have on your immune system.

What do the experts recommend in stopping coronavirus?

Coronavirus particles have been measured between .05 and .2 microns (micrometers), with .125 microns being the average. Particles at this size, as small as they are, can still be trapped by some air filters.

However, there is no evidence that better air filtering alone can stop or slow the spread of coronavirus. While it seems like in theory that fewer viral particles means a lower chance of transmission, there is no research to back this up. That’s partly because researchers don’t yet know how many viral particles it takes to infect someone, a term known as viral load. Until more specifics are known about coronavirus, sticking to the CDC’s recommendations is what reputable HVAC professionals recommend. That means:

  • Wash your hands frequently and for at least 20 seconds, especially after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.
  • Do not leave the home when sick and avoid close contact with sick people if possible.
  • Do not touch your face, especially when caring for a sick person or when outside the home.
  • Choose hand sanitizers made with at least 60 percent alcohol.
  • Ramp up disinfection and cleaning efforts at home to help stop the spread.

To date, these steps are the best defense against coronavirus, but the right air filter can help protect good health and air quality in other ways.

How can air filters support good health?

Air filters are one part of the healthy home puzzle, but for people with breathing or lung conditions, it can be an important one. That’s because air filters can remove many common allergens and particles that can aggravate health problems. Some of those particles include:

  • Dirt and dust
  • Pollen
  • Mold and mold spores
  • Pet dander and fur
  • Lint and other fibers
  • Tiny wood, plaster and metal particles
  • Insect-related allergens

When people with chronic respiratory conditions inhale these particles, it can result in respiratory distress and worsening of symptoms. This includes people with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Even without the threat of coronavirus, it’s recommended that high performance air filters be installed in homes where susceptible people live. This includes anyone with a chronic lung or breathing condition, the elderly and the very young.

With the threat of coronavirus, though, it’s more important than ever for high-risk populations to manage their health conditions. There’s two reasons for this:

Supporting whole-body health can help defend against disease

While exercise, a healthy diet and breathing clean air may not stop illness, it can help the body respond better to it. Exposure to pollutants and allergens can exacerbate other underlying health conditions, which may worsen a patient’s outcome if they do suffer a bacterial or viral infection. By removing airborne pollutants, you’re giving your body a better environment for optimal health.

Healthcare facilities are where the sickest, and most infectious, people typically go

During a disease outbreak, hospitals take in many infected people. For high-risk, uninfected people, an unnecessary hospital trip may be too dangerous. Managing health conditions can prevent such a trip, minimizing risk of catching an infectious illness.

What type of air filter provides the best performance?

There are many types of air filters on the market, but no matter what material or technique is used to produce them, they all come with a minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV). MERV is a single-number metric used to describe how effective an air filter is at removing particles of various sizes. MERV ranges from 1 to 16, and the larger the MERV number, the better. If you’re selecting a filter based on performance alone, then MERV is the most important thing to pay attention to.

Here are some common air filter choices and their MERV ranges:

Fiberglass filters

These filters are made from spun fiberglass, are inexpensive and allow for maximum airflow. However, at best, they achieve MERV ratings of only 4, which means they cannot filter out smaller particles like mold spores, metal dust, smoke or bacteria.

Pleated polyester or paper filters

These filters come with higher MERV values (in the 5 to 8 range), so they can remove some mold spores and dust from the air. They are a better option for people with allergies and they are only a bit more expensive than fiberglass filters. However, they cannot reliably remove particles below a few microns in size.

Electrostatic filters

Electrostatic filters are available in a range of MERV values, from 2 to 10, and some of them can be used for years if they are occasionally washed. It’s important to pay attention to filter quality because lower quality electrostatic filters will lose some of their effectiveness after washing.

Disposable high MERV filters

Disposable, high MERV filters can achieve 11 to 13 MERV ratings. At MERV 13, a filter can remove at least 90 percent of particles 1 micron or larger in size, and up to 75 percent of particles between .3 and 1 micron in size. These filters are recommended for people with asthma and allergies.

Beyond high MERV filters, there are also HEPA filters available, which are typically used in specialized settings like healthcare and engineering.

Should I pick a HEPA filter for my air conditioner?

HEPA stands for high-efficiency particulate air and is the standard for settings where thorough air filtering is necessary. HEPA filters were originally designed for atomic bomb research and are in use in hospitals, drug processing facilities, computing manufacturing facilities, nuclear power facilities and nuclear fuel facilities. HEPA is used in these facilities because it filters out at least 99.97 percent of particles that are 0.3 microns in size. Particles smaller and larger than this are filtered out at greater efficiency, nearing 100 percent for extremely small or large particles.

HEPA filters are highly effective, but consult with an HVAC professional before buying and installing them. Due to their engineering, HEPA filters can greatly reduce airflow in systems that aren’t designed to accommodate them. This can result in less effective cooling and damage to your system. Also, beware of air filters termed “HEPA-like” or something similar, as this usually means the filter provides less protection than a true HEPA filter.

Air filters won’t prevent coronavirus transmission, but in a quarantine setting, where fresh air is hard to come by, they still play an important role. Whether it’s intercepting viral particles or providing a cleaner environment for everyone inside, air filters help make inside living more manageable when you can’t go outside.

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