How Important is a Good Air Filter?
Most people don’t give an air filter a second thought. Many people purchase the cheapest filter at Wal-Mart or Home Depot and then wait 6 months to change it. Perhaps it’s because most Americans are unaware of the dangers of poor indoor air quality and the role a good air filter plays in reducing pollution inside the home and office.
Have you ever stopped to consider what is floating in your indoor air? We all know how bad polluted air outside is by all the media coverage. Every newspaper, magazine and television news source is talking about our environment and what we need to do to protect ourselves but not many of them mention indoor air pollution. Here is a quote from WebMD.com:
“Even though indoor air is typically 2-5 times more polluted than outdoor and we spend about 90% of our time indoors, there have been few studies documenting the health effects of indoor air and there are no regulations as there are for outdoor air or even workplace air.”
Air Filter vs Indoor Air Pollution
Indoor air pollution is considered a huge health risk according to the World Health Organization, the Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board. If this is true why aren’t we doing more to protect our indoor air quality as well as outdoor air quality. The oil embargo of the 1970s and new building practices in America are mostly to blame. We build our homes out of plastic, glue, paper and wood. Which can be great mold food. We utilize chemicals without any concern of their short-term and long-term affects on our health. We tighten up our homes in order to make them energy efficient which is great but indoor air quality measures should also be put in place to offset the lack of ventilation. The air filter is the best first step to improve your indoor air quality.
The Air Filter in Your Furnace or HVAC System
If you have a central heat and air system otherwise known as an HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) system you probably have some type of air filter in your home. Most of the time these filters are pleated or made of fiberglass and 1 inch deep although the length and width will vary. The area the air filter is placed is often called the cold air return or return air grille. Ask yourself this question. Do you think breathing fiberglass is a good idea? If not, then stop buying cheap fiberglass air filters.
Some systems have larger air filters installed that can range from 2 inch thick and up to 12 inches. The larger air filter is typically located near the HVAC unit along the return air duct in order to capture mega amounts of indoor air pollution. This type of air filter can be effective but it can also be very expensive and ineffective if not installed correctly and maintained regularly. It’s interesting that many HVAC professionals recommend a cheap fiberglass air filter in order to not put a drag or load on the HVAC unit. A forced air furnace or central air system can become damaged when air is restricted over time. While other HVAC professionals are quick to recommend a larger filter system with an air filter as thick as 12 inches.
Whether you install an air filter that is 1 inch or 12 inches thick. If the air filter does not seal the edges and prevent air bypass, the air filter is not running at maximum efficiency. Imagine you want to remove chlorine from your tap water. So you purchase a water filter system that allows 10% to 25% of the unfiltered water to pass by and enter your drinking glass. There would still be the taste of chlorine in your water. That is a very simple explanation to a very complex problem because an air filter that eliminates all bypass cannot remove all particles from the air. Just like a water filter cannot remove all pollutants which is why there are different filters for different biological contaminants.
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The Type of Air Filter You Should Consider
As mentioned earlier, stay away from cheap fiberglass filters. They don’t really capture anything and the fiberglass can escape the filter and enter your HVAC system and ultimately your lungs. Cardboard pleated allergy filters are good if they fit and seal the return air grille properly but they can be quite expensive. Some allergy filters can cost as much as $25 each. If an allergy filter can catch as much as they advertise, how do they last three to six months. Thick HVAC filters can run $50 or more. Did you know a cardboard air filter for a 20x20x1 inch return opening measures out at 19.75×19.75×0.75? This creates an automatic gap between the filter and the return which allows for air to bypass the air filter. Here is a test to see if you have air bypassing your air filter. Run your finger along the metal edge of the cold air return where it and the filter meet. Is there dust on your finger? If so, air is bypassing your air filter and making your HVAC system dirty along with your home and lungs.