Author: Jon H
To begin, let us delve into the world of air filters to determine exactly what the deciding factors should be. Beyond understanding MERV ratings, there are different types of air filters to choose from. There are washable and disposable, electrostatic and non-electrostatic. At the most basic, there are flat panel filters made of fiberglass. Fiberglass offers general air filtration applications with light to medium dust loading conditions. Fiberglass (or flat panel spun glass) is a basic filter option usually utilized to protect equipment from dust. Most fiberglass filters offer a MERV-4 rating. Some specialty or online retailers offer polyester panel filters as a basic because polyester panels are considered better for the environment, more efficient and won’t cause skin irritation. Additionally, fiberglass filters do not trap mold spores and the binders used in fiberglass production have a possible link to the promotion of bacterial growth.
In comparison to disposable air filters, washable air filters are designed to be reused and are washed out monthly. Some reusable filters are made to last up to 5 years while others are made to last a lifetime, hence, they are a great choice for protecting the environment. Some washable filters are treated with anti-bacterial and anti-microbial compounds to prevent germs and mold growth. In contrast, untreated washable filters can actually contribute to mold growth because mold thrives in a moist environment. While purchasing a washable filter can definitely save you money over time, it is important to note that most washable filters are less efficient at catching smaller particles and typically are rated MERV-5.
In addition, some air filters claim to be electrostatic, which means that they charge particles while airborne so they are attracted to the filter. In washable filters, the frame is made out of metal; in disposable filters, like Filtrete, the fibers are electrostatic and claim to act like magnets. There are varying opinions on electrostatic filters: some say these are the best and others disagree. It is important to note that the electrostatic aspect only works while the air conditioner or furnace is running and that candle wax may clog the filter and eventually wreck it.
Most residential consumers tend to purchase disposable filters. A MERV-8 will offer filtration for mold spores, pollen, pet dander and dust mite debris, while a MERV-11 will offer filtration for all of those plus microscopic allergens, some bacteria, disintegrated feces, some tobacco smoke, insecticide dust, lead dust and nuisance dust. Anything rated MERV-13-16 (usually found in hospitals) will offer the highest protection from all bacteria, most tobacco smoke and sneeze germs. You may notice that some filters have odor control. As long as it is a natural substance, like baking soda, it can’t hurt. How effective is it? That depends on the MERV rating. If you are trying to remove the odor of tobacco, you need a filter that removes tobacco smoke. Also, you may notice that the filter you are considering to purchase has a filter efficiency rating. This rating refers to the filter’s ability to actually remove the particles that is says it can remove. For example, if a filter has a 100% filter efficiency rating, it will be able to remove all of the particles within its MERV rating from the air which passes through it. Alternatively, some filters have a number for their effectiveness rating. For example, a Flanders Arm and Hammer Standard MERV-8 filter has an effectiveness number of 343 while the Arm and Hammer Elite filter has a MERV rating of 12 and an effectiveness number of 1481.
In sum, air quality is extremely important. Many people suffer from subtle signs of allergies like headaches. While people who suffer from allergies may think that they need to only avoid pet dander, dust and pollen, they need to realize that mold is a substantial allergen. In addition to controlling the moisture in your home, you can also control the journey of a mold spore by using an air filter in your air conditioning/furnace unit that effectively removes mold spores from the air. Look for a MERV rating of at least 8 or higher, as well as a high filter efficiency rating. If you are using a reusable filter, the same rules apply and make sure that the filter has been treated by an antimicrobial compound. As for brands, there are so many to choose from. The simple rule is to find one that is the right size and has the highest MERV rating. Places like Home Depot carry a selection of air filters that offer high ratings for lower than supermarket prices. And remember: change your disposable filter often. Most filters come with a 3 month window; however, there are several factors that can affect the performance of your filter. If you live in a dusty area, have poor insulation, run your unit often, have pets or even have a lot of traffic in and out of your house, your filter can become dirty and clogged in no time. Check the filter often and replace as necessary.
Air filters will not only help the performance of your air conditioner or furnace by keeping it dust free, they will also improve the air quality of your indoor space and help prevent the growth of mold by effectively removing airborne mold spores.
About the Author
For more information on how to protect your family from mold and mold spores, please contact Advanced Restoration, Inc. at 1-800-DRY-ME-OUT or at www.drymeout.com.