Do HEPA Filters Work in HVAC Systems?

HEPA filters are renowned for their ability to capture microscopic contaminants from the air, such as mold, dust, and pet dander. These filters are often used in medical facilities, as they trap at least 99.97% of particles as small as 0.3 microns. However, it is rare and generally not recommended to use a HEPA air filter in a traditional home HVAC system. The entire air conditioning system would need to be redesigned, the typical home air conditioning system ducts, and the air controller could not handle the increased airflow resistance of a HEPA filter.

Not to mention that the cost and size of HEPA filters would be exorbitant. The good news is that if you want a highly effective filter for your home, the EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency) reports that air conditioning filters with a MERV rating of 7 to 13 have a “chance of being almost as effective as true HEPA filters”. For the most part, low-cost, disposable flat panel filters are designed to minimize wear and tear, a form of depreciation caused by large particles of inorganic dust in HVAC mechanical components. They are not necessarily made to address the air quality issues experienced by home occupants.

This is where HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters come into play. They are designed to close the gap and bring air filtration to a higher level of efficiency. In fact, HEPA filters exceed MERV grade 16. These air filters can remove 99.97 percent of particles down to a size of 0.3 microns. The key mechanism of this unit is to extract a certain amount of air from the main duct, transport it through the assembled HEPA filter, and return the filtered air to the duct without impeding the air flow. In addition, dusty air filters can eliminate the efficiency of HEPA filters and cause contaminants to accumulate in the ducts. Although often overlooked, an HVAC unit's air filter maintains a stable and healthy airflow inside your home or commercial building.

This high particle capture rate comes at a cost: HEPA filters have more resistance to airflow than MERV filters. These filtration systems sometimes have a multi-step filtration process, with a pre-filter for larger particles, a MERV 17 filter for residual particles, and a carbon filter for aromas. It's essential to keep your HVAC filters clean and free of dirt, as all the air that cools and heats your home passes through them. Keep in mind that UV filters should be used in conjunction with an air filter that takes care of the particles themselves. In conclusion, while it is possible to install a HEPA filter in an HVAC system, it is not recommended due to its high cost and complexity. A filter with a MERV rating of 13 to 16 is considered a high-range MERV filter and can remove up to 75 percent of all airborne particles 0.3 microns or greater from the air.

Shana Gojcaj
Shana Gojcaj

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