The past few years have made circulation, air quality, and filtration a common topic of conversation. As we learned to live with COVID-19, seeking out ways to prevent the spread, yet still enjoy being around others meant an acute awareness of our surroundings. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently set indoor air quality targets- the first time a federal agency has done so.
“It’s a monumental shift. We haven’t had this. We haven’t had health-based ventilation standards,” said Joseph Allen, director of the Harvard Healthy Buildings Program.
The move comes the day after the US ended its public health emergency for Covid-19. Public health officials have long downplayed the role of airborne spread in the transmission of infectious disease, and it took years of lobbying by indoor air quality experts for the CDC to acknowledge the importance of ventilation in controlling the pandemic.
But now, with wildfires raging in Canada and many U.S. States setting air quality warnings for their residents, ventilation is again top of mind. The new target for how much rooms and buildings should be ventilated is five air changes per hour upgrade to MERV-13 filters.
This can be done in a couple of ways, from opening the doors or windows when temperatures allow, adding a stand-alone filtration system into your living or work-space, or by using an efficient HVAC system that circulates the air enough times and passes the air through an effective filtration system. Other products, like the REME HALO® can be added to any HVAC system and circulates low levels of hydrogen peroxide in the air, alone with using UV light to reduce bacteria, viruses, odors and mold spores in the air and on surfaces.
Knowing how to best approach home filtration can be difficult. For most, choosing a high-quality filter for your HVAC system is sufficient in providing you and your family clean air. Choose the best quality you can afford and set reminders to replace them regularly. It doesn’t do any good to purchase a filter and let it sit longer than its lifespan and it can make your HVAC system work less efficiently.
How to choose a filter
HVAC filters are made from a wide range of materials and qualities. Furnace filters are rated by their minimum efficiency reporting value, or “MERV.” The higher the rating, the more efficient the filter is at trapping airborne particles. The numerical range is from 1 (lowest efficiency) to 20 (highest efficiency). Typically, filters in the 6 to 12 range are designed for residential use-your furnace’s operating manual will recommend the optimal MERV rating. A few options include:
Fiberglass: The least expensive option, fiberglass is also the least efficient, removing only larger particles of dust from the air. For a small difference in price, we recommend choosing a pleated filter (see below), which will offer more protection. MERV rating: 2-3, cost: $1 to $2
Disposable pleated: The disposable pleated option are made of cotton or polyester. The pleating helps trap particles. Combined with the weave of the cotton or polyester, particles are more likely to be contained a they pass through the filter. MERV rating: 6, cost: $4 to $5
High efficiency pleated: This option provides a great layer of protection, but it is an investment. People that experience respiratory problems or autoimmune disorders may benefit from the added filtration. High-efficiency pleated options are made of thick synthetic cotton adhered to a metal grid to ensure the filter stays in place. You’ll likely have to partner with an HVAC expert to fit this kind of filter to your system, as most can’t accommodate the thick filter. MERV rating: 14-16, cost: $100+
Electrostatic: These filters are available in disposable and reusable options made with cartridges containing cotton or paper fibers that attract and trap small particles. The system works by using self-charging layers of cotton/paper fiber to catch particles. Depending on the option you choose, you may replace or clean the filter quarterly or when the system alerts that attention is required. Some people like this option as there is less waste and generally speaking, filters last a long time while continuing to offer protection. MERV rating: 8-10, cost: varies as some may need to be custom ordered.
HEPA: Unfortunately, most home HVAC units aren’t powerful enough to draw air through a HEPA filter. HEPA filters are mainly used in commercial settings and health facilities. But, if you’re looking for the extra layer of protection, choose the most efficient filter for your HVAC system and then add stand-alone HEPA filtration systems as needed.
Good ventilation keeps allergens and other particles at bay
The American Society of Heating Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers shares the document below- 10 ways homeowners can ensure good indoor air quality.
Using these tips, in addition to also adding greenery that naturally reduces certain toxins and cleans the air, will create a safer, cleaner air space in your home.