Sneezing, sniffling, snoring—springtime allergies can range from annoying and unpleasant to downright debilitating. Even powerful antihistamines may fail to alleviate your symptoms completely, leaving you searching for relief. Fortunately, your air filters can help keep the air in your home free from many of the annoying allergens that plague your senses.
In our more than 75 years in the Valley, we’ve spent season after season helping homeowners counter springtime allergies with the help of air filters. That’s why we’ve prepared this easy guide to understanding how, and why, air filters are your home’s best defense against allergens like dander, dust, and pollen.
Clean, properly installed air filters trap airborne particles, keeping both the air in your home and your HVAC system free from their harmful effects. Air filters are relatively simple devices, but there’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to finding the right one for your home—and for your allergy symptoms. Understanding the types of air filters out there, and knowing what allergens they filter, is the first step towards achieving clean air in your home.
The most common type of air filter is fiberglass. There’s a good chance this is the type of filter you already have in your home. Fiberglass filters are made of layers of fiberglass arranged over each other to form the core of the filter. Fiberglass filters are typically reinforced with a metal grating in order to support the fiberglass and prevent the filter from collapsing.
Fiberglass filters are popular due to the fact that they’re disposable, inexpensive, and generally effective for trapping common household pollutants like dust. However, for smaller particles, including many allergens, fiberglass filters aren’t very effective. Allergy sufferers and those who suffer from other respiratory problems should consider upgrading to a more powerful filter. While the cost is higher for other types of filters, the potential allergy relief is priceless.
These filters use dense polyester or cotton to trap more dust, dander, and pollutants than fiberglass frames. Since the filters are dense, these particles are physically unable to pass through, stopping them at the source.
One con is that the density of pleated filters forces your HVAC system to work harder in order to pull air through the unit. This results in a loss of energy efficiency. However, this tradeoff may be worth it if improving indoor air quality to counter primetime allergies is your main priority.
As the name suggests, electrostatic filters generate a small amount of static charge. This charge acts as a magnet, attracting small airborne particles and stopping them before they can circulate in your home. Electrostatic filters are a great choice for allergen removal, as even very small airborne particles can’t escape the electric charge.
For the cleanest, healthiest, least allergen-inducing air possible, there’s no better choice than certified High-Efficiency Particular Air (HEPA) filters. To achieve HEPA certification, filters must fulfill the requirement of trapping up to 99.97% of all airborne particles, according to the US Department of Energy. HEPA filters are commonly used in hospitals, schools, and other public settings where clean air is a priority because of their highly effective filtration.
Many filters advertise themselves as “HEPA-like” or “HEPA-type”. This is because, legally, they cannot be categorized as actual HEPA filters if they do not fulfil the requirement of trapping up to 99.97% of airborne particles. To make sure you’re getting a legitimate HEPA filter, look for filters labeled as “true” or “absolute”. While they’re more expensive, it’s the only way to ensure you get true HEPA performance.
You can’t rely on just any filter for effective allergen reduction. For true allergy relief, you’ll need a filter with a high Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rating. MERV ratings measure how effective a filter is at stopping certain sized contaminants. Each level of MERV rating builds on the previous one.
MERV 1-4: Removes dust mites, pollen, dust, textile and carpet fibers
MERV 5-8: Removes pet dander, dusting sprays, and mold spores
MERV 9-12: Removes lead dust, flour, and auto emissions
MERV 13-16: Removes cooking oil, smoke, bacteria, and sneeze droplets
MERV 16-20: Removes viruses and all forms of smoke
Any filter with a MERV rating of 16 or higher is categorized as a High-Efficiency Particulate Air, or HEPA, filter. These filters provide the highest level of protection from airborne contaminants. Many allergy sufferers notice significant improvement from using a HEPA filter in their home.
A filter’s efficiency is impacted by how clean it is. If you don’t change your filters often enough, they will begin to fail. With the filter unable to properly filter the air, dust and contaminants will be able to escape, polluting your HVAC system and impacting indoor air quality.
For allergy sufferers, we recommend replacing your filters every month. Outside of your normal replacement schedule, it’s helpful to visually inspect filters to see if you may need to swap them out sooner. Look for a visual coating of dust or dirt to indicate that your filters need to be replaced.
Did you know that the air in your home cycles through your HVAC system between five and seven times a day? If this air isn’t clean to begin with, you can end up with a vicious cycle of the same dirty air flowing through your home again and again. Without proper maintenance, years of dust, dirt, pollen, and even mold could be lurking in your ducts right now, polluting the air you breathe. Even the strongest filters may not be able to counter this powerful source of pollution. Which is why for true peace of mind, you need a thorough HVAC maintenance visit before the cooling season starts.
A thorough maintenance visit is the best way to uncover any hidden allergens and make sure the entire system is running as efficiently as possible. Once your system has been checked top to bottom by a qualified technician, you can enjoy the spring season knowing that there’s nothing standing between you and clean air.
Whether you’re looking for more insight about the best filters for your home, or want to schedule a maintenance visit to bring your system back to prime condition, the first step is to contact Chas Roberts. Our friendly and knowledgeable team members strive to make your experience as smooth as possible, from the very first phone call to the final appointment.