Are HEPA Filters OK for Your HVAC System?

If you’re concerned about the indoor air quality in your Nashville residence, HEPA filters are a effective way to enhance the air your household breathes.

HEPA, or high-efficiency particulate air, is the peak benchmark for air filtration. These filters are often used in medical centers, as they remove at minimum 99.97% of particles as little as 0.3 microns. These filters can remove microscopic substances from the air including mold, dust and pet dander.

On account of their powerful filtration efficiency, HEPA filters are dense and could restrict airflow in some home comfort equipment. It’s essential to contact a heating and cooling pro like Donelson Air Service Experts in advance of installing one to avoid damage to your furnace. So, let’s go over if you can use HEPA filters in your HVAC system.

What Is a HEPA Filter and How Does It Purify Air?

HEPA furnace filters were initially made to protect scientists from radiation as they created the atomic bomb during World War II. These fiberglass filters are made from intricate mesh that traps many pollutants. Now, these filters are typically used in medical centers, science labs and even homes.

If you made an attempt to install a HEPA filter in your furnace, you’d more than likely have issues getting enough air from your vents. This is since your furnace’s blower motor isn’t engineered to work with such a dense filter.

What MERV Rating Can My Furnace Work With?

Filters are categorized by their MERV rating, or Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. The higher the number, the better the filter is at catching small substances.

Here’s how common household filters are categorized:

  • Flat filters—MERV 5. Captures pollen and dust mites.
  • Pleated filters—MERV 8. Captures pollen, dust mites and mold.
  • Box filters—MERV 13. Filters pollen, dust mites, mold and certain fumes.

Higher ratings, like MERV 14-20, are used in commercial and medical settings. A HEPA filter commonly ranks at MERV 17-20.

Generally, the biggest rating you can safely have in your furnace is MERV 13, but we recommend asking a heating and cooling company like Donelson Air Service Experts beforehand to keep clear of damage to your furnace.

HEPA filters in residences are commonly used in a separate whole-home air filtration system. This unit is secured within your ductwork and runs alongside your HVAC system.

To enhance filtration power, some models of these systems include UV germicidal lights and activated carbon filters. Germicidal lights have been shown to consistently destroy some viruses in residences under particular airflow circumstances. And activated carbon filters can get rid of most offensive scents, like cooking scents or tobacco smoke.

What to Look for in a HEPA Filter for Your Residence

There are a few different styles that operate with your HVAC unit—HEPA filtration systems, air filtration systems and media air cleaners.

A HEPA filtration system is most effective, with 99.97% efficiency for pollutants down to .3 micron. These filtration systems often have a combined filtration process, with a prefilter for larger particles, MERV 17 filter for the residual contaminants and carbon filter for smells.

Air purification systems are usually the complete package, with a hospital-grade MERV 16 filter, germicidal lights and carbon filters. A media air cleaner is only the filter and may have carbon filtration add-ons.

Some of these systems are designed to work with distinct brands, while others are compatible with all brands. Donelson Air Service Experts can help you determine what will work best for your family.

Here are several features to look for when buying a filtration system for your family:

  • Provides hospital-grade filtration (MERV 16 and up)
  • Traps pollutants, bioaerosols and smells
  • Delivers filtration for your complete house, not just a lone space
  • Doesn’t create ozone, which can result in respiratory inflammation
  • Works with smart thermostats

If you want to increase the indoor air quality in your residence, the Experts at Donelson Air Service Experts are here to help with a free, no-obligation home comfort assessment. Your family’s comfort matters to us, so we’ll work with you to help you find the right solution for your budget. Contact us at 615-953-9885 today to request your appointment.

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