Types of Air Filters
(Ranked from Low to High Efficiency)

Traditional Fiberglass or Polyester

These inexpensive, disposable, 1" filters are recommended to be changed monthly. Because their main purpose is to protect the heating and cooling system from damage, their media is dense enough only to capture large particles. This filter type is not very effective at capturing smaller, respirable particles from the air.

Washable/Reusable Filter

While this filter is initially expensive, it can be used for a number of years before needing replacement. But these 1" filters tend to be high maintenance because they need to be washed out monthly and reused. Unfortunately, particles removed when the filter is cleaned can end up back in the home environment. This filter captures Microscopic allergens such as smoke, dust and smog, large allergens such as pollen, pet dander and mold and large particles such as lint and dust. Tests show that this type of filter is not very effective at capturing smaller, respirable particles from the air. Although some brands of this filter type claim an electrostatic charge created by the air movement through the media, the charge is actually minimal and plays little or no role in particle capture.

Ordinary Flat or Pleated

It is recommended that these disposable, 1" filters be changed every 1 to 2 months. These filters are generally made out of cotton or polyester media which is denser than fiberglass and will typically capture more small particles than either fiberglass or washable/reusable. The filters can be found with either a pleated or flat media.

Deep Pleated

The previous 3 types of air filters are 1" deep and can be used interchangeably. Deep pleated filters are either 5" or 6" deep and thus can only be used on heating and cooling systems that are specially adapted to accept them. This filter type may have a reusable frame and the media needs to be replaced once or twice a year. These filters have been shown to demonstrate a broad range of efficiency levels between various brands. The efficiency of some brands is only slightly higher than that of fiberglass while others approach the performance of a permanently charged electrostatic filter.

Pleated, Permanently Charged Electrostatic

These 1", disposable filters need to be changed once every 2 to 3 months. Like the four previously mentioned filter types, this type is also designed to physically capture particles. But its efficiency in trapping smaller, respirable particles surpasses both the other 1" air filters and most of the deep pleated filters because its fibers are electrostatically charged. Particles which would otherwise have passed through, are "magnetically" drawn to the filter.

Electronic Air Cleaner

This type of air filter is a permanent fixture in the heating and cooling system and requires an electrical connection. Although it is significantly more expensive than any other type of air filter, it is very effective at removing particles from the air. However, it must be disassembled and cleaned regularly to keep its high level of effectiveness. Also, these air cleaners may emit uncontrolled levels of ozone, which may be harmful. Also read Electrostatic Precipitator Air Cleaners

HEPA Filters

HEPA is an acronym for High Efficiency Particulate Air Filter. A conventional HEPA filter consists of a continuous sheet of a special paper-like, glass-fiber filter medium which is pleated into a "V" configuration with corrugated aluminum separators between the pleats. This forms the filter element, which is then bonded into a rigid frame using a special polyurethane compound. more info

General Tips about Air Filters

Air filters can serve as a breeding ground for mold and bacteria, unless they are specifically treated with an anti-microbial coating to retard microbial growth. And the dust that is collected provides the mold and bacteria microbes the nutrients they need to thrive. Filters can also spread illness when you handle the filters for maintenance and replacement purposes because as you remove the filter the mold spores, bacteria and viruses can become airborne.

If these air filtration methods are not the solution to your air quality problems, then what is?

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