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Henry C. Turner
Air Filtration: Filtering Through the Facts

Air Filtration: Filtering Through the Facts

Indoor air quality (IAQ) has most certainly been an increasing focus of consumers who have realized recently that the indoor air they breathe can have a significant impact on their health and well being.

"Studies have shown that people spend up to 90% of their time indoors and that indoor air can be up to 100 times more contaminated than outdoor air. As consumers read these statistics and findings, they begin to recognize the need to protect their indoor environment, and as such, greater numbers are requesting better air filtration solutions", said Brian Baker, CM President of Custom Vac Limited.

To the rescue. the American Society of Heating Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) who sets standards for the Industry announced the new proposed air filtration standard 52.2. This new standard replaced the old standard 52.1 adopted in 1968. It was important to move forward and set the stage for the advancement of newer technologies. Baker stated that, "the old standard made it confusing for contactors like myself to select the best air filtration systems for their customers, so it was no surprise to me that consumers too, were experiencing difficulty in selecting a filter that was right for them."

New Standard for New Technologies

Standard 52.2 created a new way of documenting the efficiency of air filters and established the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV). Basically the standard looks at 12 different particle size bands from 0.3 microns to 10.0 microns. The method of testing, documents the minimum efficiency curves of filters by using six different loading stages. The standard uses a synthetic dust to simulate field conditions. By comparing these 12 different particle size bands to the six loading stages, a minimum performance can be determined.

As more products become available in the marketplace, it is necessary to understand that not all air filters are rated the same way. By selecting air filtration products based on the new standard using and understanding the MERV value rating system will become more important. Basically the higher the MERV value the better the air filter.

A Solution for each Situation

Does every application demand a high-end or high MERV value air filtration system? Baker said, "No, many situations could be significantly improved by simply upgrading to a pleated air filter." Over 98% of all bacteria known to man are over 3.0 microns in size and moulds are actually even quite larger than bacteria, with the vast majority over 3.0 microns. "If a pleated filter with a MERV value of 7 were to be installed, the filter would remove initially 60% of the 3.0 micron-size particles and quickly rise to over 80 percent within days of the application," said Baker.

Since some filters like a MERV 7 actually increase in efficiency over time it becomes important to replace them more frequently. This is because as the air filter loads with particles the air filter increases resistance to airflow resulting in a higher-pressure drop creating a negative affect on the Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) equipment. Overheating of the furnace heat exchanger, freezing of the air conditioning cooling coil and/or if the HVAC system is interconnected with a ventilation system, a reduction in air exchange. On the flip side, regularly scheduled equipment maintenance and filter changes can extend the life of the (HVAC) equipment, lower energy bills and result in fewer breakdowns, which are all positives.

Get Professional Advice to Improve Air Quality

Baker strongly suggests, "Speaking with your HVAC technician or contractor about improving your air filtration system prior to the purchase of an air filter ask lots of questions, after all it's your health."

While this article has dealt with only air filtration as one means of improving indoor IAQ there are many products such as Ultra-Violet (UV) lights, Heat Recovery or Energy Recovery Ventilation (HRV/ERV) systems, Air Conditioning and Duct Cleaning, that can all have a positive affect on improving indoor IAQ. Keep an open mind and educate yourself by using the resources that are available to you from places like Manitoba Energy and Mines and the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). They are very useful publications and most are free of charge.

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