Spring is a time to celebrate. As the weather improves, days begin to last longer, and kids start the countdown to summer vacation, but spring doesn’t bring joy to everyone. When trees and flowers begin to blossom, they release particles into the air that can turn eyes and noses into runny faucets. Ragweed, pollen, grasses, and weeds return with warmer temperatures, and with them comes the need for antihistamines and decongestants. In fact, millions of Americans suffer from seasonal allergies, and these problems can be magnified without the proper HVAC filter.
What Makes A Filter Allergen Efficient?
Not all HVAC filters are designed the same way. Many basic models are only designed to protect the air conditioner equipment, not protect your family from allergens. The job of most filters is to keep dust and dirt out of the machinery, so your AC can run in an energy-efficient manner. Keeping microscopic particles out of your lungs isn’t their goal, despite what conventional wisdom may say.
Making your HVAC filter an allergy-fighting tool requires a little extra work. Filters of this kind are known as high energy particulate air filters, or more commonly HEPA filters. Unlike paper filters, HEPA filters use condensed glass fibers in layers to trap microscopic particles like pollen, bacteria, and even smoke. But getting a HEPA filter still isn’t enough to rid your home of all allergens. Several rating systems have been designed to measure filtration, including ones from Home Depot and the 3M company. But the most detailed system is the minimum efficiency rating value (MERV) designed by the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers.
The MERV System
It may have a funny name, but the MERV system is an effective way to filter allergens from your home without breaking the bank for an expensive professional-style HEPA filter. The MERV system has values ranging from 1 to 20, with the higher number meaning more extensive filtration. Filters above a MERV rating of 16 usually aren’t necessary for allergy prevention.
MERV ratings of 1-4 mean the filter will only catch particles at least 10 microns in diameter, which might grab some larger pollen particles but not most. This will filter captures visible things like carpet particles and hair.
MERV ratings of 5-8 mean 85-90% of particles will be caught in the filter. This is the most common type of filter recommended by HVAC technicians, but it won’t capture all allergens. Still, these filters can be up to eight times more effective than fiberglass filters.
MERV ratings of 9-11 mean at least 90% particulate resistance. If you suffer from extreme allergies, you’ll want to look for a filter with at least a MERV rating of nine. These filters capture particles as small as one micron.
MERV ratings of 12-16 are reserved for rooms that need absolute cleanliness. These are computer server rooms, dust-free hospital rooms, and other tight environments.
If you’d like to learn more about indoor air quality, be sure to contact one of our in-home comfort consultants. Be sure you know how often you should change your filters and remember we are here 24/7 for all your heating and cooling needs.