All You Need To Know About HEPA AC Filters And COVID

HEPA AC filters have been making headlines, which would never have happened if it were not for the COVID pandemic. After the Governor of New York mentioned using these filters in malls to prevent the airborne spread of COVID, HEPA filters have been flying off the shelves. But there is more to the story that you will only learn if you listen to an HVAC specialist when it comes to choosing the best air filter for your HVAC system.

But before we can get into the features and functions, it is essential to understand what a HEPA filter is. A HEPA filter is a high-efficiency particulate air filter. And that means that these filters are very dense and designed to trap tiny particles like pollutants and allergens. And they do a great job of it. They snag about 99.97% of all particles down to a .3 micron size. The problem is that viruses like COVID can be much smaller than the .3 micron capability of HEPA filters. However, they can capture viruses that are a part of larger moisture droplets like those from a cough or sneeze.

The Negatives

  1. HEPA filters will trap some but not all virus particles. And unless the infected person coughs into the HEPA filter, others can catch COVID before the droplet is filtered out of the air. These filters could slightly reduce the spread of COVID. But they will not eliminate it in a specific location any more than coughing into a tissue would.
  2. HEPA filters are generally between five and eight inches thick. And that means that there are no genuine HEPA filters that will fit the average residential HVAC system. So if you are going to go with a HEPA filter, you will need to have some alterations done to accommodate the size.
  3. In addition to the size, the thickness is going to impact the performance of your HVAC system. The fan will not be strong enough to pull air through this massive filter. So you will suffer decreased airflow and an early end of life for the system unless you beef up the fan’s horsepower.
  4. HEPA filters cost several HUNDRED dollars each compared to the $5 to $12 cost of most common HVAC filters. And because they snag dust so efficiently, you will need to change them more often. So cancel next year’s vacation and allocate those funds to HVAC upgrades and a year’s worth of HEPA filters.

A More Realistic Filter Option

By now, most people have begun to grasp that the best way to reduce the spread of COVID is with copious amounts of handwashing, social distancing, and simple common sense. But some very high-quality HVAC filters can provide some assistance.

The CDC recommends MERV 13 filters for residential applications. MERV is a rating system for HVAC filters. The higher the MERV, the smaller the particles the filter can capture, and the more efficiently it does so. The average home or commercial facility uses a MERV 8 filter. The MERV 13 is rated to capture 50% of the particles in the size range of COVID particles. The only downside to the MERV 13 is that they are about three times the cost of a MERV 8, but they do a far better job for the money.

Shedding Light On The Issue

You might have also heard or read that ultraviolet light can deactivate COVID particles. The latest hubbub it the installation of UV air purifiers to increase the protection against this virus. Unfortunately, these UV air purifiers are not effective in an HVAC application. To actually eliminate the risk, the COVID particles need to remain in the UV “kill zone” for a longer period of time than is practical in this application.

The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from COVID is to follow the general distancing and handwashing protocols. Altering your HVAC system is not going to be a sound investment. But when you need fast and affordable service or maintenance for your HVAC, please call (512) 910-8123. The Parobek Plumbing & Air Conditioning team is here to provide you with honest answers and only the highest quality workmanship.

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