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Electronic Air Cleaners vs. Air Filters — What is the Difference?

Electronic Air Cleaners vs. Air Filters -- What is the Difference?With homes more tightly sealed than ever against the elements, indoor air pollution can be worse than outdoor pollution. Allergens and toxins come from household items such as carpet, furniture and plastic, as well as from plants and grasses outdoors. Without proper ventilation, these irritants can build up and exacerbate health problems, particularly for those with allergies or other respiratory issues. The ability of your HVAC system to keep your indoor air clean is a high priority. Two options for maintaining good indoor air quality are an air cleaner and an air filter. Here’s what you need to know about how they work and which is best your home.

What is an air filter?

The air filter is perhaps the simplest yet most important component of your HVAC system. While it doesn’t technically clean the air in your home, it does prevent the dirt, dust and debris that gets picked up through the return air vents from making their way into your furnace and potentially back into your home.

Types of air filters

Air filters come with different degrees of filtration. The MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value) rating tells you how efficiently the filter captures particles that pass through it, on a scale of 1 to 16. In this case, more isn’t always better. Filters with too high a MERV rating do a great job of preventing dirt from getting into your furnace but may block too much air in the process, making your furnace work too hard and wear out faster. Check your furnace for the recommended MERV rating. Typically a rating between 8 and 11 is sufficient.

Air filters vary in price points and degrees of effectiveness. Your furnace manufacturer can recommend the type and size for your furnace.

  • Disposable pleated filters are the most common and are effective and affordable for most homes.
  • Fiberglass filters are the least expensive but tend to be the least effective, so they need to be replaced more often.
  • Permanent reusable filters (also called washable filters) are either vacuumed or washed with water and can last up to 5 years if properly maintained.
  • Electrostatic filters are available as both disposable and permanent types. They create an electrical charge to trap small particles, making them a good choice for homes with pets or smokers.

Washable filters and electrostatic filters are too restrictive and not recommended. Keep in mind that some disposable pleated filters can also be too restrictive, so choose wisely. Check the manufacturer’s recommendations, or ask your HVAC professional.

Key benefits

Air filters are a simple, economical way to keep your HVAC system operating efficiently and effectively by keeping dirt and debris out of the equipment. The cleaner your system stays, the cleaner your home and indoor air will be.

Maintenance requirements 

Furnace air filters need to be removed and replaced every 1-2 months, depending on the type of air filter. To make it easy, stock up on disposable filters at the start of the season.

What is an air cleaner?

An air cleaner is an appliance that filters the air as it flows through the ductwork. An air cleaner filters the air in your home and keeps your furnace clean, which cuts down on maintenance and repairs, and extends the life of your system.

Types of air cleaners

  • Portable models clean the air in one room at a time.
  • Whole house air cleaners clean the air in your entire home.

Key benefits

Whole house air cleaners remove large and small particles from the air, making them the best choice for people with allergies, asthma or other breathing difficulties, while also keeping your HVAC system clean. Air cleaners also reduce the amount of dust that collects on furniture and other surfaces, so you don’t need to clean as often.

Maintenance requirements 

Because there are no disposable filters to change, air cleaners require only minimal maintenance: simply wash the filter every 6-12 months as needed.

Indoor Air Quality can help keep you breathe easier in your Highlands Ranch or Denver Metro Area home. Contact us today!  

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