With the COVID-19 pandemic sparking concerns over indoor air quality (IAQ), air quality improvements through air filters and air purifiers have become the focus of numerous facilities managers. High-quality air filtration is often a go-to method for viral mitigation within businesses of all sizes.
When looking to upgrade your HVAC MERV filter or install a portable air purification system in your facility, you should look for key indicators such as the MERV rating and HEPA standards. Read on to learn about air filters, their ratings, capabilities, and use cases for protecting your business against potential COVID-10 aerosol transmission.
Air filters are vital components in heating, ventilation, air conditioning systems (HVAC), and portable air cleaners. In these systems, air filters help reduce and capture airborne contaminants and particulate matter (PM) as the air recirculates within the building. Below are the different types of primary and secondary filters these air filtration systems use.
Traditionally used in whole-building or zoned HVAC systems, these flat-paneled fiberglass or polypropylene filters are engineered to capture dust and common airborne debris. The efficiency of these is determined by their MERV rating (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value). The MERV rating system developed by the American Society of Heating Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) rates filters (1 through 20, 20 being the best) based on their ability (or inability) to capture particulate matter of specific sizes.
HVAC filters rated from MERV 1 through 5 are only efficient in capturing dust and larger airborne debris. Filters rated from MERV 7 through 11 have higher efficiency and can capture bacteria particulate larger in micron size. MERV 13 or higher rated filters are pleated-media filters that can efficiently reduce smaller airborne particulate, including viruses, bacteria, allergens, and pathogens.
In portable air purification systems, HEPA filters are used as the primary filtration media. HEPA filters are also pleated filters made of fiberglass or water-resistant synthetic fibers (such as polypropylene). When manufacturers refer to HEPA filters, they are often denoted by various and misleading names.
"HEPA Type" or "HEPA Like" filters are not traditional nor True HEPA Filters. For a HEPA filter to be a HEPA filter, it needs to be rated to capture at greater than 99.95% of contaminants 0.3 microns in size. The industry standard True HEPA (H10-H12) filters featured in most air purifiers are rated to capture greater than 99.97% of contaminants 0.3 microns in size.
Be wary of names such as "Silent HEPA," "Ultra HEPA," or "Premium HEPA" filters. These filters often claim unbounded ratings to reduce particulates smaller than 0.3 or 0.1 microns in size. Instead, look for the Medical Grade HEPA or "Better Than HEPA" (H13-H14) filters that are rated capture over 99.95% to 99.995% of particles 0.1 microns in size.
Activated Carbon Filters are an adsorbent media filter that uses activated carbon or activated charcoal to reduce specific airborne pollutants. The activated carbon's naturally absorbent characteristics allow the filter to reduce smoke, odors, gases, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These filters are traditionally used as secondary stages within HEPA-based portable air purifiers.
Pre-Filters or Washable Air Filters are designed specifically to capture sizeable airborne debris. These airborne contaminants are often larger dust particles and pet or human hair. Often used in conjunction with HEPA, MERV, or Cartridge-based filters, these secondary filters help improve the life span of the primary filtration media.
For air filters to effectively reduce viral particulate, they will need to be rated to capture over 99.95% of contaminants 0.3 microns or smaller. For HVAC systems capturing common airborne viruses would require at least a MERV 13 filter. For portable air purifiers, a True HEPA filter would also capture common airborne viruses.
However, for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), the virus measures approximately 0.125 microns in size. Therefore, to effectively reduces these biological aerosols, a filter needs to be rated to capture over 99.95% of contaminants 0.1 microns or smaller. For HVAC systems, a MERV 14 or higher-rated filter would be recommended. For portable air purifiers, a Medical Grade or H13-H14 HEPA Filter is recommended.
Yes, while there is no air purifier that 100% protects against COVID-19, an air purifier with high-quality True HEPA or Medical Grade HEPA Filters can help reduce airborne transmission. Portable air purification controls can increase ventilation and provide localized air changes per hour (ACH) within indoor spaces. The combination of capturing high percentages of SARS-CoV-2 biological aerosols and continuous air exchanges provided the extra layer of viral mitigation businesses need.
A True HEPA air purifier is the most cost-effective choice for most businesses seeking to improve IAQ, reduce viral transmission, and increase employee productivity. By choosing portable air purifiers, companies do not need to make costly HVAC upgrades while still improving their facility's indoor environment.
For businesses looking for long-term whole-building IAQ improvements upgrading to a higher MERV 13 filter is an effective solution. However, higher MERV-rated filters can contribute to; drops in HVAC system air pressure, increased energy consumption, reduced airflow, and limited building-wide air changes.
To counteract the downfalls of implementing MERV 13 filters, air quality experts recommend using MERV 8 filters alongside HVAC induct electronic air cleaning technologies. This combination of high-quality air filtration and advanced technology can provide the same efficiency as commercial portable air purifiers.
When shopping for commercial air purifiers to reduce airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2, make sure to measure the square footage of the room you need, estimate the number of people moving through the space on an average day, and the number of open windows you can have.
You will need to match that with how many square feet can an air purifier cover, the number of air changes per hour (ACH) it handles, its active coverage, and how many cubic feet per minute (CFM) it cleans. Portable air purifiers with high CFM and multiple-ACH are more powerful.
At Sanalife, our helpful team of experts can provide you a complete blueprint to improving IAQ within your facility. From our range of product offerings with True HEPA Filtration, Activated Carbon Filters, and PCO (UV-C) Technology, our team can help you determine the right technology for your business. Learn about our traditional and portable air purification solutions by visiting: sanalifewellness.com/portable-air-purification.