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Are Electrostatic Air Filters An Effective Way To Reduce Indoor Allergens?

Are Electrostatic Air Filters An Effective Way To Reduce Indoor Allergens?

There’s no doubt you want your home to be as clean as possible. You diligently clean the floors, countertops, bathrooms, and linens; however, while keeping all of these components of your house clean is certainly important, there’s another vital element that keeping clean is just as important, if not even more so – the air.

When most people think of air pollution, outdoor air is usually what comes to mind, but you might be surprised to find out that indoor air can actually be up to 5 times more polluted than the outdoor air. The byproducts of cooking, combustion, cleaning products, and even off-gassing of the chemicals that are used to preserve building materials and furnishings, including, believe it or not, formaldehyde, as well as pet dander, dust, mold, and mold and mildew spores, are all pollutants that can contaminate the air inside your home. If you or a family member suffers from allergies, asthma, COPD, or other respiratory health conditions, exposure to these airborne pollutants can worsen symptoms; however, even if you and your loved ones are otherwise healthy, inhaling these floating particles can negatively impact your health. Fortunately, on top of regular cleaning, proper ventilation, and the use of an air purifier can help to significantly reduce the allergens in your home.

There are lots of different types of air purifiers on the market, and the electrostatic air filter has become increasingly popular. This type of air filter produces electric fields that are supposed ensnare airborne particles (formally known as an “electrostatic precipitator”), such as dust, dander, and other types of pollutants, via a process known as electromagnetism. Electrostatic air cleaners can be fitted within a portable air cleaner, or they can be installed within the ductwork of a HVAC system to provide whole house air filtration. If you’re looking for a way to make your home’s indoor air allergy-free, you might be thinking about investing in an electrostatic air filter; however, before you jump on board, you want to be sure that you’re making the right choice, and the best way to do that is by asking some key questions.

What exactly is an electrostatic air filter? How does it work? Is it really effective? These are just some of the questions that you might have about this type of air filtration. To find the answers to these questions and more, and to determine if electrostatic air filtration is the right choice for your home, keep on reading.

What is An Electrostatic Air Filter and How Does It Work?

An electrostatic air filter, like other types of air filters, are designed to trap in dust and other types of particulate matter, in order to keep the air clean. These filters are comprised of either a metal mesh or a synthetic materials, such as polypropylene or polyurethane, and as mentioned, they can be placed in a portable air filtration unit, which is intended for cleaning the air of a single space, or the filter can be fitted to an HVAC system to provide whole house filtration.

The science behind electrostatic air filters may seem a bit confusing, but in reality, it’s actually pretty simple and quite intuitive. Think of them as magnets for airborne pollutants, such as dust mites, pet dander, and any other small particles that could be floating through the air.

With a magnet, the positive and negative poles attract to one another. The same idea is applied to electrostatic air filters and pollutants. The unique combination of materials that the filters are made of generates static electricity. The static gives each of the layers in the filter an electrical charge that alternates between positive and negative. The charges are passed to airborne particles as they pass through the filters. When the particles make their way through the positively charged layer of the filter, they pick up a positive charge that makes them become attracted to the negatively charged layer of the filter – just like a magnet would stick to your fridge!

The process makes electrostatic air filters more effective than standard air filters that can only remove airborne particles that are large enough in size to get trapped within the layers of material. Because electrostatic filters act like magnets, they are so efficient that they can remove not only greater amounts of irritants, but irritants that are smaller in size.

Do Electrostatic Air Filters Really Work?

The short answer is yes, but like so many things in life, the answer isn’t as black and white; there is definitely some gray area. To summarize, electrostatic air filters are quite effective at filtering out airborne allergens, as they can filter small particles, such as pollen, dust mites, pet dander, and mold spores; the most common causes of allergies. With that said, however, the degree of efficiency really does depend on the kind of pollutants that you want to remove from your home’s air. The environmental conditions within your home, as well as the filter itself, will also impact the efficiency of an electrostatic filter.

How Electrostatic Filters Work in Theory

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uses four standards to measure how well an air purifier can remove particles from the air. The standard of measure that is applied to an electrostatic filter is known as the “atmospheric dust spot efficiency test”, which assesses how efficiently a filter can remove small airborne dust particles from the air and prevent the dust from accumulating on surfaces. As per the EPA, the efficiency of electrostatic air filters is up to 98 percent when the air moves through the filter slowly. With that said, however, in order for the filter to be so highly efficient, it needs to be very clean. The more particles accumulate on the collector plates, the more the efficiency will be reduced. It’s important to remember that the atmospheric dust spot efficiency test that the EPA uses are conducted in highly controlled settings that do not reflect real conditions.

Another factor that’s important to keep in mind is that the efficiency of the filter depends on the size of the airborne particles. With an electrostatic air filer, larger particles are given high enough levels of charge, so they are captured well. Miniscule particles also receive a good charge; however, those that measure between 0.1 to 1 micrometers – particles that are considered mid-range in size, are not as efficiently charged, and as such, they don’t collect as well on the plates. As a result, electrostatic filters are unable to filter out all particulate matter at the same degree of efficiency.

In real-world settings, the results of studies that examined the efficacy of these filters varied. A study that was conducted in 2010 determined that an air cleaners with electrostatic air filters were able to remove house dust mites that measured between 10 to 12.5 um within a half an hour, and significantly minimized the amount of smaller particles that measured between 2 and 10 um within an hour. Within 30 minutes, electrostatic air cleaners removed up to 60 percent of the airborne particles that were floating in the test chamber. It’s important to note, however, that in another study that was conducted in 2014, the efficiency of an electrostatic filter was less than 10 percent. In both tests, the amount of particle removal was significantly improved when a pre-filter was used.

How Electrostatic Filters Work in Real Life

The above was described how electrostatic filters function in principle. In real life, however, in real life, they work a bit differently. In order to explain how these filters work in real life applications, it’s first important to understand that “electrostatic air filter” can be applied to two different scenarios. It can refer to an air purifier device that charges particles with electricity, or it can refer to a disposable filter panel that is positioned within a home’s HVAC system.

With the filter panel option, the fibers of the filter are comprised of material that is electrostatically charged. This refers to the medium the filter is made of and differs from a standalone air purifier. The filters are “flat” in nature, rather than “pleated”, like HEPA filters. The primary difference here is that when the fibers are charged with electrostatic, the airborne particles that make contact with the charged fibers could be attracted and thus will stick to the filter rather than being trapped within the fibers of the filter, as is the case with HEPA filtration.

Panels that are electrostatically charged are usually fitted right into an HVACY system. These filters are usually comprised of coarse fibers. Dust, dander, pollen, and other particulate airborne matter that makes its way through the filter can be attracted to the fibers, and thus, can stick to the fibers. Usually, electrostatically-charged filter are less expense than other types of mechanical air filters, such as HEPA, as the coarse fibers it’s easier to manufacturer the coarse fibers of the former . The primary issue with electrostatically-charged filters is that the fibers get coated with dust, which prevents them from attracting particulate matter as well as they do when they’re new. As such, they stop working eventually; but, the filters can be washed and reused.

Electrostatic Air Filter Pros and Cons

Standalone electrostatic air filters are very efficient at removing airborne particulate matter that’s a specific size, as long as the conditions are right. However, with that said, in order to determine if this type of air filtration is the right choice for your home, you really need to consider the pros and cons.

Pros

  • Reusable. The collector plates that are used inside of this type of filtration can be washed off and reused.
  • Affordably priced. Since the collector plates are washable and reusable, the cost is quite affordable, especially when compared to other types of air filtration, such as HEPA technology.
  • Efficient. Electrostatic air filters that are outfitted with collector plates efficiently remove dust mites, pollen, dander, and similar types of particles from the air, so long as the plates are cleaned.

Cons

  • Effectiveness diminishes. In order for an electrostatic filter to remain efficient, the collector plates need to be kept cleaned. If they aren’t, they will become laden with debris, and thus, their efficacy will diminish. Most manufacturers recommend cleaning the collector plates every two to four weeks.
  • Only effective for particulate matter. While electrostatic air filters are great at trapping particulate matter from the air, such as dust, pet dander, pollen, mold and mildew spores, and other types of allergens, they are unable to remove harmful gases, such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and odors, such as those that are caused by wood burning fires, tobacco smoke, cooking, and animals.
  • Ozone. There is a chance that electrostatic air filters will generate ozone, which is, without a doubt, the most notable downside.

How to Reduce Indoor Airborne Allergens

So, is an electrostatic air filter an effective way to reduce airborne allergies? They can be, especially when combined with regular cleaning and proper ventilation However, keep in mind that these filters are only suitable for removing larger sized particulate matter, such as dust, dander, and pollen; they are not able to remove gaseous matter, such as VOCs or odors. They can also be effective for removing airborne mold and mildew spores; however, it depends on the type of mold and mildew that is growing in your home, as well as the amount.

If mold and mildew are allergens that you are particularly concerned with, while using an electrostatic air filter, as well as regular cleaning, and proper ventilation, are all ways in which you can combat the problem to a degree, in order to really address the issue, you need to fully eradicate indoor mold and mildew growth. To do that, make arrangements to have a professional test for mold growth inside your home. Often, mold growth goes unnoticed, as it can grow within walls, underneath floors, and in other unsuspecting locations. A professional will use the most state-of-the-art technologies and proven techniques and strategies to collect surface and air samples and determine if mold and mildew is, in fact, growing in your home. If the results confirm that mold and mildew growth are issues in your home, a reputable technician will let you know and will make suggestions that you can use to properly address the issues.

By using all of the above-mentioned tips, you can successfully remove allergens from your home so that you and your family can breathe a whole lot easier.

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