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What Factors Should You Consider When Buying a HEPA Air Purifier for Allergies?


Over 50 million Americans — adults and children alike — suffer from allergic reactions every year. Although food allergies are some of the most dangerous and skin allergies are likewise common, airborne allergies, too, can render life difficult. These allergies are often seasonal in nature, in which case tree, grass, and weed pollen induce suffering on a fairly predictable annual schedule. Many people also have perennial allergies, in which can the allergens can be around throughout the year in specific environments. Dust mites, pet dander, cockroaches, and mold spores are the most common of these allergens, and their source tends to be within your home.


It is true, of course, that people with debilitating allergy symptoms are able to take medications, such as antihistamines, to find some relief. All medical associations, from the CDC to dedicated patient-advocacy groups like the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America will, however, tell you that medications should only ever be your second line of defense as an allergy sufferer. It is far superior to either avoid exposure to the allergen in question altogether, or to do all you can to limit your contact with the allergen.


HEPA air purifiers have steadily been rising in popularity in recent years. That is partially due to the fact that more and more people are becoming aware of the dangers of indoor air pollution in general, but it is also, definitely, because people suffering from severe allergies are hoping that installing a HEPA air purifier in their homes will allow them to attain a better quality of life. If you don’t have a HEPA air purifier yet, what do you need to know before you get one to help with your allergies?


How Can You Tell If You Have Seasonal or Perennial Allergies?


It is often difficult to immediately identify exactly what you are allergic to, for several reasons. The first would be that all airborne allergies produce the same symptoms that may range from mild to severe, and the second is that you may be exposed to multiple allergens at the same time. Many allergy sufferers are simultaneously allergic to more than one substance, and this overlap can pose a diagnostic challenge.


Pollen, reproductive particles released into the air by trees, different types of grass, and weeds, tend to have their own respective seasons. Tree pollen typically starts being a problem in January to April, depending on where you live. The summer is when grass pollen makes its way into the air, and in fall, ragweed is the primary offender. Due to climate change, however, these distinct allergy seasons are all becoming longer as well as less predictable.


Dust mites, pet dander (which may, it is good to note, make its way into your home even if you do not have any pets yourself!), cockroaches, and mold spores may, on the other hand, be present in your home throughout the year.


These basic facts give you something to work with if you have been experiencing common allergy symptoms like sneezing, a runny nose, nasal congestion, itchy, red, and inflamed eyes, a sore throat, skin irritation, and even headaches or fatigue:


  • People who only ever experience allergy symptoms during one season, like spring or fall, but who do not suffer at all outside of those seasons, are very likely to be dealing with seasonal allergies.
  • Those who suffer from allergy symptoms constantly, all through the year and across environments, may either be dealing with common indoor allergens or may, indeed, be suffering from a different kind of respiratory condition, such as asthma.
  • Individuals who suffer allergy symptoms when they are around pets, but not when pets are not present, are likely to be dealing with a pet dander allergy.
  • People who tend to experience characteristic allergy symptoms only when they’re in a certain space — such as at home, or just in the basement — can reasonably suspect that they could be allergic to common household allergens like dust mites, cockroaches, or mold. In these cases, the symptoms you have should cause you not just to seek allergy testing, but also indicate that your home needs to be inspected for the presence of pests and mold.


Is a HEPA Air Purifier an Effective Way to Deal with Indoor Allergens In Your Home?


Yes. HEPA (“High Efficiency Particulate Air”) filters are complex mechanical filters initially developed by engineers looking to protect the scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project from radiation exposure. Using an extremely complex network of fiberglass strands to trap airborne particles of varying diameters, air purifiers equipped with modern HEPA filters are able to eliminate the vast majority of particles from the air, providing that the HEPA air purifier was manufactured to meet the demands of the space you place it in. HEPA filters are further often found in vacuum cleaners, in which case they likewise help to eliminate particles from your air as you vacuum.


So-called “true HEPA filters” — the most effective type of HEPA filter — meet the rigorous standards set by the US Department of Energy. Air purifiers equipped with this type of HEPA filter can eliminate 99.97 percent of airborne particles with a diameter of 0.3 microns from the air. This size is the most difficult to trap, and true HEPA filters perform even better when it comes to smaller and larger particles. Allergens, like pollen and mold spores, are particulate matter as well. As such, true HEPA filters are designed precisely to help eliminate these allergens from the air you breathe within your home.


Each size of airborne particle is trapped using a slightly different mechanism. The largest particles, sometimes big enough to see with the naked eye, simply get stuck in the filter as soon as they impact. This is called straining. Particles ranging from 0.3 to one micron in size are caught between the many fiber strands in the filter, and are not big enough to escape. This is called interception. Ultra-fine particles, meanwhile, bounce around the filter freely for a while, before losing momentum, settling down, and sticking to one of the surfaces within the HEPA filter. This final method of eliminating particles is called diffusion.


What Other Terms Do You Need to Be Familiar with Before Buying a HEPA Air Purifier?


True HEPA air purifiers are not the only air purifiers on the market, and with so many unfamiliar terms, many consumers easily become confused. What should you know?


Just “HEPA filters”, without the “true” prefix, are those HEPA filters that instead meet European standards. They, too, filter out over 99 percent of the most tricky particles. They are slightly less effective, but still perform very well. Consumers should, on the other hand, look out for misleading terminology such as “HEPA-type air purifier” or “ultra-HEPA”. These filters use designs similar to HEPA filters, but without meeting any established standards. They are, therefore, inferior to true HEPA filters and HEPA filters alike.


In addition to being equipped with a true HEPA filter, air purifying systems may also incorporate other technologies that purify the air in different ways:


  • Many true HEPA air purifiers come with carbon filters. While they will not help allergy suffers with airborne allergens, the addition of a carbon filter is nonetheless welcome. HEPA filters combat the presence of particles, and carbon filters help deal with hazardous gases, such as Volatile Organic Compounds. VOCs, too, have the potential to cause allergy-like symptoms, and reducing your exposure is going to make you more comfortable if you have respiratory conditions.
  • Other air purifying systems have UV-C filters, which use ultraviolet light to fight particles. They do help allergy sufferers, and are especially useful in the case of mold spores.
  • Some HEPA air purifiers are marketed as being electrostatic. These serve the purpose of attracting certain pollutants with the help of an electric charge.


Given the facts that indoor air pollution is a universal threat and the average American home is significantly more polluted than the air outside, installing a true HEPA air purifier in your home is an excellent step to protect your health, regardless of who you are. If you suffer from seasonal allergies, indoor allergies, or pet allergies, that air purifier becomes even more important. As your air purifier raises the overall quality of the air, you are likely to feel more comfortable and energetic.


What Else Should You Know When You Shop for a HEPA Air Purifier to Help with Allergies?


You now know that air purifying systems equipped with true HEPA filters are most effective at filtering allergens from the air inside your home, and circulating clean air back into the room — and you probably have a budget in mind, too. What else should you be aware of before you put a HEPA air purifier into your shopping cart?


  • Pay attention to the amount of cubic feet any true HEPA air purifier can filter, which will be featured within the manufacturer’s specifications. You may need to do some math to find out exactly how large each room you want an air purifier for is.
  • Look for a good CADR rating, which indicates that a HEPA air purifier you are considering purchasing performs well at circulating clean air once it is filtered.
  • Know that your filters should be replaced frequently. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions or exceed them, or your HEPA filter will not serve its intended purpose.
  • Buying a HEPA air purifier with a more efficient energy rating will lead to savings on your utility bill.
  • People who are sensitive to noise will additionally want to look for air purifiers that are quiet.


What Other Steps Should You Take to Reduce Your Exposure to Allergens in Your Home?


When you hear that true HEPA air purifiers effectively trap over 99 percent of all the particulate matter that pollutes the air in your home, you may see an easy solution to your allergy symptoms. Just get the air purifier and use it, and the air in your home will be clean. The only problem? True HEPA air purifying systems do not eliminate the underlying cause of your allergies. They merely filter particles suspended in your air out, and then circulate new, cleaner, air back into the room.


Would it not be better to also deal with the origin of the problem? The steps required to do this are slightly different depending on the type of allergy.


  • People with pollen allergies can effectively reduce their exposure to these allergens within their homes by keeping the windows closed during pollen season. They can remove their shoes and the clothes they wore outdoors as soon as they enter their homes to prevent pollen particles from being released into the air indoors. Keeping your windows closed all the time does, ultimately, raise indoor pollution levels, which is why it becomes even more important to have a HEPA air purifier. In addition, it can increase relative humidity, and thereby make other infestations more likely. Hence, using a HVAC system or a dehumidifier is crucial.
  • Those who suffer from dust mite allergies and cockroach allergies will benefit from making sure the relative humidity in their home is constantly kept between 30 and 50 percent, something a humidifier can help with. They should also remove unnecessary fabrics, like carpets, from their homes, and make sure to always keep their homes immaculate and free from food sources these pests can access.
  • People who are allergic to pet dander but who have pets can frequently bathe their pets, vacuum every day using a vacuum with a HEPA filter, make sure the pets cannot access their bedrooms, and launder fabrics such as bedding a pillow covers frequently. Those with pet allergies who do not have pets can make sure guests do not bring the pets in question into their homes, and can immediately launder their own clothes if they did have contact with such a pet while outdoors. In some cases, pet dander enters the home from outside. If this is a problem for you, keeping the windows closed is a step you could consider for a time.
  • People who have mold allergies should take steps to eliminate mold growth from their homes. You may not always see a mold infestation; in some cases, your allergy symptoms are the only clue that you have a mold problem, and in others, you may smell mold. Keeping humidity levels in the ideal range, below 50 percent, and having any leaks in pipes or roofs fixed are excellent mold prevention steps. In addition, removing carpets, especially after they were subjected to spills or floods, is strongly recommended.


Although each allergen is likely to be present in your indoor air under different circumstances, the general steps you should take to increase your indoor air quality are to keep the home clean and as dust free as possible, to ensure that the humidity levels fall between 30 and 50 percent, and to have any leaks or water damage repaired as soon as you possibly can.


To combat allergens that originate from within the home, like mold and dust mites, increasing ventilation is one of the best measures you can implement — and that means opening your windows every day, for at least 15 minutes. Opening your windows more effectively allows fresh air to come in, while letting allergens escape, in windy conditions or in conjunction with the use of box fans. It is also ideal to do this early in the morning or late at night, when the temperature will be cooler and reduced traffic means less outdoor air pollution.


To fight allergens that come from outdoors, you would take the opposite step — keeping your windows closed. This poses a unique challenge in people who are allergic to pollen as well as dust mites and mold, and under those circumstances, a HEPA air purifier will certainly be your best friend as you decide how to move forward with eliminating your dust mite problem or mold infestation (which often coexist).


Do You Need to Have a Mold Inspection Carried Out In Your Home?


Around 10 percent of the US population is allergic to mold, and many of the people who suffer allergy symptoms at home but who do not yet know the cause could have a mold infestation on their property. Two important things should be kept in mind when it comes to mold:


  • Allergies are the most common health complication of mold exposure, but they are not the only potential consequence. Some mold species are toxic, and have the ability to cause severe health conditions, such as liver damage and cancer, over time. Others are pathogenic, and can cause systemic infections. Even in people who are not allergic to mold, common allergenic molds can cause respiratory distress and other uncomfortable symptoms.
  • Not all mold infestations are visible. It is true that you can often spot mold growth, or that you may otherwise recognize it by its characteristic musty smell. Mold may also, on the other hand, build up in humid or wet spaces in your home, where you may never notice it. It is not uncommon for people to have leaks, especially in basements or attics, without knowing it. Crawl spaces, too, often become excessively humid — and how often do you go there? Hidden mold may be responsible for your allergy symptoms.


Because of this, anyone who suffers from increased allergy symptoms whenever they are at home should do more than install a true HEPA air purifier. If you have a mold infestation, it should be remediated to truly find relief from your symptoms — and to prevent further health complications. Eliminating possible mold from your home begins with a thorough mold inspection. MI&T’s professional independent mold inspectors will find mold infestations that you couldn’t see yourself. We then take air samples to find out precisely how high the concentrations of mold spores may be in your home, and what types of mold you are dealing with.


Choosing an independent mold inspection only company like MI&T means that you know nobody is trying to sell you a needless mold remediation package, as we are free from commercial biases. With MI&T’s full mold inspection report in hand, homeowners can proceed with a mold remediation plan with full confidence.


Once your remediation plan is complete, MI&T can return for clearance testing — and after that, you can prevent recurrence by keeping humidity levels ideal and raise your overall air quality by relying on a true HEPA air purifier.