Are HVAC Filters the Same as HEPA Filters?

When it comes to air filtration, HEPA, or high-efficiency particulate air, is the ultimate standard. These filters are frequently used in medical environments, as they filter at least 99.97% of particles as small as 0.3 microns. They can remove microscopic substances from the air such as mold, dust and pet dander. It's rare and generally not recommended to use a HEPA air filter in a traditional home HVAC system, as it would require costly modifications to handle the installation of a true HEPA system. The good news is that if you want a highly effective filter for your home, the EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency) reports that AC filters with a MERV rating of 7 to 13 have a “chance of being almost as effective as true HEPA filters.” Most heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems have a HEPA filter at one end of the air duct.

The HVAC system circulates air; larger particles, such as hair, dander, moisture, dust and pollen, are filtered as the air moves through the HEPA filter. HEPA filters are thought to be the best of the best when it comes to HVAC air filters. They can trap airborne contaminants as small as 0.3 microns in diameter - the average strand of hair on the head is approximately 45 microns. While a high-efficiency air filter offers a number of advantages, it also has certain drawbacks. HEPA filters are thick and dense, which can substantially interfere with the airflow process of your HVAC equipment. If airflow is restricted, the demand for heating and cooling on the property will increase, forcing utility bills to skyrocket and potentially causing damage to the entire HVAC system.

Like Home Depot's FPR system, the MPR classifies filters based on their ability to capture tiny particles between 0.3 and 1 micron in size. If you tried to install a HEPA filter in your oven, you would probably have trouble getting enough air from the vents. The SARS-CoV-2 particle is only 0.1 micron in size, but clings to larger particles (0.3 microns) captured by the MERV 13 filter. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has more rating ratings for HEPA filters relative to their local and total retention capacities. Air purification systems are usually the complete package, with a hospital-grade MERV 16 filter, germicidal lights and carbon filters. We carry filters and humidifier pads for all major manufacturers (including Air King, American Standard, Aprilaire, GeneralAire and Honeywell).

Remember that the air in your home is recirculated, so the same air will pass through the filter several times a day. HVAC filters are designed to trap larger particles as air passes through the main ventilation area of the unit, without smaller particles and leaving large amounts of impure air. Dirty or clogged filters will not be able to function properly and are likely to be the main source of equipment malfunctions. An expert in air conditioning troubleshooting systems will focus on the importance of air filters and the role they play in maintaining airflow and good indoor air quality. Alternatively, HEPA filtration options for residential spaces include external HEPA filters or whole-house air filters, types of filters that connect to the ductwork through a small bypass loop. Before you buy your next HVAC filter, make sure you understand how it affects indoor air quality and energy efficiency. While different filters efficiently filter different substances, you don't have to compromise by using just one to filter the air in your office, school or business.

Doug Bundley
Doug Bundley

Professional coffee aficionado. General web specialist. Avid internet guru. Subtly charming beer nerd. Infuriatingly humble bacon specialist. Hardcore web evangelist.

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