Of all the technology-related buzzwords, “HEPA filter” seems to be at the top of the list when it comes to sticking power – and for good reason. They’re the go-to standard when it comes to filters because they’re incredibly effective at what they do — which is removing 99.97% of air particles that have a size of 0.3 microns or more (as defined by the Department of Energy [DOE] standards).
But…what does HEPA mean, exactly?
HEPA is an acronym for high-efficiency particulate absorption, and the filters are mats made mainly of fiberglass. Contaminants, allergens and other particles are trapped in the HEPA filter and subsequently removed from the air. As you might imagine, this is highly ideal to asthma and allergy sufferers everywhere, as well as anyone who has an interest in improving their indoor air quality.
However, the technology behind HEPA filters isn’t what you’d call new. In fact, the original HEPA filter was invented during World War II to prevent the escape of radioactive particles from laboratories. The following decade, it was commercialized and the name became synonymous with all high efficiency air filters. Since then, HEPA filters have evolved and been used throughout many industries, such as health care, hospitals, aerospace and nuclear power.
While many allergens and irritants are suspended in household air, there are probably more lurking on surfaces like rugs, countertop and upholstered furniture. Keeping these areas clean is an important step in controlling your allergy and asthma triggers, though your best bet is eliminating the source of these allergens and irritants.
As you might imagine, HEPA filters are particularly useful in medical settings, and dramatically help reduce the spread of airborne bacterial and viral organisms. Some of the best-rated HEPA units have an efficiency rating of 99.995%, which assures a very high level of protection against airborne disease transmission.
Of course, there are “HEPA-like” filters on the market that are less costly but not “True HEPA” as certified by the DOE. Oftentimes, they only capture 80-90% of airborne particles. In order to differentiate between the two types, be sure to look for the serial number and test results printed on True (sometimes called Absolute) HEPA filters. You’ll want to make sure that the test results at .3 microns are 99.97 percent or above.
Due to their efficiency, HEPA filters are found in more and more places as modern technology advances. Air filtration systems, cars, vacuum cleaners and airplanes have all expanded to include HEPA filtration in their emerging technologies. Atmospheres susceptible to re-circulated air can benefit greatly from the placement of HEPA filters, and help improve the air quality for indoor environments.