Do you suffer from allergies or asthma? If so, you are not alone. More than 50 million Americans are affected by seasonal allergies from hay fever to food and skin allergies. Another 24 million people in the U.S. are diagnosed with asthma conditions. Since so many households include family members with respiratory concerns, improving indoor air quality is a top priority.
Whole house air cleaners are devices that operate within your HVAC system. Although there are a number of types, all air cleaners work to improve indoor air quality by trapping and removing airborne dirt, debris, allergens, pet dander and even viruses and bacteria. Neutralizing and removing these irritants helps to improve all of the air circulating through your heating and cooling system. With fewer airborne particles floating through the air, everyone in your home may breathe a little easier.
As an HVAC contractor in Central Indiana, Thiele Heating & Air Conditioning encounters many homeowners in need of improving their home’s indoor air quality. Both during the spring for seasonal allergies and in the winter when dry air and cold and flu season spikes, many homeowners need solutions beyond the standard air filters in air conditioning and heating systems. Let’s consider some of the most common questions and the ways a whole house air cleaner may improve your home’s air quality.
What are the Different Types of Air Cleaners?
Not all air cleaners are created equal. There are dozens of types of air cleaners with many innovative technologies. You need an air cleaner to improve your everyday life regardless of the sales pitch. So learning the different types is helpful to understand what type of air cleaner is most beneficial to your needs.
Portable Air Cleaner
The most common types of air cleaners and air purifiers are smaller units. A portable air cleaner may range in size and function from small desktop models to large models designed to treat big rooms. During the pandemic era, portable air purifiers became extremely popular. Many of these models use similar technology to whole house air cleaners. Some portable air cleaners use a HEPA filter and fan. Air passes through the filter, trapping particles inside the filter. Other models use UV light to neutralize viruses and bacteria.
- Pros of portable air cleaners – Portable units are effective at reducing dust, pet dander, dust mites and other airborne debris. Some models are effective at air purification using UV light.
- Cons of portable air cleaners – Portable air cleaners work in isolated areas and do not treat the entire home.
Media Air Filters
A standard air filter captures less than 80% of airborne particulates. There are many variations of air filters that feature different designs, higher minimum efficiency reporting values (MERV ratings) as well as additional features that target common issues such as pet dander and allergens using unique designs or an activated carbon filter. These media filters do treat the air inside your HVAC system. This means all the air circulating through your home passes through the filter.
- Pros of media air filters – Treat all air indoors without adding additional devices to your HVAC system.
- Cons of media air filters – Require regular replacement. Limited capability to capture smaller airborne particles. May not be recommended for use with your furnace or air handler.
Media Air Cleaners
An air cleaner can be installed into many HVAC systems to significantly improve indoor air quality. Unlike a portable air cleaner, a whole house air cleaner treats all of the air in your home. These filters are far more effective than smaller models and protect all of the components within your air handler and keep air ducts clean.
- Pros of media air cleaners – They are extremely durable and provide long-lasting solutions for your home.
- Cons of media air cleaners – Must be installed by HVAC technicians to verify compatibility with your furnace or air handler.
Electronic Air Purifiers
Instead of only using a media filter, electronic air purifiers work using electronically charged ions to treat all air that moves into your system. A cloud of charged ions attaches to dust, debris, viruses and bacteria. The neutralized airborne contaminants are then captured by an oppositely charged pleated air filter with a MERV rating of 15 to eliminate 95% of particles. A whole home air purifier then circulates cleaner air into your home.
- Pros of air purifiers – Unlike media filters, electronic air filters combine electrically charged ions to first neutralize biological pollutants. They are very durable and operate automatically when your furnace and air conditioning system operates.
- Cons of air purifiers – They require professional installation and minor maintenance during annual inspections.
How Do Whole House Media Air Cleaners Work?
Thiele Heating & Air Conditioning offers both air cleaners and air purifiers. When you choose to install a whole house air purifier, a professional HVAC technician takes the time to consult with you. For some homes, the addition of a highly effective air cleaner is sufficient. This is especially true if your primary concern is particulates like pet dander and dust.
A media air cleaner is basically a more powerful air cleaner for your HVAC system. Aside from improving indoor air quality within your home, a media air cleaner can benefit your HVAC equipment by removing airborne debris before it enters your air handler. The cleaner your system is, the stronger the performance and the lower your energy bills.
Air purifiers may install into your furnace cabinet directly or function as a stand-alone unit. Like an air cleaner, a whole house air purifier requires installation by professionals. We work with many homeowners to provide better indoor air quality while also protecting the operations of their air conditioning and heating systems.
How Long Do Media Air Filters Last?
Media filters do require replacement, but this process is very simple for a homeowner to do. Whole house air purifiers can significantly improve indoor air quality, but the electrical components should be inspected annually as part of your ongoing HVAC maintenance.
For some systems, homeowners can add UV germicidal lamps. These lamps deliver intense ultraviolet light to air purifiers. When these systems are installed, both the electrical connections and light bulb require inspection, and occasional replacement of bulbs will be required.
What’s the Difference Between Electronic and Media Air Cleaners?
Media air cleaners rely on the filtration process to improve indoor air quality. Electronic air cleaners are more accurately called air purifiers because charged ions capture and kill biological pollutants. Whole house air purifiers also typically use a higher MERV-rated filter.
Is There a Downside to Air Purifiers?
Portable air purifiers have a number of drawbacks. Some models use a considerable amount of energy and produce noise. A whole house air purifier or cleaner does not disrupt your home. Electronic filters and media filters are concealed in the air handler. Media air cleaners do not require any draw on your electricity so the only downside is the initial cost. An electronic air purifier has a minor impact on your energy use, but the operating costs are minor.
Long term, a whole house air purifier may need maintenance and repair. The filters are more expensive than conventional air filters. If you incorporate an ultraviolet light to purify the air, replacement bulbs add to the overall cost.
Maintenance Requirements for Electronic Air Cleaners
Some electronic air purifiers can have high expenses to keep the system running properly. This is especially true of UV filters and purifiers. When you consult with your HVAC contractor prior to installation, you should know the ongoing costs associated with the model you choose. There is surprisingly little maintenance for the air purifier devices installed by Thiele. The filters will need to be replaced on schedule to remain effective but otherwise, an annual inspection of the electronic connections and components is the only maintenance step.
Contact Your Local Air Purifier and Air Cleaner Expert
When you need to improve indoor air quality, a portable air cleaner has a limited clean air delivery rate. Whole house air purifiers improve indoor air quality and protect your expensive heating and cooling system. Thiele Heating & Air Conditioning provides expert consultation to improve your HVAC system. The air cleaner or air purifier can reduce allergens, dust mites, pet dander and other airborne irritants. We are eager to help local homeowners improve indoor air quality with multiple solutions including cures for winter air issues, high humidity issues and cleaner air.