Air Filtration vs. Air Cleaning: Which is Right for Your Building?
Keeping the air inside your commercial building free from particulates and contaminants is a major contributor to indoor air quality. Depending on your needs, you generally have the option of air filtration or air cleaning. Here is a brief introduction to indoor air pollution and the contribution that air filtration and air cleaning make to the comfort and air quality inside your building.
Types of Indoor Air Pollutants
An indoor environment, unfortunately, is not immune to issues of air pollution. Some sources suggest that indoor air can even be substantially more polluted than outdoor air. This makes sense when one considers that in the expanse of the outdoors, where winds blow and many plants are available to act as natural air filters, it is more likely that air pollution will be dispersed. Inside, in a restricted environment that is often well sealed to keep heated or cooled air inside and to prevent air loss and energy leaks, it is more likely that pollutants will accumulate and become concentrated, while it is less likely that they will be dissipated.
Indoor pollution consists of two types of material: particulates and gases.
- Particulates are tiny pieces of solid matter. These particulates can accumulate as part of natural activities of daily living or be broken off large objects as those items experience wear over time. Particulates include dust, pollen, animal dander, hair, fibers, sawdust, mold spores, metal fragments, dust mites, and microorganisms.
- Gases are fumes, odors, vapors, and other gaseous substances. They can be given off as byproducts of cooking, cleaning, or other activities. They can be odors that result from smoking, painting, or bathing. Sometimes, carpets, furniture, and other home furniture can give off gases and release substances from the manufacturing process. Some gases can be harmful, such as carbon monoxide that is generated when fuel or other items are burned for heating, cooking, or powering equipment.
The Role of Air Filtration
Air filtration involves the physical removal of particulates as air passes through a filter medium. The most common form of air filtration occurs within your heating and cooling systems when air flowing through the system is forced through the air filter. The filter, usually made from a type of spun fiberglass or pleated cloth, captures the particulates as the air moves through the filter. This process helps keep the inside of your HVAC system clean and also helps remove these particulates from your indoor air.
Standard air filtration generally does not remove odors and gases, although some filters are available with features such as activated charcoal that will help reduce the effects of odors.
The Role of Air Cleaning
In contrast to air filtration, air cleaning (and air purification) removes a significant amount of particulates as well as odors, fumes, and gases. Air cleaning and purification systems may also include ultraviolet light devices that can kill germs, bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms that can cause disease and discomfort.
Air cleaning and purification usually involves higher-quality filters that are designed to trap and hold most of the particulates that contact them. Filters with high MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value) ratings are thick and dense with multiple surfaces where particulates can be trapped. High levels of air cleaning and purification can be achieved by using HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters.
Air Filtration or Air Cleaning?
In most cases, air filtration will be adequate for a commercial environment, such as an office, retail establishment, repair/service space, or warehouse.
If your commercial activities require very high levels of air quality, HEPA filtration and associated UV air cleaning may be your best option. HEPA systems are common in medical, food preparation, and manufacturing environments.
Our goal is to help educate our customers about Plumbing, HVACR, Fire Protection, and Alarm Systems in Mechanical, Commercial, and Residential settings. For more information on air filtration and air cleaning, and to view projects we’ve worked on, visit our website!
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