The Benefits of Electrostatic Air Filters

An air filter is an important part to your HVAC system and there are a couple major types to choose from – electrostatic, HEPA, and pleated. But how do you know if electrostatic filters are the best choice for you?

If you want to save money, time, and hassle of the air filtration of your home HVAC system, but don’t mind a slightly higher upfront cost, an electrostatic filter is might be the right choice for you. But, if you suffer from allergies or asthma, Simply the Best HVAC recommends a HEPA filter.

What is an Electrostatic Filter?

This is an electrostatic filter.

Electrostatic air filters, also known as washable filters or reusable filters, are located on a furnace and typically take the place of a pleated filter. The main purpose of any filter is to clean the dirty, outside air that is being forced into your home. 

Electrostatic air filters separate themselves from pleated filters by using electricity to catch dust, pollen, and other airborne particles prior to them entering your home. These filters are used for both heating and cooling, so just because you hear that they go in your furnace, doesn’t mean you don’t need them with the Arizona heat. 

In the diagram below, while the dirty air is entering, the filter is creating electricity.The air then goes through the layer of ionizers. The ionizers emit charged ions, which then attracts the dirt particles and adds additional charges. The extra electrostatic charged particles drive the dirty particles towards the collector, trapping the dirty particles inside. The carbon filter is used to remove the remaining impurities, allowing clean fresh air to enter your home. 

Diagram of how electrostatic air filtration works. With dirty air going in one side and coming out clean on the other side.

Indoor Air Quality

Today’s homes are tightly built which leads them to trap dust, allergens, and many more potentially hazardous contaminants. The EPA has this to say on the importance of indoor air quality, “indoor concentrations of some pollutants have increased in recent decades due to energy-efficient building construction (when it lacks sufficient mechanical ventilation to ensure adequate air exchange) and increased use of synthetic building materials, furnishings, personal care products, pesticides, and household cleaners”.

How do I Improve Indoor Air Quality?

Putting some effort in to improving the indoor air quality of your home can help you reduce asthma flare-ups and allergy symptoms and keep you breathing easy through the colder months.

It’s impossible to completely remove all of the allergens inside your home, you can reduce the number while reducing your exposure to them by making some simple changes.

Keep it clean. A clean house can greatly cut down on dust and animal dander.

  • Vacuum the carpets and area rugs once or twice a week
  • Regularly clean bedding, drapes and other items that attract allergens
  • Clear clutter because it traps and holds dust

Change your filters. Changing your filter, or cleaning them if you have an electrostatic air filter, is one of the best ways to reduce the contaminants in your house. 

How does this relate to permanent filters?

Filters are rated two different ways, MERV and MPR.

MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) is a standard that rates the overall effectiveness of air filters. A high MERV rating means a finer filter, which removes more airborne contaminants. The average home air system can remove airborne contaminants with a filter rated between MERV 6 – 13.

MPR (Microparticle Performance Rating) is a system designed by the company 3M that ranges from MPR 300 – 1900. It rates the manufacturer’s filters and their ability to capture airborne particles smaller than 1 micron.

If you suffer from allergies or asthma, Simply the Best recommends a high MERV rated HEPA filter.

What are the Pros and Cons to Washable Air Filters?

As mentioned above, choosing an electrostatic air filter is a matter of personal preference, but to help better determine whether or not they are the right choice for you, we’ve outlined some pros and cons below. 

Pros of electrostatic filters

  • Cost effective: Washable air filters cost relatively $50-60 and ideally you only have to purchase one for the lifetime of the equipment! Think of it as a “permanent filter” because you don’t replace it until you’re ready to replace your whole system.
  • Save time and hassle: Not only can you save on the cost of the filter, you can save time from having to search for the specific sized air filter you need in the store – a feat in itself – stand in line, and purchase the filter, a task that would need to repeat every three months.
  • Efficient operation: Electrostatic air filters have MERV ratings of around 5 or 6 depending on the brand (MERV means Minimum Efficient Rating Value)
  • Good air filtration: These filters do a good job of filtering air through your system, electrostatic air filters work to improve air quality when compared to pleated filters.

Cons of electrostatic filters

  • Monthly maintenance: In order to be effective, these filters must be removed and cleaned monthly. If they’re not, they can stop working efficiently, put allergens and dirt into the air and your HVAC system; which can shorten your system’s lifespan.
  • Less effective than other disposable filters: These filters rely on static electricity, which is enough to filter out lightweight, small particles but not enough for larger dust particles or mold spores. They are not as effective as HEPA filters – high efficiency particulate air filter is used to describe an air filter that are able to trap over 98% of particles-  or even a 1200 MPR (Microparticle Performance Rating) filter or pleated filters.
  • Inadequate choice for people with asthma or allergies: Since washable filters release more large particles into the air they are not ideal for people with allergies or asthma.
  • Ozone: Electrostatic air filters do NOT protect against ozone and even have the potential to produce ozone molecules which can aggravate asthma and damage the lungs. 
  • Air Flow: If these filters are not cleaned regularly they have the potential to have a negative impact on air flow. When a filter is not clean, it allows more dirt into the rest of the system and into your home. 

Electrostatic Air Filter Maintenance

As we’ve mentioned these washable filters need to be cleaned monthly, below we’ve laid out a short list of steps to take when cleaning.

This shows the multiple steps required to clean your electrostatic filter

Drying Time: Most filters take between 15 – 30 minutes to dry

Inserting Damp Filter : Research states that you can put a damp filter back into the filter box, however Simply the Best does not recommend putting the filter back when it is wet or damp.

Running Filterless: You can run your heating and air conditioning while the filter is drying, however; keep in mind that if you choose to do this there is nothing filtering the air thus allowing dust, pollen, and other airborne pathogens into your HVAC equipment and home. 

What is the Best AC Filter?

There are a lot of places to buy quality filters; you can go to your local hardware or big box store, search Nordic Pure, Inc., or find them on Amazon. Simply the Best doesn’t have a specific brand recommendation as there are many good options. We’ve linked the top rated air filters from Amazon here for you. 

Case MaxMERV 9

  • The highest MERV rating of any washable filter on the market today
  • MERV 9 particulate arrestance
  • Pleated for 40% more surface area
  • Pays for itself in 1 year
  • Rust-proof aluminum frame

Trophy Air Filter

  • High durability
  • MERV rating of 5
  • Doesn’t reduce air flow like some others
  • Symmetrical design can’t be installed the wrong way
  • Doesn’t require power

Are Electrostatic Filters Better?

During our research process, Simply the Best found that this is a matter of personal preference. If you’re looking to spend less money and clean the filter yourself then your answer is going to be completely different than a person that does not want to clean the filter themselves.

So “is an electrostatic air filter better” is an inaccurate question, the accurate question would be, “is an electrostatic air filter better for YOU and YOUR HOME?” 

Though we are confident that you will make the decision that best suits your situation, we want to emphasize that Simply the Best supports all different filter types and is here to assist you in making that decision. 

Below you’ll find links to some of the top rated electrostatic, HEPA, and pleated air filters on Amazon.

 Electrostatic: Amazon’s top rated Electrostatic filters

HEPA: Amazon’s top rated HEPA filters

Pleated: Amazon’s top rated pleated filters

Furnace Filters Still Have You Confused?

Still wondering what are the best ac filters? Want some more information on different types of furnace air filters? Check out this video from This Old House.

If you still aren’t quite sure on which is better for you and want more information on these furnace filters, give Simply the Best Heating & Cooling a call and we’d be happy to give you more information and help you make the most informed decision for your home air filtration system.