What Is an Electrostatic Air Filter?

January 30, 2024

Purifying the air in your home is a priority to keep you and your family comfortable and healthy, but you have a few different HVAC-friendly options to choose from to help you. While researching the various ways to filter your air, you may have come across mention of electrostatic air filters. But what is an electrostatic air filter, and how does it work?

Electrostatic air filters are an alternative to the traditional disposable filters in your home's HVAC system. Their reusable design provides a cost-effective option to reduce the airborne particles in your interior air.

  • How electrostatic air filters work
  • Advantage of electrostatic air filters
  • Considerations and maintenance

Learn more about these sustainable upgrades to your HVAC system's air filtration, including how they work, the benefits you can expect, and the maintenance required to maximize their effectiveness.

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How Electrostatic Air Filters Work

Most disposable air filters clean particles from your air by trapping them between fibrous barriers within the filter. The size of the particles that pass through depends on the density of the barriers. Over time, trapped particles clog the barriers, requiring you to change the filter to restore airflow through the system.

Electrostatic air filters also trap particles from the air but use a different mechanism. Static electricity is generated to charge the target particles, causing an increase in weight and making them too heavy to remain in the air. The electrostatic filter itself has a charge opposite to the charge given to the particles. This causes the charged particles to be attracted to the inside of the filter, holding them there until they're removed. Cleaning the air filter removes these particles and allows them to be reused.

Advantage of Electrostatic Air Filters

There are several benefits to choosing electrostatic air filters. Although the initial investment in these filters is higher than that of disposable options, the ability to clean and reuse them makes up for that over time. The reusable nature of electrostatic filters makes them more environmentally friendly, reducing filter waste.

The effectiveness of an air filter is rated on a scale from 1 to 20 based on the minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) set by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). Higher ratings are more efficient at removing particles from the air. Traditional disposable filters typically have a rating of 1 to 4, while electrostatic filters average between 8 and 10, making them more effective at purifying your air.

Considerations and Maintenance

Since an electrostatic air filter is reusable, it must be cleaned manually to remove the particles it collects and keep the filter working effectively. There are two primary options for how to clean an electrostatic air filter, but remember to turn your system off before you remove the filter for cleaning.

One option is with a garden hose with decent water pressure. Look for the arrow on the filter that indicates the airflow direction and begin by spraying the filter from the opposite side of the arrow. Then, switch to the other side and do the same. This can be repeated several times if necessary, and particularly dirty electrostatic filters can be soaked in a detergent spray for a few minutes to loosen excess debris before rinsing it off. The goal is to see the water run clear through the filter.

Another option is to vacuum out the particles. This method is less labor-intensive but may not be as effective on electrostatic filters with high amounts of particle buildup. You may need to use this cleaning method more often to keep the particle buildup manageable. Once the filter is cleaned and dry, it can be reinstalled in your system to continue cleaning your air. Generally, these filters should be cleaned every 2 weeks to 1 month.

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