Advances in technology can be an amazing thing. Every few years it seems as though we upgrade items in our life to take advantage of features and benefits that were either unavailable or significantly more expensive just a few years before. Think about how different your current car, TV, or phone are compared to what you owned a few years ago, let alone what those a generation before you had access to. Now think about the air filter you use in your home or building. Has it changed at all? Is there more than one choice?
Let’s take a look:
Compared to some maintenance items, air filters used in HVAC systems are a relatively young industry. There was very little need for these products in the marketplace before the 1930s as most buildings were still heated by either coal or wood, and an air conditioning system was something people dreamed about on a hot summer night. However, with the transition from radiant heat to forced air systems in the 1930s, and then air conditioning after World War II, there became a very real need to separate dust and dirt particles from the air to protect the HVAC equipment and occupants in these buildings. To fill this need several manufacturers began mass producing fiberglass based products and then slightly more efficient pleated air filters, which used either synthetic or cotton/synthetic blended material with a “chicken wire” like steel mesh backing to help it keep its pleated shape.
David’s Great Grandfather selling furnace’s in Chicago back in the 1930’s
Energy and Air Filters-
Energy has been proven to be one of the major drivers in air filter development. First there was the trend toward energy-efficient buildings that required more recirculated air and less fresh air from the outside. This changed the focus from equipment protection, where the major concern was large particles, to occupant protection, where small particles and Indoor Air Quality took center stage. This drove the development of new synthetic filter media materials which would capture the smallest particles from the air at a very low resistance to airflow. Eventually we began to see more sophisticated HVAC systems, which had variable speed drives and control systems that allowed for units to adjust to meet the current demand of the building, not just either be on or off like the older systems. With this advancement, lower resistance filters became significantly more important as the costs associated with operating the air filters became tied directly to the amount of resistance it created.
Although the industry is dominated by like for like replacements that keeps many old technology formats in use, there are modern formats that every building owner/manager should really understand and consider. These include self-supported prefilters that use the latest in synthetic media to create pleated filters, which use no metal and remember their pleated shape. Also, in the high efficiency ranges there are mini-pleats in various formats including 2”, 4”, and 12” V-Banks, which have incredibly low operating costs attached to them compared to that “traditional” filter that you might be using.
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By David Heritage