Allergies Hayfever Air Filters

For those who suffer from hay fever, home air filters can be of great help in reducing symptoms. Specialty allergen air filters can help reduce pollutants in the air while keeping air conditioning and heating systems running more smoothly. Mechanical and electronic filters go beyond HVAC systems, and smaller units act as small-space air purifiers.

Indoor Allergens and Hay Fever

Outdoor pollens are triggers for seasonal hay fever symptoms. However, many individuals suffer from perennial hay fever, caused by indoor allergens. Dust and pet dander swirl in the air with every step. Mold secretly develops in damp places, releasing spores that cause allergy symptoms. Smokers fill a house with dangerous pollutants. This is what causes the typical running noses, sneezing and coughing that go along with hay fever.

In general, this very common allergic reaction arises from the release of histamines. These are chemicals that respond when viruses and bacteria enter the body. When they detect dust particles or other invaders, they sometimes overreact to defend the system needlessly. Nasal passages become irritated and swollen. Eyes become watery and sneezing begins.

It’s obviously impossible to avoid many of these indoor air pollutants. Traditional air filters can only do so much in trapping particles. In homes where smokers and hay fever sufferers reside, it might be wise to consider other types of filtration products. Keep in mind, though, that no air filter can completely eliminate secondhand smoke.

Types of Air Filters

Basic air filters include fiberglass mesh, hog’s hair and a variety of other materials. These trap lint, but won’t be effective in reducing allergens. Pleated filters offer greater efficiency in capturing dust particles and some are electrostatic to attract pollutants magnetically. Most standard HVAC filters, including washable units, will trap larger air particles.

Experts recommend choosing HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters for hay fever, allergy and asthma sufferers. They’re available as part of freestanding units, such as purifiers, and are used in vacuum cleaners.

HEPA filters are not a brand, but merely a type of mechanical filter. They must meet specific standards to receive this designation. Specifically, these filters should be able to trap particles as small as 0.3 micrometers in size and must trap at least 99.97 percent of those airborne pollutants. They’re best for freestanding air purifiers used in smaller areas. Changing them frequently will assure the best results.

Electrostatic filters attract pollutants through a charged mesh of fibers. Their efficiency rating is about 90 percent. They’re capable of attracting large and small airborne debris. Some of these can even attract bacteria and mold particles.

Combination filters incorporate a variety of materials to trap different types of particles. Some will decrease odors while battling dust. Others can help destroy viruses and handle tobacco smoke.

Air Filter Features

One thing air filters can’t do is sweep up what is not in the air. That includes dust mites that lurk in mattresses and bed linens. Particles must be airborne to pass through a filter.

When shopping for a typical air filter, the MERV rating will help determine its efficiency with regard to indoor air quality (IAQ). MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. For home air filters, the range goes from 1-16. Higher ratings indicate the greater percentage of large air particles a filter will capture.

  • Basic fiberglass mesh: MERV 1-2.
  • Electrostatic filters: MERV 4.
  • Pleated filters (1 inch): MERV 5.
  • HEPA filters: their efficiency exceeds the highest MERV rating.

The bedroom is an ideal place for freestanding air filters, especially if using just one. Here, it will draw in the dirty air, clean it and send it back out as cleaner air. Models range in style and size along with choices in types of filters to perform various jobs. Ratings on air purifiers with filters are measured by CADR (clean air delivery rate). Higher numbers indicate better quality.

Cost and Function of Air Filters

Filters for HVAC units are nominal in cost, depending on type and brand. Basic disposables have another advantage. By discarding filters, you eliminate exposure to pollutants trapped in the fibers. Reusable filters are either washable or can be vacuumed. If used properly, they are also cost- and energy- efficient.

Freestanding and whole-house units can range up to $1,000 or more. Small room models may range between $50 and $500. For many homes, it may be wise to install filters in each of the ducts. It’s important to replace filters in order for them to work efficiently. Change plain filters about every 30 days. Others may last two months or longer. Every choice has its benefits and drawbacks.

Not everyone who suffers from hay fever will see benefits from using home air filters. To date, no studies have proven their benefits for allergy and asthma sufferers. The fact remains, however, that today’s homes with improved insulation contain more pollutants. Filtration systems, used hand-in-hand with preventive measures, can certainly be a healthy step toward better air quality.

Resources

Air Conditioning Filters Guide. (n.d.) Why filter the air? Retrieved March 15, 2009, from the Air Conditioning/Furnace Filters Web site http://airconditioningfiltersguide.com/.

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. (n.d.). Ask the allergist. Retrieved March 15, 2009, from the AAFA.org Website http://www.aafa.org/ataanswers.cfm.

EPA.gov (n.d.) Guide to air cleaners in the home. Retrieved March 15, 2009, from the EPA.gov Web site http://www.epa.gov/iaq/pubs/airclean.html.

Furnace Filter Care (n.d.) Compare furnace filters and air conditioner filters. Retrieved March 15, 2009, from the Furnacefiltercare.com Web site http://www.furnacefiltercare.com/compare-furnace-filters.php.

Stenson, Jacqueline (2009). Which allergy products work? Retrieved March 15, 2009, from the MSNBC.com Web site http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3076498/.