Whole-house air purifiers can be added to an HVAC system by connecting it to the duct network that circulates the air. Adding an air purifier with activated carbon and HEPA filters help prevent contaminants from damaging the HVAC and will prolong its lifespan, while improving the air quality in your home.
Around 91% of all homes in the U.S. have central heating and air conditioning (or HVAC systems) that regulate airflow throughout the year to maintain a comfortable temperature. A whole-house air purifier can be attached to the HVAC system and used to filter contaminants from the circulating air.
This article digs into the various benefits of connecting whole house air purifiers to HVAC duct systems. We also explain how the setup works and why it is essential for a clean indoor environment.
- Whole house air purifiers can be added to HVAC systems.
- Air purifiers can be connected directly to the duct network, and protect and prolong the lifespan of the HVAC.
- Whole house air purifiers cost between $400 and $4000
HVAC systems and Air filters
HVAC is a heating and cooling system for residential and commercial areas. In comparison with standalone heaters or air conditioners, an HVAC saves more space and has better energy efficiency.
In the HVAC system, several mechanical components work in conjunction to draw in outside air. This air stream is propelled via a blower to either be heated or cooled (depending on the settings).
A network of ducts connects the HVAC to different rooms in the house, and the processed, ventilated, warm/cold air is emitted into the house via these duct lines.
Although the primary function of the HVAC is to adjust the air temperature and circulate the air around the home, the system also has some installed filters to remove airborne contaminants. These filters not only improve the air quality but also protect the system by preventing dust and debris buildup.
Here are some of the most common filters used in HVAC and what there effect is on airborne contaminants:
Reusable Generic Filters
Generic filters have large pores that can only remove large dust and debris. These simply protect the inner components of the HVAC from damage, but do little to reduce airborne contaminants that you are likely to breathe in.
Fiberglass Air Filters
These filters are made of spun glass enclosed in a cardboard case. They can trap particles measuring 50 microns and more. Due to the microscopic pore size, they can capture around 20 to 25% of pathogens.
Pleated Air Filters
This disposable filter consists of many folds that increase the filter surface area, enabling it to capture more contaminants. The building material is polyester, cotton, or paper, which are easily available, and inexpensive, and this is why pleated filters are most common in HVAC systems.
HEPA or High-Efficiency Particulate Air filters, are one of the most efficient and widely used filtration systems. They have microscopic pores that can trap 99.97% of all airborne particles sized 0.3 microns or more. This includes pollens, pathogens, pet hair, dander, dust, debris, etc.
Some HVAC systems have UV bulbs that emit Ultra Violet light (UV-C at 256 nm wavelength) to inactivate microbial DNA and restrict its growth, which means they reduce viruses, bacteria and fungi in the air. However, these are rarely attached to an HVAC and are more common in high-end air purifiers.
Electrostatic filters produce high-energy positive and negative ions. The emission creates static electricity, causing airborne particles to fall on and stick to surrounding surfaces. These filters can help with particles that are in the air but do no reduce gases, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or anything that causes odors in the home.
Activated Charcoal Filters
They are made by oxidizing and heating pure carbon. Activated carbon is highly porous and adhesive and is incredibly effective at removing gases and VOCs that are present in the air. The gas molecules are captured inside the tiny pores, which prevents them from escaping into the air.
While at least one of the first three filters (generic large pore, fiberglass, and pleated) are found in almost all HVAC systems, only the highly advanced, modern units have True HEPA, UV, electrostatic, and activated charcoal filters.
Whole House Air Purifiers for HVACs
Air purifiers are devices that draw air inside the system via a blower fan and pass it through a series of filters for filtration of contaminants. While an HVAC typically only has one type of air filter, an air purifying unit consists of several filters, each of which removes a different type of pollutant.
Whole house air purifiers can connect to the central HVAC system of the house. Instead of directly emitting the purified air, these whole house units first send circulating air to the heater/AC after filtration.
A good whole house air purifier will have an activated carbon filter as well as a HEPA filter to remove both particle and gas contaminants from your home.
Given the generally poor air quality index (AQI) in our homes, purifiers are essential to prevent diseases and reduce allergy-related symptoms.
Why You Should Connect A Whole House Air Purifier To Your HVAC
Many air purifiers have the same filters as many HVAC systems. However, it is better to use a generic filter in the HVAC and then connect it to a high-end air purifier.
This is because, the vast majority of HVACs are only capable of holding generic filters or a single filter that are not good enough for air purification.
HVAC systems are not designed for air purification, and therefore, their filters often do not have an optimal thickness, which can prevent the filter becoming clogged quickly (saturated) while also being thin enough to enable a smooth passage of air.
Air purifiers, on the other hand, are all designed with special attention to the filter’s MERV rating.
MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. It ranges from 1 to 20 and determines a filter’s potential to capture particles measuring 0.3 to 10 microns. Air purifiers usually have an ideal MERV rating that enables efficient removal of allergens without obstructing the airflow.
How Air Purifiers Affect The Efficiency Of HVAC Systems
Air purifiers prevent dust and debris from accumulating in the HVAC system, without obstructing the airflow. This protects the mechanical components of the HVAC and improves its efficiency, which ultimately prolongs its optimal lifespan.
The Cost Of Installing An Air Purifiers In An HVAC System
A whole house air purifier costs between $400 to $4,000. This includes the cost of installation service, which is usually provided by the manufacturers.
It is crucial to mention that installation of whole house air purifiers requires a professional because although all HVACs can be connected to an air purifier, the installation might require certain modifications to the duct network.
Best Whole House (Central) Air Purifiers
Here are three of the best whole-house air purifiers you can consider investing in:
Airpura R6000 Air Purifier
The first product on our list is Airpura R6000 Air Purifier. This unit caters to 1050 sq. ft. and is, therefore, perfect for small houses and offices.
Its four-stage filtration includes a pre-filter, carbon filter, micro-suppress, and HEPA filter. The pre-filter protects the system from dust buildup, whereas the HEPA filter removes finer airborne particles and pathogens.
The micro-suppress filter is the same as HEPA, but it specifically focuses on trapping microbes like bacteria, molds, and viruses. In contrast, the activated charcoal filter adsorbs VOCs, chemicals, and gases.
The variable speed controls and whisper quiet operation are another plus of the Airpura R6000 Air Purifier. It ensures effective filtration while also keeping minimal noise that does not interfere with sleep and day-to-day activities.
Amaircare 3000 HEPA Air Purifier
Amaircare 3000 HEPA Air Purifier is a high-end portable device (thanks to six durable castors) that can also be connected to an HVAC duct system. It is designed for extensive coverage (up to 1700 sq. ft.), which enables premium air filtration for the entire house.
It features three-tier filtration with a pre-filter, a HEPA filter, and an activated carbon inner filter. The pre-filter has large pores and traps dust particles and debris, preventing them from collecting around and damaging mechanical parts of the air purifier and, consequently the HVAC system.
Next, the purifier has a True HEPA filter which removes all kinds of particulate matter, allergens and irritants, and microbes with over 99.97% efficiency.
The device also has a variable speed control that makes it easy for the user to control the rate of air purification. This adjusts fan speed, which then affects the airflow, energy use, and operating noise.
Lastly, this air purifier also has an activated charcoal filter that removes gases, VOCs, and chemicals. This removes odor and toxic gases from the house, making the air fresh and safe to breathe.
The purifier has a high-efficiency AC backward motor that enables low running cost due to minimal power consumption. All-in-all, this Amaircare 3000 HEPA Air Purifier is a great and economical device that works well, both as a stand-alone unit, as well as with an HVAC system.
Allerair AirMedic Pro 5 HD Exec 735 CFM Air Purifier
The last product on our list is Allerair AirMedic Pro 5. This is a three-stage cleaner that features a pre-filter, a HEPA filter, and an activated charcoal filter. It covers 3000 sq. ft. and is thus ideal for large spaces.
One of the best things about this unit is that it has been optimized to install carbon blends. For instance, if you live in an area prone to fire breakouts and smoke, you can install a carbon filter specially designed to counter smoke and fire.
This unit also has wheels that enable portability, and therefore, in the absence of an HVAC system, you can use Allerair AirMedic Pro 5 HD as a standalone unit.
Plentiful Air also has detailed information about black HVAC filters and how to fix this common problem available here.