The importance of breathing clean air seems like a no-brainer but what a lot of people don’t realize is that pollutants can come from outside and inside your home. We’ve made good strides in improving outdoor air quality, and yet the quality of air inside our homes is often far worse.
Most people think that the polluted air outside is the only thing contributing to their allergic reactions or respiratory problems but everything from ordinary dust and pollen, the cleaning products you use, mold, pet dander, cigarette smoke, chemicals and other compounds used in a wide variety of household products (emitting volatile organic compounds or VOCs) and things like candles, and the ash from your fireplace can all have devastating effects on your indoor air quality.
This is where a whole-house air filtration system comes into play. One of the great operational aspects of whole-home air filtration systems is that they treat the air that comes into your home and the air already present inside your home. As a result, you get a complete air filtration system that single or dual-room air filtration systems cannot provide.
Whole-home Air Filtration Benefits & Key Features
- They Treat the Air Throughout Your Home – They wouldn’t be called “whole-house air filtration systems” if they were not capable of filtering the air in every room of your home. You can buy smaller single room air filters to put in every room of your home, but a much easier and much more cost-effective method of cleansing the air you breathe is to go with a whole-house unit.
- They Can Extend the Life of Your HVAC Systems – By eliminating the dust and debris that are prevalent in your ducts and that can easily reach your central units, whole-home air filtration systems can actually make your HVAC systems cleaner which adds up to a longer lifespan for them. This can also help ensure your furnace and central air conditioner operate more efficiently, saving you money in the long run.
- They Make Virtually No Noise – If you have ever used a small air filtration system in your living room or bedroom then you are already familiar with the level of noise they can produce. Whole-home units generally operate very quietly as they are integrated into the existing HVAC work installed in your home.
- They Are Efficient – Traditional air purification filters may actually restrict airflow in your home causing the blower to have to work harder and eat up more energy. Whole-house air filtration systems do not block any airflow which has no adverse effects on how your HVAC systems operate.
- They Save Space – Unlike portable air filters, whole-house air filtration systems are installed within your HVAC system and out of sight. They do not take up any additional space in your home and do not create eyesores in any room of your home.
- They Require Little Maintenance – Normal fiberglass air filters need to be replaced once a month (which many people often don’t do nearly as often as they should!) but a modern whole-house unit needs its filter replaced about once every three to nine months.
When all is said and done, a whole-house air purification system will save you time and money by protecting your HVAC system, causing no additional energy consumption and being easy to maintain. And of course, it will give your family cleaner, healthier air to breathe.
Common Household Air Pollutants
- Mold spores
- Dust mites
- Pet hair & dander
- Pollen & allergens
- Paint, chemicals & solvents
- Cleaning agents
- Personal hygiene products
- Pesticides & herbicides
- Melamine furniture, harmful vapours, formaldehyde
- Second hand smoke
- Fireplace & candle smoke
- Printer & photocopiers (ozone, volatile organic compounds (VOC)
The Types of Whole-Home Air Filters
There are essentially four main types of whole-home air filters:
- Standard flat filters which are about 1-2 inches thick and made of fiberglass. These are common on most furnaces in Canada. For a few dollars more, you can purchase higher-quality flat filters, which are pleated and thus provide more effective filtration in a similar-sized package. Some flat filters are electrostatically-charged to capture very fine particles like pollen that pass through your air return system. One downside of this type of filter is that they may restrict airflow by forcing your HVAC system to work harder to push the air through the filter.
- Extended media filters are essentially a larger and more advanced version of flat filters. They consist of an 8-10 inch block of accordion-like woven fibers, which is affixed to the ductwork and must usually be installed professionally.
- Electronic air filters which use a higher electrical charge than the aforementioned type to capture tiny pollutants in the air like smoke particles and are much more effective than flat filters. These filters use an ‘electrostatic precipitator’ to attract and capture pollutants in an aluminium collection tray which must be washed with soap and water every few 3-4 months.
- And finally, ultraviolet filters which are the kinds that are used in hospitals and other medical facilities. UV filters are especially adept at neutralizing bacteria, viruses and other pathogens, and are typically sold as an add-on to other filtration or ventilation systems.
The best whole-home air filters meet the HEPA standard, which ensures they “filter at least 99.97% of particles that have a size greater than or equal to 0.3 µm”. These are among the best at filtering out particles from the air.
The Cost of Whole-Home Air Filters
As you may have already guessed, the price level increases as the technology gets more advanced. In other words, the most affordable whole-house air filtration system is going to be a flat filter style system. They get more expensive as you move down the list above. The good thing about the variance in price is that there is an air filtration system that can fit into just about anyone’s budget.
One thing to note however is the cost of buying and replacing filters. Replacing filters can cost anywhere from $40 to $200 dollars a year. While flat filter systems offer the most initial savings, they may be less economical in the long run since you have to replace their filters much more frequently – about once every 2 months.
Many homeowners that opt for higher-end models do so because the potential for overall savings is greater, there is less maintenance involved and the more sophisticated units tend to offer the best overall air filtration, and may do a better job of catching the smallest particulate matter.
Still, it is safe to say that most homeowners spend anywhere from $650 to $2,500 on a whole-house air filtration system. Here’s a general pricing guideline for the major types:
- Flat filters: about $10 – $50 each
- Extended filters: about $400 – 700, including installation
- Electronic filters: about $600 – $1000, including installation
- Ultraviolet air filtration add-on: anywhere from $400 – $1000
Popular Residential Air Filtration Brands
While there are a lot of companies that manufacture whole-home air filtration systems, you are more than likely better off sticking with the major brands as they’re products are proven. Reputable companies like Trane, Lennox, Carrier, Honeywell, GE, Hunter, Holmes, and Whirlpool. Be sure to ask about warranties when you get quotes, (you can get a free one right here on our site), and go with a certified installer.