What kind of pollutants does the average homeowner living in The Woodlands, Texas, have to worry about? Air pollution involves more than just the exhaust coming from the cars traveling in and out of the Houston metropolitan area. It involves the environment inside your home as well. Even the cleanest of houses has internal pollutants that can trigger allergies, such as odors caused by pets, cooking and other sources, dust mites, and pollen. Airborne substances, whether they come from inside or outside the home, are especially hazardous to people with allergies or asthma.
One way you can help protect your family from these threats is by using HEPA filters where possible and air purifiers. Although HEPA filters are mostly used in hospital or other commercial buildings, HEPA filters can be used in whole-home purification systems, and standalone air purifiers. Learn more about what causes allergies, how you can combat them, and the science behind HEPA filters so you can improve the air quality for you and your family.
What Causes an Allergy?
An allergy is an immune system response to a seemingly innocuous substance such as dust or pollen. Airborne allergies come from the things you breathe into your lungs. Technically, dust and pollen will not hurt you. It is the way your body reacts to the dust or pollen that is the problem for you. The immune system decides these harmless substances are a potential threat to your well-being, and it initiates countermeasures to eliminate them. Those countermeasures cause your eyes to water and itch, your nose to get stuffy, and you to feel miserable all the time.
The immune system also keeps a record of these perceived threats, known as allergens, by forming antibodies that are specific to them. When an antibody detects the allergen, the body responds with the countermeasures to fight it. This happens with each exposure. This is why a person who was never allergic to dust can suddenly develop that allergy. During the first allergic reaction, antibodies form, and now that person will continue to sneeze, itch, or cough for the rest of his or her life.
No one really knows why some people develop allergies, but once you have one, it is difficult to eliminate. You have to find ways to avoid exposure to that allergen as much as possible. That is tough to do with airborne allergies such as dust because they are difficult to control. This is where HEPA filters come into play.
Warning Signs of an Allergy
The warning signs will vary, but common symptoms may include:
- Itchy eyes, nose, and skin
- Red, swollen eyes
- Tingling in the mouth
People suffering a serious reaction many get short of breath and feel lightheaded.
Anything can cause an allergic reaction, but some substances are more likely to be a problem than others. Airborne allergies tend to be pollens, molds, dust mites, animal dander, or even chemicals. If they come from outside, the HVAC system usually pulls them in, they enter through open doors or windows, or you can even track them in on your shoes.
Indoor pollution will include volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, from cleaning solutions, new carpets, paint, or gas appliances. It may include pollen produced from houseplants or dust that gets trapped in the furniture or air vents.
What is HEPA?
HEPA stands for high-efficiency particle air. Put simply, HEPA is a mechanical air filter designed to remove even small particles from the air that you breathe. These filters meet the standards set in 1983 by the United States Department of Energy to ensure they offer you the best protection against common irritants that affect your respiratory health. To qualify, the filter must remove 99.97 percent of tiny particles from the air.
HEPA filters trap particles, but most filters carry out that task. What makes HEPA-grade filters different is the ability to trap very small particles such as dust. By definition, a HEPA filter must remove airborne particles that are 0.3 micrometers in diameter.
How Do HEPA Filters Work?
HEPA filters are comprised of a tight and randomly arranged mesh of fibers. The type of material used to create the mesh varies somewhat by the manufacturer, but typically, it’s made of fiberglass.
HEPA filters target small pollutants in the air using three mechanisms:
- Interception — A particle that is moving through the air sticks to a fiber
- Impaction — A particle becomes trapped in the fiber mesh
- Diffusion — A particle will attach itself to a gas molecule to form a group that is too big to pass through the filter
HEPA filters work by pulling air in through the screen, allowing the filter to trap any contaminants. A HEPA filter works much like a coffee filter. You fill a coffee filter with ground coffee. The machine pushes hot water through the ground beans to make your morning coffee, but the filter traps the ground while allowing the hot water to pass. This happens because the grounds are too big to get through the filter mesh, but the water molecules are small enough to pass.
In the same manner, air pollutants, like the coffee grounds, are too big to get through the filter’s fiber mesh. However, the air is made of tiny molecules, so it passes freely.
Appliances That Rely on HEPA Filters
Typically, HEPA filters are used commercially in hospitals and other health care environments. It’s rare to see HEPA used in a home; however, some tools do exist for your home, such as vacuum cleaners with HEPA filters and air purifiers.
Managing Air Quality with an Air Purifier System
Because HEPA filter’s tight weave constricts airflow, it is unlikely that your HVAC system would support a HEPA filter. However, you can consider installing an independent HEPA air purification system in the most commonly used rooms to improve the air quality there.
Honeywell’s 24V Ultraviolet Air Purifier with AirBRIGHTtm Odor Absorption
Honeywell’s 24V Ultraviolet Air Purifier system is recommended for families and homes with:
- Air conditioning
- A humid climate
- Odors caused by pets, cooking and other sources
- A home that stays closed for whole seasons
How Does Honeywell’s 24V UV Air Purifier System Work?
You can count on this system to eliminate up to 99 percent* of mold spores on your air conditioning coil, which will help maintain your system’s efficiency and air flow. AirBRIGHT uses ultraviolet rays and carbon cells to capture odor-causing airborne particles and then turns them into water vapor that is harmless. The UV light also cleans and regenerates cells, so the AirBRIGHT system is for the most part maintenance free.
Worry-Free and Easy Installation
Installing the Ultraviolet Air Purifier system is simple and straightforward. The unit is a sealed design with safety features built in for protection against any accidental contact with ultraviolet rays. Homeowners can just let the air purification system do all of the work, while you gain energy efficiency, cleaner air and a cleaner heating and cooling system.
To schedule a service appointment or to discuss the air quality in your home, call us at 281-346-3095. One of our trained technicians is ready to help you and those you love breathe easier.
* The device will reduce Serratia Marcescens by 99%+ during standard operation over a period of 24 hours, at a distance of 4.5 inches. The device will reduce Bacillus Subtilis by
99%+ during standard operation over a period of 24 hours, at a distance of 4.5 inches. The device will reduce Aspergillus Versicolor by 90%+ during standard operation over a
period of 24 hours, at a distance of 4.5 inches. (LMS Technologies, Inc. Report, November 2006.)