What Is a HEPA Filter?

In our quest for healthier indoor spaces, the quality of the air we breathe takes center stage. AirBox is a leader in this endeavor, offering innovative solutions to enhance indoor air quality.

If you’re looking for air filtration or treatment solutions, it won’t take long to come across the acronym HEPA. In both home and commercial applications, this term shows up just about everywhere—in marketing materials, on product packaging, and more.

But what does HEPA mean? Are HEPA filters different in some way from non-HEPA filters? And are all HEPA filters created equal?

Most important of all: how does HEPA filtration connect to providing clean air at your school or business?

Below we’ll answer these crucial questions. By the end of this blog post, you’ll understand why and where you need EPA-certified HEPA filters, plus why we’re so committed to the technology here at AirBox.


What Is a HEPA Filter?

A HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter is a mechanical air filter made from randomly arranged fibers. HEPA filters use a pleated design to capture particulates (dust, smoke, and pollen, including mold and bacteria), removing them from the air within a treated space.

The EPA defines HEPA filters not by what they look like or what they are made of but by how effective they are at removing particles from the air. To qualify as a HEPA filter, an air filter must be able to remove 99.97% of airborne particulate matter at 0.3 microns. The diameter specification of 0.3 microns corresponds to the worst case; the most penetrating particle size (MPPS).


Offshore Manufacturing vs. American-Made HEPA Filters

Despite what we’ve just said about what HEPA filters are, not every filter with the term “HEPA” on the packaging lives up to that definition.

The EPA has established standards for what a filtration device must be able to accomplish before it can be HEPA certified. Every American-made HEPA filter has to meet these standards to be called a HEPA filter.

The problem is that not every HEPA filter is made in America.

Some of the HEPA filters manufactured elsewhere aren’t HEPA filters at all by the EPA’s standards. They’re simply air filtration products branded or labeled as HEPA— with no testing or backing to verify what they actually do.

The discussion of offshore-manufactured vs. American-made HEPA filters comes down to this: higher-quality materials result in a more effective filter. Higher quality may come with a slight increase in cost. But we believe this cost is worth it: American-made HEPA filters support American jobs, and EPA certification means you can trust US-manufactured certified HEPA filters to do what they’re supposed to do.

Can you save a few bucks going with foreign-made, non-certified filters? Yes. But it’s not worth the downgrade to less filtration and protection.


Why HEPA Filters?

So what makes HEPA filters better than other types of air filters?


First, we hate to say it since it’s the industry we’re in, but here’s the truth: no one regulates or certifies generic (non-HEPA) air purifiers.

That means most air purifiers aren’t regulated or certified. You don’t know what they’re doing (or not doing)—you just have to take the manufacturer’s word for it. Sometimes all these devices are doing is masking odor, not actually removing contaminants from the air.

Not only that, certain types of air purifiers (electronic and UV purifiers) are not well studied and may do more harm than good.

Certified HEPA filters, on the other hand, use well-studied, scientifically proven technology. You can know with confidence what they will and won’t filter and how effective they are at doing that filtering.

Thanks to their unique construction, HEPA filters are impressively efficient, removing greater than 99.97% of airborne particulates at 0.3 microns (and even greater percentages of particles both smaller and larger than that).

To qualify as Certified HEPA, a filter must be independently tested to meet IEST standards. Other “HEPA like” or “HEPA type” filters are not subject to this testing and may or may not offer the same levels of protection.


Understanding the MERV Rating Scale

Ready to see why HEPA filters are even more effective? Let’s talk about MERV.

The MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value) Rating Scale is based on testing methods from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning (ASHRAE).

MERV ratings measure how effective a filter is at trapping particles of various sizes larger than 0.3 microns. Essentially, the higher the MERV rating, the better a filter will do at capturing these larger particulates.

If you see a MERV rating of 1 through 4, that filter is stopping less than 20% of particles between 3 and 10 microns. (That’s…not great.)

Jump all the way to the high end of the scale: MERV 16 traps at least 95% of particulates between 0.3 and 10 microns. (That’s considerably better.)

But even at the top end of the MERV scale, we’re nowhere near HEPA levels of filtration. Remember, HEPA is measured at a very small particle size, 0.3 microns. Even at this size, HEPA filters trap greater than 99.97% of particulates.

The takeaway? If you see MERV, realize you’re getting something substantially less effective than Certified HEPA.


Choose True HEPA from AirBox: Ultimate Quality Every Time

Proper maintenance and timely replacement are both key to optimal air quality: HEPA filters have a useful life after which they begin to degrade in performance.

AirBox offers serious clean air solutions for organizations and businesses that want to purify their indoor air and improve indoor air quality (IAQ), including portable HEPA filters, in-duct units, and powerful large units for industrial spaces.

At the heart of our technology are powerful three-stage Certified HEPA air filters:

  • Our Pre-Filter captures large dust, smoke, and pollen particles, taking some pressure off the HEPA layer and extending its life.

  • Our True HEPA Layer filters out smaller dust, pollen, and smoke particles.

Interested in learning more about HEPA filters and getting clean air in your space? Learn More by starting your Safe Air Plan today! -> Safe Air Plan Request or Call Now (855) 927-1386

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