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What is HEPA Filtration?HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) is a filtering efficiency specification for highly sophisticated filters developed during World War II to remove radioactive dust from nuclear power plant exhausts. HEPA filters must retain all particles as small as 0.3 micrometer (formerly microns) with an efficiency rating of 99.97%. A 0.3 micrometer filter will capture soot, pollen, black and color copier toner and the majority of atmospheric dust particles.
HEPA filters are a pleated or 'extended surface' filter made of glass microfibers. The HEPA acronym is used primarily in the United States, while Europeans often refer to the same filter as an S-Class filter. Certified HEPA filters in both the U.S. and Europe are marked with a certification number. The United States Department of Energy (DOE) has specific requirements for HEPA filters in DOE regulated applications.
What is a sealed HEPA system?A sealed HEPA system is not only a HEPA filter but an entire system that meets HEPA standards. This is accomplished by preventing air passing through the system from escaping around or under the filter. If you have a HEPA filter but air escapes without passing through it, the filter will not accomplish its intended purpose. Sealed HEPA systems avoid this by using special filter mountings and other techniques.
Is HEPA always HEPA?Some manufacturers have developed their own terms. For example, several manufacturers use a 'HEPA type' filter which does not meet the stringent standards set for a true HEPA filter. The key to proper comparison is the size and percentage of particles captured. Almost any system could be rated at 100% filtration if the dirt particles are large enough, so make sure to evaluate not only the percentage but also what size particles are filtered at that percentage.
What about allergens?
How often should I change the filters on my vacuum?In general, plan to change foam, cloth or paper pre-filters and exhaust filters every three months. Change them more often if your home is large or has new carpet, if you have children, if there is a lot of foot traffic in your house or if you have pets.
HEPA filters need to be changed (or cleaned, if washable) every six to twelve months. If you cannot see light through the filter when holding it near a light source, change it immediately.
Filters are either disposable, washable or vacuumable. You should follow the manufacturers' guidelines on how often to change, wash or vacuum the filter in your particular vacuum cleaner. Note that cleaning a washable filter requires you to handle the dirty filter - exposing you to dirt and any captured allergens. A disposable filter results in much less exposure since you just place it in the trash.
Tip: When you change your filter, mark the date on a calendar or write it on the filter itself so you know how long it has been since it was replaced.
What happens if I do not change my vacuum cleaner filters?Vacuums lose suction power and eventually stop picking up dirt when the filters are dirty. Some poorly designed motor filters let air bypass the filter when they are dirty. This can damage the vacuum cleaner's suction motor and result in an expensive repair.
In addition, a clogged output filter (alternatively known as exhaust filter or after filter or final filter) increases strain on the suction motor. This can result in poor suction performance and reduced motor lifespan. In some cases, it can even cause the vacuum cleaner's plastic case and filter mountings to melt and warp. If this happens, you may not be able to ever replace the filter again because a new filter will not fit into the warped plastic.
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