An average of 6.8 people are involved in the decision to make a business purchase1. And on a list of factors that those stakeholders will be considering, cost will be somewhere near the top. It’s a primary factor in any purchase, possibly only beaten by need in terms of importance. And while the same is true in the filtration industry, HVAC filters fall into the category of products where purchase price is just a small percentage of the total cost of ownership.
That’s why it’s important to look beyond the upfront cost when selecting a filter. Identifying the best value for money means considering all the factors that influence the lifecycle cost of an air filter – from before it is installed to after you have thrown it away. In this article we take a look at these factors and what you can do to maximize your cost savings.
It’s the most obvious cost, but it’s sometimes difficult to make a like-for-like comparison when judging competing air filters. Two filters that appear similar on paper – same size, filter class and other options – can perform very differently over their service life. These performance disparities can occur from differences that lie beneath the surface in the media technology and other elements of filter design. You can explore these differences in more detail in our SlideShare – the mechanics of air filtration.
It has no power cable or batteries, so it may seem strange to talk of the energy consumption of an air filter. But a filter consumes energy thanks to the resistance that it causes to the air flow in the HVAC system. The higher this resistance – or pressure drop – the harder the fan has to work to shift the same volume of air.
This energy consumption is by far and away the highest cost associated with an air filter. Eurovent – the European Association of Air Handling and Refrigerating Equipment Manufacturers – found that 80% of a filter’s total cost of ownership comes down to energy consumption. In comparison, the purchase price accounted for just 10%. That’s why a filter with a cheaper purchase price may well end up costing much more in the long run.
To put that further into perspective, air filters account for 15% of the energy use in the average commercial building, which you can learn more about in our SlideShare
We’ve yet to perfect self-installing filters, so you will still need at least one person to fit filter elements into your air handling unit. Once in place, an air filter will need periodic inspection to ensure it is in good condition, and occasional cleaning to remove any larger debris or dust. Whether these jobs are carried out by an employee or external service provider, there will be a cost associated with that work.
Outside of specialized applications, such as biological research or the nuclear industry, most air filters are relatively straightforward to dispose of once they reach the end of their service life. But it can still be an expensive business; disposing of an HVAC filter typically costs around a third of its purchase price and products with a glass fiber media can be even more costly. These products have to go to landfill – as they cannot be incinerated – and are more difficult to change due to the health and safety risk to the service team.
Focus on lowering energy consumption
Reducing the energy consumption of an air filter comes down to lessening the resistance that it causes to the air flow. If we reduce the pressure drop, we can adjust the fan or reset the inverter to consume less energy.
To simplify the task of searching for an energy efficient air filter, Eurovent and its participating members run an energy rating scheme. Just like a television or refrigerator, qualifying products are rated on a scale of A+ (the best) to E (the worst). For products that fall outside the scheme – such as filters that offer lower and higher levels of air cleanliness – look for a lower pressure drop to minimize your energy spend. It will be around 80% of the total cost that you spend on a filter, so it’s worth considering carefully.
Choose a longer life
The longer your filter lasts, the longer you can delay spending out on installation, disposal and servicing costs. So, look for products that offer a longer service life – typically those with a higher dust holding capacity.
You can find out more about choosing a filter with a long life in part one of this series
Look for eco (and wallet) friendly disposal
The best way to dispose of your used filters is by incineration, which provides energy recovery as well as reducing landfill. But filters with a metal frame and glass fiber media cannot be disposed of this way. So, look for filters with plastic frame and a synthetic media to reduce your disposal costs and lessen the impact on the environment.