ISO 16890 in 3 minutes

Get the key facts on the new air filtration standard

At the beginning of 2017, a new standard for the testing and classification of HVAC air filters came into force. ISO 16890 addresses many of the concerns surrounding the outgoing EN 779 standard and aims to give a more accurate view than ever of a filter's performance in the real world.

We've been involved in the development of ISO 16890 from the start. So here's a brief overview of what to expect.

What is the new standard?

ISO 16890 provides a standardized process for classifying air filters used in general ventilation - in other words, it's a new method for grouping HVAC filters depending on their performance.

What's wrong with EN 779?

EN 779 has done much to improve quality standards across the industry and has provided a uniform method for selecting filters. But our understanding of the air around us has grown enormously over the 20 years since its launch, and its limitations are now obvious.

Chief among these limitations is the fact that EN 779 only tests a filter's performance against one particle size - 0.4 µm. Particulate matter (PM) is not uniform in size or shape, so exposing a filter to one particle size in testing is not reflective of the conditions it will face when in operation.

How is ISO 16890 different from EN 779?

The new ISO 16890 standard differs because it focuses on a filter's ability to capture different size particles in the danger zone - where particulate is too small for our bodies in-built defences to protect against.

Testing under ISO 16890 exposes a filter to particles from 0.3 µm all the way up to 10 µm. This means that filters are tested in conditions that are much more similar to real life, and you get a product capable of performing as you expect it to.

What are the new ISO 16890 filter groups?

Based on this testing, filters are classified according to their efficiency at PM10, PM2.5 and PM1 - that is, particulate matter with a diameter less than 10 µm, 2.5 µm and 1 µm respectively.

And these particle sizes are the basis for the four ISO 16890 groups: ePM1, ePM2.5, ePM10 and Coarse. ‘e' in the group name simply stands for efficiency and the number relates to PM size. To qualify in each group, a filter must have 50% efficiency at that PM size. So, a filter classified as ePM1 captured at least half of the PM1 contaminant it was subjected to in testing. Filters achieving an efficiency lower than 50% with PM10 go into the Coarse group.

ISO 16890 Filter Group Efficiencies 
Coarse< 50% of PM10
ePM10≥ 50% of PM10
ePM2.5≥ 50% of PM2.5
ePM1≥ 50% of PM1

Once tested, filters are awarded an efficiency rating that's rounded to the nearest 5%. So you will see filters described as ePM10 70% and ePM2.5 95%, for example. This simply means that the first filter is 70% efficient at PM10 and the second product is 95% efficient at PM2.5.

When will ISO 16890 launch?

ISO 16890 was launched at the beginning of 2017, but most countries have an 18-month transition period where EN 779 will continue to be valid alongside the new standard. This is to give end users, distributors and manufacturers time to adjust to the new system.

Will I still be able to buy an F7?

Once any transition periods are finished, no. ISO 16890 uses a different grouping method to the G and F classes that we're familiar with under EN 779. A direct comparison between the old filter classes and the new groups is not straightforward as EN 779 examines a fraction of the performance data that ISO 16890 does. Making like-for-like conversions also ignores much of the benefits that ISO 16890 brings.

Does ISO 16890 replace all other air filter standards?

No, not quite. ISO 16890 is just for general ventilation applications, so the higher efficiency filters classified according to EN 1822 - such as EPA, HEPA and ULPA filters - are not affected by the new standard.

ISO 16890 also only currently impacts those countries adopting the EN 779 standard, so regions using other schemes - such as ASHRAE - will also remain unchanged for the time being. Discussions to introduce ISO 16890 to these markets are underway, with the aim of creating a truly global standard.

To find out more on ISO 16890 and what it means for you, read our customer guide or contact one of our ISO experts...