An HVAC air filter cleans the air entering your building. But why do you need clean air in the first place? The obvious answer is to protect the people in your building and other parts of your HVAC system from airborne contaminants. But getting the air quality right in your building can bring you even greater benefits — benefits that boost both productivity and profitability.
We know. Buying air filters is not usually seen as an exciting, value-adding purchase like a new batch of computers or piece of machinery. Most businesses buy air filters because they have to. It is a routine purchase; replacing a worn-out part with a new one. And because of this, it is often a quick process with little analysis to work out if the existing filter system is delivering all it can do. It is usually a case of looking at what is currently installed, and replacing like for like.
And what is wrong with that? Perhaps nothing if you are short on time and not too concerned about how much you spend over the life of the filter. But there is more to the humble air filter than meets the eye. And to see why it deserves your attention, we need to consider just what it is that an air filter does.
More than part protection
For many, an HVAC air filter is just a way of protecting the rest of the air handling unit. And filters do stop coils and other parts from becoming fouled, clogged or damaged—extending their life and keeping the HVAC system functioning efficiently.
But a filter brings more to the party than just this.
Poor air quality is a global, growing problem. 92% of us breathe air classified as unsafe by the World Health Organization1. And that has elevated air pollution to the fourth most common cause of death worldwide2—claiming the lives of around seven million people each year1.
While there is little we can do in the short term about air pollution outside, we can protect people when they are inside.
Particulate matter (PM) is one of the most common and harmful ingredients in air pollution. It causes eye, nose, throat and lung irritation, and long-term exposure can lead to bronchitis, reduced lung function, heart disease and various cancers. Yet the right air filter will stop PM in its tracks, and ensure that your indoor environment is a clean and healthy place to be. And that brings you a number of different benefits – depending on the type of building in question.
Filtration at work
If you operate an office or other type of workplace, you probably put a lot of effort into maximizing productivity. And this is somewhere that air filters can help, too. A study by REHVA (Federation of European Heating, Ventilation and Air-Conditioning Associations) examined the relationship between air quality and productivity – in particular, typing speed and the number of units output. It found that poor air quality and elevated temperatures consistently lowered performance by up to 10%3.
And it is not just about reducing the level of contaminants in the air, it is improving the air flow, too. Over- specifying a filter with too high a filtration class is one of the most common reasons for poor air flow. It will cost you more in energy and it could cost you in employee absence, too. One research study found that short-term sick leave was 35% lower in offices ventilated by an air supply rate of 24 l/s compared to buildings with rates of 12 l/s4. This study estimated the value of increased ventilation to be $400 per employee per year.
And reducing absence is also of benefit in education, where the right filter choice can help schools and universities to improve the wellbeing of students and boost attendance.
The ability of air filters to protect occupant health extends to hospitals and other medical facilities, too. Here, air filters capture germs as well as pollutants – helping patients recover more quickly, reducing the risk of post-operative infection, and inhibiting the spread of diseases.
Clean air as a selling point
If you operate a leisure or retail facility, the benefits of an effective filter system go beyond reducing absence and improving productivity. As awareness of air quality grows, more and more people are taking steps to protect themselves from pollution – just look at the rise in popularity of face masks for evidence of this. So, for retailers or managers of other buildings that people choose to spend time in, air filters give you a chance to demonstrate that you care, fulfil health and safety requirements and create an environment that encourages people to visit longer and more often.
But filters protect more than people. In buildings that house expensive equipment (like data centers) or priceless artefacts (like museums), filters can stop contaminants from damaging or destroying valuable, fragile or irreplaceable assets.
Reaping these rewards
To achieve these benefits, you need to ensure that your filter system is up to the job. Wrongly specified, incorrectly installed or poorly-fitting air filters will only lead to higher energy bills, damage to other parts of the HVAC system and much more – as we have seen above.
Identifying the right filter system means analyzing your building and operating environment. Do you have high levels of pollution outside your building? Are there any local sources of pollution, such as factories or building sites? Do you have problems with poor ventilation? It is worthwhile putting the effort into finding the right filter system. Getting it wrong could be more costly than you think.
With our eco16 program, we can conduct a full analysis of your location, including measuring the air quality inside and outside your building. On the basis of real data, we then configure the ideal filter system to meet your individual requirements. This configuration will provide you with a safe level of air quality and the lowest possible cost – including purchase, energy and disposal.
1 World Health Organization, WHO releases country estimates on air pollution exposure and health impact, September 2016.
2 BBC, Polluted air causes 5.5 million deaths a year new research says, February 2016.
3 REHVA Guidebook: Indoor Climate and Productivity In Offices, 2006.
4 Risk of Sick Leave Associated with Outdoor Air Supply Rate, Humidification, and Occupant Complaints, Milton DK.
Glencross PM. and Walters MD. 2000.