If you’ve been searching for an air purifier for any extent of time, then odds are that you’ve seen the phrase “HEPA” a few times. If you’re like me, then odds are that you began to wonder what a HEPA filter was and if you actually needed one.
A HEPA filter is worth the cost and should be something that you look for when you prepare to purchase an air purifier. When shopping, be sure to find filters that are “True HEPA” and “Medical Grade HEPA” filters.
Why should you look for these different kinds of HEPA filters? Well, it’s simply: they’re the best kinds of HEPA filters. And, I have to add, “HEPA Type” air purifiers ARE NOT actual HEPA filters. They’re wannabes. Don’t buy an air purifier with a “HEPA Type” filter if you want the full benefits of a real HEPA filter.
In this article, I will share a little bit about the different levels of HEPA filters and how they help you, why HEPA filters are worth it, and a few other things. I hope this article helps you in your air purifier journey!
And, if you really want to learn a bunch about HEPA filters, I’ve got quite a few HEPA filter articles linked at the bottom of this article too!
Why Does a HEPA Filter Matter?
HEPA filters are important for anyone who wants to have the air in their home cleansed of allergens, odors, dust, and much more. An air purifier that lacks a HEPA filter, or a comparable type of filter, will be unable to clean the air at the same level as a HEPA filter.
To understand why a HEPA filter matters, I think it’d be best if I told you what they’re made to do. They’re made to filter out at least 99.7% of particles over .3 microns, and some can filter particles as small as .1 micron effectively.
Particles That a HEPA Filter can Capture
Now, since all this micron talk is boring, I’m dropping a table of all the particles that HEPA filters can filter out of the air and how large they are in microns. That way you can just gloss right on over it if you aren’t too interested. (Please note that the table is not all-inclusive, HEPA filters can capture a whole lot more than just the things I listed!) Sources are linked in the first column.
|Things HEPA Filters Can Clean Out of the Air||Particle Size (Approximate)||Can a HEPA Filter Catch it if it’s Airborne?|
|Human Hair (Source)||70 microns||Yes|
|Dander (Source)||2.5 microns||Yes|
|Dust (Source)||.05-100 microns||Will help, but won’t catch it all.|
|Tobacco Smoke (Source)||.1-4 microns||Will help, but won’t catch it all.|
|Dust Mite (Source)||.5-50 microns||Yes|
|Baby Powder (Source)||.5-50 microns||Yes|
|Skin Flakes (Source)||.5-10 microns||Yes|
|Mold Spores (Source)||10-30 microns||Yes|
|Pet Dander (Source)||.5-100 microns||Yes|
|Pollen (Source)||10-1000 microns||Yes|
|Bacteria (Source)||.3-60 microns||Yes|
|Asbestos (Source)||.1-10 microns||Will help, but won’t catch it all.|
|Sawdust (Source)||30-600 microns||Yes|
|Sugar (Source)||400 microns||Yes|
|Wildfire Smoke (Source)||.4-.7 microns||Yes|
Now, I must add a caveat to this table: there are particles in your home that are not airborne, so your air purifier and HEPA filter won’t be able to capture them. If they are kicked up and sent airborne (i.e. you jump on a bed, walk through a pile of dust, stuff like that), then your air purifier will be able to clean the particles. However, it will take time. Most air purifiers cycle all the air in a room every half hour or so.
Something else that I feel compelled to add is that particles are always added to your home’s air so, even with an air purifier, you’ll never have air that’s 100% clear of any particles. You can limit the number of particles greatly with a HEPA filter, but you’ll never get rid of 100% of them. But you have to start somewhere!
What Kinds of HEPA Filters are There?
There are several kinds of HEPA filters on the market, but they’re normally broken up into three camps: True HEPA filters, Medical Grade HEPA filters, and HEPA type filters (which are not actual HEPA filters).
If you’re shopping for an air purifier, find one that has either a True HEPA filter or a Medical Grade HEPA filter. Avoid HEPA Type filters as they don’t actually clean the air as well as a real HEPA filter.
So, what is a HEPA type filter and why should you avoid it?
A “HEPA Type” filter is just an air filter that is made in a way that makes it look like a real HEPA filter. It might look like a real HEPA filter, it might clean the air pretty well, t might even taste like a real HEPA filter (please don’t taste them, Hahaha), but at the end of the day, a HEPA type filter isn’t a real HEPA filter. They don’t clean the air as well as a real HEPA filter. They can’t capture particles as small as .1 and .3 microns.
The entire reason why a company might call their filter “HEPA Type” is to trick consumers like you into buying them, thinking that you got a real HEPA filter.
But, again, HEPA Type air filters are not real HEPA filters.
The real HEPA filters are Medical Grade and True HEPA filters. They come in a few different levels, but just looking for a Medical Grade or True HEPA filter will be enough for people like you guys.
If you’re really worried about dust, smoke, and pathogens in the air, then you should get a Medical Grade HEPA filter in your air purifier. Additional systems and filters in your air purifier like a sanitizer and activated carbon filters can further help to clean the air.
Or, if you aren’t as worried about these things and you just want cleaner air, then a True HEPA filter will take care of cleaning the air in your home very well! True HEPA filters don’t always measure up to Medical Grade HEPA air filters, but they’ll work wonders for residential and even commercial air purifier owners.
And, if you’re worried about other particles in the air, then please refer to this little table here on what other filters and systems you should have in the air purifier that you look to buy.
|Other Things in the Air||Recommended Filter/System to Deal With It|
|Smoke||Medical Grade HEPA Filter|
Activated Carbon Filter
|Pathogens|| Medical Grade HEPA Filter|
Air Sanitizer (Can be a UV light, heat, or other such sanitizers)
|Pet Hair, Dander, and Odors||HEPA Filter|
Pre-Filter (To extend filter lifespan)
Activated Carbon Filter (For odors)
|Mold and Fungus|| Medical Grade HEPA Filter|
Dehumidifier (To limit humidity and decrease the risk of mold and fungus)
Air Sanitizer (To kill the spores that get into the air purifier)
Ozone Generator (To kill the mold. Note: These are hazardous to your health if you use them and breathe in the ozone. Use it when you are not present.)
|VOCs and Radon||Activated Carbon Filter|
And, as with the previous table I shared, this list is not all-inclusive. There are a whole lot more things that the various kinds of air purifiers, filters, and systems can do.
Are HEPA Filters Worth it?
At long last, we ask the question: Are HEPA filters worth it?
Air purifiers can be costly investments, so finding an air purifier that grants you the cleanest possible air is a must. HEPA filters are the best way to ensure that your air purifier has the ability to clean the air thoroughly.
While some HEPA filters can be costly, the benefits outweigh those costs. As I said previously, air purifiers can be expensive, so there is absolutely no point in buying an air purifier that can’t clean the air as well as what their price tag may make you think it can clean the air. HEPA filters are usually the most affordable means of air filtration for an air purifier, so it’s highly recommended that you get an air purifier with a HEPA filter.
However, there are other kinds of air purifiers out there that are good at cleaning the air too. I’m partial to HEPA filters since they work so well, are a lot more affordable than electrostatic air purifiers, and because they’re easy to maintain. But, at the end of the day, it’s you who is going to buy the air purifier, not me. You can pay whatever you want! I’m just saying that an air purifier with a HEPA filter is going to be your best bet.
But there is a dark side to HEPA filters as well…
You have to replace them (or clean them, in some cases).
HEPA filter replacements aren’t expensive in most cases, but, if you aren’t careful, you might buy an air purifier that has costlier replacement filters. The air purifiers that I recommend on this site have affordable filter replacements and their HEPA filters last at least 6 months in just about every case.
I find that HEPA filters usually cost between 10% and 30% of the air purifier’s total cost and, again, that’s a recurring expense. For cheap air purifiers, new HEPA filters can be about 5 dollars every six months, totaling 10 dollars a year. Air purifiers that are around 50 dollars generally have replacement filters between 10 and 25 dollars. Air purifiers over 100 dollars might have replacement filters that cost 10 to 40 dollars.
I don’t think that the cost of replacing filters takes anything away from the value of HEPA filters in your air purifiers, personally. I still think that they are some of the best air purifiers on the market, especially for their value. Many experts, scientists, and even other bloggers agree that air purifiers with HEPA filters are some of the best on the market.
Want to see what air purifiers I recommend? Check them out here! Air Purifier Essentials Top Picks: Best HEPA Air Purifiers on the Market
Or, if you’d like to keep reading about HEPA filters (and filters in general), check out one of the articles below!