It's that time of the year when the temps drop and the heat goes on. Did you know that familiar burning smell the first time you turn on the furnace is dust and particle build up on your filter from last winter? This dust build up can be an issue for people with allergies and eczema. House dust; a mixture of pet dander, mold and dust mites can be a trigger for eczema and allergies. While it can't be completely eliminated, it can be lessened by choosing the right filter and replacing and cleaning your furnace filter regularly as recommended. Regular maintenance is a good idea for safety and your health. Is your filter clean and ready for the season? And is there a best filter for people with eczema?
What is MERV?
You might not have given much thought to the different furnace filter types, but choosing the right one can save money and improve air quality. When shopping for filters you will see a MERV rating which means Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. It may sound complicated, but it's a measurement from 1 to 16 to rate the effectiveness of the filter. The higher the MERV value the more efficient your filter will be at capturing all the nasty stuff that can make you feel sick. Choosing a filter with a MERV rating of 8 to 11 will filter out dust mites, mold spores and pet dander while allowing for the best air flow to your system. The highest MERV ratings can possibly restrict air flow and cause the furnace to malfunction.
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Types of Filters
There are basically two types of filters, mechanical and electrical. The disposable type of filter is considered mechanical and the permanent/reusable type is electrical. Most of us are familiar with the disposable pleated type made of paper and polyester or the inexpensive fiberglass disposable type. The permanent reusable or washable filter will have a solid aluminum or plastic frame and can be vacuumed or washed off with water. These filters are electrostatic and collect particles because the filter is charged one way and the dust particles are charged the other way causing them to stick to each other. The drawback to this type of filter is that it requires more upkeep and is not recommended for people who may be forgetful about maintaining them. You must also check that your HVAC system is compatible with this type of filter before purchasing.
Some allergy retail sites sell options for HEPA and special reusable filters with electrical plug ins. HEPA filters for home HVAC systems are not recommended as they restrict too much air flow, potentially causing the system to malfunction. The reusable type of filter with an electrical plug in claims to turn your HVAC into a whole house air purifying system. However, most of these filters are very expensive and may require modifications or upgrades to your HVAC system. It's a good idea to do your research and talk with an HVAC specialist about your system before purchasing this type of filter.
Maintaining Your Filter Choice for Maximum Efficiency
Disposable filters with higher ratings of 8-12 must be changed every three months regardless of allergies. The reusable electrostatic or electric filters may need to be vacuumed and washed off with water every couple of weeks or every month to prevent a build up of dust which will stress the system and increase allergies as the dirt starts to blow out of your vents.
What type of filter is best for Eczema?
The good news for people with eczema and for most people's pocketbooks is that upgrading from a flat fiberglass filter to a medium efficiency pleated paper filter should be beneficial. A pleated paper filter with a MERV rating of 11 will filter out and capture smaller, and a greater number of particles without restricting air flow to your system. If you have very severe allergies and environmental sensitivities, it may benefit you to discuss the addition of an electronic reusable type filter with a qualified HVAC technician.
No matter which system you choose, just like your humidifier, your furnace filter requires cleaning, changing and maintenance as recommended by the manufacturer. Add regular furnace filter upkeep to your winter eczema checklist and with a good skin care routine, you'll be feeling a lot better this winter!