HEPA vs Electrostatic

HEPA vs Electrostatic

I have read many of articles that try to compare HEPA and electrostatic filtration. It seems that every article chooses one or the other rather than comparing the two. Both of these filtration methods have value for the homeowner and business owner alike. Sometimes HEPA is the clear choice for a filtration system.  At other times an electrostatic precipitator is a better fit for the air quality issues in a space. In this article we will try to present a clear comparison without bias.  At LakeAir we manufacture both electrostatic and HEPA air purifiers. Our only goal is to help you become a well-informed consumer.

Getting terms and technologies right

Before we get started let’s clarify our terms and technologies. Not all manufacturers use the right terms when describing the tecnologies. To more clearly understand our comparison,  we will take a brief look at both technologies in the HEPA vs Electrostatic comparison.

HEPA type and true HEPA

Many air purifier manufacturers misuse the term HEPA.  They refer to air filters that remove less than 99.97% of dust particles as a HEPA filter. While many of these HEPA type filters may do an adequate job, they should not be referred to as HEPA.  When comparing a HEPA Air filter to an electrostatic air purifier, be sure the filter contained is true HEPA.  Be certain that it is rated for 99.97% removal of dust particles 0.3 to 10 microns.  

Electrostatic precipitator and electrostatic media

There it is a common misunderstanding that all electrostatic filtration is the same. There are two basic types of electrostatic filtration. One is electrostatically charged filter media, and the other is an electrostatic precipitator. Electrostatic media is created by giving a normal filter and electrostatic charge.  The electrostatic charge may increase the filters ability to capture certain particles. These filters are disposable and do not fit into the HEPA vs Electrostatic comparison

An electrostatic precipitator is a metal filter which has two stages.  The first stage is the ionizing section.  Here are particles are given electrostatic charge.  The particles then moves through the collection area where the particles are deposited on aluminum plates.  The trapped particles are washed away with regular maintenance. In your comparison use electrostatic precipitators.

Efficiency: Only the start

A true HEPA filter is 99.97% efficient on removing dust particles from 0.3 microns to 10 microns.  A LakeAir electrostatic cell is 97% efficient on removing dust particles from 0.1 micron to 10 microns.  These numbers are very similar. Based on the efficiency numbers alone the HEPA is clearly a better filtration type.  It is important to look at all variables when deciding which the best air purification technology.  Each individual circumstance is likely to be different and the best filter choice may change.  One important note is that the electrostatic cells need to be cleaned regularly or their efficiency will drop.

Cost of operation

To compare the cost of operation, let’s look at two great air purifiers.  The LAFC HEPA and LAFC electrostatic air purifiers are used in many commercial locations throughout United States.  These air purifiers filter approximately the same amount of air.  The LAFC HEPA removes 99.97%, the LAFC electrostatic removes 97%.  In a normal year we would expect that the LAFC HEPA filter would need to be replaced two times.  In that same amount of time we would expect that the LAFC electrostatic cells would need to be clean 4 to 6 times.  The HEPA filters would have the cost of $500 per year the time required to clean the electrostatic cells would be about 12 hours.  The question to be asked is can you clean your electrostatic cells for less than $500? The cost of operation is important in the HEPA vs Electrostatic comparison

Pressure drop

In air purification systems the pressure drop is the amount of air pressure that is lost when the air filter is placed into the device. Each air purifier model will be somewhat different.  To give a good example we will use the Maxum electrostatic and the Maxum HEPA air purifiers.  The HEPA Air purifier in the Maxum has an initial pressure drop of one.  That results in a 22% loss CFM.  If an electrostatic cell were placed in that same unit that pressure drop would be about 4%.  The electrostatic cell allows more air to pass through it and therefore has a lower pressure drop.

Where pressure drop comes into play many times is in whole house air purification systems.  If the pressure drop of the filter is too great it will cause too much strain on the blower and it may fail prematurely.  HEPA filters require special blowers to overcome their higher pressure drop.  So, it is important to consider what type of blower you have and how powerful it is when choosing between HEPA and electrostatic.

The photo above shows the Maxum Electrostatic filter along side of the Maxum HEPA filter. Note how much free air can pass through the Electrostatic vs the Maxum HEPA. The Maxum HEPA produces a 22% pressure drop where the Maxum electrostatic only 4%.

Noise

Because an electrostatic cell has less pressure drop, the amount of fan power to produce the same amount of clean air as a HEPA is less.  Generally speaking, the amount of fan power is equal to the amount of noise.  Electrostatic precipitating air purifiers are likely to be quieter and then there equal HEPA counter parts.  This statement is a generalization and each unit should be compared by actual sound levels reported by the manufacture. Use specifications in your view of HEPA vs Electrostatic

Motor wear

Another aspect of pressure drop is motor wear. The harder a motor or blower has to work, the shorter its life. The HEPA filter makes a blower work much harder and therefore we should expect that its life will be shorter. Using the LAFC comparison, we find that The HEPA version is 3 times as likely to fail compared the electrostatic models. The majority of these failures are caused by not replacing the HEPA filter regularly. The movement of air through the motor is the main source of motor cooling. Without sufficient air flow the motor overheats and fails.

Blower Cooling Illustration

Without sufficient air flow the units efficiency goes down and the blower is in danger of overheating and failing.

Eco Friendly Considerations

Which filtration type is more eco-friendly?  There is an open debate on this topic as well. HEPA filters cannot be recycled. They by their nature are filled with undesirable elements removed from the air. They have to be thrown in the garbage and will sit in a land fill for years. In a comparison using the Maxum HEPA and Electrostatic, we have determined that over the life of the product a Maxum HEPAs waste would occupy upwards towards 30,000 cubic inches of landfill. On the other hand The Maxum electrostatic would produce a small amount of Ozone. That amount is less than 50 parts per million. The air outside our homes often contains more ozone than that, but there is still an environmental impact to be considered. As goes with many of these considerations, it is important that we look all the contributing factors and make a product decision that fits our needs and beliefs.

Product Break Down

 

 

HEPA

Electrostatic

Efficiency

99.97%

97%

Operation cost

$500.00 annual

12 Man Hours

Pressure drop

22%

4%

Noise

54 dB(A) average

45 dB(A) average

Blower wear

30% more

30% less

Eco Friendly

30,000 Cu In Landfill

50 part per million / ozone

There is no clear winner; there is simply an informed decision to be made. If you would like more help in choosing the right air purification solution for your particular needs, please call our customer service experts at 800-558-9436.

HEPA vs Electrostatic: Both technologies have their place. Discover which is best for your unique air purification situation. Unbiased information & facts