Do you sneeze or develop a running nose during or after you vacuum? Does your allergy or asthmatic attacks coincide with when you or someone else vacuums? If you answered “yes”, you need to choose one of the HEPA filter vacuum cleaners available.
There are quite a lot of them from different brands so if you are loyal to a particular vacuum cleaner brand, it should have a model with a HEPA filter.
Vacuum cleaners that feature this filter type are certified to cleanse the air in your home of particles that are as small as 0.3 microns with 99.97% efficiency. That is the highest level for filters in a residential respiratory product.
HEPA filter vacuum cleaners are not any different from most of the vacuum cleaners you see, it is just the filters that are more advanced. All your favorite vacuum cleaner features are still present in these vacuum cleaner types.
In fact, almost every modern-day vacuum cleaners have HEPA filters. If you want the best value for your money when buying a HEPA filter vacuum, be sure that the vacuum cleaner also has all the other features that you like.
As you read on, you will find out all you need to know about HEPA filters in relation to vacuum cleaners. As always, we round things up with what to look out for when choosing the best HEPA filter vacuum cleaners.
Vacuuming With HEPA Filters
If you have ever shopped for any product in the category of air purification, you probably have come across the acronym HEPA.
You would also have known that the term is used as a selling point for those products. That is expected because “HEPA” is the term that dictates how well an air purification product works.
If you have read any other post on this site, you would have come across the term too. Are vacuum cleaners air purification products too?
Well, the answer is “no”, the air purification part is just a by-benefit. But in most cases, it can quickly be a deal breaker for buying a vacuum cleaner or not.
What Are HEPA Filters?
We haven’t done an in-depth explanation of what HEPA filters are on this site. So, we want to use this opportunity to do just that. Like a lot of other terms, that we hear it a lot does not mean we have a good understanding of what they are.
HEPA stands for High-Efficiency Particulate Air. So HEPA filters are filters that are highly efficient at separating particles from the air.
What makes HEPA filters special is how efficiently they can do their thing.
The Institute of Environmental Sciences and Technology stipulates that a HEPA filter must be able to stop 99.97% of particles in the air from passing through.
This efficiency must apply to particles that are 0.3 microns or larger.
Do note, however, that these filters can trap particles that are smaller, and they do. The percentage rating and size are just the benchmarks that must be met for the filter to be called HEPA.
Putting microns in perspective
Imagine anything that is a meter long. Now divide that thing into one million places, one of the division is the size of a micron. Just in case you are still wondering how small that is, here is a little list for your reference:
- Mold – 3 to 12 microns
- Car emissions – 1 to 150 microns
- Bacteria – 0.3 to 60 microns
- Human hair (cross-section) – 50 microns
To clear everything up, the human eye cannot see anything that is less than 40 microns. So, quite a number of the dirt HEPA filters capture are those you didn’t even know where there.
These filters are made of microfibers of boron silicate through a process that is similar to that of making paper.
The filter sheets are pleated which increases the paper’s surface area. The pleats are individually separated by aluminum to direct the airflow as it passes through the filter.
A little history lesson
Just like vacuum cleaners, one person cannot take full credit for inventing the HEPA filter. Fiber-base air filters, which are what HEPA filters are, became a thing way back at the Manhattan Project. They were used back then to trap dangerous, radioactive particles.
Early in 1960, Manfred and Klaus Hammes created inexpensive air filtration systems that were used to reduce the soot that came from coal stoves. The German brothers are seen as the pioneers of air filters.
It was not until 1966 that Kenneth W. De Baun got a patent for his pleated air filter. The technology continued to pass through innovative iterations till it became what we have today.
How It Works
Regular filters such as the ones you use in the kitchen often use the sieving method to separate larger substances from the smaller ones.
HEPA filters in a vacuum cleaner work a bit differently from that. These filters adopt a combination of three methods to trap particles.
The vacuum’s suction pulls air through the filter to create airflow. Particles that are larger than the pores of the HEPA filter are trapped by adhesion to the fibers. These particles have to be about one radius of the filter to get captured.
As the vacuum motor pulls air through the filter the smaller particles collide with the fibers of the filter and get trapped, others that do not collide directly with the fibers are captured as they are passing through.
This method involves the theory of Brownian motion that microscopic particles move in a random pattern.
This motion slows down the movement of these particles which increases the chances of them getting trapped by either of the previous methods.
These are the ways HEPA filters help to clean the air sucked in while you are vacuuming. Some vacuum cleaners also use filters before the exhaust to further purify the air that comes out.
Types of HEPA Filters
There are other types of HEPA filters that are categorized based on their efficiency. The specifications we have given so far are those of true HEPA filters.
The US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recognizes nine labels for filters used in respiratory equipment. We consider vacuum cleaners to be in this category because to a large extent, they can affect the air in our homes.
The body grades filters based on how well they filter air into 95, 99, and 99.97 percent. By now, you know which level the HEPA filter in your vacuum falls.
It also grades based on the filter’s resistance to degradation which is tagged N, R, and P. The N represents not resistant to oil, R for resistant to oil, and P stands for oil proof.
You can come across ratings that combine both ratings such as P100 which means that the filter is 99.97 percent efficient and oil proof.
You might also find NIOSH ratings with the letters A to E which represents how well filters resist airflow. A is for the least resistant while E indicates the highest resistance.
You might also find ratings that indicate the filters’ response to fire. A Type 1 filter is fire resistant while a Type 2 is semi-combustible.
There are several other filter technology available but our focus is on HEPA which provides us the specifics we can expect.
We hope that by now you have some clarity about HEPA filters and are rest assured that they trap contaminants on a microscopic level. Perhaps that will give you enough confidence to take a deep breath.
How Vacuum Cleaners Use HEPA Filters
The main purpose of filters in a vacuum cleaner is to make sure that the dirt and dust that you vacuum stay in the vacuum. The use of HEPA filters is to make certain that happens to an expected level.
Vacuum cleaner brands use HEPA filters differently. In reality, it is a game of innovation; sort of competition for who can filter the airflow the best.
If you want the details on how vacuum cleaners use HEPA filters, read the “how vacuum cleaners work” section in our vacuum cleaners guide.
Oreck vacuum cleaners, for instance, layer its filter bags to be sure its machines emit clean air.
Some Dyson vacuum cleaners use the cyclonic and cinetic technology to separate dirt and dust from the airflow before passing the air through the filters.
Different brands have a different approach. Some even filter the incoming air before it passes over the motor so it can cool it better.
How To Choose The Best HEPA Filter Vacuum Cleaners For You
It is settled that HEPA vacuum cleaners are the vacuums of choice for their efficiency at reducing airborne contaminants from our homes.
The fact that we mentioned that vacuum cleaner brands use the HEPA filter differently might make you think one is better than the other.
Technically, that is not true. If a vacuum says it uses HEPA filters, you can rest assured that it will trap particles that are 0.3 microns and above with 99.97% efficiency. That is regardless of what method it adopts with the HEPA filter.
That being said, choosing a HEPA filter vacuum mostly comes down to the vacuum itself. You would want to look out for features that support the optimal performance of the HEPA filters.
These users are the most susceptible to particles in the air and a HEPA vacuum cleaner will help make the air cleaner for them to breathe.
For those who have pets, getting HEPA filter vacuum cleaners might not be enough.
Inasmuch as the vacuum will help keep the air clean, you still need a pet tool to pick the hair and dander. A motorized brush head is often dedicated for that purpose.
We already know that pet hair and dander can trigger allergies too. That is why HEPA filter vacuum cleaners that have a motorized pet tool is what you need.
But in this case, it is two fans are better than one. If you want to get the best out of HEPA filter vacuum cleaners, you might want to go for those that have two fans.
Sebo Airbelt K3 is a great example of a HEPA filter vacuum cleaner that has powerful suction.
If you would like a vacuum cleaner with 2 motors, which also helps suction, Sanitaire SC9180B Quiet Clean is a wonderful choice.
This makes the vacuum cleaners suction become more powerful as against one fan. The stronger the suction power of a vacuum is, the better it can suck in dirt and dust. That way, more particles are sucked away from your space and cleansed through the HEPA filters.
Height Adjustable Brush Heads
That way, you can cover more grounds and clean every floor in your home especially if you have different floor types.
Shark DuoClean models are ideal choices of HEPA filter vacuum cleaners.
Some vacuum brands position a filter at the exhaust so that the air going out filters again. That way, with such vacuum cleaners, you can rest assured that the air coming from its exhaust is clean.
These are the important things to look out for in terms of the HEPA filter functionality. The other factors are for your preferences which are not our primary purpose for this article. By all means, pay attention to those features that improve your vacuuming experience.
There you have it, all you need to know about HEPA vacuum cleaners. The information we provided to you here will make things easy for you. Now you can confidently choose one that suits your needs. Now all you have to do is to make the purchase and start enjoying clean floors and air in your home.