Understanding HVAC Systems: How to Optimize HVAC Performance

What are HVAC Systems?

Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are essential for maintaining comfortable temperatures and indoor air quality in buildings. HVAC systems control temperature, humidity, and air quality by circulating air and removing pollutants. However, two factors heavily limit the functionality and performance of HVAC systems: filtration efficiency and pressure drop.

 

Types of HVAC Filters

HVAC systems predominantly rely on their filters to efficiently remove pollutants from the air. The efficiency of these filters is measured by the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rating system. MERV ratings range from 1 to 16, with higher ratings indicating greater efficiency in capturing smaller particles. Additionally, filters with higher MERV ratings often have higher pressure drops meaning increased resistance to airflow. A higher pressure drop can lead to a reduction in HVAC efficiency and increased energy consumption.

In addition to MERV rated filters, High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters are also compatible with HVAC systems. Designed to remove 99.97% of particles larger than 0.3 microns, HEPA filters fulfill the rigorous standards set by the U.S. Department of Energy.

See the table below for further MERV and HEPA specifications.

Minimum % of Particles Removed

Grade

E1 Particles 

(0.1 - 1.0 microns)

E2 Particles 

(1.0 - 3.0 microns)

E3 Particles 

(3.0 - 10.0 microns)

MERV-1

-

-

<20%

MERV-2

-

-

<20%

MERV-3

-

-

<20%

MERV-4

-

-

<20%

MERV-5

-

-

>20%

MERV-6

-

-

>35%

MERV-7

-

-

>50%

MERV-8

-

>20%

>70%

MERV-9

-

>35%

>75%

MERV-10

-

>50%

>80%

MERV-11

>20%

>65%

>85%

MERV-12

>35%

>80%

>90%

MERV-13

>50%

>85%

>90%

MERV-14

>75%

>90%

>95%

MERV-15

>85%

>90%

>95%

MERV-16

>95%

>95%

>95%

HEPA

99.97%

>99%

>99%

 

Issues with Commercial and Residential HVAC Systems

Current commercial and residential buildings utilize low performance HVAC filters with MERV ratings ranging between 8 and 13. In recent years, there has been an increasing concern of indoor air quality and its impact on human health. As a result, there has been a trend towards higher MERV ratings (MERV 13A and plus) for HVAC filters in broader applications. As higher MERV rated filters possess a higher filtration efficiency and higher pressure drop, compatibility with existing HVAC systems is not ensured. The increased airflow resistance of higher MERV rated filters requires users to upgrade or adjust their HVAC systems for compatibility.

 

What are the Possible Solutions?

To address this issue, several solutions exist, including:

  1. Upgrading the HVAC system: This solution can be effective, but is also the most expensive. Upgraded HVAC systems can improve indoor air quality, temperature and humidity control, and energy efficiency.
  2. Adding on to the existing HVAC system: This solution can be more cost-effective than upgrading the entire HVAC system. Modifying the system’s fan or adding additional air purifiers or dehumidifiers can supplement the existing HVAC system, improving indoor air quality, humidity control, and overcoming air resistance.
  3. Upgrading the filters: This solution is the most straightforward and affordable. Upgrading to specialized ultra-low air resistant filters (e.g. nanofiber HVAC filters) ensures high filtration efficiency, while minimizing pressure drop.

 

Nanofiber HVAC Filters

Upgrading to nanofiber HVAC filters is the most straightforward and affordable way to upgrade your HVAC system for several reasons:

  1. Higher filtration efficiency: Nanofiber filters are able to capture smaller particles than traditional HVAC filters, due to the smaller pore size of the nanofibers. This can result in higher filtration efficiency and improved indoor air quality.
  2. Lower pressure drop: Nanofiber filters can have a lower pressure drop than traditional HVAC filters, meaning that they do not restrict airflow as much. This can result in improved energy efficiency and lower operating costs.
  3. Longer lifespan: Nanofiber filters can have a longer lifespan than traditional HVAC filters, due to their ability to capture more particles without becoming clogged. This can result in lower maintenance costs and fewer filter changes.
  4. Reduced environmental impact: Nanofiber filters can be more environmentally friendly than traditional HVAC filters, as they may require less energy to manufacture and can be more easily disposed of or recycled.

 

There are several manufacturers that produce nanofiber HVAC filters. A few manufacturers include:

  1. Camfil: Camfil is a global manufacturer of air filters and air purification systems, including nanofiber HVAC filters. Their nanofiber filters are designed to provide high filtration efficiency while maintaining low pressure drop.
  2. Hollingsworth & Vose: Hollingsworth & Vose is a global manufacturer of advanced materials, including nanofiber HVAC filters. Their filters are designed to provide high levels of indoor air quality while maintaining low energy consumption.
  3. Lydall: Lydall is a global manufacturer of engineered materials, including nanofiber HVAC filters. Their filters are designed to provide high levels of filtration efficiency, with MERV ratings ranging from 11 to 16. 
  4. 3M: 3M is a global manufacturer of a wide range of products, including nanofiber HVAC filters. Their filters are designed to provide high levels of indoor air quality, with MERV ratings ranging from 11 to 16.
  5. Matregenix: Matregenix is a global leader in nanofiber technology, offering highly customizable nanofibrous materials for a diverse range of applications, including nanofiber HVAC filters. Their filters are designed to provide exceptional filtration performance without hindering the performance of your HVAC system, with MERV ratings from 13 to 16 and HEPA.

 

Conclusion

In short, HVAC systems are critical for maintaining indoor air quality and comfortable temperatures in buildings. Current HVAC systems have limitations that can be addressed through upgrading the entire system, adding on to the system, or upgrading its filters. Upgrading the HVAC system’s filters to specialized ultra-low air resistant nanofiber filters is the most straightforward and affordable solution, providing higher filtration efficiency, lower pressure drop, longer lifespan, and reduced environmental impact.