HEPA vs HEPA type air filter, what is the difference, if any? All too often, air purifier promoters use the terms True HEPA and HEPA-type/HEPA-like interchangeably. But there’s a difference between a True HEPA filter and HEPA-type air filters.
In this post, you’ll learn what the difference is between these two filter types. And the best part? You’ll know when someone’s offering HEPA-type air filters while passing this cheaper, lower-grade air filter off as a real-HEPA option.
Once you’re done reading this resource, you’ll be able to ignore deceptive marketing and choose air purifiers that have genuine HEPA filters.
True HEPA vs HEPA Type Filter: What’s the Difference?
The main difference between HEPA-type/HEPA-like air filters and True HEPA filters is how well each filter type removes contaminants. True HEPA filters capture 99.97% of particulates in the 0.3-micron size distribution. In comparison, HEPA-type air filters remove 99% of particulates in the 2-micron size distribution. Evidently, HEPA filters are better than HEPA-type filters as far as filtration efficiency.
Not only do True HEPA filters remove a bigger percentage of particulates in general, but they also filter out a bigger percentage of smaller impurities. Put another way, True HEPA air filters offer a more thorough or comprehensive filtration than do HEPA-type air filters. If you’re looking to remove very small particles, choose a HEPA rather than a HEPA-like filter.
The US and Europe have slightly different standards for HEPA filters. In the US, a HEPA filter must capture at least 99.97% of particulates with an aerodynamic diameter of 0.3 microns. In contrast, the European HEPA filter standard requires that these filters remove at least 99.95% of 0.3-micron particles. It’s a small efficiency difference, but it’s a difference nonetheless.
What is a HEPA Filter?
According to the US Department of Energy, HEPA is an acronym for High-efficiency Particulate Air filter. It’s a highly efficient filter designed to capture at least 99.97% of particulates that are 0.3-microns size. This filtration medium definitely removes particles that are smaller than 0.3 microns as well as particulates that are larger than that.
The reason the ability to capture air contaminants in the 0.3 micron size distribution is because these are the Most Penetrating Particle Size (MPPS). In fact, HEPA filters demonstrate even greater efficiency at removing particles smaller than 0.3 microns in diameter. That’s why this is the most widely used air filter anywhere. You really should choose this filter type for the nursery and other spaces where fresh clean air is an absolute necessity.
HEPA air filters have a MERV rating of between 17 and 20 and are used in air purifiers, air conditioners, vacuum cleaners, and HVAC systems.
How Are HEPA Filters Made?
HEPA air filters have a paper-like surface and have many, many folds or pleats. These folds are created to substantially increase the surface area of the filter medium. Filter makers force plastic or fiberglass through very small pores to create super slender threads with a diameter of less than 1 micron. For reference, 1 micron equals to 0.001 millimeters.
Molten fiberglass or plastic (polypropylene) fibers are forced through many tiny holes in a spinning nozzle. This process is similar to how textile manufacturers produce synthetic fibers such as polyester. The next step is solidifying the molten substrate through cooling system. The final step involves matting and compressing the fibers to form a dense filter medium with many folds.
This filter medium boasts bazillions of 0.5-micron air-filled spaces between the fibers. There are as many as 2500 layers of compressed fibers packed extremely tightly in a HEPA air filter with a thickness of just 2.5 mm.
What Does a HEPA Filter Remove?
HEPA air filters are excellent at removing particulate matter such as mold, dust, bacteria, pollen, animal dander, and other solid particles. However, these filters aren’t great when it comes to removing gaseous pollutants such as smoke and Volatile Organic Compounds.
Do you live in a fire-prone zone or near a high-traffic highway that generates tons of exhaust fumes? If yes, don’t expect a HEPA filter to do anything for you…because it won’t.
Fortunately, most HEPA air purifiers come equipped with activated carbon filters that have an amazing ability of removing VOCs and smoke particles. These filters have an incredibly large surface area that gives them great odor and VOC adsorption powers.
Most HEPA filters also come with a pre-filter (or even two) that removes the largest particles suspended in the air that the purifiers pulls in. This filter is replaced in 3 months for the most part while the HEPA one is swapped out after 6-8 months.
In some air purifiers, you can change the filters individually while you must replace the entire air filter in some models.
What is a HEPA-Type Filter?
A HEPA-type filter is similar to a True HEPA filter as far as design and construction. The general principle employed is the same: use really fibers, compress these fibers to form a really dense filtration media that captures and stores particulates until the filter is replaced. But there’s one difference between a HEPA and a HEPA-type filter: efficiency.
When making a HEPA-type air filter, manufacturers use thin fibers as they do when manufacturing HEPA ones. But the fiber compression process isn’t as thorough. Which means the air spaces between the fibers aren’t as small as they are in real HEPA filters. Think of a HEPA-type filter as an lower-grade HEPA filter, one that filters out indoor air contaminants but not as efficiently as the real deal.
You can use this filter type in the baby room or bedroom or wherever else you want to use it. Just don’t expect it to remove the tiniest particles as well as does True HEPA ones.
As for the MERV rating of HEPA-type filters, a number that indicates how well an air filter removes particles in the 0.3-10 micron size distribution, it is 13-16.
HEPA-Type Air Filters Have Become Quite Popular Over Time
All that said, HEPA-type filters have become quite popular these days mainly because purifiers with these inferior HEPA air filters are cheaper than models using True HEPA air filters. Another reason is that while you can’t wash True HEPA filters with water, many HEPA-type air filters are washable.
In the end, though, you’ll have to replace the washable HEPA filter. But you won’t have spent boatloads of money on replacement filters as would have been the case had you purchased a real-HEPA portable room air cleaner.
Similarities and Differences Between True HEPA and HEPA-Type Filters
Below are the similarities
- Both filter types are most suitable for removing particulates such as mold, pet dander, bird dander, mold spores, dust, dust mites, bacteria, and more.
- Both types are created per the HEPA standard, but True HEPA offers better-quality filtration.
- Both aren’t great at filtering out VOCs such as paint fumes, exhaust fumes, cooking odors, wildfire and other household smells.
- They clean the air using 4 processes namely inertial impaction, diffusion, sieving, and interception.
- Both are pleated to increase the surface area.
Here are the differences
- Have a higher MERV rating of 17-20 versus 13-16 for HEPA-type air filters.
- HEPA removes 99.97% of 0.3-micron particles compared to 99.0% of 2-micron solid particles. This is a significant filtration ability difference between these two types.
- Have the fibers compressed through a more intense compaction process and are therefore denser. They’re high-density filters while their HEPA-style counterparts are medium-density filters.
- While both are made from fiberglass, HEPA filters also sometimes made from cellulose combined with polyester.
- Are more expensive and are typically used in mid-range and top-end air purifier models while HEPA-style options are normally used in low-cost to moderately priced devices.
How Many Types of HEPA Filters Are There?
The Institute of Environmental Science and Technology, there’s 6 kinds of HEPA filters namely Type A, B, C, D, E, and F. These HEPA filter types boast different characteristics and have different filtration performance.
What about H13 filters? Are these HEPA filters and are they better at air purification? H13 filters are actually HEPA filters. But according to Medify Air, an H13 filter is a medical-grade filter. They claim this medical-grade filter filters out at least 99.95% of 0.1-micro air contaminants. If this claim is true, then these filters should be able to remove particles better than regular HEPA.
But I couldn’t find one source that showed H13 to have any kind of improved air filtration ability. I suspect it’s just marketers trying to get more for the same amount of value offered to the consumer.
H13 filters are high-grade filters that capture at least 99.97% of 0.3-micron particles…because they’re HEPA filters. I’m not sure what MERV rating H13 filters are, but I know they’re HEPA filters, and ALL HEPA filters have a MERV rating of at least 17. A MERV 17 rated filter removes at least 99.97% of contaminants sized 0.3 micron.
How Do I Know What Filter Type an Air Purifier Has?
Read the product description before purchasing. This information should be available on the manufacturer’s website. If they say the filter has an efficiency of 99.97% for particles in the 0.3-micron range, understand the filter is a True HEPA one. It doesn’t matter whether they call it an H13 or medical-grade filter…it’s basically a HEPA filter.
Check for the MERV rating as well. This number may not always be available, but where the description provides it and it’s 17 or higher, the filter is True HEPA. If the rating is below 17, that’s definitely a HEPA-type filter, a lower-grade option.
While HEPA-type filters are essentially HEPA filters, they’re not as efficient in terms of air filtration as are True HEPA filters. A true HEPA filter has the ability to capture at least 99.97% of 0.3-micron particles while a HEPA-type filter removes 99% of 2-micron particulates.
Be sure to read the filter’s description to make sure you’re getting the real deal.