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How A Furnace Filter Works

Nov 12, 2007
A furnace filter works as an individual component fixed to the air intake in a home's heating system and is designed to trap airborne particles of dust to prevent damage to the motor, fan and the heating coil that are components vital to its functioning. The scope of furnace filters has increased to encompass the filtering of indoor air in homes to improve indoor air quality.

As for furnaces, the absence of a furnace filter will result in the system becoming clogged and choked with dust. This in turn will cause an overload on the motor making it work harder. The motor operates the blower that sucks air from the return duct and blows it out through the supply duct circulating it throughout the house. The air gets heated by coming in contact with the heating coils before being blown in the supply duct. An overloaded motor will suffer overheating and can eventually burn out, leading to a heating system crash. The motor itself, along with other components, like the fan, etcetera can also become clogged with dust.

A filter is installed in the system to trap dust and other airborne particulate matter before it can reach the motor, blower and other important components. Normal material used in a furnace filter is glassfiber. Such a filter can retain its efficiency for one to three months depending on the quality of air that passes through it, after which it needs to be replaced due to clogging. These filters do not cost much to replace and the efficiency of the system is restored once a clogged furnace filter is replaced. There are also other types of furnace filters available, which cost a bit more but have higher efficiency levels. Many are of the pleated type, made with specialized paper elements containing micropores that allow passage of clean air by trapping the dust and other particulate carried by it.

As mentioned earlier, furnace filters now have a much bigger role to play with environmental concerns, having acquired a very important position. They have been redesigned for improving air quality in homes by trapping pollen, dust, dirt, smoke, dust mites, allergens and other indoor pollutants. Manufacturers are using various materials for the production of effective furnace filters, out of which, four types find popular use: paper, cotton, synthetics and foam. Some air cleaners are made from hog's hair. All of these work by mechanically trapping dust and pollutants present in the air that passes though them. Apart from these there are electrostatic filters that use electrostatically charged ions to trap air pollutants. Many of the furnace filters/air cleaners available today and can be cleaned and reused, whereas others need to be replaced.

A good and effective furnace filter is fitted to a home furnace unit, along with protecting system components. It caters to providing cleaner air throughout the home. This is because indoor air is recirculated through the system and has to necessarily pass through the filter that frees it from most pollutants.

The scale on which efficacy/efficiency of air filters are measured is denoted by the term MERV that stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. According to the United States Department of Energy, how a furnace filter works can be judged against a standard benchmark of MERV 13 fixed for air cleaners/filters.
About the Author
Bill Whitworth writes air quality articles for Web Products, Inc., the Internet's premier supplier of furnace filters, air filters, replacement filters, and custom filters.
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