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In this post, you’ll learn everything you need to know about HEPA air purifiers and find out if one is right for your home.

What Does the Word “HEPA” Really Mean?

If you’ve done any sort of shopping for a home cleaning device like a vacuum or air purifier, you’ve undoubtedly come across a four-letter term “HEPA.”

A lot of companies use this acronym as a marketing tactic in hopes that you choose their product over another competitor who doesn’t actively promote it.

But, what is a HEPA air purifier exactly?

And what does HEPA mean?

HEPA stands for High Efficiency Particulate Air.

In layman’s terms, this means that a product with the HEPA label is highly efficient at capturing microscopic particles. This covers most dust, dander, pollen, mold and other common allergens that collect in the home.

In particular, a HEPA air purifier is outfitted with a dense filter, which is the HEPA filter. This filter is what traps those particles listed above and prevents them from floating around your house.

Is There Only One Type of HEPA Rating?

Unfortunately, many companies are placing the HEPA term on their products, but this can be misleading to consumers.

There are actually several different terms associated with the acronym HEPA.

What you’ll find when shopping are terms such as “True HEPA,” “HEPA-like” and “HEPA-type” labeled on air purifiers.

At first, this may not seem like a big deal, but there is actually a very big difference between the different terms.

The term “True HEPA” is the one you want to look for when shopping for an air purifier or vacuum. In order to carry this label, a product must meet strict standards set by the U.S. Department of Energy. These standards affirm that the HEPA filter must be able to capture 99.97% of particles as small as 0.3 microns. We have a free guide covering the best air purifier for your home that ensures you get this feature.

In order to visualize this size, a human hair measures 5 microns, which is more than 7x the width of the smallest allergen.

When a product includes the terms “HEPA-type” or “HEPA-like”, this means that it cannot remove particles as small as a “True HEPA” device. The words “type” and “like” alert you to the fact that they are inferior to a “True HEPA” product.

In fact, there is no standard set in place for HEPA-like and HEPA-type products. One device may capture particles as small as 2 microns in size or 5 microns in size. You’ll never know unless you read the fine print.

These terms are mostly being used as marketing tactics to get consumers to buy a product, thinking that it’s a high quality, HEPA system. When in fact, it may not do much help at all for the air space inside your home.

A good indicator is the low cost for these devices. A True HEPA product costs a lot more because the filter is the gold standard in the industry. Cheaper devices almost always have an inferior filter inside the product.

So, always look for the “True HEPA” label when buying an air purifier for your home. This is especially important when getting a nursery air purifier. It’s the highest quality investment you can make.

It’s also important to point out that True HEPA filters come in two types:

  • A highly dense paper filter that’s degradable (and must be replaced)
  • and a mesh HEPA filter that’s washable (and permanent)

Higher end air purifiers that cover larger spaces always use degradable True HEPA filters and will need to be replaced every few months as they wear out.

Some cheaper air purifiers that are good for small rooms only may come with a permanent HEPA filter that can be cleaned and used for the lifetime of the product.

Now, let’s get into the pros and cons of a HEPA air purifying device.

The Pros of a True HEPA Air Purifier:

Because a True HEPA air purifier is excellent at trapping almost all airborne contaminants, it’s the best choice for someone who has asthma or suffers from allergies.

This dense filter is amazing at trapping allergens such as dust, pollen, mold and pet dander. And, because these particles are trapped inside the filter, there is no way for them to re-enter the air space. This keeps your home fresh and clean.

In fact, this type of air purifier is considered to be the best home air purifier for almost all applications.

If you’re interested in paying the least amount of money for an air cleaner, you can go to this link to find the best budget HEPA air purifier options.

The Cons of a True HEPA Air Purifier:

One of the major cons to a True HEPA filter is the fact that it can’t remove odors or viruses and bacteria.

You see, a HEPA filter does not have any odor neutralizing power.

Yes, a HEPA air purifier can trap harmful particles, but the odors given off by these contaminants still persist. To get rid of odors you really need a product that includes an Activated Carbon filter. This filter is designed to neutralize and eliminate odors and smells of all kinds.

HEPA filters are also not very good at eliminating viruses and bacteria.

Since those particles are made up of DNA, the best way to get rid of them is to choose a product that includes an Ultra Violet light. This light sends out radiation into the air that zaps and kills these harmful contaminants by breaking apart their DNA structure. If you’d like the most sterile environment possible inside your home, make sure you look for an air purifier that includes this feature.

Finally, HEPA air purifiers are the most expensive type of product to get because the HEPA filter is such an advanced technology that works extremely well for almost all contaminants.

When you a buy an air cleaner that uses a degradable HEPA filter, the lifetime cost of using the product will be a lot more than choosing an air cleaner with permanent filter. That’s because a permanent filter can be washed and reused.

However, as we mentioned earlier in this post, only smaller air purifiers contain washable and reusable filters. Air purifiers that are needed for large spaces always use a degradable HEPA filter that needs to be replaced once it gets too dirty to filter properly.

Although the price is a concern no matter what type of device you buy, the advantages far outweigh the cost when you consider how much cleaner and fresher the air space will be around your home.

Now you know the answer to the question, “What is a HEPA Air Purifier?” and what it can and can’t do for you.