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How Air Filtration and Air Cleaning Differ

Air Filtration

When your windows and doors are closed up and you're running your home's heating system, your indoor air quality can start to decline. If you want to ensure healthy air quality this winter, you may be wondering about air cleaning and how it differs from the filtration your HVAC system already provides. Here's a helpful primer on the differences between basic air filtration and air cleaning.


You already know that your HVAC system has an air filter that requires regular replacement, so it's logical to think it may help maintain decent air quality in your home. If your system takes a standard filter, though, it's not likely having much of a beneficial impact on your air quality. This kind of filter is effective at trapping larger particles that can harm the system's sensitive components, but it has a fairly low minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) so it doesn't restrict crucial airflow. Unfortunately, such a filter can't capture the minute particles that can cause unhealthy air quality.


Air cleaning using specialized equipment to remove various airborne contaminants and particles is an effective way to boost indoor air quality. It's best to get the expert advice of your HVAC professional on which of these two main types of air cleaner is ideal for your home:

  • Filtration units.These air cleaners have filters with higher MERV ratings, and while the units are integrated into the HVAC system, they're specifically designed not to cause airflow problems. They're capable of capturing microscopic allergens and contaminants including mold spores, plant pollen, dust mites, soot and tobacco smoke particles, and pet dander.
  • Purifier units.Air purifiers employ an ultraviolet (UV) light to kill potentially-harmful microorganisms like viruses and bacteria. They're also incorporated into the HVAC system near the air handler to purify the conditioned air before it gets distributed throughout your home.

Visit our Valley Heating, Cooling, Electrical website for in-depth information on most HVAC topics, or to learn more about your air filtration and air cleaning options just give us a call at (408) 868-5500.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the South Bay Peninsula and Santa Cruz areas of California about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).

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