Replacing electronic air cleaner cells/pre-filter with pleated filter?
Recently we had a duct cleaning service stop by to give us an estimate for when we have are hardwood floors refinished. During the tour of the house he mentioned that he specializes in "indoor air quality" and asked if we had allergies. I mentioned that yes the kids do, but that we had electronic air cleaners on both furnaces. He asked how often we clean the cells and pre-filters and I said about once every 2-3 months. He stated that a better option now is to use disposable filters in the EAC housing (remove the cells and prefilters, turn off unit). And he stated you can buy them cheaply at Lowes/Home Depot.
I have 2 furnaces, one on top/bedroom level and second in basement, servicing basement and first floor of house. Both units are Carrier EACAAXCC0014 models. While at Lowes today I saw Filtrete Air Products 1" Air Filters and purchased 2 filters to try in my furnaces. My plan was to remove the cells and pre-filter screens and put the 1" pleated filters in place of the pre-filter screens. Is this the right thing to do? Or are the 4" box filters a better solution? Or is the EAC a better overall solution and I need to clean the cells and pre-filter screens more often?
On paper, an EAC looks like it would be better than a high efficiency media type air cleaner, and they are on some types of particles.
In the real world, they usually are nearly as bad at keeping your equipment clean as the cheap <$1 filters, even when they are maintained properly.
In most installations I've seen, the air velocity through them is to high for them to work properly, so most of what doesn't get stuck to the per-filter zooms right past the charged cells.
Media air cleaners will work better under higher than ideal air velocities, but they typically are much more restrictive to airflow than an EAC, so your systems airflow performance needs to be evaluated before just popping a media type filter into the EAC housing.
The 4" filters that Lowes and Home Despot carry are actually 4 3/8" thick.
They are for Honeywell filter enclosures, including Honeywell EACs with the cells removed.
They may or may not fit properly in your Carrier EAC.
If they are a good snug fit, don't buy the Filtrete or Indigo brands that are commonly available at the big box stores.
In my testing of systems where I have found those two brands of 4"ish filters, they have been far to restrictive for the system.
The actual Honeywell brand of that size filter is very good, but you won't find them for sale in a store.
If you would like some exceptionally efficient disposable filters to fit in your existing enclosures, you could talk to your HVAC contractor about getting you some gasketed 4" mini pleat filters for it. You can get them up in the MERV 14-16 range, without causing a huge airflow restriction. They are not cheap though.
The first question I'd have is what do your cells and prefilter look like when you take them out to be cleaned?
The next question would be do you find dust on flat surfaces in your home in quantities that have you concerned even with running the EAC's?
The next question would be do you know what specific allergies your children have and researched what size particles are causing these allergies?
Why would I ask these questions before suggesting what you do? Media filters and EAC units have different capabilities and each manufacturer has different models/styles that have different capabilities.
Knowing what you want to rid the air in your home of is the first step. Matching the best type of filter to that need is the next step. There is plenty of online information to allow you to make an informed decision. If those suffering from allergies in the home are under a Dr's care for the problem that health care provider "should" be able to also give you information to use in making your decision.
No matter the filter type, if you do not keep polutants out of the home's air in the first place they may or may not be able to help. The furnace fans should run as much as 24/7 to constantly filter the air.
I have installed filtering systems in homes (have this in my own home) that consist of both a media filter and an EAC. The air coming back to the furnace first passes through a high capacity media filter and then goes through the EAC. The media is designed and there to stop the "larger" particles and keep the loading down on the EAC. The media basically replaces the prefilter that is in the EAC and yes, I removed the prefilter of the EAC. The air then goes through the EAC and the very small particles are filtered out.
Whatever you do, adding or changing the type of filter can cause issues with the air flow to your furnaces that can cause expensive problems.
Use the biggest hammer you like, pounding a square peg into a round hole does not equal a proper fit.
I am a beliver of the Trane clean effects EAC. While I installed it in my home for my wife and 3 year old due to servere algerie problems. At 1st I was not sure this unit was any good compaired to a 5" media filter. That was 4 years ago and I am happy to report that it worked to help with allergies in the home.
You just have to ask yourself what are you trying to achive vs the $ to do so. I would be the 1st to say that a good 5" media filter is a great product for someone who has mild allergies problems. If someone in the home has servere allergic problems the. Look into a good EVC you want regret it.
Some will agree and most will disagree I am know a firm beliver in Trane clean effects EAC. The key is to ensure both supply and return is sealed propely to stop air leakage from getting info the system. Without this you will pay for something that want truly work as designed.
If you are taking care of your EAC units, then I'd suggest staying with them. NEVER use the 1" pleated air filters found in retail stores, these are simply HORRIBLE products and may ruin your heating/cooling equipment. Your existing electronic filters are nearly the best you can get and if you are cleaning them regularly, then you're getting the benefits. Why would a "duct cleaning" service tell your otherwise? Simply because they clean ducts, and sell stuff whether or not it's needed. Stay with what you have IMO anyway!
Some (and many) companies have products that use the media, electronic, and UV air cleaning all in one package however the yearly cost to maintain this type of system is really expensive and what you have is pretty darn good. If it's working, don't "Fix" it.