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The Role of HEPA Filters in Floor Care Equipment
Your complete guide to understanding HEPA filtration in commercial floor care equipment
It’s safe to say that COVID-19 brought indoor air quality to the top of every facility manager’s priority list. As facilities have looked at ways to make their cleaning and disinfecting protocol more stringent to prevent infection and keep the public safe, indoor air quality has emerged as a key element in facility safety plans.
HEPA filtration has long been considered the gold standard for air purification by those focused on indoor air quality. The cleaning industry has been onto the efficiency of HEPA filters in cleaning the air for years, using these filters in floor care equipment and HVAC systems across educational, industrial, healthcare and commercial buildings.
As more and more facilities prioritize indoor air quality, it’s a good time to revisit the critical role that HEPA filters play in keeping indoor air clean. In this article we will take a closer look at what HEPA filtration means, why it is important and how to find floor care equipment that has a HEPA filter for the right purpose.
What is a HEPA Filter?
HEPA stands for “high efficiency particulate air.” HEPA filters are pleated mechanical air filters that have the ability to remove 99.97% of dust, pollen, mold, bacteria and other airborne particles that are 0.3 microns in diameter, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. According to some sources, HEPA filters can also capture nanoparticles. HEPA filters are used equipment that relies on filtration, including HVAC systems, vacuums, floor sweepers and more.
A filter’s ability to capture particles between .3 and 10 microns is measured in Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values, or MERVs. The higher the MERV rating the better the filter at trapping specific types of particles. This value is derived from a test method developed by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).
HEPA filters were first developed as part of the Manhattan Project to limit the spread of radioactive contaminants in the air. After the success of HEPA filters at protecting scientists working with radioactive particulates, the HEPA filter was introduced to the commercial market for use in hospitals and eventually, homes. To this day, HEPA technology is used on airplanes to help filter the recirculated air, and HEPA is also present on the International Space Station.
How HEPA Filters Function in Floor Care Equipment
HEPA filters are used in select vacuum cleaners and floor sweepers because of the importance of strong air filtration in the mechanics of floor care equipment. Not all vacuums or floor sweepers come with HEPA filters. Because HEPA filters are able to filter and then trap airborne pollutants with such efficiency, many facilities require their use.
Vacuums generate suction that pulls particles through the vacuum using a brush that loosens them. The air then goes into a collection chamber, and is recirculated back into the room. This is why filtration systems in vacuum cleaners are so important. Without the proper filtration system, vacuums may simply loosen particles and further disperse them in a room. Using floor care equipment with a HEPA filter ensures that even the tiniest particles are filtered out of the air inside a room.
We know how efficiently HEPA filters trap dangerous particles in the air. In fact, studies show that HEPA filtration helps reduce asthma, allergies and even the flu and other infections. In fact, one controlled study from the Journal of Air and Waste Management Association shows that vacuums with HEPA filters perform better than those without.
Floor sweepers with HEPA filters are an important requirement for limiting exposure to silica dust, as now regulated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Respirable silica dust is created by cutting, sawing, grinding, drilling or crushing silica producing materials. Exposure to silica dust can cause disease, according to the American Lung Association. In 2018, OSHA created new, more stringent guidelines to help create safer spaces for workers in construction and other industrial settings. In certain situations, OSHA requires the use of floor sweepers and vacuums with HEPA filters, which are effective at removing silica dust. OSHA penalties for non-compliance are severe, and exposure to silica dust is dangerous for cleaning and other workers on site. HEPA filters become a simple, cost-effective way to create healthier workplaces.
Maintenance of HEPA Filters
Indoor air quality may begin with the selection of floor care equipment with HEPA filters. However, proper maintenance of these machines will ensure that indoor air quality remains healthy for years to come. All air cleaners require periodic cleaning and filter replacement to function properly.
Follow manufacturer's recommendations on maintenance and replacement. Some HEPA filters are washable, while others must be replaced. It is never a good idea to wash a HEPA filter unless it is specifically labeled as washable. Washing a filter that is not intended to be washed could render the filter less effective. A general rule of thumb is to replace HEPA filters every six months, but defer to the manufacturer’s recommendations for all filter maintenance rules.
Learn more about the floor care equipment and HEPA filters available from Tennant, including vacuums, floor sweepers and individual HEPA filters for your cleaning equipment. Tennant’s Silica Dust Industry Study contains further insights into the OSHA Silica Dust rule and how facility leaders are incorporating housekeeping measures to ensure compliance and worker safety.