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Where Emissions Testing and HVAC Filters Cross Paths

November 04, 2015 |

What good are lab tests? There are undoubtedly some that have usefulness in the real world, but as Volkswagen has shown there are ways around every lab test if the desire to cheat the system is strong enough. The silver lining is that there have been, and will be more, penalties for intentionally finding a way around lab testing to mislead regulators and customers.

Fine Fiber Media (left) & Coarse Fiber Media (right)

However, there have been companies getting around lab testing in a way that has had much stronger and direct effects on your health. Has there been mass outrage, fines, and penalties levied against these organizations? - Not even close, in fact most of them are being rewarded for this deceitful behavior. This happens because 52.2 lab testing makes it easy to generate favorable data through devious means. After all, the manufacturers pay the testing companies not consumers.

If there is not going to be oversight of a test, then why have the test method? The only thing that can result is poor information that consumers are lead to trust because there isn’t anything else for them to rely on. Lab testing as an industry standard, regardless of industry, is started with a common goal - provide consumers the ability to compare different products side-by-side to determine which better suits their needs. When a competitor enters a market with an inferior product the industry usually corrects the problem, but with air filters is the inferior technology was embraced.

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Over a decade ago HVAC air filters started to incorporate synthetic coarse fiber media - media being the part that actually filters the air. When first introduced this media was heralded for its low production costs, mass availability, and seemingly energy saving attributes. However it was quickly found that these synthetic medias would lose efficiency while in use. As they load with debris they catch fewer particles - in particular more of the smaller more harmful particles.

What was the fall-out of these revelations - expanded manufacture of these medias. Because of market pressures to offer items at lower and lower prices this was an easy way for manufacturers to cut corners, because the “independent lab testing” (paid for by the offending companies) gives synthetic coarse fiber media a pass in the United States. In Europe more stringent lab testing is now required that showcase this decline in efficiency throughout an air filter’s life. Even with the current US test procedure (52.2–2012) stating on page 3 that these coarse fiber synthetics “drop in efficiency during their actual use cycle” they remain in wide manufacture.
Attempts to challenge this worthless product have been met with extreme resistance. In 2007 an appendix to the standard was adopted, but it was and remains an optional test that most manufacturers don’t participate in, consumers largely don’t know exists, and doesn’t really challenge the cheap media in the way a couple months in use will; so it too is a worthless test. Since 2007 major manufacturers and industry groups have publicly denounced the appendix just a few years after its passage. ISO has been working to develop an international standard which would offer more difficult testing but early signs are mixed as to whether the US will adopt the more real-world relevant ISO standard. (ISO16890)

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The air we breathe is important - falsifying tests to allow vehicles on the road that emit more than permissible amounts of NOx is not good, and neither is taking advantage of a poor lab test standard to knowingly provide products that will fail just to make a buck. I strongly support capitalism, and it starts with consumers being aware of shoddy products and demanding better - please think about the air you breathe and Say NO to Electrostatically Charged and Coarse Synthetic Media Filters so we can all breath cleaner, safer air.

Tags: IAQ Testing

Written by Ben Klawitter