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Electrostatic Air Filters – Do They Really Work?

Electrostatic Air Filters – Do They Really Work?

Electrostatic air filters almost sound like science fiction. They use electricity to grab particles from the air and, in doing so, make the air cleaner. The real question is whether electrostatic air filters actually work. If so, how do they stack up against traditional types of air filters? This article will cover these questions and a few more, so keep reading to find out the answers you need.

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What Is an Electrostatic Air Filter?

At its core, an electrostatic air filter is like any other air filter. It removes dust, debris, and other contaminants from the air. This improves overall indoor air quality, which is particularly helpful for those who suffer from respiratory issues.

However, an electrostatic air filter carries out this function this differently than other filters. Traditional filters contain a fine mesh that catches dust and debris as it passes through. They essentially use a physical barrier to capture these materials. Meanwhile, electrostatic air filters use electricity to accomplish the same goal.

They do this by using the same forces involved in creating the static cling that static electricity produces. Think of it as a balloon. Rubbing a balloon against a rug or shaggy towel will build up a static charge. Then, when you put this balloon next to your hair, it will pull the hair toward it and cause your hair to stand on its end.

An electrostatic air filter has a similar effect. An electric charge creates a pull similar to the pull of a static balloon. This pull is strong enough to capture very light substances, making it perfect for grabbing small particles out of the air. By forcing air through a filter with a system like this, the dust and debris are pulled in and held by the electric charge while the clean air can pass through.

Electrostatic Air Filters vs Regular Air Filters

When discussing electrostatic air filters, it’s impossible to avoid comparing them to regular air filters. After all, using electricity and technology sounds like it would be a clear winner over a less-technical approach. However, there are plenty of examples where over-engineering creates something technically sound but doesn’t actually get the job done. So, where does an electrostatic air filter fall on this scale?

Benefits of Electrostatic Air Filters


The main benefit of an electrostatic air filter is that it can be washed rather than completely replaced. Traditional air filters gradually fill with dust and other materials. Over time, this becomes too much for the filter to bear. A dirty filter can prevent the HVAC system from working properly by blocking the flow of air through it. Fixing this problem requires installing an entirely new filter and may even need AC maintenance.

Meanwhile, most electrostatic air filters use reusable air filters. Reusable air fitlers can be cleaned to remove built-up contaminants. Spraying down the filter to wash away everything on it will have it running at full speed in no time.

Reduced Costs

This single advantage gives electrostatic air filters plenty of benefits. It reduces their cost, as you don’t have to constantly deal with buying pricey filters to replace the old ones. It reduces time spent on the system—as maintaining an electrostatic air filter is quick and painless—while maintaining a traditional one takes time to get a new filter on top of the time spent changing the filter. Electrostatic air filters are also better for the environment, as they reduce the number of old filters being discarded.


On top of this, many electrostatic air filters are actually more effective than regular air filters. Filters are rated based on their MERV rating, which corresponds to the size of the particles they capture. Filters with a high MERV rating can capture smaller particles and, thus, are more effective. Meanwhile, filters with a lower MERV rating can only handle larger particles and will let smaller particles slip right through. At the top of this rating system is a HEPA filter, which tops the scale at over 16. However, these filters are typically only used in hospitals and other environments where filters must perform optimally for health purposes because they’re more expensive.

Most traditional filters have a MERV rating between one and four, which is closer to the bottom of the scale. Meanwhile, electrostatic air filters have a MERV rating between six and ten, which puts them around the middle of the scale. This means that an electrostatic filter has a clear edge over its traditional rivals.

Factors to Consider

The biggest downside to electrostatic air filters revolves around maintenance. While electrostatic air filters don’t need to be replaced like traditional ones, they do need to be cleaned regularly. Cleaning an electrostatic air filter is necessary for them to work effectively. Most electrostatic air filters should be cleaned about once a month.

The other downside is that electrostatic air filters won’t work properly if they aren’t maintained regularly. When maintenance doesn’t occur on a regular basis, an electrostatic air filter will become clogged with dust and other substances. As this happens, their effectiveness reduces dramatically. In many cases, air will still pass through, but it won’t be clean air. If the problem persists for too long, an electrostatic furnace filter can impact the entire HVAC system’s function.

Electrostatic air filters require more frequent attention. Otherwise, they cause some serious problems.

If you need an even more effective air filter than an electrostatic model, you should consider scheduling an air quality testing appointment to find ways to further improve your air quality.

Electrostatic Air Filter Maintenance

Luckily, cleaning an electrostatic air filter isn’t difficult. Anyone can handle it independently, and the whole process is pretty quick and painless.

  1. Shut off the AC. The first step is to shut off the HVAC system—only temporarily. During the maintenance process, the system will be without a filter. Running it will allow the air to pass through completely unfiltered, which isn’t ideal. That’s why it’s best to always start the air filter maintenance process by shutting off the system.
  2. Remove the filter. Next, locate the filter in the system, and remove it. If you don’t know where the filter is located, check the owners manual or ask a professional the next time you receive HVAC maintenance.
  3. Clean the filter. Once the filter has been removed, transfer it to an area appropriate for cleaning it. Spray the filter thoroughly with a hose. Be sure to use a hose with decent pressure, as it will take some pressure to remove all the contaminants from the filter. Most of the time, cleaning with a hose gets the job done. However, you should consider giving the filter a deeper cleaning a few times a year. Make a solution out of water and a little dish soap. You don’t need to do this for every cleaning, but doing it every now and then extends the longevity of your reusable filter.
  4. Let it dry. Once the filter is clean, you need to let it dry. You can use a dry cloth to remove some of the water, but the best solution is to let it sit for a while. Prop it up somewhere that lets the water drip out of the holes in the filter. Don’t just lay it out on the floor, as doing so will leave it sitting in the water you’re trying to get rid of.
  5. Place the air filter back. Once the filter is completely dry, it can return to the HVAC system. At this point, all you have to do is re-insert it. Then, you can switch the system back on again.

If this process sounds confusing, it may be best to have a professional run you through it so you can get the hang of it. This will allow you to learn how to clean an electrostatic air filter on your own. Contact the professionals at Performance, and we’ll help you with any trouble you may be having with your HVAC system. You can even schedule an appointment online to pick a time that works for you.


Electrostatic air filters are an effective choice for most homeowners who need a new air filtration system. They provide plenty of unique benefits and simply need to be cleaned on a regular basis to maintain proper function.