Retrofitting An Existing HVAC System With An Electronic Air Cleaner

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Homeowners are reminded of the level of dust existing in the air each time the filter in their HVAC system is changed. Even though the filter captures a great deal of dust, some smaller particles may make it through. To obtain additional filtration, an HVAC technician can replace the traditional filter in the HVAC system with an electronic air cleaner.

Many residential HVAC systems rely on a single filter to remove contaminants from the air. The filter is typically located next to the home's central heating and cooling unit to remove dust particles before they recirculate through the central HVAC unit.

Electrostatic filtering alternative

An electronic air cleaner removes smaller particles by use of an electrostatic charge. A pre-filter is also used to remove larger dust particles before reaching the electronic air cleaner. Smaller particles that reach the electrified air cleaner pass through a mesh of small wires and take on an electrical charge. The electronic air cleaner also contains collection plates with an electrical charge opposite to the wires, causing the particles to cling to the plates.

An electronic air cleaner is usually slightly wider than the area typically occupied by a traditional filter. If additional space is required, your existing ductwork may need to be modified to accommodate an electronic air cleaner. The sheet metal used in HVAC work is relatively thin, so it can be cut and trimmed as necessary.

HVAC ductwork modification

The ductwork returning air from your living space to the central HVAC unit is referred to as the return air duct. A traditional air filter is typically located at the end of the return air duct, at the point where air enters the central HVAC unit. The return air duct can be modified to accommodate the dimensions of the electronic air cleaner housing.

Periodic cleaning

The collection plates and charging wires of an electronic air cleaner are combined together and contained in a unit referred to as a cell. In fact, your electronic air cleaner may consist of two cells side by side. The removable pre-filter is located between the return air duct and the cells. Some electronic air cleaners also contain a separate charcoal filter to absorb odors.

The cells and filters of an electronic air cleaner are contained together in a housing unit. The cells are designed to be removed and cleaned periodically. Cleaning is simply a matter of removing accumulated particulates, but you have to exercise caution not to damage the small wires. Also, the cells must be completely dry before being placed back in service. Contact an HVAC contractor for further information.