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What Is An Activated Charcoal Filter?

July 30, 2022 | Blog

With clean living taking the world by storm, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of activated charcoal. We can find it in toothpaste, supplements, cleaning supplies and more. But what exactly is activated charcoal and how can it be used in air filters?

Express Air Conditioning & Heating knows how important it is to keep your home’s air clean. You don’t want to waste your hard-earned money on questionable products, so let us guide you on the right path! Let’s find out if activated charcoal filters are trusted natural air purification products or just a fad.

What Is Activated Charcoal?

Activated charcoal is a black powder produced by “activating” a natural carbon source, like wood or coconut shells. What makes the product unique is the activation process.

When you think of regular charcoal, its molecular receptors are holding hands with another molecule. Activating charcoal through extreme heat forces the receptor to let go of the molecule. Because of this, the activated charcoal is now free to grab onto other molecules (like pollutants in the air!). The heat also increases the surface area of each charcoal particle, giving it more receptors to catch molecules.

Activated charcoal is very good at catching gasses, odors and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are usually man-made chemicals that can be found in paints, refrigerants and cleaning agents. The United States Environmental Protection Agency says that VOCs are found to be two to five times higher indoors than outside, and they can have long or short-term health effects.

What Are Activated Charcoal Air Filters?

Charcoal air filters are usually used to filter out gasses from the air. The filters are made with a sheet of charcoal that will catch and remove VOCs and odors. If you deal with a lingering smell of tobacco smoke or frequent usage of chemical cleaners, a carbon filter may be right for you. The drawback of carbon filters is that they cannot remove smaller particles like dust, pollen or mold from the air.

The History Of Carbon Filters

Although you may be concerned about the safety of carbon, we have used it for a long time. The first known use of charcoal filters is in 1500 BC when the Egyptians used them for water and medicines. Sailors also kept their water fresh using carbon-infused barrels on long voyages for hundreds of years, beginning in the 16th century.

From removing metal impurities in The Bronze Age to filtering airborne toxins in World War I, carbon has made its mark throughout history. The use of activated carbon soared after World War II, which led to the development of modern charcoal filters.

How To Use An Activated Charcoal Filter

Charcoal air filters are incredibly useful, but only when used correctly. In order to keep your air purified, make sure that your filters meet the mark.

  • It needs enough carbon — If the filter only uses trace amounts of carbon, the filter will be ineffective. A true activated charcoal filter must use at least five pounds of carbon. It is important to keep in mind that not all activated charcoal has the same quality, so research the filters you intend to buy.
  • It needs to be changed regularly — Once the carbon has absorbed enough particles, there will be no more receptors working. This means that the filter is fully saturated and no longer filtering. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s replacement guidelines for your filter, which is usually monthly. The replacement period can be longer or shorter depending on the number of pollutants in your home.
  • It needs a thick layer of charcoal — To grab as many particles as possible, the air needs to spend more time surrounded by carbon. The best way to do this is through a thicker layer of charcoal in the filter. The more carbon, the more effective the filter.

Are Charcoal Air Filters Worth It?

With so many options for filters, are activated charcoal air filters worth the price? Who should use a carbon air filter? Well, let’s go over the major benefits and drawbacks.

Carbon filters are good for:

  • Filtering out VOCs found in chemical products and cleaners
  • Filtering gasses, like chloroform and benzene
  • Removing odors, like tobacco, and smoke from the air

Carbon filter drawbacks:

  • Cannot filter fine particles, like dust, mold or pollen
  • Need to be replaced every month
  • Can be expensive

So, should you get a carbon air filter? Well, it depends. They’re great for places with high levels of VOCs, but they can’t do much for fine molecules like pollen or mold. For homes with concerns of both VOCs and fine particulate matter, a hybrid air purifier may be best! These purifiers hold both a carbon filter and a HEPA filter, protecting your home’s air from all angles.

Pensacola Indoor Air Quality Experts

Are you concerned about your IAQ? Express Air Conditioning & Heating can help! We’ve been proudly serving the Pensacola, Florida area for almost 20 years. Our team of HVAC technicians has you covered with fast, affordable services that you can always count on.

For all of your IAQ and HVAC needs, call Express Air Conditioning & Heating! Your home will thank you.

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Our Customers in and around Pensacola know they can trust us with their households repair needs. You can be confident when one of our servicemen visits you house, you will receive top-notch, professional service that is second to one.

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