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How long do HEPA filters last?

Updated on November 15, 2023
Written by
James Booth
James has over ten years experience as a content producer and editor. He focuses on writing articles that are compelling, clear and, more importantly, helpful to the readers. He honed his research and copywriting skills working as part of NeoMam Studios, the parent company of HouseFresh.

A HEPA filter is integral to most air purifiers, removing tiny, harmful particles from your home’s air. Once put to use, a HEPA filter for home use will usually last about six to twelve months.

You should replace them regularly, using the instructions provided by the purifier manufacturers as your main guidelines. However, there are a few ways you can increase the lifespan of your filter.

Poor-quality air inside your home is linked to various short- and long-term health problems, including headaches, dizziness and respiratory problems. It can also worsen existing conditions like allergies and asthma.

A great way to combat these issues is with a high-performance air purifier, which will almost certainly contain a HEPA filter. These handy filters are the primary method purifiers use to clean the air in your home and are an essential part of the purification process. 

In this article, we’ll explain what a HEPA filter is, how long it usually lasts and what you can do to extend your filter’s lifespan.

What is a HEPA filter?

HEPA is an acronym for High-Efficiency Particulate Air Filter (or High-Efficiency Particulate Arrestance Filter).

As such, it’s not exactly a brand or “type” of the filter. Instead, a filter must meet or exceed quality standards, officially defined by The U.S. Department of Energy, in order to be classed as a proper HEPA filter. 

A true HEPA filter can filter 99.97% of dust, pollen, mold, bacteria and countless other particles from the air with a size of 0.3 microns. Some higher-grade HEPA filters can achieve similar results with even smaller particles — down to 0.1 microns or below.

A HEPA filter is made of many thin, pleated layers of material that catch floating particles in the air. These can include everything from pet hair to dust mites and mold spores. It works like a microscopic fishing net — trapping particles that try to pass through them in the air.

Many HEPA filters are ideal for different situations and environmental conditions, so you’ll want to research the best filter for your specific case when buying your purifier. You should also ensure that the filter is genuinely HEPA certified since companies need to meet the strict requirements of a HEPA filter to use the word. If you are looking for the best type of filter for an air purifier, the medical grade H13 HEPA is a great choice for catching tiny particles but without restricting air-flow that you can have with higher grade filters like ULPA.

How long do HEPA filters last?

As a filter does its job, the particles trapped in it will build up over time. Eventually, this will block the filter and stop it from being able to trap any more complex particles effectively. This means its effectiveness will decrease significantly.

This begs a tricky question: exactly how long does a HEPA filter last?

Generally, a new HEPA filter will last anywhere from two to ten years. Once put to use, a HEPA filter for home use will last about six to twelve months. Remember that this number can vary drastically between models and environmental factors.

You should read the documents that come with your air purifier carefully. Most companies will include detailed guidelines on when to replace your HEPA filter. Some purifiers have a built-in system, such as a light or symbol on display, that will tell you when to change the filter.

In certain situations, a HEPA filter may need more regular switches. This is most common in spaces that have a high level of air pollution. Even if the period given by the purifier’s instructions hasn’t elapsed, you should visually inspect the filter to check for any noticeable dust build-up. 

Most contaminants cleaned by a purifier are invisible to your eye, so if you can see buildup, it’s a good sign it’s time to replace the filter. You may also notice a reduction in positive impacts from your purifier. If your allergies return or odors take longer to dissipate, it’s probably time to replace your filter.

How to extend the life of your HEPA filter

You should replace your HEPA filter often, especially if your purifier isn’t working as well as it used to. However, filters can be expensive, so here are some ways that can help to extend your HEPA filter’s lifespan.

Please remember that these methods aren’t an alternative to regularly changing your HEPA filter, but they should help it last a little longer between switches.

You should also know that cleaning your filter with or without water runs the risk of damaging the materials, creating holes that particles can sneak through during purification.

Tip 1: Gently clean your filter

If the manufacturer does not identify a filter as ” washable, ” you should not wash it with water. Doing so could damage the internal parts of the filter and make it much less effective. If you have a washable filter, gently clean it with water. Make sure it’s scorched before being put back into your purifier. Preferably, it should dry for 24 hours before being used again.

Tip 2: Clean the filter with a vacuum

This is especially useful if you notice visible dust on the filter. You can remove the filter from the purifier and gently vacuum particulate matter from its surface. Make sure your vacuum is on its lowest setting to avoid damage.

Tip 3: Minimize use of your filter

Using information from the manufacturer, ensure you understand how long your purifier takes to clean a room. Once this time has passed, turn off the purifier until it’s needed again. This prevents your filter from being used constantly (or when there isn’t much need), prolonging its lifespan.

Tip 4: Close windows and doors

When using your purifier, make sure the windows and doors of your home are closed. If you want to clean the air of a specific room, it’s also a good idea to close the interior doors leading to it. This isolates the air you want to be cleaned and stops the purifier from trying to filter all the particulates from outside, causing unnecessary wear.

Tip 5: Fix causes of air pollution

You can minimize the wear and tear on your filter by fixing the issues that cause air pollutants before they occur. For instance, fixing any leaks in your home is helpful to prevent further particulates that your filter will need to clean. You can also regularly vacuum and brush pets to keep larger particles from reaching the air.

Final thoughts

Ultimately, you’ll need to replace your HEPA filter at some point. It’s important not to neglect this since it can substantially impact the efficacy of your air purifiers.

However, if you use these tips, you should be able to go a little longer before replacement is necessary. The most important thing is keeping an eye on the impact of your purifier. Many people can tell almost immediately when the air around them is no longer being cleaned after using an air purifier for a while. 

If you notice this yourself, you’ll know it’s time to replace your HEPA filter.

About the author

James Booth

James has over ten years experience as a content producer and editor. He focuses on writing articles that are compelling, clear and, more importantly, helpful to the readers. He honed his research and copywriting skills working as part of NeoMam Studios, the parent company of HouseFresh.