How can vacuums help improve indoor air quality?

Vacuums equipped with HEPA filtration can help improve indoor air quality in all areas, especially those where allergies are a concern. To be considered HEPA, the vacuum filter or bag must retain 99.97 percent of allergens as small as 0.3 microns or about 240 times smaller than a human hair. Items with HEPA classification range from vacuum filters and disposable dust bags to completely sealed systems that force all of the air leaving the vacuum through a HEPA exhaust filter.

When selecting a vacuum with maximum benefits, look for sealed HEPA filtration systems, which are completely sealed to prevent collected contaminates from escaping back into the air through gaps in the casing.  

— David Parkes, general manager, Sanitaire, Charlotte, N.C.

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI), approximately 34.1 million Americans have been diagnosed with asthma by a health professional, and 70 percent of asthmatics also have allergies. AAAAI estimates that the number of people with asthma will grow by more than 100 million worldwide by 2025.

This is why indoor air quality is a huge concern for today’s facilities managers. In many cities, indoor pollution is worse than outdoor pollution. Office appliances like printers and fax machines slowly release pollutants into the air. Without proper ventilation and filtration, allergens and irritants concentrate in the environment, putting building occupants at risk.

In order to tackle microscopic pollutants and allergens, we have taken vacuum filtration to four levels. Each level sifts out smaller and smaller-sized particles until 99.9 percent of all particulates one micron in size or larger are removed from the atmosphere. (By comparison, a human hair is one micron in size.)

A vacuum with proper filtration can take the place of a two appliances. A high-quality air purifier is stationary and only purifies up to a certain radius, but can cost as much or more than a top-of-the-line vacuum.

— Jacalyn High, director of marketing, ProTeam, Boise, Idaho

Vacuums in general have two methods of filtration to reduce the emissions created when vacuuming: the disposable bag and the filter system that has been designed into the vacuum cleaner.

Bag and filter media material can decrease the emissions and increase air quality as well. There are three basic levels of media material available: Standard, Allergen and HEPA, which is the highest level of filtration. Selection of the correct vacuum is important to the results of the emissions and air quality being achieved.

— Brad Nyholm, product manager: commercial/dealer for Hoover/Royal Brands, TTI Floorcare North America, Glenwillow, Ohio

Is HEPA filtration a must in today’s facilities?

Poor indoor air quality is a major concern for any facility, as it can make custodians and building tenants physically sick. Irritated eyes, ears, nose and throat caused by dirty indoor air is called “sick building syndrome,” and according to the Environmental Protection Agency, sick buildings cause an estimated loss of $61 billion a year in employee absenteeism, medical costs, reduced productivity and lower earnings.

Using a vacuum with HEPA filtration can contribute to an improved indoor air environment. Designed according to strict HEPA standards, HEPA filters trap particles 75 times smaller than a human hair, including 99.97 percent of dust mites, pet dander, molds and pollen. This is something to take into consideration for facilities that are concerned with indoor air quality or have tenants who suffer from allergies or asthma, sealed HEPA systems capture and trap harmful contaminants.

— David Parkes, general manager, Sanitaire, Charlotte, N.C.

A vacuum that cleans the floor isn’t necessarily one that cleans the air. People are more aware than ever that if a vacuum doesn’t have proper filtration, it blows dust and irritants back into the air. The carpet may be visibly cleaner, but indoor air quality gets worse over time.

HEPA is the name that most people associate with proper filtration. High Efficiency Particulate Air filters remove 99.97 percent of particulates down to 0.3 microns in size. However, HEPA filters are more expensive and require changing more frequently than more durable micro cloth filters. For facilities on a budget, a backpack vacuum with four level filtration removes 99.9-percent of particulates without the additional upfront and replacements costs of a HEPA-filtered vacuum.

— Jacalyn High, director of marketing, ProTeam, Boise, Idaho

HEPA is not a must as much as it is becoming a regulatory standard or requirement. As stated above there are three levels of filtration available which enables the facility to make a decision on what emission level they would like to achieve.

— Brad Nyholm, product manager: commercial/dealer for Hoover/Royal Brands, TTI Floorcare North America, Glenwillow, Ohio