Vents are filthy. We’ve been pulling old vents from walls and replacing them with shiny new robo vents for over a year now and what we’ve found is that they get really dirty, really fast. We made the Herringbone faceplate removable and dishwasher safe to make cleaning easier, but after months of testing and washing, it dawned on us: aren’t we breathing this stuff in?
“Aren’t we breathing this stuff in?”
When I started getting seasonal allergies, I became a lot more conscious of the air I was breathing and all the stuff in it that I couldn’t see. Pollen, dust, and even dead skin cells trigger allergies. Actually, it isn’t even the dust itself. It’s dust mites (actually their droppings) in the air that irritate your breathing. Pretty disgusting.
We knew we needed to do something. With all the air flowing through Smart Vents, there is a natural opportunity to clean the air right as it enters your room.
HVAC intake filters aren’t really air-purification filters; they’re mostly there to keep debris (like leaves or mice) out of your furnace/air handler. The reason they don’t sell stronger filters at the intake is that standard mechanical filters block airflow. Filter companies know most people don’t change their filters as often as they should and when filters like this get loaded down with dust, they stop working. But even if this didn’t happen, intake filters can’t and don’t filter the air flowing into a room, which can pick up dust and debris while in the ducts. Worst of all, when dust and spores build up on standard filters, it can actually become a breeding ground for mold and bacteria that just gets blown back into the room.
Our friends at 3M™ had a solution. Their filtration experts had designed a specially formulated electrostatic polymer that actually pulls dust, pollen, and spores out of a continuously flowing stream of air - like dropping a magnet down a steel pipe. The thin layers of electrostatic material are aligned in columns like a pack of straws.
In the winter, indoor air is dry and warm and generates an electrostatic charge. In the summer, the AC pulls moisture out of the air and generates the dryest air in the house. As the air flows down the material, it generates a static charge which repels the now ionized air and draws in dust, pollen and spores without slowing airflow like fiber filters would. 3M’s High Airflow Filtration (HAF) material is also treated with an antimicrobial coating that kills bacteria and mold - preventing them from growing on the filter.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
VOCs include all kinds of nasties. They lead to headaches, nausea, sluggishness and other symptoms sometimes called “sick building syndrome.” You can sometimes smell them, but you can’t see them build up over time. Ever cook with oil on a stove that is a little too hot? Those wisps of smoke from the oil don’t disappear. They build up in a house’s indoor air. Acetone from nail polish and nail polish remover, fumes from that new coat of paint in the nursery, that “new couch” smell, candle wax, fireplaces, drying glue, all of these build up in indoor air over time. Standard passive filters can’t do much about VOCs, so we added a layer of a chemically active carbon to our filter to counteract them.
“Because homes are sealed, indoor air pollution can be five times worse than outdoors”
You might have seen active carbon filtration in high- end water filters. The way they work is pretty cool too. The carbon sucks up VOCs in a process called adsorption. The high surface area of active carbon has lots of spaces for the carbon-containing organic rings in VOCs to get trapped.
Grains of active carbon are a kind of fractal. Grains that are 0.1 mm have a surface area of over 1 square meter.
We will share Part II or our Smart Filter Development in a few weeks.