Service Application ManualSAM Chapter 630-156Section 11CTHE PRINCIPLES OF AIR FLOW, AIR PRESSURE, AND AIR FILTRATIONAdapted from the NAFA Guide to Air Filtration, published by the National Air Filtration Association.Reprinted with permission.PRINCIPLES OF AIR FLOWThe flow of air between two points is due to theoccurrence of a pressure difference between the twopoints. This pressure difference results in a forceplaced on the air, usually by a fan, causing the air toflow from the area of higher pressure to the area oflower pressure. The quantity of air, usually referredto in cubic feet per minute (cfm) is represented bythe symbol Q. The speed of flow or velocity of theair, usually referred to in feet per minute (ft/min), isrepresented by the symbol V. The size of the conduitthrough which the air flows, usually ductwork, isreferred to as area expressed in square feet (ft2) andis represented by the symbol A.The air flow through a conduit (ductwork) or a filteris expressed by the equation:Q V ATherefore, to find either of the other values, theequation can be rewritten as:V Q AA Q VAn example of the application of this equation wouldbe a 24-in. 24-in. 2-in. flat panel filter (A 4 ft2)placed in an airstream of 2000 cfm (Q 2000 cfm).The velocity through the filter in this example wouldbe 500 ft/min (V 2000 cfm 4 ft2 500 ft/min).PRINCIPLES OF AIR PRESSUREAs air travels through a conduit, it creates a pressurecalled velocity pressure (VP). There is a relationshipbetween velocity of the air and the velocity pressure 2008 by the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society, Des Plaines, ILSupplement to the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society.based on the density of the air. This relationship canbe expressed in the equation:V 4005 VPwhere:V velocity in feet per minute4005 standard density of air derived fromgravitational acceleration (32.2 ft/sec2and air density of 0.075 lb/ft3)VP velocity pressure in inches of water.Velocity pressure is measured in the direction of flowthrough a conduit and is always positive.Air confined in a conduit (whether in motion or not)creates another type of pressure, which exerts itselfin all directions at the same time. Sometimes referredto as “bursting pressure,” this pressure is calledstatic pressure (SP). Static pressure is independentof the velocity of the air and can be either positive ornegative, depending on where it is measured in theconduit. Static pressure can be measured using aPitot tube. Figure 1 on the next page shows therelationship of velocity pressure and static pressure,which is expressed in the equation:TP SP VPwhere:TP total pressureSP static pressureVP velocity pressure.To understand the pressure relationship, recognizethat the lowest pressure in a system is at the fan inlet1

Static pressure0.50 in. w.g. Velocity pressure1.0 in. w.g. Total pressure1.50 in. w.g.1.501.00.50Air flowFigure 1. Pressure relationship(point A in Figure 2) and the highest pressure is atthe fan outlet (point B). As a filter loads, for example,the resistance to flow causes an increase in thepressure on the upstream side of the filter and aresultant decrease on the downstream side. Thisdecrease in pressure between upstream anddownstream is referred to as “pressure drop.”This increase in work by the fan results in increasedenergy consumption and higher owning and operatingcosts (see NAFA Guide to Air Filtration Chapter 13:“Owning and Operating Costs”). Figure 4 shows theeffect of this pressure in the system.Devices that measure filter pressure drop usuallymeasure static pressure increases in the systemcreated by a filter as it loads. This pressure isexpressed in inches of water gauge (see the inclinedtube manometer in Figure 3).Air filters are devices that remove aerosols from anairstream as the particulate-contaminated air passesthrough them. There are three types of air filtrationcategories—mechanical air filters, filters incorporatingelectrostatically charged filter media, and electronicair cleaners.As a filter loads in a system (depending on the typeof fan and its place on the fan curve), velocity of theair decreases as static pressure increases, causingthe system to work harder to deliver air to the space.Air flowLowFilterþMechanical air filters capture particulates on thefilter media, the material that comprises the filterelement. This capture involves two differentDWYER INSTRUMENTSHighPRINCIPLES OF PARTICULATE AIR FILTRATIONABFigure 2. Typical location of pressure dropmeasurement devices2Figure 3. Pressure in a system is measured by aninclined tube manometer filled with red oil

considerations. The first is the probability thata particle will collide with or be removed by the“fibers” that make up the filter media. (The word“fibers” is used in the broadest sense to cover anycomponent of a filter media.) The second is theprobability that the particle, once contacting thefilter, will continue to adhere to the fiber.þþElectrostatically charged filter media (passive andactive) have been used for several decades. Theadvantage of charged filter media is that thecharge on the fibers increases initial filtrationefficiency without affecting resistance to air flow.Particles have a natural charge, or pick up anelectrical charge as they pass through the air.These particles, in turn, tend to stick to filterfibers. Electrostatically charged filter mediamay be used on stand-alone filters or may becombined with other technology to enhance theirperformance.Electronic air cleaners (two-stage) are externallypowered devices that impose a charge on airborneparticles in the “ionizer section.” The chargedparticles are then collected on oppositely chargedplates in the “collector section.”MECHANICAL AIR FILTERSThere are four different processes responsible for thecapture of particulates in a mechanical filter. Usuallyone prevails in a specific filter, but rarely is it theexclusive mechanism. These functions ing.Impingement is the mechanism by which large, highdensity particles are captured. As air flows through afilter, it must bend or change direction many times toflow around the filter fibers. Because of their inertia,larger particles resist change in direction and attemptto continue on in their original directions. For thisresuesrPp, idro.g.n. wAir flow, cfmTimeFigure 4. Pressure drop graphreason, they collide with, and adhere to, the fibers(see Figure 5).Interception occurs when a particle follows theairstream, but still comes in contact with the fiber asit passes around it. If the forces of attraction betweenthe fiber and the particle are greater than the forceof the air flow to dislodge it, the particle will stickto the fiber. Interception is enhanced when the sizeof the fiber is closest to the size of the particle (seeFigure 6 on the next page).Figure 5. Impingement3

Diffusion explains the capture of very small particlesat lower air velocities. As the contaminated air passesthrough the filter media, minute particles tend tomove from areas of higher concentration and takean erratic path described as Brownian motion. Thiserratic path increases the probability that particleswill come in contact with fibers and will stay attachedto them. Diffusion works best with fine filter fibersand very low air velocities (see Figure 7).Straining occurs when the smallest dimension ofa particle is greater than the distance betweenadjoining filter media fibers (see Figure 8).Figure 6. InterceptionImpingement filtersThe effectiveness of the impingement processdepends on the following:þParticle size. The larger the particle, the greaterthe mass and the greater the possibility that it willhave enough inertia to resist change in directionand collide with a fiber.þParticle density. The greater the density of aparticle, the greater the mass and the greater itsinertia.þDepth of the filter media and orientation of fibers.The thicker the filter media and the closer theorientation of fibers, the greater the possibilityof collision by a fiber.þVelocity of air flow through the filter. The greaterthe velocity of air through a filter, the greater thekinetic energy of the particles in the airstream,and the greater the inertia of the particles.Overrating and underrating filters not onlyimpacts the pressure drop and service life of afilter, but can also impact filter efficiency. If apanel filter is underrated, its overall efficiencyon larger particles may actually be reduced.This is because most lower MERV filters utilizeimpingement as the main capture mechanism.Reducing the air flow decreases the velocity.Decreasing the velocity will decrease theimpingement process by reducing the kineticenergy of the particle in motion. This mayFigure 7. Diffusion effectFigure 8. Straining4

Figure 9. Theoretical effects of impingement, interception, and diffusion on filter efficiencyincrease the capture of smaller particles bydiffusion and interception. Conversely, overratingan impingement filter by increasing the air flowmay increase its overall efficiency on largerparticles (see note below) by increasing theimpingement process, but decrease the captureof smaller particles.Note: Lower MERV (minimum efficiency reportingvalue) filters, which predominately utilize theimpingement capture principle, experience efficiencydecreases at a given point as velocity increases andturns downward (see dotted line in Figure 9), resultingin lower efficiencies even on larger particles. FiltersMERV 12 and higher do not usually experience thisphenomenon because they utilize the principles ofinterception and diffusion as the predominant captureprinciple. Consult the manufacturer’s recommendedflow rates and values before underrating or overratingany filter.“van der Waals forces”). There is a good possibilitythat the particle may become dislodged from the fiberby the velocity of the air passing around the fiberor by system vibration. In order to overcome thispossibility, impingement filters are frequently treatedwith adhesives that coat the fibers and create a bondbetween them and any particles that may impingeupon the fiber. The ideal adhesive is:þfireproof or fire-resistantþable to maintain its tackiness between g, meaning that it will not entraininto the airstream.Use of adhesivesInterception and diffusion filtersThe forces between a filter fiber and a dust particlecaptured by impingement are relatively weak (seeInterception poses a stronger influence with largerparticles, whereas diffusion explains the capture of5

Figure 10. Dipole momenthappens when there is a greater concentration ofelectrons at one point or end of a molecule thanthere is at another. This is especially true of largemolecules. As a result, when a particle (eventhough its charge is electrostatically neutral)comes in contact with a fiber, it tends to alignitself so that the more negatively charged sideof the particle is adjacent to the more positivelycharged sectors of the fiber. Neither the particlenor the fiber has to be charged for this to occur(see Figure 10).smaller particles. Both are intended to cause aparticle and a filter fiber to come in contact. Thestrength of the bond between the fiber and theparticle depends on several forces of attraction:þvan der Waals forces. The perfect gas law statesthat if the pressure on a gas is doubled, its volumeshould be cut in half. However, researchers foundthat when gases were subjected to high pressures,the volume reduction was greater than expected.Some force drew the gas molecules together. Atheory was developed by Johannes van der Waalsbased on molecular attraction to explain why thisoccurred. This same force of molecular attractionhelps keep a dust particle attached to a fiber. Theoriginal equations developed as a result of studiesby van der Waals have been modified by a seriesof researchers. However, these forces still carryhis name.Disruptive forcesAs was mentioned for the impingement filter, thereare forces that tend to disrupt the attraction betweena particle and a fiber. The two most important forcesare:þþ6Dipole moment. Most molecules, even when theycarry no charge, have a “dipole moment.” Thisthe flow of air through the filter, which may reentrain the particle in the airstream (the particle’sdrag force opposes its forward motion)

þsystem vibration, which may dislodge the particle.Normally the effects of vibration can be minimizedby proper filter installation, including vibrationisolation.intended to capture large particles traveling at highervelocities, and interception and diffusional effectsare the main influences in the capture of smallerparticles traveling at lower velocities.Filter equilibriumFactors affecting mechanical filter selectionIn most filter systems, equilibrium exists between theforces of adhesion holding a particle to a fiber andthe drag force of air on the particle. There will beminimum re-entrainment when the forces of adhesionare equal to or greater than the drag force.The following considerations are involved in theselection of a mechanical air filter:þEfficiency. The most important consideration isthe ability of a filter to remove from an airstreamthe greatest number of particles. This ability isgenerally described as “efficiency” (see alsoNAFA Guide to Air Filtration Chapter 7: “HVACFilter Testing”).þPressure drop. The resistance to air flow createdby an air filter is an important consideration.The higher the resistance, the greater the energyrequired to overcome it. Consequently (all otherconsiderations being equal), the filter with thelowest pressure drop is preferred.þCapacity. This is the amount of air that a filtercan handle. Usually capacity is defined as thevolume of air per unit of time that a clean filtercan handle at a specified pressure drop. Thisvolume is expressed in cfm (cubic feet of airper minute) or in as m3/sec (cubic meters of airper second). Changing the amount of air beinghandled by a filter will affect other performancevalues, such as pressure drop and efficiency.Factors affecting interception and diffusionParticle capture by interception and diffusion isaffected by the following factors:þParticle size. Larger particles are more likely tobe captured by impingement. Smaller particles,on the other hand, have an enhanced opportunityof coming in contact with a fiber because of theirwider effective path created by Brownian motionand media velocity. There is a most penetratingparticle size (MPPS) for any high-efficiency filteroperating at a specific media velocity.þFiber diameter. The strongest force occurs betweenparticles and fibers that are approximately thesame diameter. Consequently, the smaller thefilter fiber, the greater the retention of smallerparticles.þDepth of the filter media and orientation of fibers.The thicker the filter media and the closer theorientation of fibers, the greater the possibilityof capture by a fiber.Mixed-type mechanical filtersMuch work has been done and continues to bedevoted to determining the contribution of differentmechanisms of filtration to the overall performanceof different media, and to developing a more precisemathematical formula to describe their performance.Rarely is an exclusive mechanism responsible forall the collection observed. Normally, however,impingement is the predominant influence in filtersELECTROSTATICALLY CHARGED MEDIAPassive electrostatic attractionIt is possible for a filter medium to becomeelectrostatically charged by the flow of air (especiallydry air) through it. Filters incorporating such mediaare described as passive electrostatic filters. Mostparticles are charged naturally, and are held by strongelectrostatic forces to the oppositely charged fiberwith which they come in contact (see Figure 11 atthe top of the next page). The smaller a particle or afiber, the relatively stronger the electrostatic forceswill be.7

technology can be classified by the method usedto create the electrostatic charge. Methods include:Figure 11. Particle attraction to charged filterActive electrostatic attractionSynthetic filter fibers can be actively charged duringmanufacture to be either positively or negativelycharged and then made into a non-woven filtermaterial called “electret” media. Charged fiberþtriboelectric chargingþcorona chargingþcharging by induction.Triboelectrically charged material results from therubbing together of dissimilar polymers. The firstuse of this technology involved wool with a resintreatment. Wool is an excellent conductor and themost electropositive fiber. Resin is an extremely goodinsulator and, when combined with wool and rubbedtogether, will exchange charge with the wool andbecome negatively charged. Thus, the resultingproduct contains both positive and negative chargesthat will attract and hold particles of the oppositecharge. More recently, triboelectric-charged materialhas been developed by blending together two fibersof dissimilar characteristics. The rubbing togetherof these fibers causes an exchange of electrons,resulting in one material developing a positive chargeCollecting section–Ionizing section Dirty air inClean air out –Figure 12. Ionizing and collecting sections of electronic air cleaner8

HONEYWELLand the other developing a negative charge. The mostcommon materials currently used for this product arepolypropylene and modacrylic. Blends of other binarydissimilar fibers also result in triboelectric properties.Corona charging involves exposing fibers or filtermaterial to an electrode designed to create highvoltage (either positive or negative). The ionsgenerated by the electrode are collected on thesurface, creating the static charge. Split-fibertechnology involves extruding a sheet of polymer(polypropylene), stretching it to create a molecularalignment, and permitting the sheet to be split intofibers by a process called fibrillation. The entiresheet is subjected to positive charges on one side andnegative charges on the other. The resulting fibers,therefore, have both positive and negative charges.Charging the finished material as a whole is a secondmethod of corona charging. The corona charge isapplied to the surface of the finished material, whichis a much simpler process, but one that results in aproduct with a lower charge density.Material charged by induction involves a processsimilar to that used in the production of electricallycharged sprays. Fibers produced by electrostaticextrusion are typically quite fine and indicate thepresence of both charges. Filters produced from fibersthat have been charged by induction are generallyquite efficient, due to their mechanical captureefficiency complemented by their electrostatic action.However, this method has not proven as effective aseither triboelectric charging or corona charging.While the additional charge increases the forcesthat attract and hold particles, it may not last thelife of the filter. Depending on the type of chargingtechnology, other factors—such as humidity, time instorage, and dust loading—may erode or blind theelectrostatic charge.ELECTRONIC AIR CLEANERSElectrostatic precipitationIn the first stage (the ionizing section), the particlesin an airstream are given an electrostatic charge. InFigure 13. In-duct electronic air cleanerthe second stage (the collecting section), theseparticles are removed from the airstream byelectrostatic attraction to oppositely charged plates(see Figure 12). In earlier designs, a 12-kV chargewas placed on the ionizing section to give theparticles an electrostatic charge. This section wasmade small and was designed with ionizing wireand grounded struts so that ozone generation wasminimized. In the collecting section, the alternatelycharged plates were sized and spaced so that a 6-kVcharge was enough to collect the particles, but notenough to create ozone.Devices used in air conditioning and ventilatingsystems are now called “electronic air cleaners” todistinguish them from the earlier high-voltage, stackgas cleaning electrostatic precipitators. Figure 13above shows a typical in-duct residential electronicair cleaner. Electronic air cleaners are discussed indetail in NAFA Guide to Air Filtration Chapter 6:“Air Cleaners.”9

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Diffusion explains the capture of very small particles at lower air velocities. As the contaminated air passes through the filter media, minute particles