Best HVAC Air Filter for Smoke

Smoke poses a unique problem, both for HVAC systems as well as their filters. Cigarette smoke released indoors doesn’t go away once the smoke seems to disappear: small microbes left in the air are responsible for the smell and stains that can permeate a living space forever.

Smokers or those what live with smokers need to be especially careful with their air filters, as these small devices provide a powerful line of defense against indefinite cigarette smells and decreased air quality. Often, carbon filters (sometimes known as carbon-activated filters) are recommended to help. For those smokers that want to make sure that their cigarette doesn’t linger any longer than it needs to, this article goes over the best air filter for smoke, ways to combat that smoke smell, and how carbon filters might just be your greatest ally.

What You Need in an Air Filter

More so than most, living spaces that include cigarette smoke need a filter designed to tackle just about anything. That means that you’ll need to know what your HVAC air filter can do to help it function properly.

Air Purifiers & HVAC Systems

HVAC filters are your first line of defense against cigarette smoke. HVAC stands for heating, ventilation and air conditioning, and while you may be familiar with heating and conditioning, it is the ventilation component that is most important in this instance. HVAC systems will typically ventilate the air within the home by sucking in the air, filtering it as well as heating or cooling it, and releasing it back into your home. After smoking, microbes released into the air will be pulled through your HVAC system’s filter and then pushed throughout the rest of the system. That’s why high efficiency and great filtration is important.

MERV stands for minimum efficiency reporting value and is a quick way for homeowners to understand the quality of their filter. MERV ratings range from 1-20, but we’ll be mostly focused on the range acceptable for homes: 8-13. While going below the 8-13 metric is acceptable in some cases, homes with smoke in them need to go as high as our HVAC system will allow us. Using a filter with a high MERV rating will help you put your best foot forward in cleaning the air.

Unfortunately, this filter is not going to be able to do all of the work for you. For living spaces like the bedroom or the living room, guests staying for long periods of time may still notice the smoke or feel its effects. That’s why we recommend investing in a good air purifier to go alongside your high-efficiency HVAC air filter. Air purifiers operate as more efficient air ventilation products. HVAC air filters have to be designed to take on the brunt of the entire home, which is why they can be less effective at filtration overall. Air purifiers will only work on the air in the room in which they are located, which means the MERV ratings will be higher.

HEPA Explained

HEPA stands for high-efficiency particulate air and is a standard of excellence that is used from air filters to vacuum cleaners. When using an air purifier, finding a HEPA filter is going to be crucial because HEPA filters are more effective than almost all other filters for handling cigarette smoke.

HEPA filters, much like HVAC air filters with high MERV ratings, are going to cost more overall. The increased density of the filter must come at a cost, but for cigarette smoke, this is a necessary expense. You won’t find an air filter that’s specifically going to handle cigarette smoke. If you seek out HEPA filtration in both your air purifier as well as in household appliances like your vacuum cleaner, then you can be assured that you’re cleaning the air in your home to the best of your ability.

Deodorizing Capability

For many people, investing in a filter for smoke occurs to get rid of the smell rather than the microbes left behind by the smoke. To remove the odors of cigarette smoke completely is going to require more work, but it will be worth it. Make sure that your air purifier is either equipped with a deodorizing agent or can utilize a deodorizing filter. This is where carbon filters become your number one ally for cigarette smoke.

Carbon Filters

Carbon filters, otherwise-known as carbon-activated filters or charcoal filters, give you the most control over the smells in your home. By combining the filtration of a high MERV rating with the strength of a HEPA filter as well as a deodorizing agent, you can hope to improve your air quality from just about every angle.

Carbon filters are a premium product that will certainly cost you more than the average fiberglass option. Still, this is your best bet for removing smoke, odors, and even carcinogens from your living space.

Activated Carbon Explained

Activated carbon or activated charcoal, for those unfamiliar, may sound like a bit of alternative science. Everything about how these products work, however, relies on simple chemistry. Carbon is a naturally absorptive chemical. This comes from the ionic bonds on the carbon atoms themselves and extends outward to the types of carbon we see and use today. Charcoal, for example, is nearly entirely carbon.

When carbon is activated, or created in a way that is highly porous, the surface area of the carbon to the air is increased exponentially. This gives filters an opportunity to force dirty air over the pores in the hopes of losing the debris in the process. Because activated carbon can pull most substances towards it, it is used in increasingly unique locations to provide deodorization and more effective cleaning. For example, you can purchase an activated carbon toothbrush that can work in much the same manner as a carbon filter.

Since the product is naturally absorptive, any small debris, dirt, spare microbes, and more are at risk of getting filtered out. This is exactly why activated carbon is highly effective against spores, dander, smoke, and other odorous home substances. You can find high quality USA made carbon air filters here. Carbon filters are perfect for pet owners, humid spaces, and just about anywhere that impurities are lying around.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, getting the best air filter for smoke isn’t easy. Filtration for cigarette smoke in the work is going to take the highest quality air filter along with carbon activated properties, air purifiers, and effective home cleaning strategies. It’s often the little things that have the biggest impact for smells, so we highly recommend utilizing an air purifier either in the room that is smoked in the most often, or in the bedroom to ensure quality sleep with quality air.

The best way you can take the strain off of your HVAC system and air purifier is to smoke near an open window or entirely outside. This will take a significant strain off of your HVAC system and allow you to breathe in the best air possible.

Further Reading