The future of air filtration?

Publisert onsdag 30. august 2023

Where is the future of air filtration headed?

What are some of the challenges  moving forward to achieve healthy and energy-efficient indoor air environments? And what are some of the new air filtration solutions that could potentially become a reality in the years to come?

There are always a variety of possible scenarios and visions of the road forward. Of which
many of them perhaps will never come to fruition. Or will only partly become a reality.

 As Vice President of R&D at Camfil, it is part of Anders Sundvik’s job to think about about 

the future. One of his hopes is that the ventilation industry, along with property developers
and property managers, will become less conservative in the coming years. 


“There is a tendency to stick to tried and tested ways of doing things. Historically, this has
meant the innovation pace has been quite slow regarding ventilation systems. There is too
often an unwillingness to try new solutions for fear that they will not work. This has in part
to do with the long warranty periods that ventilation companies offer their customers.”


The Internet of Things

To give an example, Anders Sundvik points to new ways for achieving greater energy-efficiency
when it comes to cooling, heating and air quality. 


“The technology is available, but it is too often not applied at all or used in the wrong way.
I am talking about the Internet of Things (IoT). Intelligent systems where sensors measure and
control a building’s heating, cooling and air flow. These are relatively cheap solutions that are
easy to implement and manage.” 


Anders Sundvik paints a picture of systems presenting the property manager with computer
generated graphs showing the state of the indoor air both in real time and over longer periods. 


“In an office, for example, the air quality changes during the course of the day. The air is
cleanest and healthiest in the morning. Then it gets more and more polluted from people and
their activities until everyone goes home. But what if the ventilation system would ‘sense’
the state of the air and regulate itself throughout the workday to always have the best
indoor air quality?”


This, says Anders Sundvik, don’t just apply to particle levels in the indoor air. It can, of course,
also be used to control cooling and heating. 


“The ventilation system would regulate itself based on how many people there are in the building,
what time of the day it is, the weather, temperature and air pollution levels, etc. And by doing this
ensuring that only the absolute necessary amount of energy is used, while also achieving an
indoor air environment that promotes health, well-being and productivity.“


He goes on to talk about the possibility, for example, to let the ventilation system switch to save
mode on weekends when the premises are empty. 


“You could also let the system scan for potential sources of indoor air pollution, which then could
be eliminated; perhaps a carpet that needs cleaning, a window that doesn’t close properly or an
office printer emitting too much ultrafine particles, and so on.” 


Anders Sundvik says that the inertia of the ventilation industry is not only due to a reluctance to
embrace new ways of doing things. Another reason has been the low energy prices in many countries.   


“When energy is cheap, there is no real incentive to find new and more efficient solutions. So, perhaps
something good can come from the spike in energy costs that we have seen in recent years, in the
form smarter and more energy saving ways to manage our buildings.”

What if we put smart meters on air filters? Meters that would control the intensity of the air handling unit based on the fluctuating particle levels in the incoming air, and thereby making the unit more energy-efficient.

Specific ideas for the air filter industry

As Vice President of R&D at Camfil, Anders Sundvik, of course, also has thoughts that are more 
specifically related to the future of the air filter industry. 


“What if we put smart meters on air filters? Meters that would control the intensity of the air handling 
unit based on the fluctuating particle levels in the incoming air, and thereby making the unit more 
energy-efficient. The ‘air filter meters’ could also send an alert when a filter needs replacing, and 
thereby making sure it is replaced at the exact right time.” 


On the topic of filter replacements, Anders Sundvik suggests a potential future scenario where 
you would not replace the whole filter. 


“You would keep the frame and only replace the ‘soft’ filter part. Instead of the frames that we have 
now, we could have adaptor frames, which would probably cost more initially, but once they were 
paid off the whole concept would be cheaper.“     


He points out that the frameless filters could provide large savings in transport costs. 


“If we could put three frameless filters in every box, instead of one with a frame, that would significantly 
reduce both our and our customer’s echological footprint. It would also make it easier for the people 
installing the filters since they only have to handle (carry) the soft filter part.”


Another potential future concept that Anders Sundvik has been contemplating is self-driving and 
self-learning filtration systems.


“Imagine a system where air filters learn to turn themselves on or off,  depending on the air quality 
at the moment. If you have a two-stage filter solution, then both stages would not have to be active 
all the time. Depending on the time of day, day of the week, if it is a pandemic, if the wind has blown 
in a lot of air pollution from somewhere else, etc., the system could activate or disable one of the 
filter stages.”


It is a concept that could help property managers set their own individual parameters to get the 
exact indoor air environment that they require. 


“No one knows exactly what the future holds,” concludes Anders Sundvik. “All I know is that the 
potential for improvement is huge. So, I am very hopeful for the years to come.”