Public Lab Research note


Inexpensive HEPA Filter Fan project to reduce air pollution

by Melissa New Contributor |

Read more: publiclab.org/n/12171


What I want to do?

At Tufts Medical Center Public Health Department, Dr. Doug Brugge and his fellow students developed an idea resembling of what folks in China are doing. In China the air pollution is incredibly high, and to combat this problem many people of lower socioeconomic status attached a filter and a fan together in hope of reducing the particulate matter in the air.

His students, ran with this idea and created many different models of this filter fan using pretty cheap products from Walmart.

Why I'm interested?

Air pollution has proven to be detrimental to one's health. Populations that are highly exposed to traffic, and therefore pollution, are commonly of lower socioeconomic status. To ensure their health is not endangered, a filtration system must be used in their homes. The cost can be hundreds of thousands of dollars. Hopefully this project can be of low cost to those affected and be efficient enough to reduce the particulate matter in the air.

The attempt and results:

The fan was taped, caulked, and strung on to the filter but it did not ensure the best sealing between the two objects. The idea of some sort of frame was made. Dr. Brugge then decided to get in touch with a local engineer to create a better solution with this new concept of a frame.

The below is a rough sketch (not by the engineer), we are not sure exactly how it will look like until the funds are met.

IMG_9794.jpg

Questions and next steps:

Josh from the local Artisans' Asylum used the concept of the frame and had a great idea in mind. The frame will hold the filter and the frame will outline the outside of the fan in which a simple adhesive tape will attach them together. The frame will use plastic based materials with the use of a 3-D printer.

The project has not moved forward as there has been some funding issues on paying for the prototype and the multiple iterations.

Once the building of the model is done, then there can be some control and pilot experiments done to ensure the efficiency of the product.

I need some input...

Any suggestions on materials?

Is 3-D printing the way to go?

Anyone know of any available funding options that would like to fund a small project?


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19 Comments

Love this idea. It's been floating around for some years. Looking forward to your prototyping it so i can build one for my house in Brooklyn! 3d printing prob not the way to go.


@liz Do you have any suggestions on how to fabricate it?

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The create lab at CMU has been talking about this form of air filter that, if i'm remembering correctly, they tested and found to be effective with their SPECK particulate monitor. Have you been in touch with them?

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@nshapiro No we have not been in touch with them. Do you have anyone there in mind that I could contact? I would love to see their results.

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Maybe try Bea, she does community outreach there https://github.com/beadias or try info@specksensor.com


What is the source for the HEPA filter? Isn't that an expensive item?

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@chrisbartley has posted about the Speck on this site. Hi Chris! Melissa's developing a DIY filter that might interest you.


thank you @nshapiro


@danbeavers the HEPA filter I found came in a pack of two for about $45 online at Walmart. So I guess about $20 each. Pretty inexpensive, and it is also a 13 MERV rating which is pretty high.


That is fairly cheap and apparently readily available.

I would think that 3D printing the corner transitions would be the best thing. It would essentially just fill the gaps between the round corners and the square corners. Everything else appears easily fabricated from sheet material or your choice.


I think you just need a bigger filter or a smaller fan and it will work fine. I don't see much advantage in making an adapter plate to make these two sizes fit together. Put the filter on the inlet side and it should hug right up against the fan grill by suction. Maybe put a couple bungee cords on it.

The particles you'd typically find in Boston resulting from traffic are going to be small. Thus you're going to want a high quality filter otherwise you're just kicking up more particles and blowing them around the room. Also I would be concerned about filter efficiency for small particles--do the filters work correctly at the air speed of these box fans?

and lastly, I'd want to see before and after studies: room without fan versus room with fan and filter. which has more particles floating around?

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@zengirl2 - heard you were talking about doing this -- shall we collect up some info on a new wiki page using a method template?

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@warren Yes! Can't do until later this week, but we should definitely expand.


Something similar has been used as an improvised food dehydrator for years. See some of the old episodes of Good Eats. Wonder if the dehydrator would work as a HEPA filter.


How about using foam pipe insulation and adhesive for the frame? Then hold the filters in place with bungee cords? Maybe as a cost savings?

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@Ag8n that sounds really good -- do you have a box fan and want to try it? I'm also interested in whether we could compare a clean filter to one used for a period of time and see if we can photographically document the difference.

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I don't know if you have a protocol in mind, but let me know exactly what you want. I also need to do some digging. May be able to find a particle counter. Will let you know.


The best way to test a HEPA filter is with an air particle counter. Thought I could borrow one from a local university. They do not have one. It was worth a try.


Strike 2. The place I was referred to intends to start class 100 k testing in the near future.... But not now.


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