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Avoid the Filter Frenzy: Take a Methodical Approach to IAQ

November 04, 2020

Careful caucasian businesswoman holding a laptop and tablet while wearing a protective mask

More popular than “toilet paper in April.” That’s how a recent CNBC story[1] described the current shortage in high quality air filtration systems, many of which are currently back ordered. Due to COVID-19 and the subsequent ASHRAE® guidance[2] to upgrade filtration to MERV 13 or greater, demand for MERV 13 pleated filters has hit unprecedented levels. Complicating this demand, both MERV 13 pleated filters and high-demand N95 masks depend on the same media:  high electrostatic non-woven polypropylene fiber.

Addressing the Filter Shortage

Trane® is working with its vendor partners to help maintain the flow of MERV 13 pleated filters. (Note that the shortages are on pleated filter media exclusively.) The team is addressing short-term supply constraints, exploring ways to increase the list of quality alternative MERV 13 solutions, and expanding capacity through secondary sources.

Take a Holistic Approach to Your Building’s IAQ

Given the importance of optimizing the indoor environment, it can be tempting to focus on ensuring your building incorporates these MERV 13 pleated filters – and only these. Fortunately, however, this high-demand filter represents just one component of a holistic approach to your building environment and viable alternatives do exist.

Multiple factors drive a holistic approach to IAQ revolving around four key contributors to air quality:

  • Dilute – making sure plenty of fresh outdoor air dilutes the buildup of indoor contaminants through proper ventilation
  • Exhaust – getting exhaust air out is equally important, especially air from kitchens, restrooms and combustion systems
  • Contain – keeping indoor humidity levels within the ASHRAE-recommended range maximizes occupant comfort and reduces the risk of microbial growth
  • Clean – reducing particles, odors, or micro-organisms, such as mold, bacteria and certain viruses

In the absence of available MERV 13 pleated filters, an energy service company (ESCO), such as Trane, can help adjust your indoor air quality to help ensure your building environment remains optimized to recommended standards. They may focus on other contributors to augment the building environment. For example, you may be advised to increase outdoor air ventilation and improve humidity control (without condensation) to offset filter procurement challenges.

An ESCO helps you identify MERV 13 filter alternatives that can work for your building, ensuring that proposed solutions are properly evaluated for filter resistance to air flow, filter bypass, and filter service life.

Regardless of the filter your organization implements, best practices dictate a holistic approach that incorporates a thorough four-step assessment and augmentation process to help ensure the quality of your building environment.



[1] “Airborne transmission of coronavirus has made high-end filtration systems more popular than ‘toilet paper in April’ as HVAC systems sell out,” CNBC, Oct. 15, 2020,

[2] ASHRAE, NEW One Page Guidance for Re-Opening Buildings. Oct. 5, 2020,