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Back to the Drawing Board for Proposed ISO Filter Standard

Back to the Drawing Board for Proposed ISO Filter Standard

By: Kevin Morrow, Business Development Manager, Kimberly-Clark Professional* Partnership Products  |   09.11.17

Members of the ASHRAE 52.2 Technical Committee met on June 24 to discuss replacing ASHRAE 52.2 with ISO 16890. During the meeting, committee members voiced several concerns with the proposal:

  • Test repeatability and consistency across labs
  • Lack of interest and understanding among the end-use market
  • Significant costs to be borne by filter manufacturers
  • Ceding control over management and evolution of the standard

Test Repeatability and Consistency

ISO 16890 requires all filters to be tested before and after a conditioning step to determine an “average” efficiency. That conditioning step completely neutralizes charged filters of their particle-attracting electret treatment by using an isopropyl alcohol (IPA) vapor. While this pre- and post-conditioning test is similar to the test in ASHRAE 52.2’s Appendix J (MERV-A), it was never round-robin tested to ensure its repeatability and consistency across labs. 

Kimberly-Clark Professional* shares the committee’s concern that this lack of proven repeatability and consistency could lead to the same filter being rated at different particle capture performance levels by different test labs.

 Lack of Interest and Understanding

The filtration industry has spent significant resources over the last decade to help filter users in North America — which represents about 40 percent of the worldwide filter industry — understand the importance of MERV ratings in determining a filter’s ability to remove dangerous submicron particles from indoor air. Changing focus now — especially when no interest has been expressed by the marketplace — is seen by many, including Kimberly-Clark Professional*, as a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. 

Significant Costs

In addition to investing substantial resources educating customers about MERV ratings, filter manufacturers have spent significant money in packaging, labeling and marketing filters to reflect MERV ratings. Domestic and regional manufacturers especially will incur burdensome costs to re-test, re-qualify, re-package and re-market filters. These additional costs would likely be borne throughout the filter supply chain. 

These costs could be particularly onerous for companies selling filters in California, where additional MERV and pressure drop-related labeling and packaging requirements must be followed to comply with the California Energy Commission’s Title 24 regulations. 

Ceding Control

The ASHRAE Technical Committee responsible for approving and updating ASHRAE 52.2 contains 17 members representing a cross-section of the industry. However, with more than 100 voting member countries, ISO affords only one vote per country, giving large countries like the U.S. equal weight to smaller countries with much smaller filter industries and far fewer commercial and institutional buildings. Moreover, the North American market is more likely to be represented by larger companies within the industry, thus reducing the influence and input of the many companies that have a purely domestic or regional focus. 

Also unclear is the nature of future alignment between the ASHRAE organization and ISO. It is concerning to many that ASHRAE would no longer be in the standards-setting business for filter efficiency and would need to form a new committee to evaluate, change and manage the life of ASHRAE 52.2. 

It’s Not Too Late to Express Your Concerns

Kimberly-Clark Professional* believes that, while ASHRAE 52.2 could use some refinement to simplify MERV ratings and make it a better tool for improving indoor air quality, replacing it with ISO 16890 puts the North American industry at the mercy of an international body that does not care about our filter market or filter users. 

Additional debate on ISO 16890 is planned for ASHRAE’s annual meeting in January, when the committee plans to discuss the best methodology for proposed round-robin testing and related issues around test repeatability. Kimberly-Clark Professional* encourages everyone to talk with their business partners, supply chain and customers about ISO 16890. Don’t be silent and assume everything will work out as you would like. Let your connections on the ASHRAE 52.2 Technical Committee know where you stand on this important issue.

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