Renovation & Design

Troubleshoot filter before costly overhaul

Question: I am a single mom of three sons. About six to eight years ago, before my husband passed away, he installed a Dynamo electrostatic filter system.

A few months ago, I noticed an excessive amount of dust that was a dingy cream colour on the furniture. The dust would be scant a couple of days after dusting and within a week it was more prevalent. The vacuum collection cup would have quite a bit of material inside of the same colour and texture.

I have read some information you posted on a similar homeowner situation that is ideally like mine. I wonder if you think my unit has quit functioning properly?

The original housing that came with the furnace was removed and it held a five-inch pleated filter. What do I need to do to use a filter like that, just to see if it helps what is my problem?

Any ideas or information you have that can help me and my children, I would more than appreciate.

Thank you in advance. — Carolyn Ellison.

Answer: Determining whether the electrostatic filter is responsible for the excessive, unusual dust in your home may be difficult and expensive to determine and is likely not worth the effort. Changing to a typical, inexpensive, disposable pleated filter should be no more difficult that unplugging and removing the existing unit and sliding in a new filter every couple of months.

New products designed to improve the indoor environment in our homes seem to be multiplying in numbers every year. The problem with many of these devices is they lack proper testing to prove their effectiveness.

While they may have nice websites full of propaganda about how well they clean and filter the air, they are often quite lacking in true technical information. But, since yours appears to be malfunctioning, or even creating more dust as it deteriorates, removing it should be done immediately.

Since you have a description of the brand name of your electronic filter, I did a little searching and found the web page of the manufacturer. They claim their unit will not only remove as many particles as a high-quality pleated filter, it will also exceed a HEPA filter. HEPA filters meet specific standards, unlike this unit, so that claim is questionable. Also, it purports to remove various bacteria, viruses and even degrading particles of radon gas.

To give the manufacturer a little bit of credit, they do have very detailed descriptions about maintenance. This does include replacement of a fibre pad in the middle of the filter, suggested to be completed every three months.

If you have not replaced this as recommended, or ever, perhaps that is what is degrading to a fine dust, which is now blowing around your home. I would suggest removal and inspection of the unit and replacement of the pad before going further.

Regardless, I would call the toll-free number provided and ask for details on repair or replacement. This filter system appears to insert into the heating ducts through a typical one-inch slot, designed for standard filters. So, I would immediately disconnect the power cord, remove this unit and replace it with a typical, disposable, $5 pleated filter and see if the dust disappears.

Figuring out whether an older electrostatic air filter is the cause of the mysterious dust in your house may require one of two courses of action. While expensive and time-consuming testing may answer the question, simple disconnection and removal of the unit and inserting a few typical disposable filters over the course of the next few months should be the better choice.

Ari Marantz is the owner of Trained Eye Home Inspection Ltd. and the past president of the Canadian Association of Home & Property Inspectors — Manitoba ( Questions can be emailed to Ari can be reached at 204-291-5358 or check out his website at




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