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The History of ASHRAE Standard 52.2 and NAFA

May 27, 2022

Tom Ottney may be an unfamiliar name to some of you, but I was the NAFA President from 1996-1997. While in Toledo to represent Cambridge Air Filter Company I took the opportunity to join ASHRAE to find out how air filter testing standards were managed. One thing I discovered was that the “test dirt” used in the Standard 52-76 was just the dust in the ambient air around the testing lab.

The ASHRAE Standard for testing air cleaning devices was in use since 1976.A group of air filter distributors formally met in 1980, determined to join together and solve our mutual complaints against loopholes in the ASHRAE filter test standard. This marked the beginning of the National Air Filtration Association (NAFA).

At that first NAFA meeting, most of the filter distributors wanted to write our own, more accurate method of testing filters under the planned NAFA organization. However, since ASHRAE runs on volunteerism, NAFA members could simply join the ASHRAE committees responsible for updating standards. We saw that it was possible to influence the changes NAFA wanted by working within existing ASHRAE procedures and promote a new test standard that better reflected the needs of NAFA members.

In 1980, the Board of Directors asked me to represent NAFA on the ASHRAE Technical Committee 2.4 (TC 2.4), as well as the subcommittee for the proposed ASHRAE revision of filter testing Standard 52-1976. Every six months for the next seven years, NAFA was represented at those meetings without fail. I was appointed Chairman of the 47-member committee for the term from 1985-1987.

Finally, in 1999, NAFA got the particle size efficiency test standard that we had been fighting for since 1980, ASHRAE introduced Standard 52.2-1999, Method Of Testing General Ventilation Air-Cleaning Devices For Removal Efficiency By Particle Size. This standard established a test procedure for evaluating the performance of air-cleaning devices as a function of particle size and described a method of laboratory testing to measure the performance of general ventilation air cleaning devices.

Today, ASHRAE receives the credit for development of Standard 52.2-1999 method of testing – its name is on the cover of the document, and it provided the funds to have a firm in Research Triangle Park develop the new test standard. The driving force behind this new international MERV test protocol, though, was NAFA. A group that started out as a small meeting of concerned air filter professionals was able to make a critically impactful mark in an enduring way.

ASHRAE Standards are reaffirmed or updated on a five-year cycle. NAFA can continue to be the leader for their continuous improvement. Very likely, the 52.2 document will need to be updated and the leadership required to pioneer a future 52.3 document that will certainly come from a NAFA member.

Thomas C. Ottney, CAFS, NAFA Past-President, graduated in 1954 from General Motors Institute, Flint, Michigan (now known as Kettering University), with a diploma in dealer management. He married in 1955 and has three girls with medical careers and a son who continues the rep business as Ohio Air Pro. He lives in Oakleaf Village Sylvania Ohio in an independent living apartment, with his wife of 67 years. He was a Manufacturer’s Representative with Ottney & Associates, Toledo, Ohio, he started Ohio Air Filter in 1974.

As a member and Past President of NAFA, Tom helped create the original NAFA Guide to Air Filtration, now in its 6th edition. In 2008, he was the recipient of the Hall of Fame Award and is a Lifetime Member of NAFA. He was President of Toledo Chapter of ASHRAE in 1970-1971. In retirement he hopes to continue writing opinion articles about the air filtration industry with a historical perspective.