Are all HVAC air filters the same?

No, HVAC air filters vary due to quality and size, and some have specs that others don't. In most cases we recommend installing the filter your HVAC manufacturer recommends pairing up with your installed system, though you might be tempted to try some other filter type for convenience or to remove additional debris from your residence.

All filters have MERV ratings, which range from 1-20. MERV stands for "minimum efficiency reporting value". A higher MERV rating means fewer particles pass through, and it catches finer particulates. This sounds fantastic, and it can be, but a filter that stops finer dust and dirt will also clog up quicker, and pressure on your unit will increase. If your system has not been crafted to operate with this kind of filter, it can reduce your airflow around your residence, putting the hurt on your comfort and energy costs. So what should you do? Unless you live in a hospital, you probably don't need a MERV rating above 13. In fact, most residential HVAC systems are specifically designed to work with a filter with a MERV rating below 13, and frequently you will find that quality systems have been made to work with a MERV rating of 8 or 11. All filters with a MERV rating of five should catch most of the everyday nuisances people care about such as pollen, pet dander, and dust. While some filters claim to be able to catch mold spores, we recommend having a professional remove any mold from your residence you find, instead of trying to hide the issue with a finer filter.

Often the packaging indicates how often your filter should be replaced. There are one-month filters and there are 3-month filters. Additionally we have filters that are two dimensional, flat screens, and you have some that are built accordian style with supporting wire. In our experience, the accordian style filters hold up better, and are worth the extra pennies.

You might also consider washable filters, also known as reusable filters. Some homeowners like the environmentally friendly aspect of it, since they don't pile onto a dump, and others think it more convenient to quickly slide out the filter and clean it off rather than making a special trip to the local hardware store for a filter of the right size. These filters are often created to endure several years and will save you money over those years, though they are pricier initially. However, washable filters should be dried out thoroughly before returning it back to eliminate mold growth in your ductwork. In addition, most washable filters reportedly have a MERV rating between 1 and 4, and they lose their efficiency over the years. Some washable filters have been built with new tech, such as electrostatic air filters, that are meant to basically improve the MERV rating.

Last, filters are composed from different materials. Fiberglass filters are what we see most often, and are the disposable type. Polyester and pleated filters are known to catch more debris, but also reduce the airflow in your residence. And there are high efficiency particulate arrestance filters, or HEPA for short. While you could be tempted to use a HEPA filter, keep in mind that's like putting a MERV 16 filter in your HVAC system and it's very unlikely that your unit was made to handle that kind of resistance.