Learn about different options in the world of HVAC air filters.
Having the right HVAC filter is very important for ensuring good indoor air quality, comfort, and efficiency. If you’ve just been buying the same type of filter you’ve always had in your system, you might want to give a thought to making a change, especially if you have any of the following issues:
- Excessive dust accumulation
- Lots of pet hair and dander
- Individuals with allergies or asthma on the premises
- Poor airflow
The first thing you must do is make sure you know what size air filter to purchase. Then, you can compare all your options like:
- Fiberglass Air Filters: This is the most basic HVAC air filter you can buy. It isn’t really designed to protect you at all, but instead protects your HVAC unit from dust and hair. These filters are extremely cheap at around $1 per filter, but they will only trap 10 percent of air contaminants on each pass.
- Standard Polyester or Pleated Air Filters: The next step up in the world of HVAC air filters is your standard polyester or pleated air filters. They might cost $10 per filter, but they will remove up to 45 percent of contaminants on each pass. A filter with a MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value) rating between 8 and 13 is considered a standard filter.
- High-Efficiency Air Filters: For even better protection from indoor air contaminants, consider a high-efficiency air filter with a MERV rating of 14, 15 or 16. These filters are also made from polyester or pleated paper and can trap up to 85 percent of indoor air contaminants. They’ll run you about $25.
- Washable Air Filters: Washable air filters may be attractive to the eco-conscious crowd because they are reusable. However, they are also very high-maintenance. They need to be cleaned frequently and if you do not dry them thoroughly before replacing you may end up with mold issues. They cost about $20 and deliver only slightly more protection than a fiberglass air filter.
- HEPA Air Filters: HEPA (high-efficiency particulate arrestance) filters are the most effective filters you can buy. The fibers in the filter are arranged randomly to reduce the pore size of the filter and trap very tiny particles. This enables HEPA filters to trap up to 99 percent of contaminants on each pass.
So Which Filter Is Right for You?
For most residential settings, a standard polyester or pleated filter with a MERV of 12 is more than sufficient. Remember, your air circulates through the filter many, many times per day so even though each individual pass only traps 45 percent of contaminants, over time your air will get very clean. As you go higher on the MERV scale you will increase the resistance to airflow, which can have a detrimental effect on your HVAC efficiency.