Are all HVAC air filters the same?

No, HVAC air filters are different in quality and measurements, and some have features that others don't. In most cases we recommend using the filter your HVAC manufacturer recommends pairing with your system.

All filters are classified with MERV ratings, which range from 1–20. MERV stands for minimum efficiency reporting value.

A higher ranking indicates the filter can trap smaller particles. This sounds outstanding, but a filter that stops finer substances can become obstructed more quickly, increasing pressure on your system. If your unit isn’t made to function with this type of filter, it can reduce airflow and create other problems.

Unless you reside in a medical center, you likely don’t have to have a MERV level greater than 13. In fact, many residential HVAC systems are specifically engineered to operate with a filter with a MERV ranking below 13. Sometimes you will find that good systems have been made to run with a MERV level of 8 or 11.

All filters with a MERV rating of 5 should trap many daily nuisances, including pollen, pet dander and dust. Some filters claim to be able to stop mold spores, but we recommend having a professional get rid of mold rather than trying to conceal the problem with a filter.

Often the packaging shows how often your filter should be exchanged. In our experience, the accordion-style filters last longer, and are worth the additional cost.

Filters are made from varying materials, with one-use fiberglass filters being most typical. Polyester and pleated filters grab more debris but may reduce your system’s airflow. Then there are HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters.

While you could be interested in using a HEPA filter, remember that's like installing a MERV 16 filter in your comfort equipment. It’s highly unrealistic your equipment was made to handle that kind of resistance. If you’re worried about indoor air quality. This equipment works in tandem with your HVAC system.

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