Are all HVAC air filters the same?

No, HVAC air filters differ in quality and size, and some have features that others don't. In most situations we suggest installing the filter your HVAC manufacturer recommends pairing with your equipment.

All filters are classified with MERV ratings, which go from 1–20. MERV is short for minimum efficiency reporting value.

A higher value means the filter can grab more miniscule particles. This sounds great, but a filter that catches finer dirt can become blocked faster, heightening pressure on your equipment. If your system isn’t made to run with this type of filter, it might decrease airflow and create other problems.

Unless you are in a hospital, you more than likely don’t have to have a MERV level higher than 13. In fact, most residential HVAC systems are specifically made to work with a filter with a MERV rating lower than 13. Frequently you will discover that quality systems have been designed to operate with a MERV level of 8 or 11.

All filters with a MERV rating of 5 should catch most of the common nuisances, including pollen, pet dander and dust. Some filters say they can trap mold spores, but we recommend having a professional eliminate mold as opposed to trying to hide the issue with a filter.

Usually the packaging indicates how frequently your filter should be exchanged. In our experience, the accordion-style filters work better, and are worth the additional price.

Filters are manufactured from different materials, with disposable fiberglass filters being the most common. Polyester and pleated filters catch more dust but may limit your system’s airflow. Then there are HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters.

While you could be interested in using a HEPA filter, know that's like putting a MERV 16 filter in your heating and cooling unit. It’s highly doubtful your equipment was made to run with amount of resistance. If you’re concerned about indoor air quality. This unit works in tandem with your HVAC system.

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