Quality air filters for a house, apartment or business can reduce the amount of dirt and allergens circulating in the air. Contaminants can move through your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system, making the air you breathe not as clean and fresh as it could be. Changing the air filters regularly is crucial to maintaining clean air in any space. Your HVAC system, personal needs and budget may determine the type of air filter you purchase.
The Basics: Sizes & MERV Ratings
When it comes to air filters, whether for a home or business, size does matter. A heating or cooling unit will work most efficiently when the correct size air filter is installed. Be sure to replace the old filter with one of the same size. Many filters, especially OEM or Aftermarket products, will list a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rating for the filter. A MERV rating (link here) indicates a filter’s ability to remove particles from the air as it moves through the filter. Ratings range from one to 20. The higher the rating, the smaller the particles the filter can trap.
Fiberglass or Flat Panel Filters
Flat panel or fiberglass filters are not reusable and typically have a lower performance rating than other styles of filters. Fiberglass filters with a MERV 4 rating can be used to protect HVAC unit cooling coils and fan motors from grimy buildup.
- Variety of sizes available
- Can be used as main filter or pre-filter
- Lower efficiency regarding smaller airborne particles.
- Not recommended for people suffering from chronic respiratory conditions.
- Typically needs to be changed monthly.
Pleated Filters (MERV Ratings Less Than 11)
A pleated air conditioner filter will have a higher MERV rating than the fiberglass style. It also has less airflow resistance and may help your HVAC fan to run more quietly.
- Denser construction and larger surface area to capture more dust and debris.
- Variety of sizes available.
- Does not contain any chemical binders.
- Features 100 percent electrostatic-charged and thermally bonded fibers.
- Can be used to extend the life of secondary filters such as HEPAS.
- Lasts longer than fiberglass filters and only needs replacement about every two months.
- Resists microbial growth, but will not catch all minute particles and bacteria.
Pleated Filters (MERV Ratings 11+)
Electrostatic pleated filters with MERV ratings 11 and higher may be the ideal choice for homeowners with pets or family members who suffer from chronic respiratory conditions such as asthma. This type of air conditioner filter works for either residential or commercial buildings.
- Catches most of the smallest particles from dust, pollen, mold spores and other allergens.
- Resists the growth of bacteria, mold and mildew.
- 100 percent chemical free filter construction.
- Contains synthetic hypoallergenic materials.
- Long lasting filter that only needs to be changed every three months.
- More expensive than most filters with a lower MERV rating.
Carbon Impregnated Fiters
Premium quality odor reduction carbon impregnated pleated filters are interchangeable with existing HVAC filters. The filter provides moderate dust/particulate holding capabilities but does not carry a MERV rating as it’s primary function is the control of odors. Odorous gases and vapors are attracted to and held by the unique properties of the activated carbon material.
- New paint.
- New carpet.
- Bathroom smells.
- Cigarette, cigar smoke.
Window Air Conditioner Filters
Filters for window air conditioner units also need to be changed regularly. This type of filter can be found in varying MERV ratings. Some may be washable and reusable, which can be a budget friendly option. Typically, window air conditioner filters are sheets that can be cut to fit your home’s window unit.
It is important to remember a dirty air conditioner filter will reduce airflow, forcing your HVAC unit to work harder, run longer and increase your energy usage. Always follow the filter manufacturer’s replacement recommendations to keep continuous healthy, clean air circulating throughout your home.
Electrostatic Filters (Washable Filters)
Electrostatic air filters use static electricity to remove dust, dirt and other particles from the air. Typically, these are washable or reusable filters constructed with a mold and bacteria resistant material.
- Reusable — less money spent on replacement filters.
- Removes particles such as dust, dander, mold spores, pollen and other small particulates.
- Available in multiple sizes and MERV ratings.
- May cost more upfront.
- Must be washed regularly, typically once a month.