Are Air Filters the Same for Heat and Air Conditioning?

Are Air Filters the Same for Heat and Air Conditioning?

Air filters are included in the heating and cooling systems to clean the air that flows into your home or building and to make sure dust and dirt do not accumulate on the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment itself. The filters clean the air by catching and trapping air pollution, allergens, and contaminants. But are all air filters the same for air conditioning (AC) and heating equipment?

HVAC Air Filters

The ultimate answer is yes, air filters are the same whether you have a central HVAC system or separate AC and furnace equipment. The size and type of filter(s) needed are dependent upon your specific HVAC equipment. Typically, heating and cooling systems share the same air handler. With traditional HVAC systems, the air filter is usually located between the HVAC equipment and the air return duct. Whether the system is currently heating or cooling, having the air filter behind the air return vent allows the filter to catch contaminants before they enter the home. Separate AC units and furnaces also require air filters. For a furnace, the air filter is typically located in a tray or door of the blower compartment. The location of your separate AC system filter depends on the system type. Window and split AC units typically have the filter on the front of the unit, whereas filters in AC portable units are typically found in the rear compartment of the unit. Depending on your HVAC equipment and layout (particularly if you have separate heating and AC systems), multiple air filters may be needed.

Air Filter Maintenance

Air filters must be replaced when they become dirty. Regular replacement ensures the equipment continues running properly, and that contaminants do not build up in the HVAC system which can lead to equipment damage. Additionally, dirty air filters do not trap air pollutants well and cannot filter the air as effectively, leading to the possibility of increased exposure to air pollution and reduced air quality. Air filters should be replaced every three months and more during months of peak heating or cooling.

Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV)

For central HVAC systems, an air filter with a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rating of at least 8 is ideal for maintaining healthy indoor air quality. The MERV rating system generates a numerical value based on how well the filter captures particles of a certain size. A higher MERV value means the air filter can effectively capture smaller pollutants and contaminants. In general, the higher the MERV value, the higher the performance level of the air filter. When looking to replace your air filter, it is important to consider the MERV rating recommended for your specific equipment in addition to the level of contaminant protection you are looking for.

Air filters protect your HVAC equipment from dirt and pollution, which increases the lifespan of the equipment and reduces maintenance costs. Without air filters, dust and dirt build up within the equipment, eventually leading to equipment damage. Additionally, air filters preserve indoor air quality by trapping and reducing pollutants. While heating and AC equipment may have air filters in different locations or require different sizes, the design and purpose of the air filters are the same. Check your equipment specifications to determine the appropriate air filter for your HVAC system.

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