There are many home improvement issues you can’t afford to ignore, one of which is a faulty furnace.
A furnace filter is an essential house filter, especially if you have allergies or asthma, or own pets.
Decreased energy efficiency and horrible sounds are signs of a potentially serious furnace problem. In general, furnace problems are due to a clogged or old air filter.
If your furnace filter has broken down, you need to replace it ASAP. Replacing your furnace filter more often can make it last longer. If you do not replace the filter as often as recommended, dust overwhelms your furnace and strains it further.
This could drive up your energy bill or, worse, cause irreversible damage to your HVAC unit.
When it comes to choosing the right furnace filter, it pays to know the various furnace filter sizes and types. In addition, understanding the factors to consider and MERV ratings will help you choose the best furnace filter.
The following points can really simplify your selection process and help you purchase the best filter for your furnace and family.
What are MERV Ratings?
To find out the effectiveness and efficiency of a filter, you need to first know what MERV ratings are. MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) is a standard rating system on which the effectiveness of air filters is measured.
A higher MERV value means that an air filter has got a finer filtration, which means less airborne pollutants and dust particles can go through. MERV ratings range from 1 to 16, with 16 being the highest level of filtration.
Furnace Filter Types
There are many different kinds of furnace filters. Here are some common options from which to choose.
Disposable fiberglass filters: These are the cheapest furnace filters to buy. You can probably get one that fits your system for just $2. You can have a dozen of these filters for about $20. That’s good news if the price is your only issue.
Unfortunately, the lower price also equates to lower performance.
Disposable fiberglass filters have MERV ratings of 1 to 4. They remove dust from the air fairly well. For other things such as mold, small dust particles, and pollen, they perform poorly.
They aren’t suitable for homes with people suffering from allergies.
Washable Electrostatic filters: These furnace filters can be washed and are generally permanent. They are more costly than disposable filters. But since they’re permanent, they do provide significant cost savings in the long-term.
Electrostatic filters can be washed, dried and then fitted in the furnace. Their price ranges from $50 to $200.
There are no MERV ratings in electrostatic filters as they aren’t a dry filter medium. To gauge the performance of an electrostatic furnace filter, you’ll have to read the manufacturer’s information.
Pleated allergy filters: As the name suggests, these furnace filters are pleated. The pleating improves the air flow while small particles are being filtered out. Pleated filters are effective for removing fine dust and common allergens from the air.
This improved performance comes at a cost, of course. Pleated filters are available for $5 to $20 each. Most work well for 90 days before needing replacements.
They’re a must-have for homes with people suffering from allergies.
Pleated allergy filters will typically come with MERV ratings of 7 to 9. They’re ideal for home heating systems.
Electronic air cleaners: These are filters that attach to your HVAC system. They are quite expensive–installing one costs north of $1,500. They also need to be maintained and replaced regularly.
The benefits are that they get rid of more airborne pollutants. For people suffering from allergies or other health issues, this peace of mind is worth the extra expense.
You need an HVAC contractor to install this unit for you because it needs to be joined to your ductwork. After installing it, you can replace the filters or maintain the system on your own.
Activated carbon filters: The presence of activated carbon in these furnace filters helps with odor control. Activated carbon helps to get rid of cooking, smoke, or pet odors. These filters are pricier than pleated allergy filters.
The extra expense may not be a concern when you have odor issues.
Like other furnace filters, activated carbon filters do have MERV ratings. A rating of 8 is possible, which is great for any residential heating system.
HEPA filters: These are the most effective filters for getting rid of small pollutants. The only issue is that they severely limit the air flow to your ventilating unit. HEPA filters are used in commercial buildings like hospitals, where HVAC systems are designed for the decreased airflow.
Factors to Consider When Picking the Best Furnace Filters
Before you get a new furnace filter, you should consider the following essential factors:
The size of the filter is one of the most vital considerations when you’re buying a furnace filter. Most furnace filters sizes are indicated along the edge.
If you can’t see measurements along the edge, you can simply measure the filter yourself. You can also find out your filter’s size by checking the furnace’s manual. If you buy a filter that does not fit comfortably into the system, it could be the wrong size.
Each furnace is different, and super high-efficiency furnace filters are not always a good option. While the best choice for filtering out pollutants is the HEPA filter, not many residential systems can handle it.
It takes so much power to filter air through the fine HEPA filter mesh. For that reason, not using the right filter for your current HVAC unit will drive your energy efficiency down and even damage the system.
To get the right specifications, take a look at the manufacturer’s information.
A filter’s MERV rating determines its efficiency in filtering out dust and contaminant particles. The higher the rating, the less the dander, dust, and other contaminants are getting through.
Choose a filter with the greatest MERV rating your HVAC unit can accommodate for the freshest air and best overall comfort.
Humid weather is very likely to cause mildew and mold issues. Living in a cold or hot area can also mean you use your HVAC unit more than somebody who is in a temperate region. This may require that you replace your air filter more often.
Specific Medical or Allergy Requirements
Does anyone in your family suffer from allergies, asthma, or upper respiratory problems? If so, you might need a greater level of filtration. Find filters that provide this kind of higher performance and keep everybody healthy.
Local Air Conditions
Do you live in an area where the air’s fresh and clean, far from the city? Or is your area affected by heavy pollution? The outdoor air quality can have a huge effect on your furnace filter’s efficiency rating requirements.
Presence of Pets
Pets are a source of joy. With pet dander and hair, however, they can pollute your indoor air and make it harder for you to breathe. If you’ve got pets, you’ll want to consider filters designed specifically for homes with pets.
Filters can cost as little as $5 and as much as $450. But what you pay for is what you get. If you buy a high-quality air filter, it could be more expensive at first but it may save you money over time.
Inexpensive air filters only block bigger particles and they need to be replaced every 30 days. In the long-term, the cost of replacements will add up.
Installing Your Furnace Filter
After you’ve selected the best furnace air filter for your house, you have to install it. Ensure that your furnace isn’t running. Also, consider switching the power off.
If your furnace has no switch you can turn off while installing, considering shutting the power off at the circuit breaker.
Replacing Your Furnace Filter
Now that you have an idea of the different kinds of furnace filters and can choose the right one for you and your loved ones, it’s time to replace your current filter. Before you go out to buy a replacement, be sure to remove the current filter in order to buy the right size for your HVAC system.
Remember, it’s best to replace your air filters at the start of the heating season and every three months after. If you furnace experiences any problem, it’s always best to remove the filter safely and check if it’s clogged.
Let us Help You
Filtration has significantly changed over the past several years. At first, residential air filters were only used in the air handle or furnace to protect the comfort system itself. Today the story is different.
Homeowners in the US expect their filter to save family members from dust mites, an increasing list of toxic pollutants, and even do away with dusting.
Buying the best furnace filters will improve the air quality in your home and save you money. If you need help in choosing the best air filter for your home, contact us today.