Are all HVAC air filters the same?

No, HVAC air filters differ in quality and dimensions, and some have features that others don't. In most cases we recommend getting the filter your HVAC manufacturer recommends pairing with your unit.

All filters are assigned MERV ratings, which vary from 1–20. MERV stands for minimum efficiency reporting value.

A higher value demonstrates the filter can grab finer substances. This sounds good, but a filter that traps finer dust can clog more rapidly, raising pressure on your equipment. If your system isn’t designed to work with this type of filter, it can lower airflow and lead to other problems.

Unless you live in a hospital, you more than likely don’t have to have a MERV level higher than 13. In fact, most residential HVAC equipment is specifically designed to work with a filter with a MERV ranking below 13. Sometimes you will find that decent systems have been made to work with a MERV level of 8 or 11.

All filters with a MERV ranking of 5 should trap most of the everyday triggers, such as pollen, pet dander and dust. Some filters claim to be able to trap mold spores, but we recommend having a professional remove mold instead of trying to conceal the problem with a filter.

Usually the packaging indicates how frequently your filter should be changed. In our experience, the accordion-style filters hold up better, and are worth the additional expense.

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

While you may be interested in using a HEPA filter, know that's like putting a MERV 16 filter in your HVAC system. It’s very unrealistic your unit was made to work with kind of resistance. If you’re worried about indoor air quality. This unit works alongside your HVAC system.

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