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 classified with MERV ratings, which go from 1–20. MERV stands for minimum efficiency reporting value.

A higher ranking demonstrates the filter can trap finer substances. This sounds outstanding, but a filter that catches finer dust can clog faster, raising pressure on your equipment. If your system isn’t created to work with this model of filter, it may lower airflow and create other problems.

Unless you live in a hospital, you likely don’t have to have a MERV ranking greater than 13. In fact, most residential HVAC units are specifically designed to work with a filter with a MERV ranking below 13. Occasionally you will find that good 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 mask the trouble with a filter.

Usually the packaging indicates how regularly your filter should be exchanged. In our experience, the accordion-style filters hold up better, and are worth the added 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 could be interested in using a HEPA filter, know that's like putting a MERV 16 filter in your HVAC system. It’s very doubtful your unit was made to work with kind of resistance. If you’re worried about indoor air quality in Mobile, consider installing a HEPA-grade air filtration system. This unit works alongside your HVAC system.